October 29: The Nation’s “Oldest” Newspaper’s Very First Issue


In October of 1764, 29-year-old Thomas Green, a fourth-generation printer, suddenly found himself out of a job working at the Connecticut Gazette print shop in New Haven. The Gazette, Connecticut’s very first newspaper, had been established several years earlier by the enterprising Benjamin Franklin, who had just sacked Green in order to install his nephew as head of the print shop. Undeterred, Green headed north to Hartford — then a prosperous river town of 4,000 people — and set up a new printing press on what is now Main Street with the help of his journeyman, Ebenezer Watson.

On October 29 of that same year, Green published the first issue of the Connecticut Courant, a weekly newspaper that promised readers it would be “useful, and entertaining, not only as a Channel for News, but assisting to all Those who may have Occasion to make use of it as an Advertiser.” Unbeknownst to Green at the time, his modest newspaper venture would continue publication, uninterrupted, for over 250 years, becoming one of the longest-lasting businesses in American history.

For over two and a half centuries, the Courant has reported on every single major American historical event since the mid-eighteenth century, surviving ownership turnovers, economic panics and depressions, paper shortages, and even a libel lawsuit from Thomas Jefferson. The publication has also undergone a number of name changes, although the word “Courant” has always been a prominent part of the newspaper’s masthead. The paper started producing daily editions in 1837, and first began publishing Sunday editions in 1913. The Courant celebrated its sestercentennial (i.e., its 250th anniversary) in 2014 with a year-long retrospective on its coverage of major events in Connecticut, national, and world history, proudly sporting the motto “Older than the nation.”

In its first issue, Green told his readers that the value of a paper such as his was that “It is the channel which conveys the history of the present times to all parts of the world.” Centuries later, as the Hartford Courant, Green’s newspaper enjoys a daily statewide circulation and is still published in the heart of Connecticut’s capital city. A humble, four-page periodical, first published today in Connecticut history, was destined to become the longest-running continuously published newspaper in American history — a very special first issue, indeed!

Further Reading

The Oldest U.S. Newspaper in Continuous Publication,” connecticuthistory.org

Joseph Nunes, “Chapter One: With Thanks to Ben Franklin,” Hartford Courant

Older Than the Nation,” Hartford Courant