Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: The Printer and the Press, 1

Rhode Island Reading Room
These documents are made available free to the public by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project

"The Printer and the Press"

by H. P. Smith (Chapter V)

State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century

Vol. II, pp. 563 - 611, Ed. Edward Field, A. B.

Boston & Syracuse: The Mason Publishing Company, 1902.

The story of the beginning of printing in Rhode Island, the founding of the first newspaper, and of the development of the art and industry in succeeding years, becomes almost a history of printing in America, and is laden with features of deep interest to the reader of the present time.  Very few of the arts, industries of occupations have undergone so many and such startling changes.  The leap from the rude wooden printing press of James Franklin and his illustrious brother Benjamin, to the modern web machine with its countless parts and its marvelous speed, is a grand one; not less remarkable is the gulf that separates the imperfect types of the early printers, laboriously made by hand, and the product  of the very modern linotype machine, whose almost thought-endowed mechanism not only places the type in reading order, but makes a metal cast of every line ready for the press, and with a degree of speed equaling the best efforts of half a dozen typesetters.  The production of paper, too --- that first essential of newspaper and book-making --  has been revolutionized in a similar manner.  The old, rough-surfaced, hand-made sheets of small size and doubtful color, are superseded by the great rolls each containing miles of smooth, white fabric, which flies with almost inconceivable speed among the cylinders of great presses.  Book-binding, also, has been amazingly changed in character, and particularly in cost.  The beautiful and artistic hand binding of old as well as modern times cannot, of course, be excelled; but to meet the demands of millions of readers, machinery has been brought into use in almost every department of this industry, until now an attractive, substantial ordinary octavo book, with cloth covers, can be obtained for a few cents.  And it is the same story with engraving.  Little of this was done in early years, even for books and pamphlets - almost none at all for newspapers.  The artist took his wood block and slowly cut his coarse lines, the printing following directly from the wood, which the slightest accident might destroy or a few hundred impressions greatly injure.  Today, as is well known, the copper-faced electrotype takes the place of the wood block, the photograph of the pencil and drawing, and the marvelous half-tone processes bring out every detail of portrait or landscape with infallible fidelity upon a durable metal plate and at nominal cost.

The news-getting methods and facilities of the modern daily journal are so far removed from those of the early printer and publisher, that the contrast is amusing as well as startling; much of this change is due to the railroad and the telegraph.  With all of these marvelous improvements the newspaper editor has taken on a new character.  From the old-time citizen who issued the small weekly newspaper, with whom every townsman was acquainted and who met his neighbors every day to talk of public and private affairs, the modern editor of a great paper has grown to be an impersonal and almost intangible being who merely controls and actual pen-work of others.

All of this would not, perhaps, possess paramount interest to the reader of these days or for rehearsal in these pages, were it not for the important fact that the dwellers in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations during the past century and a half have seen all of those momentous changes take place on their own soil; their own fellow citizens have contributed towards making them from their very inception.  Newspaper establishments are still in existence wherein most of them have been developed.  That should be sufficient.

There were notable names closely associated with the introduction of printing into Rhode Island.  It is now almost two hundred years since the first newspaper was issued in New England; that was the Boston News Letter, the first number of which appeared April 20, 1704. Fifteen years elapsed before the second one was published - the Boston Gazette, founded in 1719, to be followed in 1721 by the New England Courant, also published in Boston.

James Franklin, a practical printer, came over from London, bringing with him a Ramage press and a small quantity of type, settled in Boston and began doing job printing, in connection with the publication of the Courant.  With him as an apprentice was his brother Benjamin, who was destined to greatly outshine his master.  James Franklin incurred the displeasure of the Massachusetts authorities through some criticisms of public affairs, and at one time was four months in jail, Benjamin conducting the newspaper meanwhile.  Finally, Benjamin, as is well known, went to Philadelphia and started upon his famous career.  James, hampered in his work and in constant fear of arrest, was induced by another brother, John, who resided in Newport, to remove thither and establish a newspaper.  This he did, and on the 27th of September, 1732, issued the first number of the Rhode Island Gazette, the first newspaper in Rhode Island and the fourth in New England.  The imprint reads, 'Newport, R. I.  Printed and sold by James Franklin at his printing house under the Town School House, where Advertisements and Letters to the Author are taken in.'  The Gazette lived only about seven months, and copies in existence show that it was not issued regularly during that period.  After various published complaints by the editor of lack of support, the last number was printed May 24, 1733.

The earliest of the imprints of James Franklin was a 16 mo. of seventeen pages.  It is entitled, 'John Hammett's Vindication and Relation Newport Rhode Island.  Printed and Sold by James Franklin 1727.'  Copies of this are extremely rare.  Only one copy is known by collectors of Rhode Island imprints.  Another of Franklin's products was 'An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, as the same is Held Forth, and Preached, by the Peoples called in Scorn Quakers; &c.  By Robert Barclay.  The Sixth Edition in English.  Newport, Rhode Island.  Printed by James Franklin 1729.'  This is a 12 mo. of 574 printed pages.

