The Pennsylvania Gazette

The Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the America’s most prominent newspapers from 1728—before the time period of the American Revolution—until 1815. Published in Philadelphia from 1728 through 1815, The Pennsylvania Gazette is considered The New York Times of the 18th century. It was first published by Samuel Keimer and was the second newspaper to be published in Pennsylvania under the name The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences: and Pennsylvania Gazette, alluding to Keimer’s intention to print out a page of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences in each copy.

On October 2, 1729, Benjamin Franklin and Hugh Meredith bought the paper and shortened its name, as well as dropping Keimer’s grandiose plan to print out the Cyclopaedia. Franklin not only printed the paper but also often contributed pieces under aliases. His newspaper soon became the most successful in the colonies. This newspaper, among other firsts, would print the first political cartoon in America, “Join, or Die,” authored by Franklin himself. The Pennsylvania Gazette temporarily ceased publication in 1800, ten years after Franklin’s death.

Beginning in 1801, George W. Hall and William C. Sellers decided to continue publishing The Pennsylvania Gazette, with content changes necessary to maintain and grow readership due to the growth of the newspaper industry in Philadelphia and nationwide. Following the death of Sellers in 1804, the publication wavered on continuing publication or shutting down for several years. Hall eventually partnered with another Philadelphia publisher, George W. Pierie in 1808, and the publication continued with a renewed enthusiasm. From 1808 forward, the number of newspapers in Philadelphia continued to grow and cut into the Gazette’s readership. Throughout this time the newspaper reconfigured its content, added and or re-titled a variety of features, and included more information on the movement west to the Mississippi, population growth, and interactions with Native Americans and the European possessions in America. Following the death of Hall in 1813 and Pierie in 1814, the publication continued until October 11, when creditors took final control of the assets of the newspaper and the newspaper ceased.

Duplessis portrait of Ben Franklin

The Pennsylvania Gazette provides the reader with a first-hand view of colonial America, the American Revolution, New Republic, and Jeffersonian America, and offers important social, political and cultural perspectives of each of the periods. Thousands of articles, editorials, letters, news items and advertisements cover the Western Hemisphere, from the Canadian Maritime Provinces through the West Indies and North and South America, presenting a detailed glimpse of issues and lifestyles of the times.

Also included is the full text of such important writings as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Letters from a Farmer, Thomas Payne’s Common Sense, The Federalist Papers and much more.

The Pennsylvania Gazette after 1800 focused on Jeffersonian America. The 1801-1815 issues also included a wide variety of articles, editorials, features, news items and advertisements. Property and business sales, land settlement and population movements west of the Appalachians, interactions with Native Americans, and water and overland commerce throughout America east of the Mississippi River were prominently reported. In addition, the “Foreign Intelligence” featured reports and articles on the “Southern Frontier,” the War of 1812, activities of the European monarchies, the Napoleonic era, European social and economic movements, and world trade.

The Pennsylvania Gazette

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The Pennsylvania Packet

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Collection Notes

The Pennsylvania Gazette is divided into four separate folios. The periods covered by these folios include:

  • Folio I: “Benjamin Franklin’s Newspaper” (1728–1750)
  • Folio II: “The French & Indian War” (1751–1765)
  • Folio III: “The American Revolution” (1766–1783)

The Pennsylvania Gazette Collection, while almost completely composed of articles from The Pennsylvania Gazette, also contains approximately 2900 articles from the publication the Pennsylvania Packet.

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