More than sixteen hundred newspapers have been established in South Carolina since 1732, when Eleazer Phillips, Jr., of Boston printed the colony’s first newspaper in Charleston, the South-Carolina Weekly Journal. He died in a yellow fever epidemic on July 10, 1732. At almost the same time that Phillips began the Journal, Benjamin Franklin’s first South Carolina partner, Thomas Whitmarsh, printed the first issue of the South-Carolina Gazette on January 8, 1732. Although Whitmarsh died of yellow fever the following year, his newspaper survived to become South Carolina’s best-known and most enduring eighteenth-century newspaper. It was restarted February 2, 1734, by Franklin’s second partner, Lewis Timothy. The son of a French Protestant refugee, Timothy worked for Franklin in Philadelphia as the first professional librarian in the colonies before moving to South Carolina.
Timothy and his wife, Elizabeth, published the South-Carolina Gazette for four years before he died in December 1738. His widow took over the newspaper and became the first female publisher in America. Their son, Peter Timothy, was perhaps the most widely known southern journalist of the eighteenth century, but he printed his last edition of the Gazette on July 9, 1780. Shortly thereafter, the British arrested Timothy and several other leading Charlestonians and shipped them to St. Augustine, Florida. Two Loyalist newspapers were published in Charleston during the British occupation, the Royal South-Carolina Gazette and the Royal Gazette. Both ceased publication by the time the British departed in late 1782.
Under the direction of John Miller of London, the South Carolina State Gazette and Daily Advertiser became the first daily newspaper in the state and the third daily in the country in 1784. The state’s oldest daily newspaper, the Charleston Post and Courier, traces its origins to the establishment of the Charleston Courier in 1803. In the period leading up to the Civil War, editors argued openly and sometimes violently about states’ rights and preserving the Union, with the Charleston Mercury serving as the most influential states’ rights organ in the state as well as the South. Nullificationist Turner Bynum, editor of the Southern Sentinel in Greenville, was killed in a duel in 1832 by the Unionist editor of the Greenville Mountaineer, Benjamin F. Perry. Perry went on to become provisional governor in 1865. Besides Perry, ten other editors or publishers have served as governor of South Carolina.
Publishing a newspaper in South Carolina has often been dangerous. While serving as editor of the Southern Times in 1830, a young James Henry Hammond narrowly avoided a duel after his scathing editorials raised the ire of upcountry congressman James Blair. Francis Warrington Dawson, editor of the Charleston News and Courier, wrote dozens of editorials denouncing dueling and violence and was challenged to hundreds of duels before being killed in his neighbor’s house in 1889 defending the honor of his Swiss governess. A political campaign waged by Narciso G. Gonzales, who founded the State in Columbia on February 18, 1891, ended tragically in 1903 when James H. Tillman assassinated the unarmed editor in front of the State House. Defendants in both cases were acquitted of murder, and a juror in the Tillman trial remarked, “Who ever heard of a jury anywhere convicting anyone of killing a newspaper man?”
In 1893 the State became the first newspaper in the Carolinas to install Linotype machines, which replaced handset type. By the early 1970s photocomposition and computers made the one-ton machines obsolete, although Carl Kilgus of the Bamberg Advertizer-Herald operated a Linotype until 1998. Newspapers entered the Internet age in 1995 when the Anderson Independent-Mail launched the first Internet newspaper in South Carolina. Within five years all seventeen daily newspapers and twenty-one of the state’s seventy nondaily newspapers were publishing web editions. Only two, the Aiken Standard and the Union Daily Times, were still afternoon newspapers.
Newspapers once owned by old South Carolina families, such as the Peaces of Greenville, the Gonzales-Hamptons of Columbia, the Simmses of Orangeburg, the Halls of Anderson, and the Patricks of Rock Hill, were sold during the twentieth century to newspaper groups such as Knight-Ridder, The New York Times, Gannett, Media General, Howard, Scripps Howard, and McClatchy. Some are still owned by third- and fourth-generation families, such as the Osteens of Sumter, the Mundys of Greenwood, the Manigaults of Charleston, the Burches of Greer, the Kenneys of Bennettsville, the Wests of Abbeville, and the DeCamp-Sossamons of Gaffney. The combined circulation of South Carolina’s newspapers at the begin- ning of the twenty-first century was 990,740, with a readership of approximately 2.4 million.
Cohen, Hennig. The South Carolina Gazette, 1732–1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953.
McNeely, Patricia G. The Palmetto Press: The History of South Carolina’s News- papers and the Press Association. Columbia: South Carolina Press Association, 1998.
Moore, John Hammond, comp. and ed. South Carolina Newspapers. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.
Pierce, Robert A. Palmettos and Oaks: A Centennial History of The State, 1891–1991. Columbia: State-Record Company, 1991.
Sass, Herbert Ravenel. Outspoken: 150 Years of the News and Courier. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953.