Franklin's health failed and he died in February, 1735.  His widow (Anna), his daughter, and later his son, who was also named James, continued the business and possibly attempted to revive the Gazette.  While the elder James was publishing his paper he received a visit from his former apprentice, Benjamin, who returned to Philadelphia, taking with him his nephew, the younger James.  There the latter learned the printing trade, which enabled him to take up the work in Newport, first as a partner with his mother.  Books are in existence in the Redwood Library, Newport, bearing his imprint with date of 1752, and others with the imprint of 'Widow Franklin'. (footnote #1:  'Acts of his Majesty's Colony, etc., with Charter prefixed.  Folio, pp. Charter 15. Table 15. 308. Newport. Widow Franklin.  1744'.  Also, 'Acts of his Majesty's Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in Newport, Rhode Island.  Printed by J. Franklin, at the Printing Office under the School House.' - Hammett's Contribution to the Bibliography and Literature of Newport, p. 5.)   On the 19th day of June, 1758, this second James Franklin published the first number of the Newport Mercury, a font of type for the purpose having been presented him by his uncle, Benjamin; but his physical condition seems to have been weak, and after gradually failing health he died, August 22, 1762.  His mother again took up the business, but she soon committed it to Samuel Hall, with whom she formed a partnership under the name of Franklin and Hall; this firm was dissolved in the following year.  Hall continued the business in his name until 1768, when the establishment was sold to Solomon Southwick.  He was a son of a fisherman and born in Newport.  By his youthful intelligence he attracted the attention of Henry Collins, who was supposed to be wealthy, and who placed young Southwick in an academy in Philadelphia, maintained him through his period of study, and subsequently established him in mercantile business in Newport.  In this enterprise he was not permanently successful, and when the Mercury was offered for sale he purchased it.   Mr. Southwick was a patriot and a Whig.  When the British entered Newport he buried his printing materials in the rear of the Kilburn house, on Broad street, barely escaped with his life on account of his outspoken loyalty to the patriot cause, and went to Albany, N. Y.  In his absence the invaders dug up the press and type and published the Newport Gazette, which was printed and edited by John Howe.  The first number of this paper bore date January 15, 1777, and it continued through 1778 and probably up to the time of the evacuation, October 25, 1779.  Howe's office was in the Vaughan house, north side of the Parade, near Thames street.  The Redwood Library contains a valued file of the paper from January, 1777, to January 15, 1778.

After the evacuation by the British Mr. Southwick returned, and on January 5, 1780, resumed the publication of the Mercury, in company with Henry M. Barber (firm of Southwick & Barber).  Mr. Southwick was sole proprietor again in 1787 and so continued until 1795, when ill health and financial embarrassment caused by the great depreciation of the currency, forced him to give up his business, and it passed wholly to Mr. Barber.  Mr. Southwick died December 23, 1797.

The files of the Mercury show that from December 16, 1800, to August 19, 1809, Ann Barber was its publisher.  L. Rousmaniere and William Barber then became owners and were succeeded, November 22, 1817, by W. & J. H. Barber.  On November 6, 1841, J. H. Barber became sole owner, and was succeeded January 2, 1847, by the firm of J. H. Barber & Son; they were followed by William Lee Barber, who died after three years at the head of the business, and it was sold to George C. Mason and F. A. Pratt; they published the paper from February 22, 1851, to June 12, 1854, when it passed to the firm of Coggeshall & Pratt.  This connection continued to April 3, 1858, when F. A. Pratt & Co. became the publishers and so continued to January 4, 1862.  On November 16, 1872, the Mercury appeared under ownership and control of John P. Sanborn, the veteran publisher, who has ever since, during a period of about thirty years, directed the course of the paper.  Mr. Sanborn is now the oldest editor of the oldest newspaper in the State of Rhode Island.

illustration on facing page:
The first page of the first number of the first newspaper published in Newport.  From the original in the possession of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

The Newport Herald (footnote #2: In Hammett's bibliography of Newport are reproduced two pages of the Herald, at pp. 109-10, and there are several numbers in existence) was the next newspaper published in that city, the first number appearing March 1, 1787.  The avowed purpose of the Herald was opposition to paper money.  The necessities arising from depression and the destruction of trade and credit, growing chiefly out of the war, had driven the Rhode Island Legislature to issue paper currency until the amount exceeded £153,000, or $500,000.  A combination of merchants and other tradesmen had been made to prevent the circulation of this medium, and violent party spirit was aroused.  The Legislature enacted laws to enforce the circulation of the depreciated currency at a certain fixed value.  The Herald was established to oppose these measures, its motto being, 'It is to contradiction consequently to the liberty of the press, that physics, morality and politics owe their improvement.'  The Herald was printed by Peter Edes, Thames street, and survived until August, 1791.

On the 7th of April, 1830, James Atkinson issued the first number of the Herald of the Times.  In 1846 the name was changed to the Herald of the Times and Rhode Islander, and from August 12, 1847, was published by S. S. Eastman, who sold it to Cranston & Norman in January, 1849, together with the Daily Herald, issued from the same office.  The latter was consolidated later with the Daily News, and the Herald of the Times, shorn of its sub-title, was continued until the sale of the News in 1856, as noticed further on.

On the 27th of September, 1834, William Barber & Sons issued the first number of the Rhode Island Gazette, as what they called the new series of the Gazette that was established in 1732, as before noticed.  This paper was started mainly on account of differences between its owners and those of the Mercury; the matter was soon settled and the paper stopped.

The Newport Daily News was established May 4, 1846, by Orin F. Jackson, who came from Massachusetts for the purpose.  The new daily was successful from the beginning and was continued by its founder until September, 1848, when he sold it to William H. Cranston, under whose management it became a fearless, able and popular modern newspaper.  On January 1, 1849, George H. Norman, who had previously been financially interested in the business, was admitted as a partner. The treatment of local affairs in its columns was made conspicuous and their merits and demerits received courageous and untrammeled treatment, while the prominent features of affairs of more extended public interest were made the subjects of able editorials.  In 1856 the News was sold to a company who employed John Hobart as editor and under whose name the paper was published.  Less than a year later it was sold to George T. Hammond, who continued it until 1866, when L. D. Davis and Rev. Micah J. Talbot became the owners.  In the following year T. T. Pitman purchased Mr. Talbot's interest, and the firm of Davis & Pitman continued as publishers up to 1887, the former acting as editor and the later as business manager.  In that year Mr. Pitman became sole owner and has continued so to the present time.  Among the assistant editors during this period were John P. Sanborn, now the veteran editor of the Mercury, Fred P. Powers, J. E. Chamberlain and Fred M. Hammett.

In connection with the Daily News is published the Newport Journal, weekly, which was founded August 3, 1867, by Davis & Pitman.  Its columns are largely compiled from the daily issues, and it has a widely extended country circulation.

The Newport Enterprise, which was devoted chiefly to the advocacy of temperance principles, was started March 1, 1886, as a semi-monthly, by B. W. Pearce, a veteran newspaper man.  The paper was during its career a conservative and interesting supporter of general morality and during a number of years was fairly supported.  It was discontinued in September, 1897.

