The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865

The News Letter Book for 1737. Weakly News Letters & Journals.


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Almanacs, diaries, and newspapers shared a basic structure. Each organized events by the calendar: by day, by week, by month, by year. Each was a kind of annals or chronology, and in New England there was an underlying belief that chronology, whether personal or public, had direction and meaning. A similar, but more unusual, medium for organizing the flow of events was the newspaper index. Newspapers in colonial America were considered less ephemeral than they would be by the nineteenth century. Readers often preserved them, sometimes binding them into annual volumes. They each had an issue number to help readers keep track of them and to cross-reference them. A few readers compiled their own handwritten indexes.

One such newspaper index, the “News Letter Book for 1737,” was kept by an anonymous Boston reader and preserved, along with that reader’s copies of the Boston News-Letter and the New England Weekly Journal. The reader’s method was simply to list, by issue number, stories that caught his attention and to annotate some stories in the margins of the papers. For example, he briefly noted the John Brocas fire in the margin of the Weekly Journal of March 8, and he annotated the market riot stories in the News-Letter of April 1. In his index entry for that issue of the News-Letter (no. 1726) he wrote: “Boston Middle Markett Pulled Down in Night in a Riotous Manner. Lt. GovrPhypps Proclamation 100 pounds to find out the Ringleaders of it.” Throughout the index, this reader seemed especially interested in deaths, accidents, fires, and anything related to liquor—for example, the Hugh Henderson execution. However, the reader rarely made judgments or inferences. Typically, he just noted facts, though on occasion he added a laconic personal response, such as “sad” or “comical.”


The News Letter Book for 1737. Weakly News Letters & Journals.






“The News Letter Book for 1737. Weakly News Letters & Journals.,” The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865, accessed September 28, 2020,