Newspapers are, and always have been, a mirror held up to reflect who we are, how our communities came to be, how we live our daily lives, and how we view the world around us. 'Old' newspapers have special value, because they enable us to look back and see what the world was like 20, 50, 100 or even 200 years ago.
Old newspapers, whether from last year or last century, are continually at risk — they're fragile, they haven't always been saved or been well taken care of, and the ones that have survived are usually accessible only in archives or libraries. Modern technology, however, is changing all this.
Presented below, in chronological order, are front-page images for sixteen different newspapers published in eight very different Nova Scotia communities over a span of 230 years — from The Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser in 1769, to Le Courrier de la Nouvelle-Écosse in 2002. Click on each image to begin exploring the surviving issues for that newspaper, for the years indicated — 163,100 digitized pages in all, accessible right now and from wherever you are in the world!
The Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser
This title is one in an unbroken chain of official and semi-official government newspapers published in Nova Scotia, from the Halifax Gazette on 23 March 1752 to the present-day Royal Gazette. The Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser has been called 'the liveliest journal of opinion produced in Canada' for its time; regular features included tide tables, shipping news, weather reports and advertisements. It had less than 80 subscribers when it began in 1769, and lasted only a year before taking a new title, the Nova Scotia Gazette and Weekly Chronicle.
Selected issues 1769 and 1770
The Royal American Gazette
Shelburne was founded in 1783 by some 15,000 political refugees displaced in the aftermath of the American Revolution. For a fleeting moment it was the fourth-largest community in North America, and with a population that large could sustain several newspapers in the early years. The Royal American Gazette was the first; begun in New York City in 1777, it migrated north with its publisher, James Robertson, in 1783. It featured local advertisements, reprints of news items from foreign newspapers, and some local content. Its Shelburne life ended when Robertson moved to Charlottetown PEI about 1785-86.
Selected Issues from 1785
The Port-Roseway Gazetteer and The Shelburne Advertiser
This newspaper began in 1784, as a sort of literary magazine featuring essays, poetry, stories and letters reprinted from English and American periodicals, with occasional local content. The publisher was the nephew of James Robertson Sr., who published The Royal American Gazette. When Robertson Sr. moved to Charlottetown about 1785, taking his printing press with him, the Gazetteer and Advertiser ceased publication.
Selected issues from 1785
The Nova-Scotia Packet and General Advertiser
The last of the early newspapers in Loyalist Shelburne, this title began in 1785, was printed on new equipment imported from England, and may have continued as late as 1796. It featured shipping and local news, weather reports, and reprints from newspapers in Saint John NB, Quebec, the United States and overseas. The publisher, James Humphreys, returned to his native Philadelphia in 1797, taking his press with him.
Selected issues from 1786 and 1787
The Acadian Recorder was a weekly Halifax newspaper first published in January 1813 by Anthony H. Holland. He was joined in 1821 by his brother, Philip, who took full control of the publication in 1824. The paper eventually came under the auspices of Mssrs. John English and Hugh W. Blackadar in 1837. The Recorder was what we now call a 'newspaper of record' because of its lengthy publication history (nearly a century) and the quality of its news coverage. In the early days, it printed local, national and international news stories. Other features included a weekly almanac, shipping news, obituaries and wedding announcements, a poetry or story section, and a wide range of advertisements.
Selected issues from 1813 to 1853
This newspaper was published weekly, provided there was sufficient ink and paper, out of S.J.M. Allen's offices in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Taking as its motto, "The Friend of All, the Slave of None," it began in January 1854 and continued under Allen until 1867 when publication passed to Silas M. Bryden, who changed the journal's name to the Liverpool Advertiser. The Transcript was a "weekly miscellany of literature, art, science, and popular information" and is a representative example of a small town newspaper in the mid-nineteenth century. It included local news (though much was omitted, based on the assumption that everyone already knew what was happening in town) as well as national and international items. Other key features included shipping news, poetry and story sections, wide-ranging advertisements, and even, on occasion, word and logic puzzles.
Selected issues from 1854 to 1867
Published in Pictou from 1835 to 1838, this was one of the earliest newspapers in Nova Scotia to appear outside Halifax. It was printed on the press of — and may have been the successor to — the Colonial Patriot, Pictou's first newspaper (1827). Like its predecessor, The Bee supported progress and reform, promoted agricultural interests, and was considered so radical that it was banned from the Halifax Exchange Reading Room in 1837.
Selected issues from 1835, 1836, 1837 and 1838
The Atlantic Advocate
The Atlantic Advocate was Nova Scotia's first African Canadian newsmagazine. Its publishers, Wilfred A. DeCosta, Miriam A. DeCosta and Dr. Clement Courtenay Ligoure, incorporated as The Atlantic Advocate Association Ltd. on 8 June 1916. Only four issues have survived — the first, for April 1915 (held by Nova Scotia Archives) and three others, namely January, April and May 1917 (held by Vaughan Memorial Library, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS). The magazine covered a range of topics — historical, religious, economic, political, military, literary, social and local. Community notes appeared from across Nova Scotia, including Amherst, Digby, Halifax, Hammonds Plains, Liverpool, Shelburne, Westville, Weymouth and Wolfville, as well as from New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario.
Selected issues from 1915 and 1917
An Solus Iùil - (Guiding Light)
A monthly publication out of Sydney, Cape Breton, An Solus Iùil was a Gaelic newspaper with English sections relating church news. The focus of the paper was Presbyterian news, including but not limited to, mission efforts, ministerial appointments and church meetings; the occasional wedding was announced as well.
