The Boston News-Letter

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Boston News-Letter
Boston News-Letter (first issue).jpeg
The Boston News-Letter, first issue
TypeWeekly Newspaper
EditorJohn Campbell (1704–1722)
Bartholomew Green, Jr. (1722–1732)
Margaret Green Draper (1774–1776)
FoundedApril 24, 1704; 316 years ago (April 24, 1704)
Political alignmentLoyalist
Ceased publicationFebruary 29, 1776; 244 years ago (February 29, 1776)
HeadquartersBoston, Massachusetts  United States

The Boston News-Letter, first published on April 24, 1704, is regarded as the first continuously published newspaper in British North America. It was heavily subsidized by the British government, with a limited circulation. All copies were approved by the governor.[1] The colonies’ first newspaper was Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, which published its first and only issue on September 25, 1690. In 1718, the Weekly Jamaica Courant[2] followed in Kingston. In 1726 the Boston Gazette began publishing with Bartholomew Green, Jr., as printer.


The News-Letter’s first editor was John Campbell, a bookseller and postmaster of Boston. Campbell had been actively writing and sending "newsletters" of European occurrences to New England governors for a year or more and thought it would save trouble to print them for all. The News-Letter was originally issued weekly as a half sheet, a single page printed on both sides, 8 by 12 inches (200 mm × 300 mm), dated "From Monday, April 17, to Monday, April 24, 1704." The printer was Bartholomew Green.[3]

During its early years, the News-Letter was filled primarily with news from London journals describing English politics and the details of European wars. As the only newspaper in the colonies at the time, it also reported on the sensational death of Blackbeard the pirate in hand-to-hand combat in 1718.[4]

In 1707, John Allen took care of printing the paper.[5] In 1722 the editorship passed to Green, who focused more on domestic events. After his death in 1732, his son-in-law John Draper, also a printer, took the paper’s helm. He enlarged the paper to four pages and filled it with news from throughout the colonies. He conducted the paper until his death in 1762, at which time his son, Richard Draper, became an editor. Richard died in 1774, and his widow, Margaret Green Draper, published the News-Letter for the rest of its existence.[3]

Richard Draper had been an ardent loyalist and firmly supported the mother country in the stormy times of the 1770s. His widow shared his feelings, and when the young man she installed as editor, Robert Boyle, showed sympathy with the Revolution, she replaced him with John Howe. Howe served as Mrs. Draper's editor until the British evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, taking John Howe and Margaret Draper with them. With the British withdrawal, the News-Letter ceased to exist. The British government gave Margaret Draper a life pension.[3]

Varying titles[edit]

  • The Boston news-letter. April 24, 1704 – December 29, 1726.
  • The Weekly news-letter. January 5, 1727 – October 29, 1730.
  • The Boston weekly news-letter. November 5, 1730 – August 25, 1757.
  • The Boston news-letter. September 1, 1757 – March 18, 1762.
  • The Boston news-letter, and New-England chronicle. March 25, 1762 – March 31, 1763.
  • The Massachusetts gazette. And Boston news-letter. April 7, 1763 – May 19, 1768.
  • Boston weekly news-letter. May 26, 1768 – September 21, 1769.
  • The Massachusetts gazette; and the Boston weekly news-letter. September 28, 1769 – February 29, 1776.[5]


  1. ^ Carrol, Glenn R; Hannan, Michael T. (August 1989). "Density Dependence in the Evolution of Populations of Newspaper Organizations". American Sociological Review. 54 (4): 528. doi:10.2307/2095875. JSTOR 2095875.
  2. ^ Woodard, Colin (December 8, 2007). "Have you seen me? The hunt for the Weekly Jamaica Courant". Republic of Pirates Blog. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Boston News Letter" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  4. ^ Woodard, Colin (2007). The Republic of Pirates. Harcourt, Inc. pp. 291–296, 366. ISBN 978-0-15-603462-3.
  5. ^ a b "Massachusetts – Eighteenth-Century American Newspapers in the Library of Congress (Serial and Government Publications Division)".

Further reading[edit]

  • Steven J. Shaw. Colonial Newspaper Advertising: A Step toward Freedom of the Press. The Business History Review, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Autumn, 1959), pp. 409–420
  • Thomas S. Martin. The Long and the Short of It: A Newspaper Exchange on the Massachusetts Charters, 1772. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan. 1986), pp. 99–110

External links[edit]