The Quebec Gazette
The first newspaper
One important element had changed communications since the end of French regime: the arrival of newspapers. The first newspaper published in Lower Canada was The Quebec Gazette. Its first issue was published on June 21, 1764 in both French and English; it had only four pages. In the early years, The Quebec Gazette was published only once a week. Its first issue sold 143 copies.
The newspaper had been founded by William Brown and Thomas Gilmore, two printers who had come from Philadelphia. The newspaper contained local and foreign news, official documents and advertisements. Most of its ads were placed by the government. The Quebec Gazette is still being published today under the name The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph. It is the oldest newspaper in North America still being published.
Printing was slow to develop in Lower Canada because few people knew how to read. Other newspapers were created in the late 18th century, like the Montreal Gazette in 1778. Newspaper sales grew over time, and by the early 19th century, some newspapers were selling about 1,000 copies each issue. But printing was very hard work in those days. Printers often worked alone or with a single employee. The presses were made of wood and could only print about 60 copies per hour.
Printing was growing slowly, but it had come a long way since the end of French regime. At the time, there were no newspapers or books being published at all in the colony. Books had to be imported from Europe. There was no public library where people could borrow books, either. The first public library opened in Québec City in 1779, but it was only in the 20th century that public libraries became accessible to most citizens. As schooling progressed and people learned to read, they were able to find out what was happening in Lower Canada and the rest of the world through books and newspapers.
Author: Alexandre Lanoix