In August 1768, one month after setting up his shop in Salem, Samuel Hall began to publish a weekly newspaper titled The Essex Gazette, which continued as a Salem imprint for seven years. The first Boston paper had appeared in 1704 (and there were six in circulation in that city by 1768), but Hall’s Essex Gazette was the first Massachusetts paper published outside of the capital (followed by a paper in Newburyport in 1773 and one in Worcester starting in 1775). Ever the enterprising businessman, Hall saw a lucrative possible opening in the market and he seized the opportunity.
Early American printer Isaiah Thomas (printer of the Massachusetts Spy, the controversial Whig newspaper, that after fleeing Boston, was set up in Worcester in 1775) provides the following useful summary of the paper in his seminal 1810 History of Printing in America:
The Essex Gazette was the first newspaper printed in Salem. No. 1 was published August 2, 1768; and it was continued weekly, on Tuesday, crown size, folio, from small pica and brevier types. In the centre of the title was a cut, of which the design was taken from the official seal of the county. The principal figure a bird with its wings extended, and holding a sprig in its bill; perhaps intended to represent Noah’s dove; and this device was far from being ill adapted to the state of our forefathers, who having been inhabitants of Europe, an old world, were become residents in America, to them a new one. Above the bird a fish, which seems to have been intended as a crest, emblematical of the codfishery, formerly the principal dependence of the county of Essex, of which Salem is a shire town. The whole supported by two aborigines, each holding a tomahawk, or battle axe. Imprint, ‘Salem: Printed by Samuel Hall, near the Town-House, Price 6s. 8d. per annum.’
It was afterwards ‘printed by Samuel and Ebenezer Hall.’ The Gazette was well conducted, and ably supported the cause of the country.
In 1775, soon after the commencement of the war, the printers of this paper removed with their press to Cambridge, and there published the Gazette, or, as it was then entitled, The New England Chronicle: Or, the Essex Gazette. The junior partner died in 1775, and S. Hall became again the sole proprietor. When the British army left Boston Hall removed to the capital and there printed The New England Chronicle, the words ‘Essex Gazette’ being omitted. After publishing the paper a few years with this title, he sold his right to it, and the new proprietor entitled it The Independent Chronicle, and began the alteration with No. 1. [274-5]
I shall exert myself to obtain as general and fresh a Collection of News as will lay in my Power, both Foreign and Domestic, and insert it with accuracy and in due order; and I shall at all times assiduously endeavor to procure and carefully publish, as I may have room, any compositions that may have a tendency to promote Religion, Virtue, Industry, good Order, and a due sense of the Rights and Liberties of our Country, with the Importance of true and genuine principles of patriotism, and whatever may serve to enlighten and animate us in our known Loyalty and Affection to our gracious Sovereign. In short, any Pieces that may be productive of Public Good, or contribute to the innocent Amusement and Entertainment of my Readers, will be inserted with pleasure, and any writings of a Contrary Nature, will, if offered for Insertion, be instantly rejected.
As Harriet Tapley notes in her 1927 Salem Imprints, 1768-1825, “[A]ll that [Hall] here promised he thoroughly performed, for he was prompt and faithful in the execution of all his contracts, devoting himself with great energy and spirit to the discharge of his duties” (8). As is obvious, also, from the rhetoric of his prospectus, Hall used his Gazette as one more instrument in the cause of the colonial struggle against the shackles of British tyranny; the phrase “our known Loyalty and Affection to our gracious Sovereign” may seem to suggest otherwise, but it bears remembering that at this time (summer 1768), the cause of the revolutionaries had not yet been pushed as far as independence -- the language of rebellion was first presented in the language of loyalty to the monarch and opposition to Parliament. It would take, not simply burdensome taxation, but the terrible events of March 5, 1770 to change that position irrevocably. As Tapley puts it, “Nothing is more striking than the gradual change in the tone of the newspaper from professions of loyalty and devotion to the British Crown, to preparations for war” (19; see also 11-13).
