One of the most effective ways to immerse yourself in history is to read old newspapers—to read the goings-on of the past, written in present tense. Before the internet, television, and radio, this was the primary means of disseminating information to the masses. And so, to hold a newspaper, printed many lifetimes ago, to delve into the stories of the day, to observe the particular language used, is a rare experience one can actually share with someone from that time. You’re reading the news exactly as they would have read it. Even the most mundane notices, like objects for sale or obituaries, afford the modern reader the most pleasing tidbits of historical minutiae found almost nowhere else.
This particular newspaper of mine is the Columbia Sentinel from Boston, Massachusetts, dated May 14, 1791. That’s just fifteen years after the United States declared independence. George Washington was still president! It is indescribably fascinating to read the words of a nascent country, so I invite you to join me as I read aloud some of the highlights: everything from political discussions to satirical essays to advertisements and strange deaths.