The Paxton Boys in The Press in 1765

 

The Paxton Boys were a group of Pennsylvania based frontiersmen of Scottish and Irish descent, that had settled upon the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania. The group was formed as a vigilante group following the French & Indian War to retaliate against the Native Americans. They were widely know for the murder of at least 21 Susquehannock natives during what was referred to as the Conestoga Massacre.

After this event, in about 250 of the Paxton Boys marched to Philadelphia in January of 1764 to air their grievances to the government. The group was met by leaders in Germantown, and after given a promise by Benjamin Franklin that the groups issues would be considered, the Paxton Boys agreed to disperse.

In 1765, The Paxton Boys make yet another newsworthy appearance. During my research through the Readex database of America’s Historical Newspapers, I discovered that it had been first reported by the Newport Mercury on 1 April, 1765:

“We hear from Philadelphia, that the Paxton Boys

have again appeared in a hostile Manner, and intercepted

several Waggons laden with Presents for the Indians;

but a Number of them being overpowered, some were

taken and imprisoned : Afterwards, by the Appearance

of a larger Number, and the Severity of their Threats,

they obtained the Release of those who had been taken.

We also hear, that something relative to this Affair had

been transmitted to General Gage. at New-York.”

 –The Newport Mercury,  April 1, 1765, page 3 [1]

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-11-09-33-pm

The Newport Mercury, April 1, 1765, page 3

The news articles concerning the Paxton Boys actions were in each publication, third page material. This was apparent in not only the Newport Mercury, but also the Boston Evening Post on April 8, 1765 [2], and the Boston News-Letter, on April 11, 1765[3].

The news is written in the first person, as opposed to third person, the current journalistic news reporting standard adopted by many style guides, such as the Associated Press (AP), Reuters, New York Times, and BBC to name a few.

Stylistically, the article’s narrative has been written in such a manner that it sounds as though the author could essentially be spreading ‘gossip,’ using the phrase “We hear” but without further identifying any clear source of the news.

The paragraph was identically reprinted word for word, akin to the way today’s AP or

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-11-15-16-pm

The Boston Evening Post – April 8, 1765 page 3

Reuters newswire stories might appear in multiple cities or outlets nationally or internationally. Coverage appears to have lasted about 2 weeks for this event, as the news travelled north from Philadelphia to Newport, and Boston. As is the case with many media outlets today, be it printed, broadcast, or online, in the 18th century there was a great demand for quality content in order to lure readers, and sell as many newspapers as possible. Newsprinters do not like to let “column inches” go blank and unused, and often would run additional content, like classified ads, opinion pieces, and sometimes other stories which may have had less relevance locally than from where they originated.These reports appeared at the end of the news and opinion sections, often just before local news reports, missing property reports and obituaries.

 

 

1. Newport Mercury
Publication Date: April 1, 1765
Published As: THE NEWPORT MERCURY., Newport, Rhode Island
Headline: Newport, April 1
Article Type: News/Opinion
2. Boston Evening-Post
Publication Date: April 8, 1765
Published As: The BOSTON Evening-Post., Boston, Massachusetts
Headline: Newport, April 1
Article Type: News/Opinion
3. Boston News-Letter
Publication Date: April 11, 1765
Published As: Supplement to the Massachusetts-Gazette, &c., Boston, Massachusetts
Headline: Extract of a Letter from Charlestown, South Carolina, Dated March 13, 1765
Article Type: News/Opinion

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One thought on “The Paxton Boys in The Press in 1765

  1. The phrase “we hear” was very common in eighteenth-century newspapers. It’s always been a little unclear to me as a researcher whether that means that the printers literally heard the news, which is to say that it arrived in their shops by word of mouth (which surely happened at least some of the time), or that printers simply used the phrase as a literary device to begin news paragraphs for which they didn’t have another opening.

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