Massachusetts Spy and Essex Gazette Cooperative Printing

Overlaid Mastheads of the Massachusetts Spy and Essex Gazette

in about Warren, Uncategorized

Previous postings here noted the discovery of separate publishers in geographically separated Massachusetts towns apparently sharing a single set-up of moveable type. This kind of cooperation had never been noted in all of English language Colonial and Early Republic newspaper publishing in North America. This earlier posting shows superimposed images of the first page of the January 29, 1773 1ssue of Isaiah Thomas’ Massachusetts Spy Extraordinary of Boston and the February 2, 1773 issue of Hall’s Essex Gazette Extraordinary of Salem.  This earlier posting identified several theories for how the identically-appearing type set-up may have occurred in these one-page, two sided extraordinary issues.

Mr. Wayne McCarthy and I examined original hard copy newspapers side by side at the Massachusetts Historical Society to determine empirically the manner in which Thomas’ and Hall’s presses cooperated in the printing of the issues in question. I thank Reference Librarian Anna Cook for preparing, and guiding us through examination of, the fragile documents.  I thank the Massachusetts Historical Society for permission to photograph images of the newspapers and to post them here on Dr. Joseph Warren on the

Isaiah Thomas printed Hall’s February2, 1773 Essex Gazette Extraordinary issue in Boston on the press of the Massachusetts Spy, with the same set-up of moveable type as was used by Isaiah Thomas for his January 29, 1773 Massachusetts Spy Extraordinary issue. The extraordinary issue of the Essex Gazette apparently was then transported from Boston to Salem, where it was distributed to its subscribers.

The mastheads of the Extraordinary issues are pictured above. Note that the line of type “E X T R A O R D I N A R Y” extending across the four-column page features identical font and spacing. A distinctive irregularity in the “O” stands out in both. We conclude that the masthead of the Essex Gazette Extraordinary issue was composed by Isaiah Thomas’ people in Boston using the same moveable type, paper, and press as used for the Massachusetts Spy.

Further visual evidence is compelling. Here we see the regular February 2nd issue of the Essex Gazette alongside the Extraordinary issue. The regular issues are all three columns and feature Hall’s distinctive engraved masthead.  The Extraordinary issue is ten inches across, divided into four columns – the same size and layout as are typical for issues of the Massachusetts Spy. The masthead for the Essex Gazette Extraordinary issue is arranged from moveable type versus an engraving, as evidenced by distinctive shadows and double impressions of individual pieces of typeface.

Essex Gazette 02Feb 1773

Essex Gazette regular and extraordinary

The second (i.e. reverse) pages of the two extraordinary issues are pictured below. One rests on the other, with both fourth right columns in  full view.  All columns are identical in content, typeface, spacing and layout, except for the lower portion of the fourth column. The Essex Gazette includes news and advertisement of interest in Salem, while the Massachusetts Spy includes different news and advertising.

Essex Gazette and Massachusetts Spy overlay

Mr. Gary Gregory of Edes and Gill print shop reminds us to note what we found concerning paper and watermarks. Additional inferences could be made concerning the mode and circumstances of production, depending upon whether these aspects of paper stock were the same or different between the two newspapers.  As we observed in the course of the side by side inspection, neither newspaper’s extraordinary issues, nor regular issues in the immediate time frame, showed watermarks or anything distinctive about the paper itself. [By the way, the Edes and Gill print shop is a new gem in the crown along the Freedom Trail. Its interpreters and 18th century ambiance offer a special experience for both knowledgeable history buffs and casual tourists. It is next door to the Old North Church in Boston’s North End.]

The purpose for these extraordinary issues was to communicate the Massachusetts House of Representatives’ answer to a New Year’s speech by Thomas Hutchinson. Joseph Warren was recalled by John Adams to have co-written the Patriot response with Samuel Adams and Benjamin Church.  Patriot printers may have experimented, alongside their friends in the recently organized Boston Committee of Correspondence, concerning how best to disseminate the long tome  quickly and efficiently. The fact that this instance of cooperative publishing remains unique suggests that the printers did not find it advantageous. While Isaiah Thomas of Boston and the Hall brothers of Salem may have shared Patriotic zeal, perhaps the realities of running separate businesses dissuaded them from such closely coordinated publishing in the future.

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