The Early American Press, 1690-1783

By William David Sloan; Julie Hedgepeth Williams | Go to book overview

Preface

When one first thinks of America's earliest printing, one is tempted to imagine that it was simplistic and that Americans' thinking about it was unsophisticated. In our imagination we can see colonial newspapers as small, crude affairs run by proprietors with mechanical ideas. With their exploratory efforts to discover what newspapers property should be doing, the proprietors laid the timorous groundwork for some of the developments in American journalism that would follow. Then in our mind's eye we see the colonial period quickly giving way to the brief era of the Revolution, populated by publishers who give little thought to anything other than the great political issues of the age. That period fades, and the American press dissolves into an ephemeral fifty-year period of partisanship, which soon surrenders to the superior journalism of the penny press.

Despite the simplification and telescopic view that the passage of time brings to us of a later age, early American printing was in truth animated by remark-able vitality and sophistication. The life of every newspaper and every printer was marked by individual ideas and individual struggles. No monolithic story can describe any of them. Each, indeed is worthy of its own story. In the following pages, despite the authors' efforts to approach each on its own terms, we have only hinted at the fullness of the story. Yet we hope that the surface picture we present suggests the complexities that lie beneath it. Not only was the early American press complex, but the thinking of early Americans about the role and operation of the press was quite sophisticated, even when compared with that of later generations. Printers and colonists dealt with a number of sensitive and complicated questions involving the press, and their discussions exhibited mature thought on a medium that was in its infancy. We hope that some of that complexity is made apparent in the story told in this book.

-ix-

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The Early American Press, 1690-1783
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - The Boston Press, 1690-1735 1
  • 2 - The Philadelphia Press, 1719-1735 51
  • Notes 68
  • 3 - Freedom of the Press, 1638-1735 73
  • Notes 91
  • 4 - The Expansion of the Colonial Press, 1735-1765 97
  • Notes 118
  • 5 - The Stamp Act Crisis, 1765-1766 123
  • Notes 142
  • 6 - The Uneasy Years, 1766-1775 147
  • Notes 165
  • 7 - The Revolutionary Press, 1775-1783 171
  • Notes 192
  • 8 - Reflections on the Early American Press 199
  • Notes 209
  • Bibliographical Essay 211
  • Notes 217
  • Sources 219
  • Index 229
  • About the Authors 235
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