J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, October 30, 2020

In the Spy 250 Years Ago

On 30 Oct 1770, 250 years ago today, John Adams turned thirty-five years old.

Two years later, he wrote in his diary: “Thirty Seven Years, more than half the Life of Man, are run out.—What an Atom, an Animalcule I am!-The Remainder of my Days I shall rather decline, in Sense, Spirit, and Activity.” Was Adams in the same mood when he hit exactly half of threescore years and ten? We don’t know because, darn it, he wasn’t keeping his diary in late 1770.

Also on 30 October, printer Isaiah Thomas put out the first issue of the Massachusetts Spy in his own name. Back in August, he’d started publishing the newspaper with his old master, Zechariah Fowle, but evidently that man wanted out. (The preceding issues had no printers’ names attached, so the transition might have been gradual.)

Thomas was still publishing at the unusual pace of two pages on three days of the week. With the next issues he would switch to two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays, thus going head to head with all of Boston’s established papers.

But on this Tuesday, 30 October, the Massachusetts Spy was the only new newspaper to appear, and Thomas thus had an exclusive on that morning’s big news from the courthouse:

John Adams, Josiah Quincy, and Robert Auchmuty had gotten their client off on the charge of murder.

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