One of the most famous and recognizable eighteenth-century newspapers is the October 31, 1765 issue of the Pennsylvania Journal, also known as the “tombstone edition.” With the hated Stamp Act set to take effect in the British North American colonies on November 1, 1765, Philadelphia printer William Bradford designed this issue to resemble a tombstone, symbolizing the death of his newspaper. Black and white images claiming to be the masthead of that newspaper are often featured in books, magazines and websites. However, most instances appear to be later reproductions with intentionally re-arranged graphics and re-aligned copy to nicely fit the upper half of the newspaper’s front page. Unlike the reproductions, the original 1765 newspaper features blank top corners, Bradford’s notice in the left column, and the skull and crossbones “stamp” in the lower right corner (the featured skull and cross bones still appears centered at the top of the masthead).
Below is a high resolution image of the original front page plus rarely seen images of the following three pages, which comprise the entire issue (click each image to enlarge it). A lesser known but equally dramatic graphic in this issue is the large casket on page four—underneath it reads “The last Remains of The PENNSYLVANIA JOURNAL, Which departed this Life, the 31st. of October, 1765. Of a STAMP in her Vitals, Aged 23 Years.” Bradford never stopped printing his newspaper during the Stamp Act and continued business as usual with the November 7 edition. Facing threats of violence and property destruction, the appointed Philadelphia stamp distributor, John Hughes, promised not to execute the Stamp Act.