A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #3: TOC
The Road To Being Canada
Chapter 31, Newspapers In Nova Scotia

To get a full picture of Newspapers in Nova Scotia, it is necessary to go back to earlier times, to the times when Halifax was but a couple of years old. John Bushell brought out, on March 23rd, 1752, the Halifax Gazette, the first printed newspaper in Canada.1 Anthony Henry took over the paper on Bushell's death in 1761. The last edition of the Halifax Gazette appeared some time between March and August 1766.2 On August 15, 1766, Robert Fletcher brought out the first issue of the Nova Scotia Gazette. In 1770, Fletcher stopped publishing his paper and left it to Anthony Henry to pick up where he had left off four years earlier. Henry, after a three year hiatus, started up The Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser.

On January 5th, 1781, the Halifax Journal was founded by John Howe. The paper continued on in the Howe family until 1819, under John's son, Joe. In that year the paper was sold.3 In 1828, Joe Howe brought his Novascotian to life. John Howe's brother-in-law, William Minus (1762-1827), who worked with John for the six years just prior, started up his own paper at Halifax in 1787. This was the Weekly Chronicle. "The Weekly Chronicle completed the trio of papers published in Halifax ... [as of 1786]; and for a quarter of century thereafter the three papers -- the Gazette, the Journal and the Weekly Chronicle -- continued to supply the demand for journalism that existed in eastern Nova Scotia."4

A new paper was brought out in 1813 by A. H. Holland, the Acadian Recorder. Holland died in 1830 and it would appear that the family kept the paper going until 1837 when Hugh H. Blackadar (1808-63) took over the paper together with John English (1807-57). In 1824 George Young brought forth The Nova Scotian.5 Though we are not able to give dates of their existence, William Cunnabell (1807-68) was responsible for three papers: The Pearl6, The Morning Herald and The Presbyterian Witness. Then there was William Gossip (1809-89) who set up and ran The Times between the years 1834-38.7

This piece in not a comprehensive review of all the newspapers that appeared in Nova Scotia. Those that we have touched on so far were those that came into being at Halifax. Newspapers of all sorts came out in all the communities in Nova Scotia that had enough of a population to support them. For instance there was the Colonial Patriot that appeared at Pictou in 1827 and the Yarmouth Herald in 1833. Then there were short lived papers established in Shelburne. It will be remembered that large group of Loyalists, known as the Port Roseway Associates, came to Shelburne from New York. For a short period the family of printers, the Robertsons, re-established their New York paper at Shelburne, the Royal American Gazette. The papers that came into existence in these early days at Shelburne were The Port Roseway Gazetter, The Shelburne Advertiser and The Nova Scotia Packet and General Advertiser -- three newspapers, as many as the capital City of Halifax had at the time. Like the community itself these papers did not last long and were soon out of business.8

As of 1834 there were quite a number of periodical that were published in Nov a Scotia. Joseph Chisholm set out a list of thirteen.9

Day Name Publisher
Monday Halifax Journal J. Munro
Monday (semi-monthly) Wesleyan W. Cunnabell
Tuesday The Times10 Gossip & Coade
Wednesday Royal Gazette John Howe
Wednesday Guardian James Spike
Thursday Nova Scotian Joseph Howe
Friday Christian Messenger Joseph Howe
Friday Halifax Pearl W. Cunnabell
Saturday (semi-monthly) Acadian Recorder English & Blackadar
Saturday Colonial Churchmen E. A. Moody
Saturday Pictou Mechanic & Farmer John Stiles
Saturday Pictou Observer K. J. Mackenzie
Saturday Yarmouth Herald A. Lawson

In the previous section we reviewed the radical press as it existed in the early 19th century in England. The fight, such as Cobbett was having with the government authorities in England, was echoed in the early newspapers of Nova Scotia.

"Among the events of the year [1813] worthy of notice was the appearance of Anthony H. Holland, proprietor of the Acadian Recorder newspaper, (which had been established in 1813) at the Bar of the Assembly to answer charges of having published severe animadversions on public affairs, particularly from some remarks relative to Edward Mortimer, one of the County members, for which Mr. Holland suffered a short imprisonment. This affair, with the letters of Agricola, which now began to appear in the same paper brought that paper into public notice."11
The remarks found to be offensive to the legislators, may have been written by Holland himself. However we see that he also pulled pamphlets off of his press, written by others. Akins wrote of this: "An anonymous pamphlet was published from the press of A. H. Holland, charging the magistrates of the town with malpractices, which caused much excitement. It was discovered to have been written by Mr. William Wilkie, of Halifax. He was indicted for libel, tried at the Easter term of the Supreme Court, found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labor in the House of Correction."12

It was not uncommon in those days, that persons, such as Holland and Wilkie, whose activities were impacting on those in the legislature, would be peremptorily summoned to the House to explain themselves. Another example, was that of Daniel Benjamin, who, in 1818, wrote a letter and complained of a member of the legislature. Benjamin wrote that a member, a man by the name of Roach, had proceeded in his official capacity, "with improper motives." So, Benjamin was arrested and brought before the House, then, in turn, committed him to the common jail at Halifax until further order of the House. Four days later, after having pleaded with the House, Benjamin was released.13

Through the years 1846 to 1854, there were a number of newspapers in Nova Scotia. We see that "Among the leading Tory papers were the British Colonist, Mirror, Morning Herald, Morning Post and Times. Leading Liberal papers included the Novascotian, Eastern Chronicle, Yarmouth Herald, Sun, and Morning Chronicle."14

In 1848, the following papers were published in Nova Scotia:

"There are at present thirteen newspapers published in the capital [Halifax] and five in the interior. The circulation of English newspapers published has increased an hundred fold since the Establishment of the Line of Steam packets, and all the leading British and Irish periodicals are looked for with as much eagerness, and received with as much certainty as the London Newspapers were in Scotland and Ireland a few years ago. The cheap Literature of the mother country is also widely diffused over the province, while the more expensive Books find their way to the collections of the wealthy or into the public Libraries."15
In considering the early newspapers of Nova Scotia, we should not forget that certain of the churches put out their own "denominational papers." These were much "newsier" than the church papers of today. The two that I am aware of was The Guardian, the newspaper of the Kirk of Scotland in the Maritimes from 1838 to 1851. Then there was the Presbyterian Witness which was published between 1848 to 1925. C. H. Johnson in his article on the The Guardian thought it "was well edited" and a "mine for news of the day-schools of the province."16 "Every issue of The Guardian carried shipping news under four heads, 'Arrived, Cleared, Sailed and Notes." Also will be found the schedules and routes of the mail carriers, particularly to Pictou.

A listing of the newspapers as of 1860, is as follows: the Morning Chronicle, the Nova Scotian, the Acadian Recorder, and the Halifax Citizen; at Yarmouth, the Yarmouth Tribune and the Yarmouth Herald; at Wolfville, the Wolfville Acadian.17

NEXT: [Chapter 32, Elections]


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Peter Landry