The “Pennsylvania Packet“, Philadelphia, issue of September 24, 1788 contains on page 3: “Dean Swift’s idea of an attorney…”. You can read it for yourself (see below).
One of the joys of reading newspapers of a bygone era is the opportunity to put yourself in a very special moment in history. One fine example is the report in the August 22, 1776 issue of “The Continental Journal” from Boston, which notes that: “…immediately after divine worship, the Declaration of Independence was read by Col. St. Clair, and having said, ‘God save the free independent States of America!’ the army manifested their joy with three cheers. It was remarkably pleasing to see the spirit of the soldiers so raised after all their calamities, the language of every man’s countenance was, now we are a people! we have a name among the states of this world.“
Such editorial commentary brings the excitement of the period to life. This is truly the way to enjoy history–what a wonderful hobby!
A small news bit inconspicuously located on page 2 of the “Columbian Centinel” newspaper from Boston, dated October 19, 1799, struck me as being in error: “The President of the United States arrived at the seat of government, (Trenton) in good health.” Or so I thought. While history tells us that the seat of government had moved from New York to Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. during this period, it appears in fact that the federal government did remove itself from Philadelphia (to Trenton) for a brief time in 1799 to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic in that city. But to my surprise there is very little on the internet about it. There are several sites which provide some detail about Trenton being the nation’s capital for 54 days in 1784, but just two sites have a passing reference to the 1799 event. There is no mention as to exactly when or for how long. Can anyone provide more detail? Surprisingly even the sites of the city of Trenton offer no help.
This week I traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by way of the Aurora dated February 19, 1813. Here I found the report of “Another Naval Victory!” being reported “… On the 29th of December, off St. Salvadore, the Constitution, capt. Bainbridge, fell in with the British frigate Java, of 38 guns (mounting 49) and 400 men. After an action of one hour and forty-five minutes, the Java struck, with the loss of 60 killed and 170 wounded. The Constitution had 9 killed and 25 wounded… The Java was so much damaged in action, that it was deemed impossible to fetch her in, and by order of captain Bainbridge she was burnt…”.
Also in this issue was the report of the battle at river Raisin, including the killing (scalping) of General Winchester and the further mutilation of his body. It is so hard to imagine what they went through in those battles. So much for nostalgia.
On this (American) day of thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to reflect on such a day from the past through the eyes of those who were embarking on what may have been the most historic event in U.S. history – July 4, 1776. A special thanks is in order for our friends in Scotland who captured this significant moment on the pages of the Edinburgh Evening Courant, dated September 2, 1776. Please enjoy:
“The Courier” newspaper of Norwich, Connecticut has in its July 2, 1800 edition an apparently tongue-in-cheek report detailing the constitution for the “Philadelphia Dueling Club”. The fact that it was approved on May 32, 1800, and signed by “William Blood, President’ and “Charles Bullet, Secretary” seems to render this less than real, the content is nonetheless interesting reading.
Its preamble notes that dueling has become: “…the fashion to the infinite satisfaction of all men of true honor, & whereas the opinion that this practice is improper & Immoral being only held by old women, or men who ought to wear petticoats…” with more. See the photo for the full 1st article… and the link above for the full text.
It was only in Boston where a newspaper came off a printing press prior to any in Pennsylvania. It was 15 years after the “Boston News-Letter” of 1704 (not counting the one-issue run of Boston’s “Publick Occurrences Both Foreign & Domestick” in 1690) when, on December 22, 1719, Andrew Bradford began his “American Weekly Mercury” (see image) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s first newspaper. This weekly would last until 1746.
But certainly the most successful newspaper in the colony, if not in all of colonial America, was the “Pennsylvania Gazette” begun in December, 1728 by Samuel Keimer. Within a year it was purchased by Benjamin Franklin. As Oswald notes: “…Under Franklin’s guidance, there appeared for the first time a colonial newspaper produced by a man of education who was in addition a capable printer, a versatile writer, and energetic news gatherer and an enterprising & resourceful businessman. This combination had the inevitable result of placing the “Pennsylvania Gazette” in the lead, and it thereby established a model for others to follow.” The “Gazette” would make Franklin a wealthy man and his name appeared on the imprint through 1765.
Pennsylvania has the distinction of having America’s first daily newspaper, the “Pennsylvania Evening Post & Daily Advertiser“, which started publication in 1775 as a tri-weekly and became a daily on May 30, 1783.
It’s interesting how, in some aspects of life, few things change over hundreds of years. Complaints about politicians not focusing on substantive issues was a problem back in 1790, in just the second year of the American federal government, as this article from the July 3, 1790 “Pennsylvania Packet“ of Philadelphia, clearly shows…
Given that New Jersey is geographically wedged between the the large colonial cities of New York and Philadelphia, there seemed to be little interest in creating a New Jersey newspaper until relatively late in the 18th century. Although New York & Pennsylvania had newspapers in the 1720’s, New Jersey’s first title, “The New Jersey Gazette“, did not appear until 1777.
But printing was being done in the colony as early as 1723, and it even had its first magazine, “The New American Magazine“, done by James Parker at Woodbridge in 1758. But it was Isaac Collins who on Dec. 5, 1777 started in Burlington the province’s first newspaper, “The New Jersey Gazette”, which would be removed to Trenton just three months later where it continued until 1786.
Technically there is another contender for the the title of New Jersey’s first newspaper, as Hugh Gaine removed his “New York Gazette & Weekly Mercury” to Newark, New Jersey, just prior to the British occupation of that city. His first Newark edition was on Sept. 21, 1776 and he only printed seven issues through Nov. 2, 1776 before returning to New York a few days later.
The following item from the “Massachusetts Centinel” of Boston, August 29, 1787, is evidence of some timely humor when the country was awaiting the results of the Constitutional Convention.