October 25

“To the Editor of the Providence Gazette, and Country Journal. Sir, I am one of your Country Subscribers, and although I have no Learning myself, more than what I obtained by my own Industry, without Instruction, I value it in others.” So began a letter, addressed this day in 1762 by a newspaper subscriber who signed himself simply, “Your Well-Wisher, A Countryman.”

The letter continued: “There is generally too much Reflection cast on Country People for being illiterate and awkward; but if the Authors of such Reflections had any Candour, they would make all proper Allowances for narrow Circumstances, the constant Attendance which we and our Children are obliged to give in the Execution of our laborious Callings, the dispersed Manner of our Living, and the Want of Schools. Printing is the greatest Means of promoting Learning that was ever invented; and I hope that the setting up of that Business near us, may contribute to our Instruction, and be one Means of improving the rising Generation, and of wiping away the Odium cast on us, of being ignorant, rude, and unpolished.”

As this letter appeared in just the second issue of the Gazette, it was undoubtedly written by its young and ambitious editor, William Goddard, who had begun—just one year out of his apprenticeship, served with William Parker in New Haven and New York—the publication of the first newspaper in Providence. Subscriptions for the early newspaper were seldom obtained in sufficient quantity to assure financial success. Goddard therefore sought to build his list beyond the limits of the town of Providence, which at that time had a population of about 4,000 inhabitants.

The publication of a newspaper was just one part of the operation of a colonial printing office. In the first issue of the Gazette, Goddard inserted an advertisement as a colophon: “Providence in New England: Printed by William Goddard, opposite the Court House; by Advertisements whom are taken in, and all Manner of Printing Work performed with Care and Expedition.”

In a later issue there was offered for sale at the printing office “A variety of Books and Stationery, to be sold cheap by the Printer hereof, —With all sorts of Blanks used in this Colony, neatly printed, —Also New York almanacks, for the Year 1763.”

Thus the Colonial newspaper office was a print shop and a book store. As such it attracted the attention of the best informed residents of the community, the printer becoming, if not affluent, at least an important citizen. It is this factor which still attracts men of individuality to set up as newspaper publishers in villages and country towns, even with the competition of electronic communications.

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