Thomas Garrett, later a prominent politician, established the Illawarra Mercury at Wollongong, a town of 800 people in 1855. There was no railway; communication with Sydney was mainly by sea. With an editorial motto of “Measures, not men”, the eight demy-page publication (with three columns per page) was produced on an Eagle hand-operated press and the initial circulation was 200.
The second sesqui-centenary this month is not for an individual title, but for the Queensland provincial press. The first printed newspaper in provincial Queensland was the North Australian, which the Bays twins, Edmund John and Arthur Charles, launched at Ipswich on October 2, 1855. (Three days earlier, a handwritten newspaper appeared in Gladstone on September 29, 1855, but it survived only three issues. Publication was fortnightly.)
The North Australian survived 10 years. In 1861, as happened later in the cases of a number of other Ipswich papers, it eventually moved to Brisbane, but survived only 18 months in the capital. Queensland did not achieve separation from NSW until December 10, 1859.
The biggest news of the war – a day late
Did you know that the three morning dailies serving Melbourne in 1945 all published the biggest news of World War II a day late? Here are some extracts from what Steve Waldon wrote in The Age 60 years later:
“It was the biggest news story in Melbourne for nearly six years: the end of World War II. Prime Minister Chifley made the historic announcement at 9.30am on August 15, 1945, that Japan had surrendered to the Allies. That evening, the Herald described Melbourne as ‘boiling over with joy’ as an estimated quarter of a million people flocked to the city centre. But how did the next morning’s papers record the victory celebrations?
“Thursday, August 16, dawned fine and mild, and after a steadying cup of tea, it is a fair bet many Melburnians went looking for The Age, The Argus or The Sun. Almost 60 years later, so did we, and what we found was an unfolding mystery.
“[At the State Library’s newspaper reading room,] we were surprised to find the papers for August 16 were all missing. We checked the State Library’s bound volumes – the original hard copies – but again, all four Melbourne papers were missing.
“Rod Kirkpatrick, a member of the Australian Newspaper History Group, was the first to raise one intriguing prospect: if Chifley had declared VP Day and the day after as public holidays – he had – perhaps there were no papers on the 16th.
“Back at the National Library, librarian Ian Morris came up with the key information that seemed to indicate this was the case. He checked the folio numbers on the mastheads of the four Melbourne papers and found that they all skipped August 16. Finally, Age librarian John Langdon found the elusive confirmation we had been chasing to support the conclusion suggested by the folio numbers – one paragraph in The Chronicle of The Twentieth Century, headed ‘Daily newspapers miss the big story’. The reference is dated August 17, and begins: “The Melbourne morning newspapers today announced the end of the war – a day late.”
The reverend does some moonlighting
Members of the clergy played an important part in the pioneering press in Australia, as instanced by the fact that Rev John West was the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, from 1854-1873. Sometimes the clergy were contributors rather than editors. Table Talk, Melbourne, reported on October 6, 1893: “The leaderettes in the Evening Herald newspaper, and known as ‘Notes on News’, are from the pen of the Rev Mr Fitchett, the erstwhile editor of the Daily Telegraph, which merged, along with a portion of its staff, into the Herald. Mr Fitchett receives 10 pounds per week for these ‘notes’, and is the editor of the Australian edition of the Review of Reviews.”
The world’s oldest newspaper
When a member of the American-based jhistory net asked which was the oldest newspaper in the world, Dr Huub Wijfjes (firstname.lastname@example.org), of the Department of History and Journalism, Groningen University, The Netherlands, replied: “The question where the world’s oldest newspaper was published that still exists today is easy to answer. In 1658 Abraham Casteleyn published the Haerlemsche Courant in Haarlem, a provincial town in Holland about 20 miles from Amsterdam. Since 1665 this paper was called: Opregte Haerlemsche Courant (Opregt means sincere or trustworthy). Today it is still published although the title now is: Haarlems Dagblad, Opregte Haerlemsche Courant. So in the city archive in Haarlem one can see 338 volumes of the Opregte Haerlemsche Courant.
Several other Dutch newspapers dating from the first half of the eighteenth century are still published today. Amsterdam also was the place where the world’s first daily newspaper was published, in 1618, by Caspar van Hilten: Courante uyt Italien, Duytsland, etc. The oldest remaining copy (dated 14 July 1618) is held in the Royal Library of Stockholm, Sweden. This title vanished in the latter half of the seventeenth century.