A large amount of intelligent effort has been put forth in Newport for the preservation in periodicals of valuable historical and genealogical material.  In July, 1880, Henry E. Turner, assisted by R. Hammett Tilley, librarian of the Newport Historical Society, began publishing a quarterly, called the Newport Historical Magazine.  In 1884 the title was changed to the Rhode Island Historical Magazine, and Mr. Tilley became its sole editor; it was continued to April, 1887.  In January, 1891, he began the publication of the Magazine of New England History, which was discontinued in October, 1893.  In these publications the editor placed in permanent form a large quantity of historical and genealogical matter which had accumulated and was liable to loss or destruction.

John P. Sanborn and Frank G. Harris began the publication of an eight-page daily paper on June 7, 1886, called the Season.  Its title indicates its purpose.  On the 16th of June, 1888, appeared the first number of the Daily Observer and the Season, with Frank G. Harris, proprietor and editor.  In that year this paper supported the candidates of the Republican party.  It continued until 1894, when it was absorbed by the Herald.

A religious paper named the Trinity Church Messenger was published monthly for some years by Rev. G. J. Magill, pastor of that church.  The first number was dated May, 1886.

The Naval Apprentice made its first appearance in May, 1901.  It is issued from the Newport Training Station for the benefit of all naval apprentices.

The first number of the Newport Daily Herald appeared on March 23, 1892, under the business management of the Herald Publishing Company, and with Horace B. Allen, editor.  In the same month the publishers of the Democrat in Providence removed that paper to Newport, where it was issued during a few months as a weekly edition of the Herald.  Mr. Allen continued to edit the Herald until May 4, 1892, and was followed in succession by C. T. Hammond, Matthew Hale, J. H. B.Robinson, William Pangborn, John Worthington, A. O'D. Taylor, and Horatio C. Wood, the present editor.  The business managers of the paper since it was founded have been F. W. Greene, Charles Crandall, A. O'D. Taylor and Horatio C. Wood.  The Herald is an independent Republican journal and has met with deserved success.  The plant is a complete one, including type-setting machines and fast presses.  Only the daily issue is now published.

The Newport Union is a weekly summer paper devoted to the interests of colored people.  It was established in July, 1901, by F. T. Small.

The list of Newport newspapers and magazines that ended their existence after periods of greater or lesser length is not so long as might be expected in a city which had its first journal more than a century and a half ago.  The following brief notes cover all, or nearly all, that have been issued in the city:

A child's paper called The Gleaner was founded by George C. Mason, August 11, 1849; it was an illustrated weekly and only one number was issued.  The same man began the publication of the Newport Daily Advertiser, November 16, 1849, soon sold it to James Atkinson, who continued it daily a short time and in January, 1850, began the issue of the Newport Weekly Advertiser, the last number of the daily having the date of April 1, 1850.  After the death of Mr. Atkinson, in 1879, the paper was published by Remington Ward and six months later discontinued.

The Ocean Wave was a temperance paper, published a short time in 1849 by T. F. Ash, jr.  The Real Estate Record appeared February 15, 1872, and ten so-called monthly issues were published by Davis & Pitman.  In February, 1873, the title was changed to The Seaside Record, and it was continued to the close of that year.  The Newport Real Estate Record was begun as a weekly by Forsyth & Derby, in December, 1882, and subsequently was in control of other firms of real estate dealers.  The Casino Bulletin, the summer official organ of the Casino, was started as a daily in 1882, by J. T. Cowdery.

Providence newspapers. --  We have seen in the preceding pages that almost a century elapsed between the date of the arrival of Roger Williams in Rhode Island, and the time when James Franklin established his newspaper in Newport; and it was thirty years later before Providence had its first public journal.  On October 20, 1762, appeared the first number of the Providence Gazette and Country Journal, published and edited by William Goddard.  He was a native of New London, Conn., where he was born in 1740, came to Providence while yet a boy, and in January, 1762, began the printing business.  He printed the first hand-bill in the place, which was headed, 'Morro Castle taken by Storm', and his next job was a play bill.  The prospectus of his paper was issued on September 1.  The first number contained a well-written address to his prospective patrons, and the announcement that the location of his office was 'opposite the Court House.  7s. shillings lawful money per annum or equivalent in currency.'  In July, 1763,  the editor announced that he had removed his printing office 'to the store of Judge Jenckes near the great bridge.'  In March, 1765, another change was made by removal to 'the house opposite Mr. Nathan Angell's'; this was a little northwest of the Baptist church.

There was no editorial and no local news in the first number of the paper and, indeed, none of the newspapers of the seventeenth century contained local news to any noticeable extent.  The second number of the paper was dated October 30, the day of publication having been changed, as announced, so 'that gentlemen in the northern and western parts of Connecticut may receive papers by post.'  There was a period of suspension of the paper from May 11, 1765, to August 9, 1766, caused by the operation of the Stamp Act.  This pioneer Providence newspaper was edited with ability and acquired large influence.  Stephen Hopkins, the Rhode Island statesman, contributed liberally to its columns, in his successful efforts to shape the course of the momentous events of those times (footnote #3: 'Stephen Hopkins, a Rhode Island Statesman.  A Study on the Political History of the Eighteenth Century, 1884, by William E. Foster', pp. 46-8, the writer gives a very large share of the credit for making the Gazette what it was to Stephen Hopkins.  The first number did contain No. 1 of a series of historical articles from his pen, entitled, 'The Town of Providence from its Settlement to 1763'.  After allusion to the influence of Boston and Philadelphia papers, the writer of this works says:  'The quick eye of Stephen Hopkins must have seen at once the pre-eminent advantage of this agency for shaping public sentiment'; and further, Hopkins's share in it was continuous and he contributed 'a large share of its contents', etc.)

illustration on facing page:
The first page of the first number of the first newspaper, published in Providence.  From the original in the possession of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

One of the important productions of the Goddard press was 'A Discourse addressed to the Sons of Liberty.  At a solemn Assembly , near Liberty Tree in Providence February 14, 1766.'  This was an 8 vo. of eight pages.  It bears the imprint, 'Providence, in New England.  Printed and sold by Sarah and William Goddard, at the Printing Office -- near the Court House.'

