Whenever I prepare a blog post I always check to see if the topic has been covered by others, whether in a blog posting, an article, or other format. Several research ideas and even partially written posts have gone the way of the “Delete Post” button when I discovered a topic has been covered. Such is the case with a post which was exploring the 200th anniversary of the publishing of the first newspaper in the newly established Indianapolis. The newspaper, published on January 28, 1822, was the Indianapolis Gazette, and was a venture of George Smith with the assistance of his daughter, Elizabeth. Smith was a publisher from Jeffersonville, who moved with his family to Indianapolis in December 1821. Smith was later joined in the operation of the Gazette by his stepson, Nathaniel Bolton.
However, as I was researching this post, I discovered that local author and historian Ray Boomhower had already covered this topic on his blog in 2012. Ray’s post provides a detailed history of the Gazette and its publishers and is an excellent read. So, in celebration of 200 years of newspapers in Indianapolis, check out his blog post on this topic, linked below:
Ray E. Boomhower's Books: Indianapolis's First Newspaper (rayboomhower.blogspot.com)
My only contribution to this topic is an opportunity to review an early edition of the Gazette. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a copy of the first edition of the Gazette from January 28, 1822. However, the second edition, published two weeks later on February 11, 1822, is available online, and in the microfiche collection at the Indianapolis Central Library. It covers a variety of topics and covers four total pages.
Admittedly, the images above are not the best for reading. However, the PDF of the four-page edition can be found at the link below.
The most prominent feature in this edition was the reprinting of a speech given by President James Monroe on December 5, 1821, to the United States Senate. The speech dominates the first page of the Gazette, is continued on the fourth and last page, and then strangely, is concluded on the second page.
Also appearing on page two is a listing of candidates for associate judges for the circuit court, clerk of the circuit court, recorder, and county commissioners. Notable individuals running for these offices include Alexander Ralston for recorder, John McCormick for county commissioner, and James M. Ray for clerk of the court. A chart detailing the prices for various commodities, such as corn, pork, butter, turnips, and flour, in Indianapolis is also listed. Lastly, at the bottom of page two is a notice titled “STRAYED,” placed by William Bush, a “subscriber” to the Gazette on the White River near Connerstown (perhaps Connersville?) who had lost a horse. While a generous reward was offered, the notice indicated that the horse had gone missing the previous October.
The third page covers more variety of topics, the kind that would be normal in any town and settlement of the time, or even today. Included were public notices and a few letters to the editor. One notice indicates that the third edition of the Gazette would be published on Monday, February 25th, and that the publishers “hope to be able to issue our paper every week.” Another notice announces the marriage of Burr P. Dennis and Nancy Appleton, who were “both of this vicinity.”
The letters to the editor included one from an R. Boon, who had served as the president of the state senate and was using his letter to the Gazette to announce his desire to return to that office. This may have been Ratcliff Boon, from Warrick County, who was the lieutenant governor in 1819, and became governor for short period of time in late 1822 following the resignation of Jonathon Jennings in September, and the inauguration of William Hendricks as governor. Other news on the third page includes a report of a revolution in Brazil, the funeral of a Col. William Trimble, a senator from Ohio, and a listing of the three congressional districts in the state of Indiana at the time, and the counties which occupied those districts. A provisional district is also noted, which would contain the counties of Wabash, Putnam, Morgan, Marion, Shelby, Bartholomew, Delaware, Rush, and Decatur.
As noted above, for a detailed history of the Gazette, and the partnership of Smith & Bolton, make sure you read Ray’s post, and feel free to take a look at the PDF of the February 11, 1822, edition of the Gazette to get a feel for journalism in Indianapolis 200 years ago.
Brown, A. H. (1906). THE FIRST PRINTERS IN INDIANAPOLIS: GEORGE SMITH AND NATHANIEL BOLTON. The Indiana Quarterly Magazine of History, 2(3), 121–126. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27785451
Sulgrove, B. R. (1884). History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co.
Dunn, J. Piatt. (1977). Greater Indianapolis : the history, the industries, the institutions, and the people of a city of homes. Evansville, Ind.: Unigraphic.