But to return to the first issue of the Gazette, on August 2, 1768. In that issue, Hall lay out his vision for the publication. His address (as quoted by Tapley, 9-10) bears consideration in full as it -- unlike most other pieces that ran in the paper over its life -- provides a rare opportunity to “hear” Hall’s voice itself:
I now commence the Publication of the ESSEX GAZETTE; and return my sincere Thanks to every Gentleman, who has, in any Manner, patronized and encouraged my Undertaking. Relying on the Candour of the Publick, my utmost Care and Diligence shall be exerted to render it, in some Measure, worthy of publick Notice.
Although the Printing Business is but just introduced into this Town and County, and consequently this Paper is the first Publication of the Kind that has been printed here; yet there can be no Doubt but that every Inhabitant is sufficiently sensible that the Exercise of this Art is of the Utmost Importance to every Community; and that News Papers, in particular, are of great publick utility: - The miscellaneous Productions, and the advices from different Parts of the World, which are usually inserted, form such an engaging Variety, as naturally attracts the Attention of People in general; so that the most useful Knowledge to mankind, tending to preserve and promote the Liberty, Happiness and Welfare of Civil Society, is, at a trifling Expence, imperceptibly diffused among the Inhabitants of an extensive Country. - But, what is the Boast and Glory of British Subjects, and what these periodical Publications greatly tend to perpetuate is the inestimable Privilege “of thinking what we please, and of speaking what we think,” as Tacitus expressed it, and which he had the Fortitude to inculcate even in an Age of Slavery....
As the impartial Publick must form their respective Opinions of The ESSEX GAZETTE from their own Observations, it is needless, by any present Assurances, to endeavor to anticipate their Ideas of its future character, and therefore would only beg Leave to observe, That I shall studiously avoid inserting any Pieces that can justly give Offence to Societies or Individuals: and with Regard to the Publishing of malicious personal Invectives, calculated to disturb the Peace and good Order of Society, or unjustly to injure the Character of any Individual, it is so repugnant to the Dictates of Justice, that no One, it is hoped, will be in the least apprehensive of its being practiced in this Gazette.
If in the Course of my Publication, I should be so fortunate as to gain the approbation of the Gentlemen who have favoured me with their subscriptions, I shall esteem myself under peculiar Obligations if they will recommend this Paper to the Notice and Patronage of their Respective Friends and Acquaintance: which Favour will be very gratefully acknowledged and every Endeavor to encrease its Character will be exerted by
The Publick’s very humble,
And most obedient Servant
With its blend of deferential advertising, moral promise, public utility, and modest self-promotion, Hall’s column gives some insight into how the Salem printer perceived his project and how, of course, he wanted his readers to perceive it as well. The first issue, as with most subsequent, fulfilled this vision, carrying both domestic and foreign news from other sources (usually around three months old) and a smattering of advertisements that reuse over and over the same woodcuts (there was no need, at the time, for realism in news images -- all ships returning from overseas, all runaway slaves, all horses for sale looked the same across the issues of early newspapers). Later issues began to include opinion letters signed (as was usual in the period) with classical pseudonyms; Hall was certainly responsible for some of these, but so too were noted locals. For example, Hall attended Third Church (a splinter from the First Church) and held a minor lay office there; so too did the Pickering family, and it seems evident that both Deacon Timothy Pickering and his son, the famed Colonel Timothy Pickering, contributed opinion pieces to the Gazette.
Occasionally local poets would place pieces (usually of dubious quality) in the Gazette. Remarkably, the first such poet to do so was Hall himself, with his ode “On Printing” in issue number two. As with his column in the first issue, the poem gives us some further insight into the mind -- perhaps even the heart? -- of Salem’s first printer:
Hail! sacred Art! thou Gift of Heaven, design’d
T’ impart the charms of Wisdom to Mankind,
To call forth Learning from the Realms of Night,
And bid bright Knowledge rise to publick Sight.
Th’ immortal Labours of old Greece and Rome,
By Thee secur’d from Fate, shall ever bloom;
To farthest Times their lasting Charms display,
Nor worn by Age, nor subject to Decay.