Another was the well known political tract by Governor Stephen Hopkins, entitled 'The Rights of the Colonies Examined'.  It bears the imprint of Mr. Goddard, 1765.  This tract was reprinted in most of the colonies and was also printed by Almon of London in 1766.

Mr. Goddard left Providence in 1767 and was engaged in editorial work in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore many years.  Returning to Providence in 1792, he died in 1817, leaving a son, William, who inherited and cultivated his father's literary talent and newspaper ability, in which lines of work he for many years held a foremost position in this State, as will appear further on.  Beginning August 9, 1766, after the interregnum, the Gazette was published by Sarah Goddard & Co.; she was mother of William.  In September, 1767, the firm was composed of William Goddard and John Carter, and in November following (Mr. Goddard having left Providence), Mr. Carter became sole proprietor of the Gazette.  Preceding and through the Revolution the Gazette advocated Whig principles, but after peace was declared it opposed the paper money party in this State and also the adoption of the United States constitution.  During a later period it became a supporter of the strong Federal political organization, and when the anti-Masonic movement came into existence it ably advocated the new party.

In October, 1771, the paper was printed in 'the new building on Main street, opposite the Friends' meeting house'.  In November, 1793, J. Carter and William Wilkinson were associated as publishers of the Gazette, and their establishment was in the postoffice, 'opposite the market'.  In May, 1799, Mr. Carter again became sole owner and so continued until February, 1814, when he sold the whole to Hugh H. Brown and William H. Wilson.  Mr. Carter had been connected with the paper and the printing business forty-seven years, and under his control the Gazette acquired a large measure of influence and success.  He was a skillful practical printer, having served his apprenticeship with Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, and  his paper was noted for its freedom from typographical errors. (footnote #4:  The town papers and records of Providence show that Mr. Carter and his business associates carried on a large business for those times and were favored with public patronage.  While Mr. Carter was alone he rendered a bill to the town - Town paper No. 1,350 - covering a period of about a year from the fall of 1774, which was mostly for advertising.  Some of the items are of interest:  'Advertising inhabitants to give an acct. of Strangers in their Families'.  'Relative to obnoxious Persons removing from other towns.'  'Relative to Shopkeepers raising the Price of Goods.'  'Advertising Arms distributed in the late Alarm to be brought in'.  'Advertising Assize of Bread', etc.  Town paper No. 5,779, date of June, 1790, is a bill from Mr. Carter, among the items being one for '250 copes of the Order of Procession to be observed on receiving the President of the United States', 18s.  Also one for '200 promissory notes for the Town Treasurer', 9s.  At the January session of 1798 of the General Assembly it was voted that 'fifty-two dollars & Thirty-four cents, be allowed to Messeurs Carter and Wilkinson, out of the General Treasury, in Specie, or in the Bills of Credit emitted by this State, at the established Rate of Exchange; it being the Amount of their Account for Paper, Quills, Sand-Box, Ink and a Blank Book delivered to the Committee for Revising the Laws, ... and for Printing done for the State, from the fourteenth of November last, to the present time.'   Town paper No. 14,100, date of May 6, 1770, is a bill of Mr. Carter for the Providence Gazette for one year, to Henry Bowen, Mr. Bowen being then in public office.  A similar charge is that of May, 1772, by Solomon Southwick to Henry Bowen, for the Newport Mercury, one year, 6s. 9d.  In this connection may be properly given the bill of Samuel Nightingale to the town - Town paper No. 14,099, date of May 8, 1775, which includes '2 quire Paper', at 11d.)

Mr. Brown purchased Mr. Carter's interest in the business in June, 1816, and continued sole owner until January, 1820, when he took Walter R. Danforth as partner, giving him editorial charge of the paper.  An effort had previously (1795) been made to publish the paper semi-weekly, but it did not receive sufficient encouragement; but when Mr. Danforth acquired his interest this change was successfully introduced.  During about one year the paper was issued Mondays and Thursdays, and afterwards on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On January 1, 1825, Mr. Bowen again became sole owner and employed Albert G. Greene as editor.  On the 5th of October, of that year, a consolidation was effected by the Gazette and the Rhode Island American, and the firm of Carlile & Brown (Francis Y. Carlile and Hugh H. Brown) was formed and conducted the business on the north side of Market square.    The paper assumed the title, The Rhode Island American.  The American was originally started October 21, 1808, by Dunham & Hawkins (Wm. W. Dunham, editor, and David Hawkins, jr.), and was printed 'at the sign of the American Eagle, opposite the Market.  Three Dollars per Annum - half in advance.'  The editorial announcement in the first number stated, probably as the reason for establishing the paper, that the 'pressing necessity of the present period, which is to decide whether the politicks [sic] of Washington shall once more regain their proper influence in the hearts of his countrymen, demands correspondent exertion.'  From October, 1825, during one year, William S. Patten edited the consolidated paper, and was succeeded by Christopher E. Robbins.  In March, 1827, Mr. Carlile bought his partner's interest and employed Benjamin F. Hallett as editor.  In July of that year the Microcosm, a weekly paper, established June 10, 1825, by Walter R. Danforth, was absorbed by the American, and two years later, July, 1829, the Cadet and Statesman was also absorbed and the title was changed to the Rhode Island American, Statesman and Gazette.  The Cadet and Statesman was founded as the Literary Cadet and Saturday Evening Bulletin, April 22, 1826, and was published by Smith & Parmenter (Samuel J. and Jonathan C.), with Sylvester S. Southworth, editor; it was a weekly until 1827 and afterwards, until its absorption, a semi-weekly.  At the same time (July, 1829) the publishers began issuing the Daily Advertiser, which was continued until February, 1833.  In November, 1829, Daniel Mowry, 3d, became sole proprietor of the business and issued the paper with the title, The Microcosm, American and Gazette, until April, 1833, when he sold to James S. Ham and Joseph Knowles (J. S. Ham & Co.).  At the close of another year this paper was discontinued.  During all of its twenty-six years of existence this journal retained the confidence and endeavored to promote the best interests of the public.  During the period when William Goddard was its editor it attained its best  position, and after he left it, it began to decline and was consolidated with the Gazette as before stated.  The best literary talent in Providence and its vicinity contributed to the American; this fact, with the able editorials of Mr. Goddard, gave the paper high standing in the community.

