In time newspapers began to appear in the colonies, but were of little worth, as vehicles of general information, until the period of our Revolution.
The first one issued in America was published in Boston in September, 1690. It was printed on three pages seven by eleven inches square, on a folded sheet, and was entitled "Public Occurrences both Foreign and Domestic." The editor said of it "It is designed that the country shall be furnished once a month (or if any glut of occurrences happen, oftener) with an account of such considerable things as have arrived unto our notice." And he gave warning in his first number that his paper should be the vehicle for exposing slanderers and false reporters, saying: "It is supposed that none will dislike this proposal, but such as intend to be guilty of so villainous a crime." Only one number of this newspaper was published.
The first permanent newspaper was "The Boston News-Letter," first issued in the spring of 1704. The first in Pennsylvania was "The American," published in Philadelphia in 1719. The first in New York was "The New York Gazette," in 1725 the first in Maryland was "The Maryland Gazette," issued at Annapolis in the summer of 1728. "The South Carolina Gazette," printed at Charleston at the beginning of 1732, was the first issued in that province; the first in Rhode Island was "The Rhode Island Gazette," printed at Newport in 1732; the first in Virginia was "The Virginia Gazette," printed at Williamsburg in 1736; THE FIRST IN CONNECTICUT WAS THE "CONNECTICUT GAZETTE" PRINTED IN NEW HAVEN IN 1755; the first in North Carolina was "The North Carolina Gazette," printed at New Berne the same year; and the first in New Hampshire was "The New Hampshire Gazette," printed at Portsmouth in the summer of 1756.
The first newspaper known to be published in Connecticut is the Connecticut gazette, from New Haven. It began on April 12th and was published by James Parker. His business partner was Benjamin Franklin who enjoyed helping other printers start newspapers (but not in Philadelphia). Parker lived in New York City and published ten religious pamphlets, five almanacs, 2 New York newspapers, and 19 other works in 1755 in addition to the Gazette. He never visited New Haven for any extended period. It was chiefly a military record, reporting the events of the French and Indian War. In fact, it was suspended for a time after the war when support for it declined.
The newspaper was managed by John Holt who left it in the charge of Thomas Green in 1760. Thomas Green was part of a large family of printers and publishers who made large contributions to early newspaper publishing in Connecticut and throughout the colonies. The Gazette was suspended in 1764, and resumed in July 1765 under Benjamin Mecom, nephew of Benjamin Franklin. Apparently Mecom was not a good businessman and it did not thrive, lasting only until Feb. 1768.
At the period of the French and Indian war newspapers were printed in all of the colonies excepting in New Jersey, Delaware and Georgia. The printing machines on which all the colonial newspapers and books were printed were simple in form and rude in construction, as may be seen in the picture of the Ephrata printing press here given. Of the number of the inhabitants of the colonies at that time, we have no exact enumeration. Mr. Bancroft, after a careful examination of many official returns and private computations, estimated the number of white inhabitants of all the colonies to be 1,165,000, and the blacks (who were mostly slaves) to be 260,000.
On the first of November, 1765, the Stamp Act became a law in America It had been ably discussed by the brightest intellects in the land, and generally denounced, sometimes with calmness, sometimes with turbulence. It was manifest to all that its enforcement was an impossibility yet its existence was a perplexity. No legal instrument of writing was thereafter valid without a stamp, by a law of the British realm. But on that day there remained not one person commissioned to sell a stamp, for they had all resigned. The royal governors had taken an oath that they would see that the law was executed, but they were powerless. The people were their masters, and were simply holding their own power in abeyance.
The first of November was Friday. It was a "black Friday" in America. The morning was ushered by the tolling of bells. A funeral solemnity overspread the land. Minute-guns were fired as if a funeral procession was passing. Flags were hoisted at half-mast as if there had been a national bereavement. There were orations and sermons appropriate to the occasion. The press spoke out boldly. The press is the test of truth the bulwark of public safety; the guardian of freedom, and the people ought; not to sacrifice it," said Benjamin Mecom, of New Haven, in his CONNECTICUT GAZETTE printed that morning, and filled with patriotic appeals. This was the spirit of most of the newspapers. Such, also, was the spirit of most of the Congregational pulpits.