By Thee subdu’d, no longer Ign’rance reigns,
No o’er the World her barb’rous Power maintains:
Fair Science reassumes her ancient Sway:
To her the Nations their glad Homage pay:
At length e’en rude, unlettr’d Realms repine,
And the pale Crescent now begins to shine.
Bles’d be the Monarch, who thy worth can praise,
And, spite of Superstition, dare be wise!
But doubly bles’d be He, whose happy Thought
The rare invention into Being brought!
Two rival Artists this high Honour claim;
(Noble the Strife, where the Reward is Fame)
Each, pleading Right, the glorious Prize demands,
In deep Suspence, divided Judgment stands;
On either Side their Forces take the Field,
But neither conquers, nor will either yield.
Then let them both the common Prize receive,
And Faust and Coster’s Names forever live. [Tapley 15]
Overlooking Hall’s need to constantly ellide syllables in order to modulate his meter appropriately, and the use of the rather simplistic couplet rhyme scheme, the poem is noteworthy of the ideas it communicates. His optimistic representation of printing as a divine gift capable of civilizing, of spreading science and learning, recalls the fact that Hall’s early training as a printer was in the shop of the (Ben) Franklin family. Also reminiscent of irenic Franklin-style politics is Hall’s diplomatic awarding of the title of inventor of the printing press to both Dutch inventor Laurens Janszoon Coster and German entrepreneur Johann Fust (notably absent from Hall’s version of the history of early printing is, of course, Johannes Gutenberg).
For a physical description of the Gazette, I can do little better than quote from Tapley, who had the advantage of surveying the greatest number of extant copies when she wrote her book.
Much might be said of the typographical appearance of the Gazette during these years. It was the equal of any in Boston. The paper was heavy and coarse, but made of rag and far superior in endurance to the ephemeral sheets of today. The ink was black and the print now, after more than one hundred and fifty years [nearly two-hundred fifty now], is perfectly clear and legible. It bids fair to last for centuries, surviving the cheap news-print of the present day, which is already giving library workers much concern. The type which Hall used was, of course, imported. There was no successful type foundry in this country until after the Revolution.... The body of the paper was set in long primer and brevier, the latter being used apparently when the matter to be set threatened to run over the column. Thus we sometimes find items of news under a special head beginning in long primer, only to end in the smaller type. Crude woodcuts were occasionally inserted in the advertisements, but there were few of them, and they consisted chiefly of a horse, house, sloop, schooner, or a runaway negro, used in the ‘for sale’ columns -- all stock cuts -- quite similar to those used in the Boston papers.
.... Many styles of ‘flowers’ have been noted in various combinations to separate news items, much as dashes were later used, and especially in pamphlet work, fancy designs were frequently evolved for ‘tail pieces’. [On Hall’s use of this practice in his other publications, see my posting on Willard’s Sermon and the one on Webster’s Discourses.] The same catastrophe befell Mr. Hall as has been experienced by many a printer since those early days. When the new year came in, someone forgot to change the date line, and on the second issue of the Gazette of 1771, he comments as follows: ‘In the date at the Beginning of this Paper, thro mistake, 1770 is inserted for 1771, which the readers are desired to correct.' .... At...times he ran short of paper and was forced to use a smaller sheet, explaining, ‘on account of the bad travelling, the supply of paper was not received.’ Turned rules above and below the death notices succeeded in making this eagerly sought column prominent. In the earliest years such advertisements frequently appeared in the Gazette as: ‘Cash given for clean Linen Rags, coarse or fine, by the Printer of this Paper,’ and ‘Two coppers for those that are white and are finer than Oznabrigs, and one Copper a pound for check’d or striped and old canvas.’ [20-1]
Tapley later suggests that Hall relied upon imported paper for most of his work (particularly job-printing) and that only “one or two paper mills” were in operation in Massachusetts. But, as the very advertisements she points out indicate, paper-manufacturing was a growing industry in the colony, and Hall clearly had a relationship with at least one paper-maker. Hugh Amory’s “The New England Book Trade, 1713-1790” (in A History of the Book in America Vol. 1 [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000; reprinted, 2005], 314-46) notes that growing demand (particularly after the 1765 Stamp Act) and a 1764 state subsidy for paper-making led to an increase in “native manufacture”: “By the 1770s, there were twelve mills in New England, six of them in Massachusetts” (325). One issue of the Essex Gazette, Amory points out, explicitly announces that the paper on which it is printed was made in Milton, Massachusetts.