In the library of the Rhode Island Historical Society are files of a paper called The Literary Subaltern, the first number of which appeared on January 1, 1829, and the files continue to August 31, 1832, which are probably the last number of the publication.  William Marshall was the first publisher, and was succeeded by Hall & Simmons.  Sylvester S. Southworth was editor, and the paper was ably conducted.

There are features of historical interest in the printing business in Providence in early years, as distinct from newspaper publication.  It has already been noted that the pioneer printers found a profitable part of their business in the making of almanacs.  Prominent among the early almanac compilers was 'Benjamin West, A. C., A. A. S.', as his name appears on various imprints.  His almanac for 1770 was printed by John Carter at the 'Sign of Shakespeare's Head, near the Coffee House'.  In 1784 this almanac was printed by Bennett Wheeler and 'sold by the Groce, Dozen or Single by Mr. Terence Reilly, opposite the Market, by Messrs. Thurber and Chandler, at the North End, and by the Author'.  The first bookseller in Providence was probably Daniel Jenckes, who had a store about 1763, and others followed as the business developed.  The second printing establishment opened in Providence was that of John Waterman, who had the popular title of 'Captain.'  He also operated a paper mill, which was started in 1764; of this mill the New England Almanac for 1765 states that 'a spacious mill had been built in Providence, for making paper.'  Mr. Waterman advertised in the Gazette of August, 1764, for rags.  He issued a volume of sermons about 1764-5 and also 'Songs composed for the Use and Edification of such as love the Truth in its Native Simplicity.  Providence.  Printed and sold by Waterman & Russell, at the new Printing Office at The Paper Mill'.  This book bears no date.  In 1768 from the same press was published the famous discourse of Silas Downer, delivered at the dedication of the Liberty Tree in Newport, and a 'Catalogue of all the books in the Providence Library', same year.  Among the works issued from the press of John Carter was an 'Account of the observation of Venus upon the Sun. by Benjamin West.' (1769); 'Poems by the late Josias Lyndon Arnold' (1797) were published by Carter & Wilkinson, with a number of addresses delivered by President Maxcy, Paul Allen, and various ministers; these were almanacs and sermons covered most of the Providence imprints previous to 1800.  J. Douglass M'Dougall was printing in Providence in 1776, in which year he issued 'An Essay on Man in Four Epistles, by Alexander Pope, Esq.  Prov.:  Printed and Sold by J. D. M'Dougall, on the west side of the Great Bridge.  1776.'  In the early years of printing the business was almost invariably combined with the selling of books, stationery, blanks, etc., and quite frequently with publishing of books on the proprietor's account.

In March, 1779, the American Journal and General Advertiser was started by Solomon Southwick and Benett Wheeler; the office was located at the corner of North Main and Meeting streets.  Mr. Southwick left the business in the following November, and Wheeler subsequently removed to the west side of the river.  The paper was a weekly and continued to about December, 1783.  In the succeeding January Mr. Wheeler founded the United States Chronicle, 'Political, Commercial and Historical'.  This weekly paper survived until some time in 1802, after about eighteen years of such success as the better journals of that period commanded.

Now followed in Providence a number of short-lived journals, some of which deserved a better fate.  January 4, 1796, Joseph Fry started a semi-weekly with the customary high-sounding title, The State Gazette and Town and County Advertiser; it was a small sheet, published Mondays and Thursdays, on the north side of Market square, and suspended before the close of a year.  Next came the Providence Journal and Town and County Advertiser, a weekly, founded by John Carter, jr., on January 1, 1799, suspended January, 1802.  The Impartial Observer was a weekly paper established in July, 1800, by Samuel J. Williams, and continued by him until March, 1801, then he was succeeded by Benoni Williams; suspended in March, 1803.  In the spring of this year Samuel J. Williams started the Liberty's Centinel, of which a few numbers only were issued.  A more promising and permanent journal came into existence as a Democratic organ, in the Providence Phenix, which was established in May, 1803, by Theodore H. Foster and William W. Dunham (Foster & Dunham).  It was a weekly, issued on Saturdays from an office on Westminster street.  Mr. Foster left the firm after one year, Dunham continuing alone to July, 1805, when William Olney took the business and continued to January 10, 1807.  He was succeeded by Jones & Wheeler (Josiah Jones, Bennett Wheeler), who published the Phenix until 1816, when they changed its name to the Providence Patriot and Columbian Phenix, and so continued it to January 1, 1819.  Jones, Wheeler & Cranston (Barzillai Cranston) Then became the publishers and continued to May, 1823.  Eaton W. Maxcy then succeeded to Mr. Wheeler's interest, but a year later transferred it to William Simons.  Jones & Simons continued to December, 1829, after which Jones published the paper as agent, with James O. Rockwell, editor.  The paper suspended at the close of 1832; it had been issued semi-weekly after 1819.  While this paper was not financially successful, it wielded large influence in the Jeffersonian political field and was sincere and aggressive.  Mr. Maxcy was its ablest editor and an accomplished writer, but was without the newspaper training so necessary for success in these later times.  'In fact the small success attained by any Providence newspaper prior to 1830, was largely owing to the fact that their editors were, in many cases, broken-down professional men who, aside from being hampered by a stilted  and ponderous style, had no journalistic training.' (footnote #5: Providence Evening Bulletin, June 25, 1886.)

The next newspaper in Providence was the Rhode Island Farmer, which was published about one year from July, 1804, by David Heaton and Benoni Williams (Heaton & Williams).

At about the beginning of the war of 1812, Herman B. and Daniel Man started the Providence Centinel and War Chronicle, with George R. Burrill, editor; only a few numbers were issued.

