1754-1783: Communications: Chronology
1754-1783: Communications: Chronology
- As postmaster general, Benjamin Franklin makes an inspection of branch offices in British North America, instructing local postmasters in how to improve mail delivery.
- William Bradford III, editor of the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, opens the London Coffee-House for Merchants and Traders at the corner of Front and Market Streets in Philadelphia. Here newspapers are filed, letters posted, ships chartered, sailing dates announced, and auctions held.
- A monthly packet service begins between Falmouth, England, and New York City.
- 7 Apr. Benjamin Edes and John Gill take over the Boston Gazette and Country journal
- 12 Apr. James Parker, a close associate of Benjamin Franklin, begins publishing the Connecticut Gazette in New Haven; John Holt acts as manager and silent partner of the colony’s first newspaper.
- A stage route opens linking Philadelphia and New York City. Jersey Wagons, vehicles without spring suspension, operate in relays between the two cities.
- At a cost of £3,000 city officials authorize the paving of sixteen thousand yards of roadway on Boston Neck.
- Jan. James Parker begins publishing the New American Magazine in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
- 26 Sept. The New Jersey assembly makes James Parker public printer.
- Sept.-Oct. Colonial newspapers carry the story of Gen. James Wolfe’s stunning victory over the French on the Plains of Abraham, outside of Quebec.
- The Conestoga wagon is the primary means by which settlers of the Allegheny Mountains move their goods and possessions. Each wagon is usually pulled by four to seven horses and can carry four to six tons. The bottom is curved to keep loads in place as the wagon goes up and down hills.
- Mar. James Parker stops publication of the New American Magazine.
- 25 Sept. The Pennsylvania Gazette, published by Benjamin Franklin and David Hall in Philadelphia, carries news of the British capture of Montreal.
- Poor Richard’s Almanack sells an average often thousand copies.
- William Goddard starts the Providence (R.I) Gazette and Country Journal
- 6 May John Holt becomes the sole publisher of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Post-Boy; he leases the shop and presses from James Parker.
- The packet service from England extends to Boston and Charleston.
- The Connecticut Courant begins circulation as a weekly newspaper in Hartford, Connecticut; later renamed the Hartford Daily Courant, it is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States.
- There are twenty-three newspapers in North America.
- James Parker starts the Constitutional Courant in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
- 22 Mar. Parliament passes the Stamp Act, which authorizes revenue stamps (costing anywhere from a halfpenny to £10) to be affixed to all commercial and legal documents, licenses, newspapers, broadsides, almanacs, pamphlets, playing cards, and dice.
- 7-25 Oct. The Stamp Act Congress meets in City Hall, New York City. Twenty-eight delegates, representing nine colonies, are present.
- 31 Oct. In protest of the Stamp Act, William Bradford III publishes the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser with a black border resembling a tombstone on the front page.
- 1 Nov. The Stamp Act goes into effect. Despite the heavy penalties, many leading newspapers, including the New-London Gazette, (New Haven) Connecticut Gazette, (Portsmouth) New-Hampshire Gazette, and New-York Gazette and Weekly Post-Boy, appear on unstamped paper.
- The Flying Machine, a box wagon that runs from Camden, New Jersey, to what is now Jersey City, makes the nintey-mile trip every two days.
- John Holt changes the name of his paper to the New-York Journal or General Advertiser.
- 17 Mar. The Stamp Act is repealed. King George III approves the measure the next day, but it will not become effective until 1 May.
- William Goddard starts the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser Journal Philadelphia.
- 2 Dec. The Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser Journal prints the first of John Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies,” an argument against the Townshend duties. The letters are reprinted in many other colonial newspapers.
- Hugh Game becomes the public printer of the province of New York. As printer and editor of the New-York Mercury, he renames it the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury.
- Dec. James Parker prints an essay titled “To the Betrayed Inhabitants of New York” and signs it “A Son of Liberty.” He is charged with sedition and libel by the General Assembly, but dies the next year while the case is still pending.
- 12 Mar. The Boston Gazette Prints an inflammatory account of the Boston Massacre, complete with heavy black borders and a picture of four large coffins.
- Nov. John Dunlap begins publication of the weekly Pennsylvania Packet, or the General Advertiser in Philadelphia.
- Thomas Paine writes an essay, “The Case of the Officers of the Excise,” and as a result loses his position as a customs officer.
- Nov. Samuel Adams organizes the first committee of correspondence in Boston.