Lacking any serious competition in the populated stretch from Boston up to Portsmouth (the next nearest community with a newspaper), Hall’s Essex Gazette was a considerable success, with around five to six hundred subscriptions in the first two years; six hundred, thankfully, is the minimum number of subscribers that scholars estimate was required to keep a paper afloat in the period (see Charles Clark, “Early American Journalism”, History of the Book in America Vol. 1, 347-66, 354). Though this isn’t to say he never had financial problems with the paper; most notably, in 1772 a number of his subscribers fell behind on their payments and he sent out a broadside with his paper explaining in plain terms that he needed the money. A similar appeal accompanied his first Cambridge newspaper in 1775, at a time when he was still trying to recover from the devastation of the 1774 fire.
According to Caleb Foote, editor of The Salem Gazette in the mid-1800s and later owner and editor of the weekly Salem Mercury, Hall hired out a post-rider to bring him the Boston papers every Monday evening. A separate rider then delivered his Gazette to subscribers between Salem and Newburyport every Tuesday morning. This was, according to Foote, the first home-delivery of a newspaper in America. In June 1774, Hall established another delivery route to the north, hiring post-rider Robert Davis to make the run, starting at 9:00am every Tuesday morning, between Salem and Haverhill. In addition to using it to carry his own paper, Hall hired out his delivery service at reasonable rates for both mail and other newspapers (one-week old papers from New York, two-week old papers from Philadelphia, and two-month old papers from London). Tapley observes that Hall’s innovative self-funded system of circulating papers and post was the model by which the revolutionary “Committees of Correspondence” was able to bypass the official state-run systems of delivery with their own “line of riders from Boston to Baltimore” to pass along news, instructions, and warnings as the conflict spread in 1775 and 1776.
As noted above, Hall’s paper became an important instrument in the political and eventually military activities of the Revolution. In October 1770, as a response to the Gazette’s increasingly Whiggish politics, an effort was made by the colonial government to suppress the spread of the publication by blocking subscriptions. The effort failed; in fact, Tapley argues that it may have actually helped Hall sell more papers: by the end of 1770 his number of subscribers had increased to around seven hundred (20). As conflict grew imminent, the freshness of news grew in importance, both for current subscribers and for attracting new ones. When the General Court of Massachusetts Bay removed to Salem from June 17 to October 5, 1774, Hall actually found himself in a superior position to Boston newspaper printers: his office was just several dozen yards from the spot where the last of the colonial General Assemblies dissolved itself, formed a Provincial Congress, and elected the commonwealth’s delegates to the first Continental Congress.
Before he left Salem, Hall’s Gazette was to play a final, critical role in the split from England. On April 25, 1775 the Gazette carried a two-column account of the fighting six days earlier at Lexington and Concord (probably written by Colonel Pickering). A month later, Salem’s Captain John Derby arrived in London with copies of the Gazette and instructions from the Provincial Congress: he promptly circulated the papers among London society and officials, a full month before General Gage’s account would arrive in London on June 8. Until Gage’s account arrived, the public and government officials in London adamantly refused to believe that such a fight could have occurred and, more importantly, that a handful of colonial farmers could have repulsed a troop of His Majesty's professional soldiers; Derby’s mission was thought to be an attempt to provoke an outcry against Parliament and the king, and the copies of the Gazette were thought to have been manufactured as propaganda for that purpose. Instead, as it turned out, his mission and Samuel Hall’s Essex Gazette were to be England’s first taste of defeat in the nascent war.