The Manufacturers and Farmers Journal was founded in Providence, in response to the prevalent belief that the industrial interests needed a journal that would properly represent their affairs.  During the years between the close of the War of 1812 and 1820, manufactures had been greatly increased in Providence and other parts of this State, the capital for the purpose having been drawn largely from commercial interests; this was one of the business changes due to the war.  The existing newspapers saw danger in this tendency and their columns were not freely opened to opinions and counsel that opposed the theories of their publishers.  Samuel and John Slater, who had established the cotton manufacturing at Pawtucket and Slatersville, David Wilkinson, Amasa and William H. Mason, James Burrill, William Anthony, Samuel Arnold, William Valentine, Richard Anthony, Joseph Harris, Richard and Nathan W. Jackson, William Sprague, and others prominent in industrial operations, gave their support and sympathy to the project of founding a newspaper that would properly represent and advocate their interests.  The full title of the paper, as finally decided, was the Manufacturers and Farmers Journal and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser.  It was a semi-weekly edition and is still issued on Mondays and Thursdays by the Providence Journal Company.  The first number appeared January 3, 1820, with Miller and Hutchens (both named John), as publishers; the motto of the paper was, 'Encourage National Industry.'  'Honest John Miller', as he was called, was a printer and Mr. Hutchens was a bookseller.  The office was in the old Coffee House, corner of Market Square and Canal street; in 1823 it was removed to the Union building, west side of the bridge, in which year Mr. Miller, became sole proprietor, and in the  year following to the Granite building, Market Square.  In May, 1833, the office was removed to the Whipple building, College street.  From that date to January 1, 1836, George Paine was partner with Mr. Miller (Miller & Paine), continuing to February, 1836, when George W. Jackson succeeded to the business, continuing to July, 1838.  He was followed by Joseph Knowles and William L. Burroughs (Knowles & Burroughs), who were succeeded in February, 1839, by Knowles & Vose (John W. Vose).  In July, 1840, Henry B. Anthony acquired an interest, and the firm of Knowles, Vose & Anthony published the paper until 1848.  Mr. Vose died in 1849 and the firm of Knowles & Anthony continued to January 1, 1863.  From that date the publication was continued under the names of Knowles, Anthony & Danielson, one of the former publishers of the Evening press, George W. Danielson, having acquired an interest from Mr. Knowles.  The latter died in 1874, Mr. Danielson in March, 1884, and Mr. Anthony in September of the same year.  In consequence of these deaths, the Providence Journal Company was incorporated in 1885.

With the decline of the American, as before described, the Manufacturers and Farmers Journal took its place in influence and public confidence.  The Journal has been ably edited from the beginning and a number of gifted writers had charge of its columns; among these were William E. Richmond, Thomas Rivers, Benjamin F. Hallett, Lewis Gaylord Clarke, George Paine, John B. Snow, Thomas S. Webb, Henry B. Anthony, James B. Angell, James S. Ham, George W. Danielson and Alfred M. Williams.

In 1824 the Independent Inquirer, a weekly paper established August 27, 1823, by Barnum Field, was transferred to the publishers of the Manufacturers & Farmers Journal, and its name changed to the Rhode Island Country Journal and continued to be issued until 1897.  On the 21st of July, 1829, the proprietors believed they were warranted in starting a daily issue, and the first number of the Providence Daily Journal was issued, which is still at the height of a prosperous existence, and the oldest daily newspaper in Rhode Island.  During all of its long career the Journal has occupied the leading position in Providence journalism.  In order to more completely cover the Rhode Island newspaper field, and particularly that of Providence, the publishers of the Journal began, on January 26, 1863, the issue of an evening edition, to which they gave the title, The Evening Bulletin.  The exciting events of the Civil War and the necessity of giving the public the latest news, made the Bulletin a welcome addition to the local press, and it still continues with the largest circulation of any Rhode Island daily paper.  From the birth of the Republican party, during many years, the Journal's publications have been earnest and able advocates of its principles, and their influence in the political field in this State was almost unlimited.  The time came, however, when its own sense of independence and its loyalty to its own belief impelled it to change its policy as a strictly party organ.  Since that time the papers have been independent to a marked degree, and have not hesitated to give their influence in support of those who were believed to be the best men for public station, regardless of their political affiliations.  In facilities for news-gathering, particularly in regard to foreign and State dispatches, and in all modern mechanical appliances of improved presses, type-setting machines, etc., the Journal has been kept abreast of newspaper improvement in the great cities of the country.  The office was removed in 1844 to the Washington buildings, where it remained to July, 1871, when it changed to the Barton block on Weybosset street.  In May, 1889, the Fletcher building, corner of Westminster, Eddy and Fulton streets, having been purchased by the company and fitted up for its purposes, was occupied.  It is one of the largest and most fully equipped printing and publishing establishments in New England.  The Providence Sunday Journal was first issued July 19, 1885.

Besides the short-lived papers already noticed, only two others were established in chronological order before a second attempt was made to found a Democratic newspaper in Providence; these were The Beacon, started December, 1823, by William Spear, and continued weekly to the early part of 1826; and The Investigator and General Intelligencer, established in October, 1824, with James B. Yerrington, publisher, and William Goodell, editor; it was a weekly and in 1828 removed to Boston.

In August, 1929, John S. Greene began the publication of the Republican Herald, a Democratic sheet.  A year later he was succeeded by William Simons, jr., who continued until January, 1842.  This paper soon received the support that have been previously given to the Providence Patriot, and it capably filled its chosen field.  But financial returns were meagre, comparatively speaking, and after a long struggle the Herald, in 1850, was made a weekly edition of the Daily Post.  The latter was established in March, 1850, by Sayles & Miller, and was published by them and by Anthony Miller successively until August 1, 1866, when Albert S. Gallup took it.  The paper suspended May 11, 1867, but was practically succeeded by the Morning Herald.  Among those who edited the Post were William Simons, Welcome B. Sayles, 'Clem' Webster, and Thomas Steere, and they made its columns sparkle with pungent humor and incisive comment.  The Providence Morning Herald, which was printed with the material previously used on the Post, appeared May 20, 1867, with Noah D. Payne and Albert A. Scott, publishers.  Mr. Payne was in sole control from September, 1868, until May 21, 1873, when the paper was discontinued, and many years passed before another attempt was made to establish a Democratic paper in the city.

