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The Beginnings of the Canadian Press

For the week of Monday, March 21, 2016.

On March 23, 1752, John Bushell printed the Halifax Gazette, the colony's first newspaper.

The first edition of the Halifax Gazette
© Public domain / Library and Archives Canada / NCL-2702

John Bushell was born in 1715 in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1751, he moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to take over the printing works of his former associate, Bartholomew Green Jr. Green died before finishing the installation of his new printing press. The first edition of the Halifax Gazette featured local information and news from Great Britain and the other British colonies. An annual subscription cost 20 shillings, equivalent to about two Canadian dollars today. News travelled slowly at this time. For instance, the first edition reported the death of Louise of Great Britain, Queen of Denmark, who had died three months earlier. In addition to the Halifax Gazette, Bushell published brochures for the colonial government throughout his career.

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The commemorative plaque for the first press in Canada
© Parks Canada, 1989

Some historians believe that the first edition of the Halifax Gazette was not in fact Canada's first publication. Bartholomew Green Jr. may have published a prospectus announcing the launch of a newspaper in Halifax in order to spark interest before he died. This would explain why the paper already had subscribers when the first edition appeared. However, since no one has found a copy, the theory remains untested. Consequently, until proven otherwise, March 23, 1752, marks the publication of Canada’s first newspaper.

The Halifax Gazette continued to be published under different names before becoming the Royal Gazette in 1867, serving as the official journal of the government of Nova Scotia.

The first press in British North America is a National Historic Event. To find out more about the history of the Canadian press, read articles Henri Bourassa and Le Devoir, P.G. Laurie and the Saskatchewan Herald and Live from Canada, it’s Saturday Night! in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada. See the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to learn more about National Historic Designations.

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