The Essex Gazette came to an end on May 4, 1775, when Hall moved his business to Cambridge in order to be nearer the action in Boston and to satisfy requests from members of the Provincial Congress that he be nearer to the seat of government. On May 12, 1775, he began publication of his new paper: The New England Chronicle. In June 1774, about a year before Hall left Salem and the same year as the fire that destroyed his first shop, his primary competitor in the city -- the Tory-sympathizer Ezekiel Russell -- had started his The Salem Gazette and Newbury and Marblehead Advertiser from his shop near the courthouse on “Ruck Street” (probably somewhere in South Salem, described as on the road to Marblehead). During Hall’s absence, Russell also published (for only a few weeks) The American Gazette, or The Constitutional Journal starting in June 1776. It wasn’t until January 1781 that Salem saw another paper; in that month, Mary Crouch began publication of The Salem Gazette and General Advertiser. Nine months later, on October 18, 1781, Hall -- who had returned to Salem -- bought out Crouch and continued to publish The Salem Gazette until he moved again to Boston in November 1785. He eventually returned to Salem, however, where he died on October 30, 1807 (I’m uncertain of where, in the city, he is interred).
As a Christmas gift this year, my wife got me Volume III, Number 136 of Hall’s Essex Gazette: Containing the freshest Advices, both foreign and domestic. It’s dated “Tuesday, February 26 to Tuesday, March 5, 1771”, with the imprint, “Salem: Printed by Samuel Hall, at his Printing-Office a few Doors above the Town-House.” The head includes the device described by Thomas (see above). It’s a single-fold folio sheet approximately 25cm x 37cm, paginated 12<5>-128 with three columns to the page.There is some damage, with chipped edges particularly along the top (where two thin pieces have actually separated), and it was evidently folded into thirds across its width at some point, but -- as Tapley notes -- the ink is still vivid (particularly on the inner pages) and the paper (a rag stock with no visible watermark) relatively firm. Two different sets of binding punctures -- one set of stab-marks and one of stitching -- in the gutter (roughly: 6cm up from the bottom edge; 12cm up from that; 13cm up from that, or 5cm down from the top edge) indicate that it was, at two times, bound, probably in tandem with other issues of the Gazette.
The date of March 5, 1771 is important, of course, as the one-year anniversary of the Boston Massacre, and the first page of the issue is taken up with this fact. The top half of the page presents “a solemn and perpetual Memorial” calling on readers to forever remember “That this Day, the Fifth of March, is the Anniversary of | Preston’s Massacre--in King-Street--Boston,N.England--1770. | In which Five of his Majesty’s Subjects were slain, and Six wounded, | By the Discharge of a Number of Muskets from a Party of Soldiers under the Command of Capt. Thomas Preston. | GOD Save the PEOPLE!” This last exclamation, an obvious appropriation of the usual formula “God save the King!”, is followed by the dateline, “Salem, March 5, 1771.”
The lower half of the front page is a letter to Daniel Fowle’s New-Hampshire Gazette, written February 25 and published by the Portsmouth paper on March 1; the topic is the necessity of setting aside March 5th as a day of remembrance every year. The author explains how such a memorial would induce Americans to protect their liberties from encroachments by the British.
The second page includes the following contents, which, as Tapley noted, vary between roman and italic fonts with little deliberate reason beyond spacing:
A letter, dated London, December 1 , in which the Lord Mayor and other city officials petition the King to rid himself of his “evil councellors”. The King’s reply -- a denial -- is also included.
A petition by the electors of Westminster to their members of Parliament that they vote to impeach Lord North.
An anecdote, dated December 12, about a “great Personage” rebuking his spendthrift younger brother.
An account of Mr. Sawbridge’s intent to introduce two motions to Parliament after Christmas: one to shorten the duration of parliaments and another for “a more effectual place and pension bill”. Both are endorsed by the paper.
An anecdote about a supposedly dead woman in the parish of Leigh who was apparently revived by the smell of pipe tobacco being smoked at her funeral. “[T]he supposed dead woman suddenly started up, in a violent passion, with this expression, ‘Curse that pipe of tobacco!’”
A refutation, dated December 13, to the possibility that Spain intended to assault the island of Jamaica, partially because England can, if need be, arm up to 100,000 of the island’s 150,000 “Negroes”.
A “very droll circumstance” that happened at “Kingston sessions last week”, in which a man mistakenly confessed to committing rape when he thought he was filing a grievance against a debtor. When the mistake was realized, “the Court burst into a hearty laugh.”
