By Cheryl Singhal
The media in West Virginia has a long and honorable history, which extends from broadsides and pamphlets to television and the Internet.
Apparently the first publication printed within state boundaries was a pamphlet by James Rumsey, in 1787, A Short Treatise on the Application of Steam. It is not known exactly where this was printed, but Shepherdstown is most likely, as it is where he lived.
In 1797, Christian Panoply: Containing an Apology for the Bible in a Series of Letters Addressed to Thomas Paine, a 332-page book by R. Watson, D.D., F.R.S. was printed in Shepherdstown.
Mrs. Anna (Newport) Royall who lived in Monroe and Kanawha counties was one of the first women newspaper editors in America.
The Potomac Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser was the first newspaper published in the state, in 1790, in Shepherdstown, in what is now Jefferson county. It was published by Nathaniel Willis.
It was joined in 1797 by The Impartial Observer, and in 1808 by the first agricultural journal published west of the Blue Ridge, The Farmer's Repository. A half- dozen or more other newspapers soon followed.
In 1799, Nathaniel Willis moved to Martinsburg (Berkeley county) and began the Martinsburg Gazette. In 1803, the Monongalia Gazette and Morgantown Advertiser became the first newspaper west of the Alleghenies. Like the Guardian, it too was joined by others over the next 20 years.
Wheeling joined the publications in 1807 with the Repository, and Clarksburg's Bystander first appeared in 1810. Charleston got its first newspaper in 1820, the Spectator.
In 1830, William Harper established the Hampshire and Hardy Intelligencer which became the South Branch Intelligencer and published until 1896, when it merged with The Hampshire Review. The combined paper continues to publish today.
In the 1850s, a wide array of newspapers sprouted, many espousing anti-slave sentiments. Among these were the Wheeling Intelligencer, the Kanawha Republican and the Wellsburg Herald.
As of 1990, West Virginia is home to over 100 newspapers.
To access the historic newspapers which are no longer in publication, consult first Newspapers in Microform, 1948- 1972 a Library of Congress publication which should be in your public library's Interlibrary Loan Office. Many of these microforms are also available via the LDS Family History Centers.
For additional information on those newspapers which continue to publish, consult the most recent edition Gale Directory of Publications & Broadcast Media, also at your public library. (This publication used to be the Ayers' Directory.) The West Virginia Press Association may have additional information if you are unable to locate this book.
The above information is extracted and condensed from several sources, including West Virginia: Stories and Biographies by Charles Henry Ambler (c1942, 1954 edition).
©1997, Cheryl H. Singhal
For County Newspapers - - It is IMPORTANT that the researcher read this! The table below is far from comprehensive; it includes ONLY the name and first known publication date of the newspaper.
To simplify my life, the NAME column is only the "call" name. The official name of the paper may well include the name of the town or the county or the state.
The column for WVU is a guide to WVU's known holdings. It may NOT be assumed that WVU has Vol. 1 #1 of the series or that they have a complete run. (For instance, in Hampshire county, the South Branch Intelligencer began publication in 1829. The first surviving issue is from 1837; the big run begins in December 1866 and goes until it merged with another paper in 1896 -- with the exception of 3 weeks in one year, and 18 months between 1894 and 1896.)
Remember, newspapers were ephemera -- only a few people kept for any reason more than a couple weeks worth of issues in their home. The press offices often burnt, destroying their "morgue". Some have suggested that WVU's collection is partly due to homesick students receiving their hometown newspaper and giving it to the University Library when they finished. Whatever the reasons, PLEASE do not assume that microcopies of the earliest newspapers exist. Many of the newspapers not held by WVU are held by the WVa. State Archives. They do not, however, circulate their holdings.
Please consult one of the books mentioned earlier or have your Interlibrary Loan Office contact WVU's ILL office for more details.
The table is arranged alphabetically by COUNTY.
|Cabell C. H.||Cabell||Co. Press||1869||N|
|White Sulphur Springs||Greenbrier||Sentinel||1910||Y|
|Harper's Ferry||Jefferson||Free Press||1821||N|
The above table was constructed by Cheryl H. Singhal, using materials from the 1972 edition of "U.S. Newspapers in Microform, 1948-1972" a publication of the Library of Congress.
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