Little Bits of History

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 25, 2012

Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick

September 25, 1690: Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick is published in Boston. It was the first multi-page newspaper published in the Americas. Printed by Richard Pierce and edited by Benjamin Harris, it consisted of four 6 x 10 inch pages (only filling three of them). The plan was to publish monthly unless “any Glut of Occurrences happen” and then it would print an extra edition. Harris had previously published a paper in London and was experienced in the venture. However, even though many Occurrences did happen, a second issue was never printed. The Governor and Council shut down this first newspaper on September 29, 1690 – just four days after the first print.

Before this burst of journalistic expression, printed news was available to the literate residents of the colonies in the form of a broadside. This is a large sheet of paper printed only on one side and publicly displayed. They were akin to a poster and could contain information about events, proclamations of news, or simple advertisements. They were temporary and after the information was disseminated, they would be taken down and discarded. Some literary broadsides might contain a poem and be elaborately decorated and suitable for framing. Broadsides were the most common form of printing between the 16th and 19th centuries, especially in Britain, Ireland, and North America. On July 4, 1776, John Dunlap of Philadelphia printed 200 copies of a proclamation to be posted – The US Declaration of Independence.

Newspapers are scheduled printings available to the public, covering news and events that are current and yet cover a wide range of topics. All four criteria must be met. They are an outgrowth, improvement, or upgrade to posters of earlier times and places. Ancient China, Rome, and Greece all used methods of posted writing to get the news out. The invention of the printing press in the west had two major influences. First, it made copies of print material easier and cheaper to create. Second, because the written word was cheaper, more people learned to read. A literate society is needed before selling newspapers can be profitable. German newspapers were the first on the scene from as early as the 16th century.

News of newspapers spread across the continent and soon became quite popular in a variety of languages. In the colonies, it took another 14 years before a newspaper was given the green light. In 1704, the weekly The Boston News-Letter began. Printing on cheap paper has made it possible for many readers to keep up-to-date. In 2007 there were 6,580 daily newspapers. The worldwide recession of 2008 and the proliferation of web-based alternatives have changed that. The 395 million copies a day have steadily declined. With dropping sales, ad revenue had decreased and many papers have gone out of business.

Whereas some have lately presumed to Print and Disperse a Pamphlet, Entitled, Publick Occurrences, both Forreign and Domestick: Boston, Thursday, Septemb. 25th, 1690.

Without the least Privity and Countenace of Authority. The Governour and Council having had the perusal of said Pamphlet, and finding that therein contained Reflections of a very high nature:

As also sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports, do hereby manifest and declare their high Resentment and Disallowance of said Pamphlet, and Order that the same be Suppressed and called in;

Strickly forbidden any person or persons for the future to Set forth any thing in Print without License first obtained from those that are or shall be appointed by the Government to grant the same. – the order to quit publication

Also on this day:

The Supremes – In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.
Fasssssst – In 1997, a new land speed record was set.
Lots of Water – In 1513, Balboa reached the Pacific Ocean.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on September 25, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Benjamin Harris was jailed for publishing the one issue of Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick because he did not have a business license, as he had been warned of. The event of being jailed is a good example of some journalists who try to avoid being compared to ordinary people- Benjamin Harris could have obtained a business licence like any other businessman but he was too arrogant to do so. Too arrogant to get a business licence like others was only part of the story- he operated a series of private clubs- private so that he would not have to have a business licence, his first was closed down because he did not have a business licence. Therefore, his being jailed and the stopping of Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick was not due to freedom of speech issues but of one simple issue- Benjamin Harris was “better than eveybody else” only to himself.


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