An account of the terrible nor'easter that struck the coast south of Portsmouth on February 26, with some news of ships and mariners lost and the destruction of the bridge at Greenland. No information about the storm’s effect on Cape Ann is available: “The Eastern Post not come in at the striking off this Paper [that is, its printing], so have no Accounts of any Damage from that Quarter.”
Boston, February 28: Samuel Mather, Esq., arrived from Canada and appointed first clerk to the Board of Commissioners, in place of Richard Reeve, Esq., who has been promoted to secretary of the Board. Henry Atkins appointed clerk to the Board in place of Mr. McDonnah, who has moved to South Carolina.
Several “We hear” anecdotes about considerable flooding along the Hartford Post-Road and in Springfield.
“We are impatiently waiting the Arrival of a Vessel from London, to know the result of Parliament respecting American Affairs.”
Delays to the Southern Post due to “the late cold Weather” and iced over ferries.
The arrival and non-arrival of various ships at various ports.
A summary of the Boston Massacre, which stretches onto the next page:
To-morrow will be the Anniversary of the fatal fifth of March 1770; when Mess Gray, Marverick, Caldwell, Carr, and Attucks, were slain by the Hands of Eight Soldiers of the 29th Regiment, then posted in this Town, as some ridiculously alledge to preserve the Peace, but others say to inforce Revenue Acts, and the arbitrary, unconstitutional Measures of a corrupt and wicked Administration.
The loss of our Fellow Citizens was deeply regretted by the Friends of Liberty, but it was Matter of Triumph to the Tories even of the softer Sex: By the former, it was called a cruel Murder; by the latter, a necessary Exertion of military Power: Thus the Nature of the “Action” was held in Suspence, till nine Months after, when the Trial came on at his Majesty’s Superior Court; and there it was adjudg’d to be excusable Homicide in six of the Soldiers, and in two of them Manslaughter! - The Sentiments of People are yet various. By far the greater Part still think it was a barbarous Murder: When Posterity shall see the horrid Transaction faithfully recorded, they will pass a Judgment of it without Fear, Flattery or Hope of Reward.
Continuing on the third page:
Death notices: Benjamin Lincoln, Esq., aged 71 and former Salem representative to the General Court; Nathaniel Bethune, Esq., Salem merchant; Mrs. Sarah Inches, wife of merchant Henderson Inches and daughter of Colonel Joseph Jackson of Salem.
A letter to the March 4, Boston Gazette, signed by “A Mechannic”, in response to a letter that ran in the Evening Post (also picked up by the Essex Gazette on January 1) by “Philanthrop”, debating the events of the Massacre (Hall cannot refrain from adding two editorial footnotes to the piece).
An account of the death of Ebenezer Barker, Esq., justice of the peace, who perished returning from Andover to his home in Methuen when his horse broke through the ice of the Merrimack River and both horse and rider plunged into the current.
More accounts of flood damage after the nor'easter.
Numerous accounts of vessels damaged and lives lost at sea, particularly along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean.
Rumors that Spain has taken Gibraltar, but not fully credible.
News of preparations for war between Spain and France in the Caribbean.
More deaths at sea and shipping news.
“A Shock of an Earthquake was felt in this Town [Salem], Marblehead, &c. last Sunday Morning. The Shaking was but just perceptible.”
Custom House inward and outward entries for Salem and Marblehead, February 25.
Wanted ad: fifteen pair wooden ducks, four pair wild geese, three pair flying squirrels, three dozen fresh water turtles. “Enquire of the Printer.”
Notice signed by Isaac Mansfield and Thomas King of Marblehead, on March 1; both were appointed by Nathaniel Ropes, Esq., judge of probate for the county of Essex, to receive and examine claims of debt against the estate of the late John Marston of Marblehead; they will hold their examination at Henry Sanders’s tavern in Marblehead on the last Thursday of the next three months from five to eight in the evening.
