This post was written by Robin Butterhof, a Digital Conversion Specialist in the Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division.
Chronicling America added over 1,500,000 newspaper pages in 2020! Included in those new pages is the Newport Gazette (Newport, Rhode Island), which expands the date range of Chronicling America from 1789-1963 to 1777-1963.
The Newport Gazette was published by Loyalist John Howe during the occupation of Newport by the British. In its pages, a portrait of daily life during the Revolutionary War emerges. One announcement asked readers to RSVP for St. Patrick’s Day revels at the bar of the local coffee house: “Such Irish Gentleman of the Navy and Army as chuse to meet and celebrate the Anniversary of St. Patrick . . .”
The paper included advertisements for butter being sold by the “firkin” (a small cask) and a wanted ad for a “sober, careful person” to serve as a steward on a British frigate. Advertisements for the sale of enslaved individuals and families were also to be found amidst ads for nutmeg and furniture. While the ad below includes the seller’s name, some ads avoided naming the seller and told interested parties that they should “enquire of the printer.”
Beyond local ads, the newspaper provided national and international news coverage. Although a Loyalist paper, the paper republished letters from George Washington as well as news from the Continental Congress, such as this account mentioning “Mr. Hamilton, one of Gen. Washington’s aid-de-camps.”
In March 1778, news reached Newport of the harsh conditions at Valley Forge, where Gen. Washington’s army encamped for the winter of 1777-1778, in that the Army was “very sickly grown of late . . . [estimating that] near 5000 of them have been sent to their different Hospitals.” In that same month, the newspaper covered rumors of a rag shortage that was preventing the publication of dollar bills as well as information about an exchange of prisoners of war. In 1779, the newspaper folded, and the publisher was evacuated as the British abandoned Newport.
Beyond the Newport Gazette, almost 600 new titles were added to Chronicling America in 2020. Other notable titles added in the last year include:
The Advocate, a newspaper founded in Charlestown, West Virginia by the first African-American state librarian. Read more about protests against Jim Crow policies in West Virginia.
The Saturday Press, a Minneapolis, Minnesota newspaper whose inflammatory articles led to the US Supreme Court case of Near v. Minnesota, a landmark decision for the freedom of the press.
The American Jewish World, another Minneapolis, Minnesota newspaper founded in 1912. It is one of the oldest Jewish newspapers in the United States still in publication. Read how the newspaper responded to president Woodrow Wilson’s surprise nomination of Louis Brandeis, who became the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice.
Newspapers in Chronicling America are accompanied by an essay about that newspaper’s history. These essays can be an excellent resource for students working with primary sources, providing difficult-to-uncover background information about the newspaper’s authorship and perspective. For more information about the titles listed above, see the following essays: The Advocate, The Saturday Press, and The American Jewish World.
For more information about the Newport Gazette and other new titles from Rhode Island, see The National Endowment for the Humanities’ blog post, “Chronicling America Now Reaches Back to the Revolutionary War.”
* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Re: “Additions to Chronicling America Highlight the Revolutionary War and More!” by Amber Paranick, Jan. 19, 2021
The new treasure trove of American newspaper articles dating back to 1777 is just in time for the U.S. Semiquincentennial observances in 2026.
Earl P. Williams, Jr., U.S. flag historian (paleovexillolgist)