Newspaper Curiosities in 1867 from the Harper’s New Monthly Magazine…

February 28, 2022 by  
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In a strange twist within this unique collecting niche, I came across a nine-page essay within the Harper’s Monthly of September 1867.  Imagine my interest in uncovering the following opening:

The history of newspapers has been frequently, but perhaps never yet fully, written.  However, that may be, the history of the press of this country is very far from being complete.  Many important facts are wrapped in obscurity, requiring incredible industry to bring them to light; and he would be a benefactor to literature who should reveal them in naked simplicity.

The author (whose name I cannot discern recorded within the volume) begins with the first press, “established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, eighteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims, where it was operated for forty years without a rival in America.”  He goes on to say that 1644 marked the appointment of “censors of the press”, and that Boston saw its first press thirty years later, and that the Boston News-Letter reported the news from Europe — thirteen months after the fact.  There are many interesting details quoted concerning the earliest days of colonization, followed by the appearance of the New England Courant, the American Weekly Mercury, the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Boston Evening Post and the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, all of which preceded the dailies begun with the Pennsylvania Packet in 1794.

One appealing aspect of this article, beyond the timeline which includes excerpts from most of the earliest papers, is the outside perspective.  The writer acknowledges that all we can know is limited to the information reported, subject to a selection process influenced by the motivation/perspective/experience of the editor.  Thus it has always been, and likely will always be.

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