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Eighteenth-Century Virginia Newspapers

Overview

Virginia Gazette masthead                 Masthead of the Virginia Gazette. Printer: Clementina Rind. Eighteenth century. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA. 

In 1671, Virginia's royal governor, William Berkeley declared "...there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these [for a] hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government." This statement reflected the Crown's attitude toward printing in Virginia. English law allowed the government to have control over printers, resulting in the city of Williamsburg being the only location in Virginia authorized to print a newspaper—the Virginia Gazette—until the eve of the American Revolution. The Virginia Gazette began publishing in August of 1736. Over the years there were several Williamsburg printers, with each continuing to use the title Virginia Gazette, even when two or three competing printers were publishing newspapers simultaneously.

The first newspaper produced outside of Williamsburg was the Norfolk based Virginia Gazette, or the Norfolk Intelligencer (1774–1775), which ceased publication when Virginia's royal governor, Lord Dunmore, confiscated the paper's printing press during the attack on Norfolk by British warships under his command. The printing press was taken to the ship "Dunmore" where it was used to publish the Virginia Gazette (1775–1776).

In the years following the American Revolution, with the Crown's restrictions no longer in place, newspapers began to be published in communities across the commonwealth. This guide provides an alphabetical list (by location) of eighteenth-century Virginia newspapers available from the Library of Virginia. It includes holdings for print and microfilm formats, coverage areas, and access to digitized content when available. 

Related Resources

Books

  • Brigham, Clarence S. History and Bibliography of American Newspapers 1690–1820, vol. 2 (American Antiquarian Society, 1947)
  • Headley, Robert K. Genealogical Abstracts from 18th-Century Virginia Newspapers (Genealogical Pub. Co., 1987). Contains abstracts of Virginia newspaper entries regarding births, marriages, and deaths.

Websites

Revised July 2022