Read All About It! Redwood Library's Newspapers

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 3:42pm -- baglio

In this week's Redwood Blog staff member Brandon Aglio and Special Collections intern Gunnar Rice report on their findings from our local newspaper collecctions.

Over the past few weeks, both Gunnar and I have been hard at work going through and cataloging the many local newspapers contained within the vaults of the Redwood Library's Special Collections. Carefully examining the each parcel and box of newspapers, we have been able to rexamine what our collection entails, and what newspapers we have, or don't have. From the early issues of the Newport Mercury to the current issues of the Newport Daily News, we have to be meticulous in our notes as to how intact a volume or collection is. At times, it certainly has been difficult in keeping a steady pace while covering so much material. It is definitely easy to be destracted by something seemingly leaping off the pages of our city's past news print. A great example that caused such a distraction was the heading for the Newport Mercury from the early 1770's


Here we see a very prolific, yet perhaps mixed message. Printed less than two months before British Soldiers fired into a crowd in Boston, on March 5th, 1770, readers see a loyal, yet agitated message. While the subscriber to the Newport Mercury will see the Royal emblem of King George the Third, with the "GR" and the Lion and Unicorn, they will also see a message tinged with resistance.  "Undaunted by TYRANTS, We'll DIE or be FREE". This is certainly a display of resentment towards parliamentary actions against the American Colonies. This heading will be prevalent in the Newport Mercury for several months.

Another nugget found in the Newport Mercury from about ten years prior from the above, is an advertisment from the Redwood's architect, Peter Harrison.

While Peter Harrison is known for such architectural feats as the Redwood Library, the Touro Synagouge, and Christ Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he was also a merchant. After emigrating to Rhode Island in 1740, and after being a Ship's Captain for a handful of years, Harrison and his brother Joseph became merchants, housing their business down on Thames St. From this advertisement from 1759, it appears that Harrison did not leave the merchant profession after he began designing buildings; here we see he and his brother selling European Goods at their store.

In our time with the Newspapers, Gunnar and I were able to go through several volumes of the Herald of the Times, a weekly paper printed here in Newport. We were able see most of our collection starting in 1830 and continuing through the 1840's. In these newspapers we saw many stories and political ads, many times right on the front page of the paper. One of the most amazing ads, was from our own competition!


From the late 1830's, we see this advertisement from James Hammond offering books from his "circulating library". Upon further research, Gunnar was able to determine that James Hammond's library was the second floor of his dry goods store on Thames Street. There he contained the "...Largest Circulating Library in New England". Certainly big words coming from only a few blocks from our beloved Redwood Library.

As we continue cataloging our newspapers, hopefully Gunnar and I can continue to show some nuggets from our Newport history.