How Florida’s newspapers grew, prospered and struggled
It was 1782, the last year of the American Revolution, when British loyalist Dr. William Charles Wells arrived in St. Augustine. The South Carolinian brought with him a pressman, a “considerable amount of printer’s type,” and a dream.
On Feb. 1, 1783, Wells launched Florida’s first newspaper, The East-Florida Gazette.
In its third issue, readers learned about a new liquor regulation, the quality of local bread and “riotous disorders” that caused “the morals of many of the people” to be “corrupted.”
So began Florida’s rich newspaper history.
Newspapers mattered. For generations of Floridians, a morning without a newspaper was empty. Front-porch delivery came with a “thwack,” a sound as reassuring as the clinking of milk bottles or a percolating coffee pot.
Pictured: This 1920s photograph features a newspaper reader walking through St. Petersburg, Florida’s downtown open air post office. The newspaper reader in the photo is probably reading the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) or the Evening Independent. This photograph comes from the Earl R. Jacobs III collection of Francis G. Wagner Photographs at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus library. The post office was, and still is, just a couple of blocks from the Times.