Today in Boston by Ethan Underhill: 4/24/1704 — The News-Letter 🗞

From its first issue today in 1704, “The Boston News-Letter” played a pivotal role as the first continuously published newspaper in the colonies. Even Philadelphia and New York took another 15 and 21 years, respectively, to get their own papers off the ground.

The simple front-and-back News-Letter is, of course, not to be confused with Benny “Bad Boy” Harris’ independently, irregularly published “Publick Occurrences” of 1690, which was the colonies’ first multi-page (and unapologetically controversial) paper (see @todayinboston 9/25).

In fact, the News-Letter — which the monarchy happily helped fund — very well might have been created to counteract the effects of prints like “Publick Occurrences”, which boldly explored the questionable sides of the British empire.

Instead, Scottish-born bookseller and postmaster of Boston John Campbell’s News-Letter covered what was happening in London, often including verbatim passages from Mother England’s papers — which were usually busy claiming that the Irish were preparing to “plunder the Protestants of their arms and money."

Thems were the days, eh?

Come 1722, 69-year-old Campbell relinquished the reigns of the News-Letter to the paper’s long-time printer, Bartholomew Green, who died in 1732 and passed it on to his son-in-law and “Mad Men” reject John Draper, who then passed it on to his son Richard.

By the time Richard’s widow Margaret had taken over in 1774, the colonies were on a collision course with Revolution. As a staunch loyalist, Maggie Drapes would have none of this rebellion #nonsense in her paper, firing her first editor Robert Boyle for his Continental tendencies and replacing him with John Howe, who dutifully maintained its status as a British propaganda tool.

The last issue of the News-Letter was published in February 1776, at which point the patriots were turning the tide of the Siege of Boston. Maggie and Johnny escaped with the British on Evacuation Day (see @todayinboston 3/17) and were never to be heard from again.

Just kidding. The Brits totally hooked them up for the rest of their lives. Empires, man.

Be the first to comment