“News Rooms”: a curiosity of the past…

September 21, 2009 by  
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One last excerpt from Clarence Brigham’s book “Journals & Journeymen” is worthy of sharing with follow collectors as it explores a part of newspaper history of which most are unaware. The chapter is titled “News Rooms”:

Journals_and_Journeymen_BriAn interesting custom in newspaper history was the establishment in the early 1800’s of news rooms at nearly all of the larger towns. Somewhat akin to this idea was a project carried out at a much earlier day at Bridgeton, New Jersey. Here in December 1775, & continuing for two months, a weekly paper called “The Plain Dealer”, consisting of essays but with topics relating to the problems of the colonies, was written out in manuscript and posted up in Matthew Potter’s tavern. It enabled readers to gather at a central meeting place and peruse a weekly publication, which they would not trouble, or perhaps could not afford, to purchase.

Soon after 1800 reading rooms sprang up in several towns. In Boston the Anthology Reading Room was established in 1806, with 160 subscribers, and making available all the leading newspapers of the country. In 1808 Samuel Gilbert established at Boston what may have been the first commercial news room in the country. It was located in the Exchange Coffee House, erected in 1808, with its “Reading Room and Marine Diary” on the entrance floor where newspaper files could be consulted.

In New York, John H. Payne in 1811 opened a reading room where could be found the most important newspapers and magazines of the day. Charleston had a newsroom in 1813 where the terms were ten dollars for subscribers and strangers one dollar a month. In fact, almost every city and larger town before 1820 had its news room where leading newspapers were regularly filed. To enumerate them would require a lengthy chapter and necessitate an exacting study of early newspaper advertisements. Unfortunately there is no record of a new room proprietor preserving his files for posterity.

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