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On the first day of January, 1785, there appeared in the town of Falmouth [Cumberland County] the first issue of the pioneer newspaper of the District of Maine, under the name of the Falmouth Gazette and Weekly Advertiser. This paper, except for a suspension from 1866 to 1868, has, under various names, been published continually to the present time. It came from the press of Titcomb and Wait of Falmouth and was printed on four pages, about the size of a sheet of foolscap, with three columns to a page. In 1786, the year of Portland's incorporation, the name was changed to the Cumberland Gazette. It was again changed in 1792 to avoid confusion with a rival paper, the Gazette of Maine, which had been established in 1790 by Benjamin Titcomb after his withdrawal from the partnership with Wait. Under its new name of Eastern Herald it appeared in a larger form. No more changes were made until September, 1796, when Mr. Wait disposed of his interests to John B. Baker, who consolidated it with the Gazette of Maine under the title of Eastern Herald and Gazette of Maine. After the retirement of Mr. Baker the paper passed into the hands of Daniel George, "a man of genius." Following his death it was purchased by Isaac Adams, who merged it with the Portland Gazette, a sheet issued in 1798 by E. A. Jenks. Subsequent to this change it was known as the Portland Gazette and the Maine Advertiser. In 1808 Mr. Adams took into partnership Arthur Shirley, whose connection with the paper lasted until 1822. when he left to become publisher of the Christian Mirror. During Mr. Shirley's long career as printer and publisher several important publications came from his press, among which were the Daily Courier, Family Reader, Portland Magazine and the Maine Washington Journal. He published the first directory of Portland and the first book of sacred music printed in the state. In the year 1819 William Willis later an eminent lawyer and historian, was engaged by Shirley to write editorials for his paper. This is the first instance in which the office of editor was separated from the business of the publisher.. When the daily edition was established in 1831 it was called the Portland Advertiser, while the title of Gazette of Maine was revived for the weekly edition. Among it many distinguished editors we find the names of James Brooks, Erastus Brooks, Phineas Barnes, Henry Carter and James G. Blaine. From a subscription list of 1700 in the year 1796, the circulation has now increased to 26, 267, the largest of any daily in the state.
The first daily newspaper in Maine was established in Portland in 1829 by Seba Smith. It was known as the Courier.
The oldest paper maintaining an unbroken existence and unchanging name is the Eastern Argus, established in 1803 in Portland. Its first publishers were Calvin Day and Nathaniel Willis.
In these days of almost hourly mail service it is hard to realize the eagerness with which the weekly delivery of papers was anticipated in the smaller towns in the early days. Local happening were reported without delay by the busy newsmongers but the only connection with the outside world was found in the papers. In 1785 the mail was carried from Falmouth to Portsmouth and from there to Boston on horseback and inhabitants of settlements not on the direct mail route were obliged to send messengers on foot to the nearest place selected to send letters and receive mail. In case of severe storms or unusually bad condition of the roads the postman was often delayed for two weeks and sometimes for more than a month. In Parson Smith's diary, written in 1875, we find this entry: "The post at last got here, having been hindered near five weeks."
As comparitively few people in the smaller settlements could afford individual subscriptions, it was the custom for whole neighborhoods to unite in subscribing for a single paper, which was in turn read by several families then carefully perserved for future reading. Congressional news, sometimes not more than sixteen days old, and foreign news, two or three months late, made up the greater part of the paper. A few items of local interest were given in the form of death notices -- long and eulogistic -- and advertisements. These varied from descriptions of proprietary medicines, sure to cure all ailments, to notices of marital difficulties. No paper was complete without its advertisements of W. I. Rum, gin, wines and other cordials. Masters of runaway appentrices aired their troubles and offered munificent rewards, varying from two cents to ten dollars, for the return of their ungrateful servants.
The first paper on the Kennebec was the Eastern Star, published at Hallowell, then know as Bomahook, or "The Hook:, in 1794 by Howard Robinson. The price was nine shillings a year. It was printed on four pages, 18 by 11 inches in size. After struggling vainly for about a year, during which time it passed to the hands of Nathaniel Perly, it came to an early death and as succeeded by the Tocsin. This paper was established in 1795 by Thomas Wait, Howard Robinson and John K. Baker, a former apprentice of Wait's. It was purchased the following year by Benjamin Poor and continued until 1797 when it, too, succumbed to starvation.
Soon after the establishment of the Eastern Star at "The Hook", a rival paper was started at Fort Western, a part of Hallowell, now known as Augusta. Its publisher was Peter Edes, who came to Maine from Boston. The first issue of the Kennebeck Intelligencer, a sheet of four pages, 18 by 11 1/2 inches in size was dated Novemember 21, 1795. "For want of due encouragement and punctuality of payment" Mr. Edes discontinued the paper in June 1800, but it was revived in November of the same year as The Kennebec Gazette. In February, 1810, the character of the paper changed and it became a party organ. Its name was changed with its character and it was known as the Herald of Liberty. For some time it flourished but in 1815 Edes became discouraged by unfavorable conditions and removed to Bangor, where he bought the Bangor Weekly Register on November 25 and "could make out to live if nothing more".