Wanted ad: “A Ship or a Snow, about 300 Tons Burthen, 6 Feet high at least between Decks, or....Any Vessel not under 130 Tons.” Inquire with Doüin de la Motte, Esq., at “Mrs. Brown’s, near the Friends Meeting
A notice (damaged along the edge of the page) to the proprietors of the newly named township of Bridgeton (formed June 25, 1765) about tax payments due to John Willson, Collector of Andover; dated February 28, 1771.
An ad by Hall himself: “Dr. Whitaker’s and Mr. Parson's
Account of ships entered into the Boston Custom house and their origins, March 2.
A line of decorative printer’s devices follows this (on Hall’s use of these, see above).
A surprisingly detailed account of the November 25 marriage of William Nelson, Jr., Esq., and his wife (unnamed) at Stratton Major Church, King and Queen County; taken from the Williamsburg newspaper of January 17.
The final page of the newspaper contains the following:
A letter from the Boston Evening Post, signed by “Leonidas”, on the importance of a well-trained and disciplined militia in the protection of the state; calling for increased measures in preparing the colonial guard. Also calls for mustering more men:
Rouse then, my countrymen, awake, shak
e off the slumbers that seem to have infected y ou for some years past: instead of only four days in the year (or 8 hours) exercise forty at proper times, learn the evolutions to go thro’ them with exactness and propriety, let each country, and each regiment vie with one another which shall produce the best soldiers. - 75000 men well provided and disciplin’d would deter any nation from making even attempts against our liberties, we should not then be liable to every insult that petty tyranny can invent. Let’s learn our own strength and importance and we never shall bow our necks to the yoke of slavery, nor drag a cart loaded with corruption, bribery and venality.
Four years before Lexington and Concord, but already some are evidently anticipating the outbreak of military hostilities with Great Britain. Is this, perhaps, Colonel Pickering, whose Easy Plan of Discipline for a Militia Hall would publish, at the request of the Provincial Congress, in 1775?
There then follows the foreign news:
Constantinople, October 3: Turkey is struck by the plague, with up to a 1,000 people a day falling ill.
Smyrna, September 18: a Turkish court proposes that a Greek widow become a Muslim and marry the man who murdered her husband.
Copenhagen, October 20: The King of Denmark has abolished restrictions on the press and stopped the censorship of printed books.
Hague, November 22: Account of an October 30 letter by Prince Gallitzin, ambassador to Russia, on the defeat of the Cham of the Tartars in his campaign into Crimea.
Cadiz, October 23: a Lombardy battalion shipped to Buenos Aires.
Cadiz, October 26: a French vessel has transported 2000 muskets to the Canary Islands.
London, November 17: Gross account given by three surgeons of the body of "the late Mr. Grenville" in which “the rib bones on one side were all rotten, and melted to a fungus.” Some foreign affairs news in London and an explanation of why so many sailors do not want to serve the Royal Navy. A denial from the Russian ambassador to London that there is a conspiracy against the life of the Empress of Russia or that the French ambassador in St. Petersburg has been imprisoned. “A Morning Paper says it may be depended on that Mr. De Grey has absolutely and positively refused the Office of Chancellor.”
A critique of Voltaire’s account of the lives of four French monarchs, ending with the observation that Louis XIV was “feared, obeyed, idolized, hated, mortified and abandoned; he lived like a sultan, and died like a woman.”
Another line of ornate devices (one of which is either cleanly broken or incompletely inked) separates the above two items from the following:
A notice, signed by Benjamin Marston, Isaac Mansfield, and John Gallison of Marblehead and dated February 4, announcing their appointment by Judge Nathaniel Ropes to receive and examine claims of debt against the estates of the late John Tasker of Marblehead and his widow, Deborah Tasker. They will conduct the examinations at Major Richard Reed’s tavern in Marblehead on the first Thursday of the next five months from five to nine in the evening.
Lost: “the first volume of Hume’s Essays, belonging to the Social Library in Salem. Whoever has it in Possession, and will leave it with the Printer hereof, shall be rewarded for their Trouble.”
