Skip to Main Content

Special Collections: Newspapers at the Library

Colonial Newspapers Collection Description

The Library Society holds one of the largest collections of colonial newspapers in South Carolina.  Since our founding in 1748, our members have wanted access to the latest periodicals and newspapers, and we are still growing the newspaper collection today.  The first successful newspaper to be printed in Charleston (then Charles Town) was the South Carolina Gazette, begun in 1732 and lasting until 1775.  Two other papers were printed in Charleston, prior to the Revolutionary War:  the South Carolina and American General Gazette and the South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  We have large runs of all three of these newspapers, among many other later titles. 

We've received donations of South Carolina  newspapers throughout the years: Mrs. Henry Middleton Smith gave us a large collection of colonial newspapers in 1833 and the City Treasurer's office also gifted us their collection.  Recently, we've received single issues of foreign newspapers with details of what was going on in Charleston during the 18th and 19th centuries.  News, obituaries, shipping announcements, and advertisements are some of the reasons these papers are of so much interest to researchers.  Much can be learned by reading contemporary accounts in newspapers - and because we have the original papers, scholars will often want to view the originals because of their clarity.  The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture utilized the Library's newspaper collection for an exhibit in 2020.

We were fortunate to have received a large grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation in 2017 to rehouse our collection.  Many of these titles were bound and quite heavy or in deteriorating condition so the boxes have helped preserve them. 


The Library has over 200 newspaper titles from 1697 to the present

Newspapers are stored in boxes such as these, thanks to a generous grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

Early label (1697-1700) on our volume of the London Gazette.

The London Gazette was begun in 1665 and is free to search on their website:

The Library has this early bound copy of the London Gazette from 1697 to 1700.  Our librarians likely thought it important to collect all things having to do with England, even something that would have already been considered "old news" by the time of our founding in 1748.  Note the shelf markings indicating that this volume was the number 7 in classification 19 ( for Reviews, Pamphlets, Registers, and Magazines) according to our 1813 catalog.

The Royal Gazette (Jamaica) was published by Alexander Aikman, husband of Louisa Wells Aikman who was the daughter of Robert Wells, Loyalist printer and Bookseller to the CLS.  Louisa was also the author of one of our prized manuscripts, the Journal of a Voyage from Charles Town to London, 1779.  The manuscript was purchased with a generous donation by Library member Kathy Salmanowitz.

The South Carolina and American General Gazette was printed by Robert Wells, a Loyalist, who lived in Charles Town for twenty years before fleeing prior the start of the American Revolution.  Ironically, his paper was the only one in the state to print the entire Declaration of Independence, in August of 1776.  The SC and American General Gazette is indexed online:  Early South Carolina Newspapers Database. Wells was a printer, bookbinder, owned one of the most successful bookshops in the Southern colonies.   He printed our first "Rules and By-Laws..." in 1762 and our second and third catalogs in 1770 and 1772.  Additionally, he was one of the Library's booksellers during his time in Charleston.

The South Carolina Gazette began in 1732 and the Library has a nearly complete run until its demise in 1775.  The weekly paper provided local and international news, and offered a space for announcements of meetings and other community events.  The Library Society frequently posted notice of our meetings and lectures, and in 1756, we posted an article pleading with members to return missing books.

A notice from a local teacher hoping to bring in new students to his school on King Street, appearing in an early South Carolina Gazette.  The Gazette is indexed online, thanks to the author Robert Wilson, who painstakingly viewed the paper on microfilm and created this comprehensive resource:  Early South Carolina Newspapers Database

An account of goods (1736) paid for by the public for the extinct town of Purrysburg, SC, located along the Savannah River, which was founded by Swiss colonizer Jean Pierre Purry in 1732.  Notices such as these were very common in the South Carolina Gazette.

The South Carolina Gazette also contained heartbreaking notices such as this, along with announcements of auctions of enslaved peoples newly arrived from Africa.  Charleston's port was one of the main entry points for enslaved people in America, with their backbreaking work providing the foundation for generations of White wealth.