During our Visit to AAS I gained a new understanding for the media of early America, as well as how they communicated. The three sources I wanted to focus on were the John Hancock letter, the Halifax Gazette, and the American post-office advertisement. I chose these three because to me these sources provided a new understanding in both the physical forms of how things looked, and the content within them.  The Halifax Gazette (1) was a newspaper printed by Isaiah Thomas, with a very wide intended audience. At this time the newspapers were only printed once a week so it was important to find the most important information to print, as well as make as much use of the space available. This newspaper was a prime example of that because the paper it was printed on was fairly large, yet had very little blank space, or large images taking up space. Another thing to note is that the words printed on the page are very small, most likely in attempt to fit as much as possible on it for that week. As for the content of the newspaper; it contained a wide variety of stories both within the United States, but also had some from abroad. Each story was very straight to the point, emphasizing the major issues, and then moved on to the next one. Now we typically see a lot more background information and build up, but back then they didn’t have that luxury due to the amount of space available.  In this specific paper we also see a lot of ties to a more revolutionary ideal; a newspaper was a good outlet to spread such ideas. We can also read each story and see the formality and intelligence pour out through the writings. We see that same concept in the personal letter from Hancock to Thomas. The letter was never intended to reach a wide audience but the formality in the letter was honestly impressive. It showed the respect that was had from person to person and the use of words like “sir” shows that (2). The letter was full of compliments, and then came the request from Hancock. That is drastically different from our very informal text messages, and straight to the point questions.  The personal hand written letter also shows the formality, because it was extremely fancy and neat (something I could never do). The red seal on the envelope is also something that stuck out to me, because now we get something in the mail and it is usually an all-white envelope with a generic stamp and our name on it; but that to me gave the letter a sense of importance before it was even opened, and had its own unique mark to it with the seal. Those are things that were probably common for them back then, so they didn’t think much of it, but as someone two centuries later looking back on it, I like the more personal connection through that letter form. The final source that stood out to me was the American Post Office ad (3). When looking at it the first thing I noticed was the big bold letters in the center of the page indicating its importance. That is a tactic that is still used today so it was cool to see that similar tactics were used throughout history. The honesty within the ad is also something that was pretty comical to me. In it, it says to not send money, indicating that the money isn’t going to be received. If that were in modern times they would do everything possible to cover up the fact that money was going missing or being taken, so it was enlightening to see the honesty and integrity they had for their system. All three sources were different from one another, but they each offered up insight to how life with media and communications was back then. By looking at those we can see the drastic differences between then and now, and come to our own understanding of whether it was better back then, or how it is now. Either way there was a lot learned from examining the sources at AAS.


1.The Halifax gazette. Halifax, NS, 1752-1765.

2. John Hancock to Isaiah Thomas, December 2, 1786, Isaiah Thomas Papers, AAS.

3. “American post office. : The American Letter Mail Company have established post offices in New-York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston,” (n.p., 1844).


One thought on “AAS

  1. I really enjoyed how you compared the mediums that you looked at in the American Antiquarian Society and compared them to how we use similar mediums today. My favorite of the three, comparing the letter of John Hancock to the informal, often abbreviated text messages we send today. The absence of sincerity and formality is quite evident and you were able to make that connection from reading a letter, which is great. Do you think the lack of formality has anything to do with the great ease it takes to send a text message? I wonder if people nowadays feel that they can be sincere in person, so a text message can be a place of informality, whereas when sending a letter it was difficult to know the next time one would see the person it is intended too, so they decided to be formal through letter.


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