Property to be sold “cheap for Cash”: the “Mansion-House of Archibald Greenfield, late of Salem, deceased.” The property includes a half-house adjoining the home of Mr. Benjamin Bacon, a small dwelling-house, and a wharf, all near Ruck’s Creek (off South River in the area today known as The Point). Executor is David Smith; ad is dated February 23 and not fully inked in its first line.
Property to be sold: house and land on Main Street (today’s Washington Street), next to the Honorable Judge Lynde’s. “There is about 38 or 40 Poles of Land, with about 55 or 60 Feet front.” Inquiries to the printer.
A request for repayment of debts and notice of credit, dated January 26, from Andrew Cabot on behalf of Joseph Cabot, “lately embarked for Europe”.
A notice from Post-Master General’s secretary Alexander Colden, from the General Post Office in New York, dated January 22, that because a fifth packet boat has been added to the route between Falmouth, England and New York, the New York Post Office will now close at midnight on the first Tuesday of the month so that the packet can depart the next morning.
The paper concludes with one of Hall’s often-seen appeals for rags in order to make them into paper at the mill in Milton:
Cash given for Rags, at the Printing-Office in Salem -- Two Coppers a Pound for those that are white, and finer than Oznabrigs; and one Copper a Pound for check’d or striped, and old Canvas.
Beneath this there runs a final line of ornamental devices.
The fact that a newspaper from this period has survived more or less intact without being kept in an archive or library is, of course, remarkable. But even more remarkable is the evidence that my copy may be unique or, at the very least, an unrecorded first printing of the Volume III, Number 136 of the Essex Gazette.
In her book, Tapley describes this issue as including on the first page “a memorial of that unhappy and bloody event”, the Boston Massacre. “The columns [of text] on this occasion were draped in black. On the first page was a mourning tablet, surrounded by heavy black lines, upon which was inscribe [a] declaration” (23-4).
Heavy black lines do indeed surround this text, but they are the same lines that surround the text and separate the columns on all four pages of the paper. Further, there is no attempt to represent a “tablet” in the memorial and the columns are not “draped in black”. In addition to this, there are twenty-two variants between the text reported by Tapley and the text given in my copy, including three substantive variants (that is, variants in which entire words are different). There are three possible explanations:
First, Tapley may have merely been being colorful in using the terms “draped” and “tablet”, and was merely sloppy in transcribing the text of the memorial. In this explanation, there is only one version of III.136. I find this difficult to believe because of the three substantive variants and because Tapley is, in all other places in her book, an extremely fastidious bibliographer and historian. The only way to know for certain would be to see another copy of the issue (the copy Tapley examined is held by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA).
Second, at least two different printings of III.136 existed. First Hall printed the version Tapley describes and then he printed the version that I possess. This seems unlikely, since the version she describes seems like a much more elaborate printing job (the tablet and the draping); it would make more sense for a printer to start with a plainer job and then add, rather than remove, material. That said, however, the text as it appears in my version does seem to make more sense (for example, where mine reads “in the Years 1768, 1769, and 1770” she describes “in the Year 1768, 1769, and 1770”).
Third, Hall first printed the version that I possess and then, deciding for some reason to draw more attention to the memorial, added the decorations and printed the version Tapley describes. I am inclined to this explanation, not only because I would like to think that my copy is particularly important in this way (what collector wouldn’t want to think that?) but because of two small, easily overlooked bits of marginalia in my copy.
On the inside front page (p. 126), in the petition to the king in the first column, the compositor at one place has erroneously set “of you rown” rather than “of your own”. On the inside back page (p. 127), in the list of sea disasters in the second column, the compositor has erroneously set “blow noff the Coast” rather than “blown off the Coast”. Both of these errors (the only two that I can find in the paper) have been very slightly underlined in dark brown ink.
An attentive reader who was obsessive enough to take the time to catch slight typographic errors buried deep in an ephemeral piece of text and obsessive enough to bother marking them? Or, as I think more likely, a proofer in Hall’s shop -- perhaps even Samuel Hall himself -- working on the evening of Monday, March 4, checking ever so carefully to make sure that Salem’s prestigious Essex Gazette does not accidentally go out the door for its delivery to subscribers the next morning with any unprofessional error, no matter how slight? One can only speculate.