The Early History of Newspaper Publishing in New York State

The 'New-York Gazette' was first issued November 8, 1725, marking the beginning of newspaper publishing in the state. Frank Luther Mott writes in his 'American Journalism, A History: 1690-1960' that it was a "small two-page paper, poorly printed, and containing chiefly foreign news from three to six months old, state papers, lists of ships entered and cleared, and a few advertisements."

New York's second paper was 'The New-York Weekly Journal' issued by John Peter Zenger beginning November 5, 1733. Four issues deemed seditious were confiscated and burned. Zenger spent nine months in jail before the famous 'libel' trial of 1735, during which time his wife, Anna, continued the publication, making her the first woman to write, edit, and publish a newspaper in New York State (and only the third in U.S. history).

During the period 1725-1800, Clarence Brigham lists 137 newspaper titles that appeared, many for only brief spans of time, in New York State. By 1828, about 120 newspapers were being published in New York State, 20 of these in New York City.

During the 19th century, several writers and poets who later gained fame and recognition worked or wrote for various newspapers in New York State.

  • Washington Irving wrote for the New York Morning Chronicle, a paper begun by Aaron Burr on October 1, 1802 and edited by Washington Irving's brother Peter.
  • Clement Clark Moore's 'Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas' (commonly known by its first line "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") was published anonymously in the December 23, 1823 issue of the Troy Sentinel.
  • In 1832, at the age of 13, poet Walt Whitman worked as an apprentice printer for the Long Island Patriot and then for Alden Spooner's weekly Long Island Star (Fall 1832-May 1835). He founded his own newspaper, the Long Islander, in 1838.
  • Herman Melville first appeared in print as the author of a letter signed "Philologian" appearing in the February 24, 1838 issue of the Albany Microscope.
  • Four of Emily Dickinson's poems are known to have been published in New York newspapers in 1864, all anonymously.
  • Mark Twain bought a partnership in the Buffalo Morning Express in August 1869. He edited and wrote for the paper through March 1871, when he sold his one-third interest in the paper at a loss.

One of this country's earliest Spanish-language newspapers was issued in New York City in the 1820s by Cuban-born priest Padre Felix Varela. The U.S. Postal Service in 1997 issued a commemorative 32 cent postage stamp in his honor.

The first African-American newspaper, Freedom's Journal, was published in New York City on March 16, 1827. American poet John Greenleaf Whittier worked as a contributing editor for The Emancipator, a weekly New York publication of the American Anti-Slavery Association, in 1837. He also helped edit The American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter during the months September-October 1841. Frederick Douglass began publication of the Rochester-based North Star on December 3, 1847.

The earliest known printed reference to organized baseball in America appeared in the Delhi Gazette on July 13, 1825. According to the June 8, 1991 issue of The Daily Star from Oneonta, a notice from Hamden, dated July 12, 1825, contains the names of nine men challenging any group in Delaware County to a game of baseball at the home of Edward B. Chace for $1 each, per game.

The Associated Press traces its origin to a meeting of executives from six New York newspapers in May of 1848. David Hale, publisher of The New York Journal of Commerce, called together James Gordon Bennett of The New York Herald, Horace Greeley of the New-York Tribune, and representatives of the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, the New York Morning Express, and The Sun, who together formed the Associated Press of New York. Agencies of the Association were first formed in Washington and Albany.

Size-wise, the largest newspaper published in New York State was an issue of The Constellation, issued in New York City on July 4, 1859. The press, designed to accommodate the single sheet opening to 100 x 70 inches, broke down during the first print run.

By 1865, according to the U.S. census, 373 newspapers were being published in 428 editions, 54 of these in New York City. The state's population grew from 959, 049 in 1810 to 4,382,759 in 1870.

Newspaper publishing in New York increased significantly during the first half of the modern wood pulp "brittle paper" era. The first New York newspaper made entirely of ground-wood pulp was the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung issued on January 7, 1868.

The first regular feature comic in an American newspaper was Richard Felton Outcalt's 'Yellow Kid,' who actually first appeared wearing a blue nightshirt in 'Hogan's Alley' in the May 5, 1895 Sunday World. Critics identified 'The Kid' as a symbol of the exploitative journalism promoted during the publishing war between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolf Hearst. Ervin Wardman of the Evening Press subsequently referred to these publications as New York's "yellow press." The first regular feature comic strip in an American newspaper was Rudolph Dirk's 'Katzenjammer Kids,' first appearing in the December 12, 1897 issue of the New York Journal.

The text of the editorial by F.P. Church titled 'Is there a Santas Claus?' appeared in the September 21, 1897 issue of The Sun in New York City. It was written in response to a letter from Virginia O'Hanlon, of 115 West Ninety-Fifth Street, inquiring as to the truth of the matter.

The first known crossword puzzle appeared in The World in New York City on Sunday December 21, 1913. The U.S. Postal Service in 1997 issued a postage stamp in 1998 in recognition of the event.

In 1870, Rowell & Sons listed 490 newspapers published in 577 editions throughout New York State, with 90 papers (in 118 editions) appearing In New York City alone. The state's population grew to 12,588,066 in 1930, by which time about 1,000 newspapers were being published.

Last Updated: May 14, 2009