Today in media history: First colonial newspaper published in 1690

September 25, 2014
Category: Uncategorized

On September 25, 1690, the first colonial newspaper in America,
Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, was published.
Although some English newspapers and single-page broadsides had been
available to read before, this was the first true multi-page colonial newspaper.
However, it was suppressed after its first edition. The British governor forced publisher Benjamin Harris and printer Richard Pierce to close down the newspaper for “reflections of a very high nature” and for failing to obtain a correct printing license. Harris hoped to publish the Boston newspaper every month, but his September 25th edition remained the only issue printed.

Poynter.org Image

Poynter.org Image

Here is some background from Encyclopedia of American Literature /
Facts On File about Benjamin Harris and Publick Occurrences:

“….Harris established a bookselling and printing shop and maintained
a coffee shop, possibly at the same location, which became known as
the London Coffee-House. Printer and historian Isaiah Thomas
remembered Harris as ‘a brisk asserter of English Liberties’ and ‘the
most ingenious and innocent Companion, that I had ever met with.’

As a forum for Boston’s intellectual elite, the London Coffee-House
provided a place where information and news flourished, and Harris
soon published the first edition of what he hoped would be a monthly
newspaper. Publick Occurrences, Harris announced in the first edition,
would offer a broad account of world and local news, carefully
reviewed for accuracy. The breadth of coverage and the high standards
Harris imposed seem to have targeted the city’s merchants as the
primary audience for the newspaper. This intention would have been in
keeping with the English tradition of journalism. Accordingly, Publick
Occurrences replicated the physical features of the English newspaper
in its format and in the type used.”

After Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick ended, there
were no regularly published colonial papers for about fourteen years.
People continued to read English newspapers, broadsides, and similar
publications. The Boston News-Letter, which was founded on April 17,
1704, became the first continuously published colonial newspaper. The
pro-British News-Letter was discontinued in 1776 at the beginning of
the American Revolution.