Earlier this year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette marked 200 years since the publication of the first issue of the Arkansas Gazette. For the first two years of its existence, that paper was printed in Arkansas Post. Today marks the anniversary of its first printing in Little Rock.
After months of planning, on Saturday, December 29, 1821, the first edition of ARKANSAS GAZETTE to be published in Little Rock came off the press. Due to a shortage of paper supplies, it was only a two page edition, instead of the four pages which publisher William Woodruff had been customarily printing.
Because the capitol of the Arkansas Territory had moved from Arkansas Post to Little Rock earlier in 1821, Woodruff wanted to relocate as well. Not only did it make sense for a newspaperman to be close to the seat of government for purposes of stories, there was a financial reason for the move, too. Woodruff wanted to continue to be the contracted official publisher of government records. If he stayed in Arkansas Post, someone else would certainly have opened up an operation in Little Rock to do the printing.
The first Little Rock edition featured the usual mix of national news (often culled from other newspapers once they arrived at Woodruff’s establishment), local stories, and advertisements. One of the stories was a letter from General Andrew Jackson to the citizens of the Florida Territory. There was also a dispatch from Pernambuco, Brazil.
Because it was the first issue from Little Rock, Woodruff took time to write about Little Rock. He noted it was located on the south side of the Arkansas River on a “beautiful gravelly bluff” with picturesque views of the river and surrounding areas. He noted the territorial and federal government offices which were located in Little Rock.
Though the Gazette ceased publication in 1991, the 1821 publication of that paper in Little Rock set the stage for more than just that one newspaper. It marks a continual presence of newspaper and journal publication in Little Rock for 198 years.
While the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has switched to digital-only printing for Mondays through Saturdays with digital and paper editions on Sundays, Little Rock does continue to be home to journalism operations and celebrates the near-continual (the Gazette did take occasional breaks in printing during the middle of the 1800s) existence of newspapers in the city for 198 years.