This Week in History


Canada's Oldest Newspaper

This story was initially published in 2001

Until the Halifax Gazette started publishing on March 23, 1752, there was no regular newspaper in the British North American colonies. Remarkably, this newspaper, the oldest in Canada, is still being published today.

The Halifax Gazette, 1752

The Halifax Gazette, 1752
© Library and Archives Canada

Despite a shaky start, John Bushnell of Boston printed the first edition of the Halifax Gazette in March. The early editions were only half sheet, or tabloid style. The Nova Scotia government funded the Gazette issuing official notices and proclamations through the newspaper. As an "official" publication, it was dominated by reports of British and European events, and articles taken from Boston newspapers.

Colonists could not expect to read much local news in their paper, such as births and marriages. Stories that were included often dealt with the more prominent members of Haligonian society. Only well-off or famous people had their obituaries published in the Gazette. There was also general advertising, such as real estate and schools, and goods such as sugar, bread and a variety of liquors. Early issues also advertised "Black slaves."

In 1760, Bushnell took on a business partner, Anthony Henry, a printer by trade. Henry expanded the paper and hired Isaiah Thomas, the escaped servant of a Boston printer, as a journeyman. In a bold move, Henry and Thomas criticized the Stamp Act in their paper. The Stamp Act taxed every piece of paper printed in the British colonies in North America. Their government sponsors, who profited from this Act, dismissed them.

Canada's First Printing Press, by Rex Woods

Canada's First Printing Press, by Rex Woods
Property of Rogers Communications Inc.

In 1766, a new printer from London, Robert Fletcher, took over and changed the paper's name to the Nova Scotia Gazette. Fletcher made further changes, including expanding the paper's size to a full sheet. However, Henry established a new paper and competed successfully with his old one, prompting the government to restore the Gazette to Henry's management in 1770.

With the growth of Nova Scotian society that followed the American Revolution, the Gazette gradually began to resemble a modern newspaper by expanding its local news coverage. It was published under a variety of names until 1867, when it became the Royal Nova Scotia Gazette. At this time, it reverted to its earlier role as an official government publication. Renamed the Royal Gazette in 1977, it is still the voice of the Nova Scotia government.

An Historic Sites and Monuments Board plaque in Halifax, Nova Scotia, commemorates the Halifax Gazette, Canada's oldest newspaper.

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