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March 13, 1964, p. 46:
THE PRESS: NEWSPAPERS:
Older Than the Country
The news from Boston was sketchy and unconfirmed. Still, no newspaper that took pride in its independence could ignore it. So the Connecticut Courant, in Hartford, boldly displayed the item: "We hear from Boston that last Thursday evening, between 300 and 400 Boxes of the celebrated East India TEA, by some ACCIDENT! which happened in an attempt to get it on Shore, fell overboard-- That the Boxes burst open and the Tea was swallowed up by the vast Abyss!"
When that historical incident from America's past appeared in the Courant in the issue of Dec. 21, 1773, the paper was already a veteran of some nine years. It had staked a proud and exclusive claim that it still holds. This year the Hartford Courant observes its 200th anniversary, a chronological fact that makes it the oldest newspaper in the U.S.-- an institution some twelve years senior to the nation itself.
Farms for Lease. ...George Washington was not only the subject of Courant stories, he was a reader and advertiser. On March 14, 1796, he bought half a page in the paper to offer some of his Virginia farm land for lease to "real farmers of good reputation, and none others need apply." Thomas Jefferson sued the Courant after an 1806 Courant accusation that he had secretly bribed France to win its support. He lost the case in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Courant's founder, a traveling printer named Thomas Green, piloted his paper for only three years. Then he rejoined a brother in New Haven, surrendering command of the Courant to Ebenezer Watson, one of his own printers. Young Watson enlisted the Courant in the cause of independence, but he did not live to see the dream come true or his paper prosper. Smallpox killed him during the Revolutionary War, leaving his young widow Hannah, mother of five, to manage the shop. She managed well. In 1778, when the Courant's paper mill burned to the ground, Hannah talked the Connecticut general assembly into sponsoring a statewide lottery, and from the proceeds ($31,000) she was given $5,000 to rebuild the mill.
The Courant continued to prosper, but in a diminishing corner of a rapidly expanding national map. As soon as the Republican Party was founded in 1854, the Courant joined it, and has never left...
...Wire services and syndicated columnists are relied on to report what goes on outside Connecticut. But in its own yard, the Courant can't be beat. In Willimantic, Old Saybrook, Simsbury and other familiar towns, the paper keeps up an industrious network of 13 bureaus, 25 staffers and more than 100 correspondents. One of the more dependable of these, Alice ("Clover") Pinney, retired only last year after 54 straight years of covering Farmington, Conn., during which time she never missed a single fire.
No More Revolutions. The Courant's present publisher, John R. Reitemeyer, 65, joined the paper as a part-time reporter in 1921, worked his patient way to the top by 1947, and has since adressed himself to the task of overtaking the afternoon competition, the Hartford Times.
A mere 147 years old, the Times is a Democratic daily in a Democratic city. It has led the Courant in circulation for 40 years, but the gap is closing again; circulation is now 128,500 to 124,000. In Reitemeyer's careful stewardship, the Courant is not likely to play a role in any more revolutions. It seems satisfied to remain the best paper in Hartford, Conn., and the oldest paper in the U.S.
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