As inhabitants of the age of instant communication and the information revolution, it is difficult to imagine the paucity of information and the delays in the transmission of news that prevailed in the first half of Connecticut's history. In the early years of the colony's existence, information was passed from place to place primarily by travelers. In 1672 when a mail service was established between Boston and New York over a system of post roads, inhabitants of eastern Connecticut were incorporated into one of the first formal structures for the transmission of information in the American Colonies. The first organized system of post offices for the colonies was created by parliament in 1711. Before, and even after, the establishment of post offices, official and other vital information was often conveyed to the public from the pulpits of churches.
In the first half of the seventeenth century printing and paper were so expensive that printed material was at a premium. One-page broadsides, official edicts, sermons, and almanacs formed the bulk of the publications of the colony's printers. Books were primarily imported from England.
Beginning in the latter part of the seventeenth century, ships arriving from England apparently carried examples of recently established newspapers to the fledgling Connecticut colony. Throughout the Colonial Period, the great London journals of opinion would remain the prime sources of information for Americans, particularly with regard to foreign and court affairs. The Whig point of view that many of these journals espoused would heavily influence American political thinking. In 1704 when the first American newspaper, the Boston News-Letter, started publication, colonists had their first opportunity to read about imperial matters from an American point of view.
In 1755 Connecticut's first newspaper, the Connecticut Gazette, was published in New Haven by James Parker. This four-page weekly emphasized the military news of the French and Indian War and shipping information invaluable to the city's merchants. During this period, financial success for a Connecticut newspaper was difficult with readers restricted because cities were small and mail service limited. Another problem was that news acquisition was complicated since a printer had to depend on travelers, letters, and other newspapers for information. Local news, such as crimes and accidents, was most often not carried in early newspapers because such news was conveyed much more rapidly by word of mouth in taverns and the community. In lieu of hard news, advertising often comprised a large portion of a paper. It was not unusual to have both the front page and fully one-half of the total paper devoted to advertising.
Connecticut's next two papers were launched in New London. Timothy Green published the New London Summary from 1758-1763. In 1763 a nephew, another Timothy Green, took over the presses and launched the New-London Gazette which enjoyed a long life. Another member of the same family, Thomas Green, who had been the editor of the Connecticut Gazette for James Parker, founded the Connecticut Courant in Hartford in 1764. This paper would become the oldest American newspaper in continuous publication in the same city. Other pre-Revolutionary newspapers in Connecticut were the Connecticut Journal and New Haven Postboy (the predecessor to the New Haven Journal-Courier) published in New Haven by Thomas Green and theNorwich Packet, and the Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island Weekly Advertiser first published in Norwich by Alexander and James Robinson and later by John Trumbull.
The Revolutionary ferment in Connecticut in the 1760s was fostered by a number of the colony's printers. The British attempts at increased imperial control after the Treaty of Paris of 1763 radicalized the colony's printers. The Courant, which almost immediately from its inception became a major colonial newspaper distributed not only in Connecticut but also in western Massachusetts and New Hampshire, was a leader in criticism of British policy. The depth of the commitment of the press to the Patriot cause can be seen during the Stamp Act crisis of 1765-1766. During this period, two of the colony's papers, the Connecticut Gazette and the New-London Gazette, risked serious legal reprisals by publishing without stamps, and the Courant fell silent for five weeks. During the ensuing years of turmoil Ebenezer Watson, the editor of the Courant from 1768 to 1777, became a leading proponent of the Patriot cause whose voice reached many beyond Connecticut's borders. With the exception of the Norwich Packet, Connecticut's press helped to establish an American point of view and advocated increasingly militant actions towards British rule and those who sympathized with it. In 1776 the Tory publishers of the Packet were forced to flee to the more congenial surroundings of New York City, and during the Revolutionary period all of the state's newspapers were propagandists for the Patriot cause.