Hot off the (first) press, the Halifax Gazette dates back 270 years
Posted on August 05, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments
Did you know that the first newspaper in Canada was produced in Nova Scotia? Over two and a half centuries ago, the Halifax Gazette printed its first issue. Since then, the paper has changed names but still operates today as a government publication.
First in Canada
The history of the Halifax Gazette dates back to 1751 when Bartholomew Green Jr. travelled to Nova Scotia from Massachusetts to set up a print shop on Grafton Street. Halifax was a new city, having been established just three years prior, so the lack of competition in the area was appealing. Green owned the Boston Gazette in Massachusetts and his family had a history of working in the printing business. He travelled to Halifax intending to start another paper of his own. But before printing the first issue, Bartholomew Green Jr. died at the age of 52.
John Bushell, Green’s business partner, decided to pick up where he had left off and moved to Halifax with his family. The first issue of the Halifax Gazette was printed on March 23, 1752.
With a population of just 4,000 people, there were few local stories for the Halifax Gazette to publish, so the publication mainly focused on world news. The first issue was printed on a half sheet of paper, double-sided. It featured news from Europe, Britain and New England, some local announcements, ads promoting butter sold by a quarter barrel plus bookkeeping and tutoring services.
Issues of the Halifax Gazette made their way to different cities via ships and became a way for locals to stay informed on world news. The publication had tough competition in Boston and New York to become the first to publish headlines.
John Bushell along with his daughter Elisabeth as compositor and presswoman and Robert Bulkeley as editor continued to print issues weekly, and business went well. Eventually, the company received other small printing jobs and began focusing on government news once it was appointed King’s Printer of government publications.
The Halifax Gazette had many names over the years, including the Weekly Advertiser, the Nova Scotia Gazette and the Royal Gazette and Nova Scotia Advertiser. In 1867, the paper received official sanction as the government publication for the province and was renamed the Nova Scotia Royal Gazette. This was later shortened to the Royal Gazette in 1999.
Of all the copies of the first issue of the Halifax Gazette, only one remains today. The paper was owned for a long time by the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, but in 2002 Library and Archives Canada acquired this influential piece of Canadian newspaper history. After being displayed in Halifax briefly, the paper was moved to archives in Ottawa.
Today, the Halifax Gazette survives as the Royal Gazette, a government publication managed by the province’s Office of the Registrar of Regulations. Issues continue to be published weekly, providing updates on provincial laws and legislation.-
Still newsworthy after 270 years.
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