Seventeenth in our series to appear on the first Friday of each month: Boston Firsts Fridays. #BostonFirsts
First Realty Management Corp. was founded in Boston over 50 years ago. We are proud to call this wonderful city our home, and call focus to some of the events & innovations that happened FIRST in Boston.
BF#17 First Newspaper in America (1690) / First Periodic Newspaper in America (1704)
Boston has always been at the forefront of getting news out to the people, most famously perhaps being the Ride of Paul Revere (as well as William Dawes & Samuel Prescott, don’t forget). But almost a century before that night in 1775, Boston had already made history with the launch of the first newspaper in America.
Part 1: First Newspaper in America (1690) – Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick
Of course news needed to be delivered to the people in the American Colonies before 1690, but the only materials produced were single-page affairs called broadsides that consisted of out of date information published in England that were reprinted in Cambridge, MA.
That all changed on September 25, 1690, when publisher Benjamin Harris put out his first and only edition of what was to be a periodic newspaper, called Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick. Harris as a publisher was already a bit of a firebrand, having fled England after being implicated in the fabricated Popish Plot (he had previously been convicted of sedition on another matter). So when he put out his multi-page newspaper in Boston that Thursday in 1690, it is perhaps unsurprising that he did not obtain a license to do so. This lapse, combined with the paper’s critical reporting of hostilities between Native Americans and the French, resulted in the paper being banned by the local British authorities.* His run as Boston’s first newspaper publisher lasted four days.
*In addition to Boston’s great qualities, it has a less positive (but no less accurate) reputation for being a touch prohibitive and censor-happy. Not for nothing did the phrase “Banned in Boston” arise…
Part 2: First Periodic Newspaper in America (1704)
It would be fourteen years before another attempt was made at producing a periodical in British America, and it would take the collaboration of the local government to produce something that wouldn’t be banned. The paper was edited by John Campbell, postmaster of Boston (come back in November for our feature on the 375th anniversary of the first post office in America – in Boston!) as a weekly release. The paper was a minor success, inspiring the creation of other colonial newspapers, including two Boston competitors (the Boston Gazette in 1719 & the New England Courant in 1721). The paper was published continuously with occasionally varied titles for 72 years, folding in early 1776. That timing is no coincidence – the British evacuated Boston in March, and the paper’s loyalist owners at that time took the boat out of town, ending the run of the First Periodic Newspaper in America.
Fun fact: The first daily newspaper in America, the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser, wouldn’t be published until September 21, 1784.
Bonus #BostonFirst: Before printing the nation’s first newspaper, Harris had already made history by publishing the nation’s first textbook, The New England Primer in 1687 – in Boston!