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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Saturday, December 01, 2012

“Cooking up Paragraphs, Articles, Occurences, &c.”

On Sunday, 3 Sept 1769, John Adams wrote in his diary about which sermons he had attended and then:
Spent the Remainder of the Evening and supped with Mr. [James] Otis, in Company with Mr. [Samuel] Adams, Mr. Wm. Davis, and Mr. Jno. Gill. The Evening spent in preparing for the Next Days Newspaper—a curious Employment. Cooking up Paragraphs, Articles, Occurences, &c.—working the political Engine!
The Boston Gazette, published by Gill and Benjamin Edes, appeared on Mondays. This is one of our rare glimpses of how it was actually put together, with political writers “cooking up” content for the printers. One detail I find particularly interesting is that that writing took place on a Sunday evening, still supposed to be part of the Sabbath.

And speaking of Sunday evenings and the news, I’ll be part of a panel discussion on Revolutionary-era newspapers with Todd Andrlik of Rag Linen and Prof. Robert Allison of Suffolk University. This event is to spread the word about Reporting the American Revolution, the new book that Todd assembled and Bob and I contributed to. We’ll speak at the Old State House in Boston starting at 5:30 and sign books at the end. The event is free, but the Bostonian Society asks people to reserve seats through this webpage. C-SPAN’s BookTV will cover the event, so even though it’s a Sunday I must remember to shave.


Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading it -- years ago I did something similar with s Philadelphia paper of 1846. My question is, have you located a copy or transcript of the Sept. 4, 1769, Gazette? It would b fun to speculate who of these leaders cooked up what. -- Thanks for my nightly fun read, Joe Bauman

Byron DeLear said...

I found the remainder of Adams's diary entry to be interesting.

"Otis talks all. He grows the most talkative Man alive. No other Gentleman in Company can find a Space to put in a Word—as Dr. Swift expressed it, he leaves no Elbow Room. There is much Sense, Knowledge, Spirit and Humour in his Conversation. But he grows narrative, like an old Man. Abounds with Stories."

Well, I was going to go on about how this could have been one of Otis's manic episodes due to his possibility of being bipolar. But then I noticed you wrote about that in 2006 and concluded as much! Huzzah!

What Was James Otis's Problem?

J. L. Bell said...

These two good comments connect to each other. The most consequential item in the 4 Sept 1769 Gazette was an advertisement James Otis paid for, accusing the Customs Commissioners of conspiring against him. That led directly to his fight with one of the Commissioners and his head injury.

I'm planning to check the issue to see what else it contains that might have come from Samuel Adams and the others. John Adams's word "Occurences" might allude to the week-by-week chronicle of life in Boston under army occupation that the Boston Whigs had been sending to printers in other towns. But I think that series had ended already.