- William Goddard begins the Mary land Journal; and the Baltimore Advertiser.
- James Rivington begins Rivington’ New York Gazetteer or the Connecticut, Hudson’s River, New-Jersey, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser.
- Jan. There are more than eighty committees of correspondence throughout Massachusetts.
- Sept. Hugh Finlay begins a nine-month inspection of post roads and offices from Fal-mouth, Maine, to Savannah, Georgia.
- 16 Dec. The Sons of Liberty gather at Benjamin Edes’s house on Brattle Street and plan the Boston Tea Party. Afterwards the Boston Gazette prints a warning to royal officials not to arrest Edes and his associate John Gill, or they would fall “into the pit they are digging for others.”
- Until April of the next year the Boston Gazette reports a weekly circulation of two thousand copies.
- 20 May The Massachusetts Government Act forbids public meetings unless sanctioned by the governor.
- 24 Jan. Benjamin Towne, a former journeyman for William Goddard, publishes the first issue of the triweekly Pennsylvania Evening Post.
- 10 Mar. Daniel Boone begins to blaze the Wilderness Road from Fort Chiswell in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, through the Cumberland Gap, and into Kentucky. It is not improved for wagon traffic until 1795.
- 19 Apr. The battles of Lexington and Concord occur in Massachusetts. By the beginning of the next month news of the fighting will spread as far as Charleston, South Carolina.
- 10 May Isaac Sears and the Sons of Liberty wreck James Rivington’s presses. Rivington flees to the safety of a British warship. He soon receives an appointment as His Majesty’s printer in New York and reopens his printing shop.
- 5 June Benjamin Edes flees Boston with a press and types and resumes publishing the Boston Gazette in Watertown, Massachusetts; royal authorities arrest his son Peter and hold him in Boston.
- 20 Nov. Sears and the Sons of Liberty again wreck Rivington’s presses, and they carry his type back to Connecticut.
- Of the original thirteen states only Delaware lacks at least one newspaper. There are thirty-nine newspapers being published in twenty-three locations in the new United States.
- Jan. James Rivington flees to the British warship Sansom and eventually to England; he does not return to New York for more than eighteen months.
- 10 Jan. Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense, and in less than three months 120,000 copies are sold.
- 6 July The Pennsylvania Evening Post becomes the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence. A four-page paper, it devotes the entire front page and the first column of the second page to the declaration.
- 2 Aug. All the delegates officially sign the Declaration of Independence. However, their names are withheld from the public for six months because the signers fear royal prosecution.
- 19 Dec. The first number of The American Crisis, a series of essays written by Thomas Paine to bolster the morale of the Continental Army, is issued in William Brad-ford III’s Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser. Three other essays appear over the course of the next year.
- The first American edition of the Bible in English is published, but only the New Testament; a complete version does not appear until 1782.
- Peter Timothy, editor and publisher of the (Charleston) South Carolina Gazette, renames it the Gazette of the State of South Carolina.
- Sept. James Rivington returns to New York City as the king’s printer.
- 4 Oct. Rivington begins to publish his newspaper again, calling it Rivington’s New York Loyal Gazette.
- 13 Dec. Rivington changes the name of his paper to the Royal Gazette.
- Numbers 5, 6, and 7 of The American Crisis appear.
- 7 Jan Thomas Paine resigns his position as secretary of the Committee of Foreign Affairs amid accusations that he revealed information concerning French arms shipments to the United States.
- Numbers 8 and 9 of The American Crisis appear.
- May After the fall of Charleston, British authorities arrest Peter Timothy but quickly parole him. When he refuses to take the oath of allegiance, he is imprisoned in St. Augustine, Florida, for a year.
- Benjamin Edes publishes a broadside titled “CORNWALLIS TAKEN!” in celebration of the Franco-American victory at Yorktown, Virginia.
- Numbers 10, 11, and 12 of The American Crisis appear.
- There are fifty-eight newspapers published in twenty-six places in the United States.
- James Rivington renames his newspaper Rivington’s New York Gazette and Universal Advertiser.
- 15 Apr. Congress ratifies the preliminary peace treaty signed on 30 November 1782.
- 19 Apr. The American Crisis, number 13, is printed. Meanwhile, Gen. George Washington announces to the Continental Army the end of hostilities.
- 30 May The Pennsylvania Evening Post becomes the first daily newspaper in the United States.
- 10 Nov. Hugh Gaine prints the final issue of the New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury.
- 4 Dec. George Washington delivers his farewell address to his officers at Fraunces’ Tavern in New York City.
