Special Report

The Stories Behind the Nation’s Oldest Newspapers

What is a newspaper — other than an endangered species in this digital age? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a paper that is printed and distributed usually daily or weekly and that contains news, articles of opinions, features, and advertising.”

According to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the first newspaper in existence was the German-language Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien (Account of All Distinguished and Commemorable News), published in a book-like format in 1605 in Strasbourg — now in France, but then part of the Holy Roman Empire. The first publication in broadsheet format, more or less like a modern paper, was Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c. (Current Events from Italy, Germany, etc.), published in Amsterdam in 1618.

The first American newspaper, Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, was published in Boston in 1690, but it didn’t last long: After only one issue, it was suppressed by the colonial authorities because it contained, as the governor of Massachusetts put it, “sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports” (fake news?) — and because it had been published without the required license.

Click here for the stories behind America’s oldest newspapers.
Click here to read our detailed findings and methodology.