The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser was the first newspaper published in Australia, and until 1824, the only newspaper published in New South Wales. Printed and published by George Howe, the first Gazette was produced in 1803 with the permission of the Governor of New South Wales and for much of its life the paper carried the slogan 'Published by authority.' It served as vehicle for the promulgation of government orders and other information, with other material inserted in the four-page issue by the editor as space permitted. Howe financed the paper from sales and advertising, and was permitted to keep any profits in return for this service to the government. He was also employed as the Government Printer, from 1810 on salary.
The Gazette was printed during its earliest years on a portable wooden and iron press which had been brought to the colony on the first fleet. Howe had enough print to set only one page at a time, and struggled to source adequate paper and ink. The quality of the publication improved gradually, notably following the arrival of a new iron Stanhope press in 1814. Initially housed in a room attached to the back of the first Government house, the press and the Gazette moved in 1810 to premises at 96 George Street, Sydney, which were extensively renovated in the following year to plans made by Francis Greenway to include a new printery and a substantial residence. The business moved again in 1824, to a new 2-storied L-shaped building running from a George Street frontage to Charlotte Place.
George Howe printed, published and edited the Gazette until his death in 1821, when it was taken over by his son Robert Howe. After Robert's sudden death in 1829 the Gazette entered a volatile period, with a succession of editors appointed and dismissed, while the Gazette continued to be published by executors for Robert Howe's estate. Robert's widow Ann Howe took over the management in 1833, then, from 1836, it was managed by an executor for the estate. In 1839 Robert's eldest son Robert Charles Howe gained full ownership of the paper, but the Gazette passed out of the hands of the Howe family when it was sold to Patrick Grant in October 1841. Grant in turn sold the paper to Richard Sanderson, but it had become economically unviable, and the Gazette finally ceased publication in October 1842.
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser is a source of the earliest Australian literature. Poetry by local residents was published throughout its lifetime, together with a range of poems, stories and other literary items reprinted from British sources. The Gazette noticed early theatrical productions in Sydney, publications by local writers, and the establishment of bodies such as schools, literary societies, libraries, and bookshops.
Sources: Sandy Blair, 'The Sydney Gazette and Its Readers 1803 - 1842' in The Australian Press: A Bicentennial Retrospect, edited by Victor Isaacs and Rod Kirkpatrick, Australian Newspaper History Group and State Library of New South Wales, Middle Park, Qld, 2003; R. B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803 - 1920, Sydney University Press, 1976.
'Capital punishment was common practice in the early decades of colonial Australia: the malefactor swinging from the end of a hangman’s noose a well-known sight. Crimes of anti-social behaviour, food and forgery were of central concern to the early colonists, with the criminal act most likely to result in an executioner plying his craft being the stealing of food. The first person hanged in the new colony, for the theft of butter, peas and pork provisions, was young Thomas Barrett, executed one month and one day after the arrival of the First Fleet in New South Wales. Murder quickly followed crimes motivated by greed, hunger, and slovenliness, with punishment for such acts also quickly applied by administrators. Yet, the very brutal murder, in Sydney in August 1803, of Constable Joseph Luker – the first officer of the law to be slain in the pursuit of his duty in Australia – went largely unpunished due to a lack of evidence and a twist of fate. This paper discusses the death of Constable Luker and how his story was written, and offers a brief analysis of the non-death of those considered responsible for such a violent crime in the context of the colony’s punishment systems.' (Publication abstract)
Notices, dated 1 January 1838 and published in the 2 January and succeeding issues in 1838, warn debtors who resigned their subscription but who failed to forward amounts owning that papers would be delivered as usual until full payment was received. After 1 February 1838 debts of over six months and exceeding ten pounds would be handed over to the newspaper's solicitor for recovery, and debts of over six months and under ten pounds would be sued for at the Court of Requests.
Hugh Taylor is advertised from 1 January 1838, as the agent for the Sydney Gazette at Parramatta.
In the 13 February 1838 issue a 'Notice', dated 'Gazette Office, 12th February, 1838', announces that 'Mr Hugh Taylor is authorized to sue all Parties residing in the Parramatta District ... who have allowed their Accounts to remain unsettled longer than six months.'
J. P. Cohen Postmaster of Maitland is advertised from 8 March 1838 as the agent for the Sydney Gazette for the Hunter River District. A notice 'Maitland' in the 12 July 1838 issue announces that 'J. P. Cohen has declined the Agency ... for [Maitland] or any other District, ... all parties interested are requested to take notice.'