From the date of the founding of the Providence Journal during many years no permanent addition was made to the newspapers of the city; but the list of ephemeral publications during that period was a long one.  Of these short-lived journals only brief record is possible or necessary for these pages.  The Literary Subaltern was established January 1, 1829, by William Marshall, with Sylvester Southworth, editor.  Under several different proprietors it continued three or four years.  A few numbers of the Daily American were issued in 1831; and on September 18, of that year, Bennett Wheeler started The Chronicle of the Times, which  also failed after the issue of a few numbers.  It was in 1830 that the Providence Free Press was brought from Pawtucket to remain one year in aid of the anti-Masonic campaign.  An attempt was made to establish another daily paper by Sylvester S. Southworth and Stephen G. Holroyd, who issued the first number of the Daily Gazette on February 2, 1833; The Journal of the next day contained the following:

'The City Gazette, the first number of a new daily afternoon journal, of the size of the Boston Atlas, published by Messrs. Southworth & Holroyd, made its debut yesterday.  In politics it promises to support the National Republican cause.  It is to be edited by Mr. S. S. Southworth, of the Literary Subaltern, which will be resumed, and published, as heretofore, once a week.'

'The Daily Advertiser and Semi-Weekly American, conducted by Mr. Daniel Mowry, 3d, were discontinued yesterday, according to previous notice, by the publishers.  The Weekly Microcosm will be continued as usual, and sent to all subscribers of the Daily American.'

This is a clear statement of the changes made at that time.  The Gazette was continued nine months, when it was made a weekly and the name changed to The City Gazette; it was soon afterward discontinued.

The Voice of the People, started in 1834, was silenced after a few numbers; it was published by a Mr. Doyle.  The Evening Star was established in April, 1834, by Charles Haswell, editor and proprietor; a few weeks later Nathan Hall and Cornelius S. Jones took the paper and subsequently changed its name to the Daily News; it was discontinued in August, 1836.

In June, 1834, a daily journal was started with the title, The Commercial Advertiser, by Knowles & Burroughs; it was published evenings until September of that year.  From the contents of the daily, a weekly was made up and issued under the name of The New England Family Visitor and Literary Journal.  The Penny Post was founded in January, 1835, by Samuel S. Wilson, editor and publisher; in July of the same year the name was changed to The Weekly Visitor, and its visits ceased in the following November.

One of the several newspapers that have been absorbed by the Journal was the Morning Courier, edited and published by William G. Larned from June, 1836, to January, 1840; it was a weekly paper.  A campaign paper called The Gaspee Torchlight was issued from the Journal office during the Harrison campaign of 1840; its opponent at the same time was pertinently called The Extinguisher, which emanated from the Herald office.

The New Age, established February 19, 1841, as a weekly was published successively by the Rhode Island Suffrage Association, Millard & Brown, and Miller, Low & Miller, until March 1, 1842.  From the same office was issued The Daily Express for a short time after March 18, 1842.  Joseph M. Church established The Evening Chronicle on March 30, 1842, but it suspended within the first year.  The Narragansett Chief was a weekly issue from the same office, a reprint from the columns of the Chronicle.

A daily paper that had an existence of about ten years was established in 1844 by L. Amsbury, with the name, The Daily Transcript and Chronicle; it was an afternoon paper,  and in July, 1847, the name was changed to The Daily Evening Transcript.  From that date it was published by Green & Shaw, A Crawford Greene [sic], editor, until December 19, 1855, when it was suspended.

Between 1842 and 1850 several ephemeral sheets were started and doomed to early extinction.  The Independent was issued weekly a short time in 1844 by W. S. Sherman.  The Tribune of the People had a brief existence in 1846, and The Daily Sentinel was established in that year by S. M. Millard, but lived only a short time.  The Daily Star was published in 1849-50, and the Morning Mirror was issued for a short period in 1849 by Rowe & Co.

One nearly permanent journal was founded during this period in the Providence General Advertiser and Weekly Gazette, which was established in 1847, as indicated by its title, it was devoted chiefly to advertising and was circulated gratuitously until January 31, 1886.  The publishers at different periods were J. D. Jones, A. Crawford Greene, and A Crawford Greene & Son.

The decade from 1850 to 1860 was prolific of newspapers, all of which were disappointing to their founders.  The Providence Daily Tribune, however, narrowly escaped permanency, as it lived about six years.  It was founded June 13, 1853, by A. Crawford Greene, editor and publisher; he was followed in succession by L. Amesbury and Colby & Amesbury.  The paper was discontinued in 1859.  From the Tribune office was issued the United States Freeman, which was edited by Dunbar Harris and others; it was an advocate of the abolition of slavery and short-lived.

The Providence Plaindealer was published during the year 1855 by Howard Meeks.  In 1857 N. Bangs Williams began sounding Bangs' Trumpet, which continued a year or two.  The same editor, associated with Henry L. Tillinghast, published, during a part of 1859, The Evening Telegraph.

The Providence Evening Press was established March 14, 1859, by Cooke & Danielson (Albert B. Cooke and George W. Danielson); it was edited several years by Sidney Dean.  In 1880 Z. L. White became the editor and later proprietor.  This paper had a fluctuating existence of over a quarter of a century, during a part of which it enjoyed fair prosperity.  Changes in its publishers and editors were numerous, and finally, through unsuccessful management, it was discontinued September 30, 1884.  The Rhode Island Press was the weekly edition of the Evening Press and Morning Star, and was established in 1861 and continued to 1886, having been continued by Z. L. White & Co. after the suspension of the daily.  The Providence Morning Star was established December 9, 1869, with the same publishers and editors as the Evening Press, and continued to May 4, 1887.

illustration on facing page:
photo, Lower Weybosset Street and Post Office News Agency, Providence.  From a photo taken in 1857, in the possession of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

