The Boston News-Letter
First published on April 24, 1704, The Boston News-Letter is regarded as the first continuously published newspaper in British North America. It was heavily subsidized by the British government, with a limited circulation. The colonies’ first newspaper was Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, which published its first and only issue on September 25, 1690. In 1718, the Weekly Jamaica Courant followed in Kingston. In 1726 the Boston Gazette began publishing with Bartholomew Green, Jr., as printer.
The News-Letter’s first editor was John Campbell, a bookseller and postmaster of Boston. Campbell had been actively writing and sending “news letters” of European occurrences to New England governors for a year or more and thought it would save trouble to print them for all. The News-Letter was originally issued weekly as a half sheet – a single page printed on both sides, 8 inches (200 mm) x 12 inches (300 mm), printed on both sides and dated “From Monday, April 17, to Monday, April 24, 1704.” It was printed by Bartholomew Green.
During its early years, the News-Letter was filled primarily with news from London journals describing English politics and the details of European wars. As the only newspaper in the colonies at the time, it also reported on the sensational death of Blackbeard the pirate in hand-to-hand combat in 1718.
In 1707, John Allen took care of printing the paper. In 1722 the editorship passed to Green, who focused more on domestic events. After his death in 1732, his son-in-law John Draper, also a printer, took the paper’s helm. He enlarged the paper to four pages and filled it with news from throughout the colonies. He conducted the paper until his death in 1762, at which time his son, Richard Draper, became editor. Richard died in 1774, and his widow, Margaret Green Draper, published the New-Letter for the rest of its existence.
Richard Draper had been an ardent loyalist and firmly supported the mother country in the stormy times of the 1770's. His widow shared his feeling, and when the young man Robert Boyle, whom she installed as editor, showed sympathy with the Revolution, she replaced him by John Howe, who conducted it until the British evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776. John Howe and Margaret Draper left with the British at that time, and the News-Letter ceased to exist. The British government gave Margaret Draper a life pension.
- The Boston news-letter. Apr. 24, 1704 – Dec. 29, 1726.
- The Weekly news-letter. Jan. 5, 1727 – Oct. 29, 1730.
- The Boston weekly news-letter. Nov. 5, 1730 – Aug. 25, 1757.
- The Boston news-letter. Sept. 1, 1757 – Mar. 18, 1762.
- The Boston news-letter, and New-England chronicle. Mar. 25, 1762 – Mar. 31, 1763.
- The Massachusetts gazette. And Boston news-letter. Apr. 7, 1763 – May 19, 1768.
- Boston weekly news-letter. May 26, 1768 – Sept. 21, 1769.
- The Massachusetts gazette; and the Boston weekly news-letter. Sept. 28, 1769 – Feb. 29, 1776.
- Steven J. Shaw. Colonial Newspaper Advertising: A Step toward Freedom of the Press. The Business History Review, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Autumn, 1959), pp. 409–420
- Thomas S. Martin. The Long and the Short of It: A Newspaper Exchange on the Massachusetts Charters, 1772. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 1986), pp. 99–110
- Article on The Boston News-Letter
- American Antiquarian Society's images of the Boston News-Letter
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