Background on the History of Newspaper Publishing in PA

Pennsylvania’s newspaper publishing heritage is a rich and storied history of the Commonwealth, its communities, and its culture. The Commonwealth’s earliest newspaper was the American Weekly Mercury published in Philadelphia. The title began on December 22, 1719 and is thought to have ceased sometime in 1749; May 22, 1746 is the last known issue found. According to Brigham’s American Newspaper Bibliography1, the American Weekly Mercury was “The first newspaper published in the middle colonies, and the fourth in order of time, published in America.” Prior to receiving the NEH planning grant in 1983, it was estimated that there were 9,500 – 10,000 Pennsylvania newspapers published since 1719. As of 1983 only 400 titles were being published. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s background and those of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette can be traced back through title and frequency changes for more than 200 years. Many papers, however, died after a shorter period, and many were issued in cities and towns which have not had their own paper published for many years.

Unlike many other states, no single library or historical institution in Pennsylvania held a majority of Pennsylvania newspaper titles. The largest collections were found at the State Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and at the University of Pittsburgh. As of 1984 it was estimated that 1,600 Pennsylvania titles had been microfilmed by commercial companies, libraries and historical societies.

1Brigham, Clarence S. History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820. Worcester, Mass.; American Antiquarian Society, 1947.



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