The Halifax Gazette, First Published in 1752
Printed on a half-sheet of foolscap, the Halifax Gazette provided news from Europe, government announcements, local scoops and advertising to the new citizens of Halifax
The elegantly classic masthead, traditional Caslon typeface and enough advertisements to pay the bills, the first newspaper to be published in Canada set the tone for newspapers to come. The Halifax Gazette quietly, without much fanfare, published its first issue in March of 1752, over 255 years ago.
Brought by sloop, the printing press arrived in Halifax the year before, in 1751. Bartholomew Green brought his equipment to set up shop in an area without printing competition. The provincial capital was only three years old and had a population of about 4,000. As an experienced printer and newspaperman, Green already had his own newspaper, the Boston Gazette, to his credit. He was from a long line of printers in Massachusetts; his grandfather was one of the new America’s first printers and his father was a renowned publisher of the “News-Letter” in Boston. Green intended to publish the small Halifax newspaper as his own, but died before he could get it to press at the early age of 52.
Bushells arrive to take on the printing business
John Bushell, Green’s business partner in Boston, set sail for Halifax to take up where his colleague left off. In the publishing business for at least 7 years, according to collectionscanada.ca, Bushell printed at least 25 books, mostly of a religious nature. At age 36, the young man brought along his family to Nova Scotia, a son and a daughter. It was a wise move – Bushell was known for his tippling and money problems, but his daughter Elizabeth was a steadying force in the fledgling newspaper business.
On a half-sheet of foolscap, printed on both sides, the first issue of the Halifax Gazette came off the press on March 23, 1752. The masthead featured a sailing ship in full sail on the left side and a hunter chasing wild game on the rights. Government notices, news from Europe, a few local scoops and the requisite advertising filled the two pages. Butter by the quarter barrel, bookkeeping methods and tutoring in the basics were some of the ads, In some issues, advertising included the sale of young child slaves, noted in Nova Scotia history on littletechshop.com. (It was definitely a different place and time.)
Bushell’s daughter ran the business
Elizabeth was a skilled presswoman and compositor. With her full participation and that of the editor her father hired, Robert Bulkeley, the business flourished. Publishing the newspaper regularly, the printing company also picked up other printing jobs. The Bushells were named the King’s Printer for official government publications and did print work for local merchants. On the death of her father, John Bushell, in 1761, it seems Elizabeth no longer participated in the newspaper business and she disappeared from history.
The newspaper that had its humble beginnings on a single sheet of paper in a small print shop is still in publication. Having undergone a series of name changes over the centuries, from Halifax Gazette to the Nova Scotia Gazette in 1766, and through several other titles, the newspaper was renamed in 1999 as the Royal Gazette. The newspaper’s focus continues as the voice of the provincial government, providing notices and announcements to the citizenry of Halifax and Nova Scotia.
A rare original first issue of the Halifax Gazette was repatriated to Nova Scotia in June 2002, purchased from the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. The precious historical paper is now on display in the newspaper collection of the National Library of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.
Read more about the fascinating Elizabeth Bushell at Collections Canada.
This article was first published on Suite101.com. Copyright Susanna McLeod