In 1876 a paper was established in Providence which was destined to serve as the foundation for a successful and permanent daily independent Democratic journal.  This was the Sunday Telegram, which was established in 1876 by C. C. Corbett & Brother.  There were several early changes in proprietorship, the founders being succeeded by Corbett & Spear, and this firm by Corbett & Black.  The paper was continued with fair success until 1880, the office being located at the corner of Peck & Friendship streets.  In the year just named a daily edition was issued, and in 1881 the property passed wholly to David O. Black.  In 1886 F. A. Crandall acquired an interest in the business and for a time occupied the chief editorial chair.  In October, 1889, the establishment was purchased by the Providence Telegram Publishing Company, and in 1891 the office was removed to Turk's Head.  From this time forward The Telegram rapidly advanced in public favor and acquired a large measure of influence in the field of Democratic politics throughout the State.  Able writers were placed in charge of the various departments, a competent corps of reporters engaged, and all modern facilities for news-gathering  were employed.  The rapid increase in the circulation of the paper soon demanded not only the best and most effective mechanical appliances for producing a newspaper, but also more commodious quarters.  To meet this demand the establishment was removed, in December, 1899, to 136-144 Westminster street, where commodious quarters were specially fitted up for its permanent home.  The Telegram building is admirably adapted for its purposes and is fully equipped with everything necessary for the rapid production of a first-class modern newspaper.  Upon the organization of the Telegram Publishing Company, Joseph Banigan was chosen its president and served in that capacity until his death, when he was succeeded by Walter S. Ballou, the present incumbent.  David F. Lingane was made managing editor at the organization of the company, and since 1894 has filled the position of manager and editor-in-chief, with Burton Firman, managing editor.  A weekly edition of the Telegram was begun on January 30, 1899.

The Odd Fellows' Register was established in 1877 by the firm of Reynolds & Mackinnon.  In May of the next year it was removed to East Greenwich, and continued to August, 1883, when it was sold to William H. Smith, of Portland, Me., where it was continued many years.

The German newspaper, the Providence Anzeiger, was established as a weekly in 1876 and still represents the interests of that large element of citizenship.  It has been edited successively  by Gustav Saacke and Felix Hamberger, forming the Anzeiger Publishing Co.

Another paper that survived the exigencies of the business a number of years was the Rhode Island Democrat, which was started June 14, 1879, by Albion N. Merchant.  The establishment passed to John H. Scholfield and Peter Trumpler on July 10, 1884.  On December 25, 1884, Mr. Scholfield became sole owner, forming the Democrat Publishing Company.  From September, 1891, the Rhode Island Publishing Company issued the paper, with Benjamin F. Evans, manager, and Josiah B. Bowditch, editor.  In March, 1892, the paper was removed to Newport where it was issued a few months as a weekly edition to the Herald.  At the end of that time it was returned to Providence and continued about two years by the same company.

The Times Publishing Company was formed in 1877, and during a short period in that year published the Providence Evening Times.  On March 16, 1878,  the first number of The Cosmopolitan, a weekly, was issued by Angell, Hammett & Co.; it continued to January, 1879.  In September, 1879, F. E. Corbett took charge of a new paper, the Sunday Transcript, which was owned by Alonzo Spear, of Boston, who was succeeded by The Transcript Company; the paper stopped in 1886.  The Providence Herald was established November 1, 1879, by Brown & Corbett, and a year later passed wholly to E. A. Corbett.  In 1885 he was succeeded by Corbett & Sawin (A. D. Sawin); this paper has been continued to the present time, excepting for a few weeks, after which interim E. A. Corbett became sole proprietor and changed the name to Corbett's Herald.

The Narragansett Historical Register was a valuable publication, issued monthly from 1882 to 1885, at Hamilton, R. I., when it was removed to Providence and continued to April, 1891.  It was devoted to antiquities, genealogy, and historical subjects, chiefly of the southern part of the State.  James N. Arnold was editor.  Bound volumes of this magazine are preserved in the library of the Rhode Island Historical Society, and in some of the other libraries of the State.

Book Notes is the title of a fortnightly publication which has been issued by Sidney S. Rider since April, 1883.  It is devoted to literary information and criticism, and historical sketches.

A Sunday edition of The Star (before mentioned) was added in 1881, with the title The Sunday Star, and continued to about 1886.  During a brief period in 1884 The Mail was issued daily from the Democrat office.  Another short-lived daily was The Evening News, started October 1, 1884, by Z. L. White; it was discontinued March 7, 1885.  In April, 1886, C. C. Corbett started The Sunday World; he was succeeded by F. E. Corbett and the paper suspended in 1888.  The Sunday Republican was established in 1887 by E. A. Corbett, which is still continued by him, with the name changed to the Rhode Island Republican and the publication day to Saturday.  In 1883 Claude De Haven established a weekly called The Indicator, but it was suspended in 1888.  The Providence Ledger was established as a weekly Republican paper in January, 1888, by J. D. Hall & Co., with J. D. Hall, jr., business manager.  The paper was discontinued in 1892, at the time of the establishment of the Daily News.

Among newspapers devoted to the various labor interests of Providence and its vicinity was The People, established December 5, 1885, by Robert Grieve, editor, and the Rhode Island Co-operative Printing and Publishing Company, proprietors.  In May, 1887, Mr. Grieve was succeeded by John F. Smith, and  he by Robert Greaves, a former member of the board of directors of the paper.  At this time the business was leased to Holmes W. Merton, who has as associate, Henry Vrooman; they continued the publication as a socialist organ until 1888, when it was discontinued.

The Paper was the title of another labor journal which was published for a time in 1888.  The Evening Call was started July 4, 1889, as the outcome of a strike and lockout, and was under the management of the Typographical Union, with F. E. Jones, editor, and J. A. Addy, manager; it was suspended at the end of five months.

B. S. Lake & Co. started The Rental Guide and Rhode Island Business Journal in 1888, and still publish it, with the title changed to the Real Estate Register and Rental Guide, which explains its purpose.  The Freemason's Repository, devoted to the interests of that Order, was founded in 1871 by T. S. Hammond, with Rev. W. H. Rugg, editor.  It is now published by E. L. Freeman & Son.  The Tiden was a Swedish-American paper, which existed from 1889-1891, published by Dr. F. J. Haller.  The Manufacturing Jeweler is a successful trade periodical, which was started as a monthly in October, 1883, by Albert Ullman and John A. McCloy; the present proprietor, W. B. Frost, took it about a year later, changed it to a semi-monthly October 1, 1889, and to a weekly October 1, 1890; Mr. Frost became editor November 1, 1884, and proprietor March 23, 1893.


These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Transcription and pictures 2003 by Beth Hurd

Mail e-mail