Entire copies of approximately 1,300 weekly issues, all extant copies of the Virginia Gazette 1, 2 and 3, dating from 1766 to 1780, available to the Virginia State Library at the time it assembled this collection.
This collection is a valuable tool for following the American Revolution. Newspapers played a vital role in the American Revolution. They were the only form of mass media in the 18th Century.
John Adams in a letter dated 13 February 1818, to newspaper editor Hezekiah Niles, who was born in 1777, remarked that the major achievement of the Revolution was the radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people away from Britain and toward independence. A move he saw as being nurtured by the fourth estate. Adams wrote that to investigate how this happened, "it is greatly to be desired that young gentlemen of letters in all the States, especially in the thirteen original States, would undertake the laborious but certainly interesting and amusing task of searching and collecting all the records, pamphlets, newspapers, and even handbills, which in any way contributed to change the temper and views of the people and compose them into an independent nation."
According to Todd Andrlik, author of the book, "Reporting the Revolutionary War," "What I love most about American Revolution-era newspapers is that they let you see the world as George Washington saw it. When I'm reading about the Battle of Bunker Hill in a Virginia Gazette, I feel like I'm looking over Washington's shoulders. It is also worth noting that our founding fathers were the first collectors of newspapers because they realized the value of their historical record. 'I consider their preservation as a duty,' Thomas Jefferson said."
The issues of Virginia Gazettes show America transforming from a British colony into an independent nation. In 1766, the Gazette was careful in its rejoicing the appeal of the Stamp Act, writing, "On Friday last, a good deal of Company being in Town at the Oyer and Terminer Court, our Gratitude and Thankfulness upon the joyful Occasion of the Repeal of the Stamp Act and the universal Pleasure and Satisfaction it gives that all Differences between the Mother Country and her Colonies are so happily terminated, was manifested here by general illuminations…" Ten years later the Declaration of Independence was being published in its entirety.
Between 1736 and 1780, Williamsburg, Virginia was home to three newspapers with the name Virginia Gazette. At times two or three Gazettes were published at the same time.
The first Virginia Gazette, first issue August 6, 1736, was the first newspaper ever published in Virginia. Its publisher William Parks used the motto on its front cover, "Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign and Domestick." Parks published the Gazette until 1850. The paper was then published by William Hunter (1751–1761), Joseph Royle (1761–1765), Alexander Purdie and John Dixon (1766-1775), Dixon and Hunter (1775-1778), and Dixon and Thomas Nicolson (1779–1780).
The second Virginia Gazette was founded by William Rind in 1766. Rind published the second Gazette until his death in 1773. The paper was then published by his widow Clementina Rind (1773-1774), and finally by John Pinkney (1774-1776). Its last issue was printed on February 3, 1776.
William Rind was urged to start the second Gazette by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was upset that the original Gazette was slow to criticize public officials or address controversies. Isaiah Thomas (January 30, 1749 – April 4, 1831) the American newspaper publisher, in his book "History of Printing in America," published in 1810, quoted Jefferson as saying, "we had but one press, and that having the whole business of the government, and no competitor for public favor, nothing disagreeable to the governor could be got into it. We procured Rind to come from Maryland to publish a free paper."
The third Virginia Gazette was first published on February 3, 1775. Its publisher was Alexander Purdie, who had previously co-published the original Gazette from 1766 to 1775. It was published by Purdie until his death in 1779; it was then published by John Clarkson and Augustine Davis until December 9, 1780.
Alexander Purdie was the publisher who most embraced independence and thrived during the American Revolution. Purdie published excerpts from Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," and published the first reference to the Declaration of Independence on July 12, 1776. The next week he printed passages from the document on July 19, 1776. Purdie's Virginia Gazette was the first American newspaper to publish the complete full text of the United States Declaration of Independence, which was printed on July 26, 1776.
Purdie changed the front page of his Gazette several times to reflect his solidarity for the cause of independence from Britain. At first the masthead read, "Thirteen United Colonies" and "United we stand, divided we fall." Later, an image of a coiled snake was on the masthead with the motto "Don't tread on me." It was subtitled "High Heaven to Gracious Ends directs the Storm!"
In this collection the variants of the Gazette are divided by the publisher or publishers of the three distinct newspapers, Alexander Purdie, Purdie and John Dixon, Dixon and William Hunter, Dixon and Thomas Nicolson, William Rind, Clemintina Rind, John Pinkney, and John Clarkson and Augustine Davis.
Covering the years:
1766-1774 Purdie and Dixon
1775-1778 Dixon & Hunter
1779-1780 Clarkson and Davis
1779-1780 Dixon & Nicolson
Coverage of the independence movement is printed alongside the issues and events of the period. Standing in paradox to the quest for freedom by the colonists reported in the pages of the Gazettes are ads offering rewards for the return of runaway slaves and ads for the sale of enslaved persons.
In the Purdie & Dixon September 14, 1769 Gazette appears a runaway slave ad inserted by Thomas Jefferson. In the advertisement Thomas Jefferson, who had inherited half of his father Peter's more than sixty slaves, offered a forty shilling reward for the return of "a Mulatto slave called Sandy." After Sandy's return, Jefferson sold him, to Col. Charles Lewis for 100 pounds on January 29, 1773.
Items of interest among the thousands of articles:
Virginia Gazette - Dixon & Hunter - April 22, 1775
The Gazette reports on The Gunpowder Incident also known as the Gunpowder Affair.
An early conflict in the American Revolutionary War between Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia, and a militia led by Patrick Henry. On April 20, 1775, one day after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, before news of those events had reached Virginia; Lord Dunmore ordered the removal of the gunpowder from a storage magazine in Williamsburg, Virginia, to a Royal Navy ship. This action sparked local unrest, and militia companies began mustering throughout the colony. Patrick Henry led a small militia force toward Williamsburg to force the return of the gunpowder to the colony's control. The matter was resolved without gunfire when a payment of £330 was made to Henry. Dunmore, fearing for his personal safety, later retreated to a British naval vessel, ending royal control of the Virginia colony.