Collections and Critiques
Exhibit of Original Newspaper Accounts of Boston Tea Party at Widener
Final-hand newspaper accounts of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the battles of Lexington and Concord are included in an exhibit of the first American newspapers now on display in the Treasure Room of Widener Library.
The story of the Boston Massacre is the famous account appearing in the Boston "Gazette and Country Journal" of March 17, 1770, 12 days after the event. This is illustrated with interesting wood cuts.
The Boston Tea Party is described in issues of the Boston "Evening Post" for December, 1773. An account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord appears in the Essex "Gazeite" of April 18-25, 1775.
Facaimile copies of the first newspaper printed in the Western Hemisphere, and of a Boston paper which Benjamin Franklin took over in 1723 at the age of 17, are in the display.
Of the former, the Boston "Public Occurrences", there was only one copy. This appeared September 25, 1690; it was suppressed by the authorities, and publication was given up by the editor, Benjamin Harris.
James Franklin founded the "How England Courant" in 1721. On getting into difficulties in 1723, be delegated the work of publishing to his younger brother, Benjamin Franklin, while the paper continued under his name.
A rare item in the exhibit is an early original copy of the second newspaper established in America, the Boston "News-Letter," founded by John Campbell in 1704. As postmaster, this was Campbell's idea for avoiding the trouble of writing longhand news accounts to the governors of all the colonies, and it continued for 72 years. Being afraid of censorship by the authorities, Campbell steered clear of current colonial news and gathered his material from the London "Gazette." His news was consequently about six months old.
In Widener there are 600 volumes of newspapers printed in America before 1810. Half of these were collected by Professor Christoph Daniel Ebeling, of Hamburg, Germany. On his death in 1817 the collection was bought by Israel Thorndike, a Boston merchant, and presented to Harvard the next year.