The history of newspapers is an often-dramatic chapter of the human experience going back some five centuries. In Renaissance Europe handwritten newsletters circulated privately among merchants, passing along information about everything from wars and economic conditions to social customs and "human interest" features. The first printed forerunners of newspaper appeared in Germany in the late 1400's in the form of pamphlets or broadsides, often highly sensationalized in content. Some of the most famous of these report the atrocities against Germans in Transylvania perpetrated by a sadistic veovod named Vlad Tsepes Drakul, who became the Count Dracula of later folklore.
In the English-speaking world, the earliest predecessors of newspapers were corantos, small news pamphlets produced only when some event worthy of notice occurred. The first successively published title was The Weekly Newes of 1622. It was followed in the 1640's and 1650's by a plethora of different titles in the similar newsbook format. The first true newspaper in English was the London Gazette of 1666. For a generation it was the only officially sanctioned newspaper, though many periodical titles were in print by the century's end.
The first US newspaper appeared in Boston in 1690, entitled Publick Occurrences
. Published without authority, it was immediately suppressed, its publisher arrested, and all copies were destroyed. Indeed, it remained forgotten until 1845 when the only known surviving example of the newspaper was discovered in the British Library. The first successful newspaper was the Boston News-Letter,
begun by postmaster John Campbell in 1704. Although it was heavily subsidized by the colonial government the experiment was a near-failure, with very limited circulation. Two more publications made their appearance in the 1720's, in Philadelphia and New York, and the Fourth Estate slowly became established on the new continent. By the eve of the Revolutionary War, some two dozen papers were issued at all the colonies, although Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania would remain the centers of American printing for many years. Articles in colonial papers, brilliantly conceived by revolutionary propagandists, were a major force that influenced public opinion in America from reconciliation with England to full political independence. ....continued