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Friday, January 8, 2016

How Did People Get Their News During the Revolutionary War?


Getting news of events of the day was a bit more cumbersome in the eighteenth century than it is in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. One couldn’t tune into the radio or watch cable or network TV news programs. They relied on word of mouth, written, or printed material to keep up with the news.

People wrote letters to one another with paper and ink to communicate on personal matters as well as to get information on what was happening in the colonies during the war. That involved pen, ink and paper, items not as easily accessible as they are today.

Depending on availability, goose feathers were the most commonly used writing instruments. The strength of the feather was critical for quality and the type of line wanted by the writer. Feathers from other birds such as the crow, eagle, owl, hawk, and turkey were also used. The process to prepare the quill for use was a ten step process so many people purchased them from professionals called stationers. Inks could be purchased, but were very often made at home. Paper was initially made out of cloth and linen rags, another tedious process many people left to professionals. Vellum or Parchment, produced from animal skins, was used during Colonial times for important documents.

In the late seventeenth century the first English-American newspaper came into being when Benjamin Harris published Boston’s Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick.

By the late eighteenth century, people also received their news by local broadsheets and tabloids. Eighteenth century newspapers were smaller than modern tabloids. Their contents consisted of advertising, local and world news, essays, legal notices, and more. Journalism grew bolder and more partisan in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

Certain newspapers published in major cities, and particularly in port towns, had much more access to news from Britain which contributed to their success.

A number of papers were known to have contributed to American success in the Revolution. They were the Boston Gazette, Pennsylvania Journal, Massachusetts Spy, Pennsylvania Evening Post, Connecticut Courant, New York Journal, Providence Gazette, Rivington’s New York Gazetteer, New
Hampshire Gazette, South Carolina Gazette. Many editions of these old newspapers can be accessed at libraries or online.

My own personal favorite is the Virginia Gazette which I often use for research. http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/va-gazettes/

Front page of the August 26, 1775 edition of the Virginia Gazette from the 
Todd Andrlik collection of American Revolution newspapers.



7 comments:

  1. Interesting and most helpful. Thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. Well thanks for stopping by and commenting, Kim

      Delete
  3. Very interesting article Janet. Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings,Tina

    ReplyDelete

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