- 31 Dec. The last issue of James Rivington’s paper appears.
Edes, Benjamin (1732-1803)
Benjamin Edes (1732-1803)
Significance. For forty-three years Benjamin Edes and his partner, John Gill, published the Boston Gazette and Country Journal. During the years preceding the Revolutionary War their paper served as the mouthpiece of the Patriot cause in Boston, and other colonial newspapers frequently reprinted stories from the Boston Gazette. Royal authorities continuously tried to silence the “trumpeters of sedition” but were never successful.
Beginnings. Edes was born on 14 October 1732 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Peter and Esther Hall Edes. As a boy he received some schooling. In 1754 he married Martha Starr, and in April of the next year Edes and Gill took over the Boston Gazette. The paper, established in December 1719 by William Brooker, had five other owners before Edes and Gill.
Political Commitment. The two young printers set up a shop at the corner of Court Street and Franklin Avenue. In 1765 they became embroiled in politics when they purposely violated the Stamp Act. This statute placed a tax of from a halfpenny to a penny on newspapers, depending on size. While some colonial papers ceased publication, others published issues without paying the tax and printing the publisher’s name. Edes and Gill did not pay the tax and circulated the Boston Gazette with a skull and crossbones on the front page.
A Son of Liberty. The printers were not penalized for two reasons. First they conveniently did not use stamped paper in printing the Boston Gazette. (They had cut off the stamps in a cutter’s binder.) Second, Edes’s membership in the “Loyal Nine,” a secret group of leading Bostonians who controlled the Sons of Liberty, intimidated the stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver. Frequent visitors to the printing shop of Edes and Gill included Samuel Adams, John Adams, Joseph Warren, Josiah Quincy, James Otis, and John Hancock, all of whom contributed articles to the Boston Gazette. In 1768 and 1769 the paper criticized Gov. Francis Bernard as a “scourge” and “plague” to the province. Bernard was recalled by Whitehall soon afterward.
Angry Bostonians. Between 1764 and 1776 Edes and Gill led colonial printers in the production of political pamphlets; indeed until 1783 their firm was the leading printer in America. The Boston Gazette had a record-breaking weekly circulation of two thousand papers between 1774 and 1775, evidence of its popularity among the mechanics, dockworkers, and other laborers of Boston. Seven days after the Boston Massacre in March 1770 the newspaper appeared with heavy black borders to mourn those killed. On the second page Paul Revere drew four large coffins with the initials of the deceased. The account of the event began “The Town of Boston affords a recent and melancholy Demonstration of the destructive Consequences of quartering Troops among citizens in a Time of Peace.” A special report covered the death of a fifth rioter several days later.
Tea Party. The coverage of the Boston Massacre aroused the Sons of Liberty to a fever pitch. Edes’s home became the focal point of the next crisis, and it was here that the Boston Tea Party was conceived and organized. When the first tea ships arrived on November 1773, the Boston Gazette ran a protest, and Edes and Gill recruited armed men to patrol the docks twenty-four hours a day to ensure the cargo was not unloaded. Edes himself served on the guard. Governor Thomas Hutchinson remained steadfast that the tea be unloaded, and on 16 December leading Patriots met at Edes’s house on Brattle Street. That night they disguised themselves as Indians and, joining others at the meetinghouse, boarded the ships and destroyed the tea.
Fallout. Neither the Patriot nor Loyalist press identified Edes as one of the participants. In fact the Boston Gazette published a warning that Edes and Gill were not to be arrested or the authorities would fall “into the pit they are digging for others.” Nevertheless the threat of arrest remained, especially after Loyalists in the city requested that Gen. Thomas Gage apprehend certain individuals. Edes escaped from Boston with an old press and types, but his son Peter and Gill were arrested and jailed for several weeks. On 5 June 1775 the Boston Gazette resumed publication in Watertown.
Mission Accomplished. After the British evacuated Boston in March 1776, Edes returned to the city, but without the same popularity among readers and financial support of patrons; apparently the Boston Gazette had served its purpose. Gill started his own paper in May; the Constitutional Journal ran until 1787. The last issue of the Boston Gazette appeared on 17 September 1798. Edes spent his last years in ill health and poverty and died on 11 December 1803.
Sallie A. Whelan, “Benjamin Edes,” in American Newspaper Journalists, 1690–1872, Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 43, edited by Perry J. Ashley (Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli Clark/Detroit: Gale Research, 1985), pp. 178–183.