Lincoln County's pioneer was the Wiscasset Telegraph, issued in December, 1796, by Russell and Hoskins. It was made up of four pages, 21 by 18 inches. Nearly a year after its establishment a slight change was made in the title to The Wiscasset Telegraph, which was at that time published by Hoskins and Scott. It was discontinued on the death of Hoskins in 1804.
During the same month in which the tick of The telegraph became audible, there were heard the blatant tones of the Oriental Trumpet in Portland. After nearly four years of existence its voice was silenced.
In December, 1797, the Wiscasset Argus made its appearance under the direction of Laughton and Rhoades. It did not enjoy a long life.
Russel's Echo; or, the North Star, was Oxford County's first newspaper. It was published at Fryeburg by Elijah Russel in February, 1798. It evidently was not sucessessful in spite of the publishers offer to allow his subscribers to "pay in anything or chash", as its last number appeared in January, 1799.
The Castine Journal and Universal Advertiser came into being at Castine in January, 1799. It was a four-page paper about 18 by 11 inches, published by David Walters In May of the same year its title was changed to Castine Journal and the Eastern Advertiser. It is thought to have ceased circulation about December 20, 1800. It was the first newspaper published in Hancock County.
In 1803 the Annals of the Times began its short life in Kennebunk. In the year of its death, 1805, the Kennebunk Gazette was started by James L. Remick, who published it until 1842. For a few years after his retirement the paper was continued by his son. The Annals was York County's first experiment in journalism.
The first paper published in Penobscot County was the Bangor Weekly Register, established by Peter Edes in 1815, after is removal from Augusta. In December, 1817, it was purechased by James Burton, Jr., who changed its name to the Bangor Register. It lived until August, 1831, and was succeeded by the Penobscot Journal.
Eastport was the home of the first Washington County paper, which appeared in August, 1818, under the name of the Eastport Sentinel. It was Federal or Whig in politics and was published by Benjamin Folsom until his death in 1833. It has lived to a ripe old age and is still thriving.
No newspaper was established in Waldo County until July, 1820, when the Hancock Gazette made its appearance. Its first publishers were Fellows and Simpson, with William Biglow as editor. After a few numbers had been issued Penobscot Patriot was added to its title. In June, 1826, it was again changed to Belfast Gazette. Only eight volumes were published.
Sagadahoc County also produced a "Gazette" -- the Maine Gazette -- issued by Torrey and Simpson at Bath in 1820. In 1832 the paper was consolidated witht eh Maine Inquirer. Though many later consolidations and consequent changes of the name have occured, the paper is still in existence.
George V. Edes, a nephew of Peter, was associated with Thomas J. Copeland in the publication of Somerset County's first news sheet, the Somerset Journal. It was issued at Norridgewock on May 15, 1823. Under various names it continued until about 1826, when it was removed to Bangor and published under a new title.
The promoter of the Thomaston Register, the earliest publication in Knox county, was Jonathan Ruggles, later Justice of the Surpreme Court in Maine and United States Senator. It made its appearance in May 1825, under the direction of Edwin Moody, who sold the establishment in 1831. The new owner substituted for the old title the name of Independent Journal. The following spring the business was discontinued.
The first attempt to establish a printing press in Franklin County was made by W. A. Dunn in 1832. The Sandy River Yeoman was the result of the effort. Its difficulties were many and after a year's struggle it gave up in despair.
The ancestor of the Piscataquis Observer, now published in Dover was the Piscatiquis Herald, born in Dover, June 1, 1838. Only one change in the name, that from the Herald to Observer, has been made. George V. Edes, who previously published the Somerset Journal, was responsible for its early success, aided by the Whigs of Piscatiquis County, whose organ it was.
The first paper presented by Androscoggin County was the Lewiston Journal, whose initial number was issued at Lewiston May 21, 1847. The size of the first sheet was 33 by 23 inches. William Waldron and Dr. Alozo Garcelon were the publishers, with Dr. F. Lane as editor. The press and printing materials for the Journal were brought to Lewiston from Portland with a team by Col. William Garcelon. In 1850 Dr. Garcelon's connection with the paper ceased and Waldron conducted it alone until 1856, when Nelso Dingley purchased a half interest. A year later he assumed entire control. Under his management the paper became more decidedly political and has since been recognized as one of the leading Republican papers.
The Aroostook Pioneer has the distinction of being not only the first newspaper published in the county but a paper "started in the wilderness". In 1858 Joseph B. Hall, senior member of the firm of Hall and Gilman, purchased the old outfit of the Bangor Gazette and carried it by team from Bangor to Presque Isle. When Mr. Hll severed his connection with the paper in 1860, Mr. Gilman assumed sole charge. Eight years later Mr. Gilman removed the paper to Houlton, where business prospects seemed brighter. It is still published in Houlton under the original name.
Source(s) for narrative on this page: The Maine Book, by Henry E. Dunnack, Librarian of Maine State Library. Augusta, Maine 1920. pages 148-152.
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