Selected issues from 1925 to 1927
Fear na Céilidh - (The Visitor)
Published monthly out of Sydney, Cape Breton, Fear na Céilidh was bound rather than taking the traditional form of a newspaper, and included advertisements, largely in English with images, on the front and back covers. The newspaper itself was published entirely in Gaelic, in an effort to preserve and cultivate that beautiful language. The newspaper promised a "well-edited selection of interesting reading, carefully written and correctly printed." The annual subscription was $1.00 for 12 issues — a small price to pay for maintaining and promoting the language.
Selected issues from 1928 to 1930
Mosgladh - (Awakening)
This Gaelic newspaper was published by the Scottish Catholic Society in Sydney, Cape Breton. It appeared monthly, although the first several issues are followed by a gap of five years (1923 to 1928) before monthly publication resumed. In contrast to the other Gaelic papers, Mosgladh was published mostly in English, with a few Gaelic translations of prayers, Gaelic songs, and some Gaelic stories. Most of the news items featured relate to the Roman Catholic Church.
Selected issues from 1922, 1923 and 1928 to 1933
Teachdaire nan Gàidheal - (The Messenger of the Gaels)
This predominantly Gaelic newspaper was published monthly in Sydney, Cape Breton. It featured Gaelic poetry and stories, with each issue also including a unique feature that demonstrated the publishers' commitment to preserving the Gaelic language — namely a Gaelic lesson, usually consisting of basic vocabulary and some points of grammar. The first such lesson began with a note that there are only eighteen letters in the Gaelic alphabet, and then explained how to pronounce them.
Selected issues from 1924 to 1929 and 1932 to 1934
The Tiny Tattler
Billed as 'Canada's Smallest Newspaper,' this unique title was published intermittently in Central Grove, Digby Neck (Digby County) from 1933 to 1943. Printed on a small press with hand-set type, the Tattler began with 18 subscribers and built to over 5,000 at its peak, across Nova Scotia and beyond. A variant title, The Tiny Telegram, was also published by Shortliffe Print in Caledonia, Queens County, beginning in 1938. The issues digitized here were donated by the family and arrived bound in yearly increments, each with a hand-decorated cover. The Tattler continues to generate interest in the local news, advertisements and perspective it provided 75 years ago.
All issues from 1933-1936 and 1938
Le Courrier de la Nouvelle-Écosse
Le Courrier is Nova Scotia's leading French-language newspaper, and the only one with province-wide coverage and distribution. First published by Désiré d'Éon as Le Petit Courrier (Du Sud-Ouest de la Nouvelle-Écosse) on 10 February 1937, it has appeared weekly ever since, informing its readers, defending the interests of Acadians and francophones, and providing a bridge linking all Acadian regions in the province. It offers community news and events, extended articles, advertisements, announcements, photographs and special supplements, all directed towards supporting Nova Scotia's large, dispersed and diversified Acadian population, its businesses, industries, economy, daily activities, schools and higher education, politics, cultural life and heritage. Le Courrier offers an outstanding and unparalleled perspective on 66 years' accumulated history of Nova Scotia's Acadian population, thus enabling exploration of interests, activities, accomplishments, concerns and community issues across a broad swath of the 20th century.
All issues from 1937-2002
Started as a single undated sheet by Carrie Best in 1946 with an intent to publish every two weeks The Clarion was centered on life around Second Baptist Church in New Glasgow with sections on "Our church", "Our homes" and "Our community". The Clarion was relaunched in December, 1946 as a multi-paged tabloid sized publication featuring the story of Viola Desmond's arrest in New Glasgow's Roseland Theatre. With this issue the paper, edited by Carrie Best, moved from covering the local community to being an advocate for racial equality across the province and covering, in her words, "the progress and achievement of the Coloured people." Later formatted as a broadsheet the paper went national in August 1949 when it was issued as The Negro Citizen. The few issues appearing here survived because one subscriber, Mrs. W.P. Oliver, kept these issues and later loaned them to the Nova Scotia Archives for microfilming. There appear to be no other surviving copies and the location of these originals is now unknown (the Nova Scotia Archives would like to find copies of any of these publications).
Selected issues from 1946 to 1949
The 4th Estate
From its first issue on 17 April 1969, The 4th Estate established itself as the independent 'second viewpoint….[and] questioning voice in print in our city and province.' Near the end, in January 1977, publisher Brenda Large wrote, 'The 4th Estate really shouldn't exist at all. All the odds are against it and continue to be against it. But it has survived for eight years due to the work of Nick Fillmore and others who have contributed to the paper and have been loyal readers over the years.' Progressive, radical and provocative, The 4th Estate focused on the issues that mattered in late 20th century Nova Scotia — and which continue to matter to this day.
All issues from 1969 to 1977
We thank Libraries Nova Scotia and C@P Nova Scotia, the Board of Trustees, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, and the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society and the Canada-Nova Scotia Agreement on French-language Services (Acadian Affairs) for supporting various projects that have made possible digitization and online presentation of these historical newspapers. Gaelic Affairs and Communications Nova Scotia have provided translation services. The office of Le Courrier (Meteghan River, NS) and Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos et Centre de recherche (West Pubnico, NS) have kindly loaned missing issues of Le Courrier to complete digitization of that title. We also invite you to visit our project partners, the Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University, and the Angus L. Macdonald Library, St. Francis Xavier University, to explore their online selections of additional digitized newspapers from Cape Breton Island and Eastern Nova Scotia.