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.

Follow by Email


Monday, October 28, 2013

“Boston’s Newspaper Wars” at the B.P.L., 6 Nov.

Next week on Wednesday, 6 November, I’ll speak in the Boston Public Library’s Local and Family History Series on “Boston’s Pre-Revolutionary Newspaper Wars.”

During that period, Bostonians had several newspapers to choose from: the Boston Gazette and eventually Massachusetts Spy on the left, the Boston News-Letter, Boston Post-Boy, and for a while Boston Chronicle on the right, and the Boston Evening-Post in between. (Those are the short, consistent versions of their names.) Some printers tried to publish more than once a week, but that schedule was tough to sustain, so most appeared on either Monday or Thursday.

The printers were the conduits of political arguments and sometimes found themselves in the middle of political violence. Benjamin Edes was one of the Loyall Nine businessmen who organized the anti-Stamp protests of 1765. But his partner, John Gill, had the misfortune of being in the office when rival printer John Mein, of the Chronicle, came by demanding to know who had written a particular pseudonymous article. That conversation didn’t go well, and Gill ended up suing Mein for assault. A few months later, a covey of merchants threatened Mein on the street. He pulled a pistol and went into hiding. That’s what I mean by “newspaper wars.”

This talk will begin at 6:00, and is free and open to the public.

(The image above shows one of the woodcuts from the masthead of the Boston Post-Boy, courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Ben Talman said...

I would love to be there to hear you speak about Benjamin Edes, my ancestor, and the other printers of the day, in this most instrumental time in US history, but given the tyrrany of distance of living in Sydney Australia, I know you will do him proud with your presentation.

Benjamin Long Edes Talman

Joe Bauman said...

As an old newspaper man, I also would love to see your presentation, Mr. Bell. But living in Salt Lake City, I can't go. Could one of your friends film it and put it on YouTube for all of us to share?

Mark said...

I hope you have a great talk, I so wish I could be there. I'm fascinated by colonial newspapers. As someone born in Halifax, it is hard to overstate the importance of Boston printers on that city. Isaiah Thomas, Bartholomew Green and John Bushnell come to mind as people who left their mark on the history of newspapers in that city.

There's a funny story about Thomas in Hfx., and how he ran afoul of authorities during the time of the Stamp Act. The upshot was that he got his knuckles rapped, and was told to mind his P's and Q's : "you're not in New England." Such a statement is questionable, however, as many people in the province held similar views to his own. Its not surprising that he published what he did.

It seems the world of colonial newspapers was very small, with many of the same players and towns repeatedly popping up....Hfx., Portsmouth, Boston, Philly, Charleston.

J. L. Bell said...

Another significant printer who worked in both Boston and Halifax is John Howe. He was an apprentice with Margaret Draper (and perhaps Mein and Fleeming before her), managed a newspaper in Newport during the war, and then settled in Nova Scotia.

J. L. Bell said...

I don't think there are plans for videotaping this talk, but anything goes up on the web I'll link to it.

Mark said...

That's right, and his son became the famous Joseph Howe. Joseph also ran a paper. Newspapers in Joseph's days often ran excerpts or chapters of books, and he chose to run one particular series which eventually became a book called "The Clockmaker, or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick". This humorous collection authored by T.C. Haliburton was said have influenced Mark Twain. As a history minded New Englander, you should read Sam Slick for its thinly-veiled political comments.