Among the historic incidents for which the town of Westminster is noted is that of being the location of the first printing office, and of the first newspaper printed in the New Hampshire Grants, which afterward became the State of Vermont. The location of the office is said to have been in the old courthouse, on the brow of the hill where the first blood of the Revolution had been shed six years before.
The identical press, made of wood, is now among the most treasured of the relics of early times in the collection of the Vermont Historical Society at Montpelier. It is known as the “Daye Press.” It was brought from England by Stephen Daye in 1638, and set up by the owner in Cambridge, Mass., for the purpose of establishing the business of printing. Its first production was a broadside of the “Freeman’s Oath,” then an almanac in which the calculations were made for the first time for New England, and in due course, an Indian Bible was issued from it. Daye carried on the printing in Cambridge until 1649, when the press and office came into the possession of Samuel Green and Marinadalle Johnson. The press came into the possession of Harvard College in 1656. In 1714, it became the property of Timothy Green and he took it to New London, Conn., and later Alden Spooner set it up in Norwich, Conn. It was next moved to Dresden, now Hanover, N. H., and various pamphlets and other publications bear the imprint there in 1779.
The year 1781 saw the removal of the press to Westminster. Here the British-made press was set up to pro-claim liberty and independence for the American people in the issues of the first Vermont newspaper, “The Vermont Gazette, or Green Mountain Post Boy.” which stated in its heading “Pliant as Reeds, where Streams of Freedom Glide; Firm as the Hills to Stem Oppression’s Tide; Printed by Judah Paddock Spooner and Timothy Green.” It was a weekly paper, the first issue being February 12, 1781. Only one copy of the paper is known to exist, now deposited in the museum of the Vermont Historical Society at Montpelier, beside the old press upon which it was struck off by hand so many years ago. The paper maintained a precarious existence for only two years, suspending publication in 1783. It is especially notable, and appropriate, that the year of the establishment of this newspaper at Westminster was the year which signalized the suspension of hostilities between England and the United States.
The second newspaper printed in Vermont was the “Vermont Gazette”, or “Freeman’s Depository,” founded by Anthony Haswell at Bennington, started June 5th, 1783. Different persons published the paper under different names until 1853, when that also ceased publication.
Soon after the suspension of the first paper in Westminster, George Hough purchased the press and type of Green & Spooner, and removed them to Windsor. Here, on August 7, 1783, George Hough and Alden Spooner commenced the publication of the third newspaper in the state, ” The Vermont Journal and the Universal Advertiser.” A copy of the first issue, Vol. 1, No. 1, is in the possession of the Vermont Historical Society.
In the score of years between 1780 and 1800, fifteen newspapers were founded in Vermont. One had been established in 1781, two in 1783, one in 1791, one in 1792, one in 1793, two in 1794, one in 1795, four in 1797, and two in 1798. The population of the state had meanwhile increased from 81,000 to 157,000, but only five of the papers were in existence when the new century opened, out of the fifteen established, the other ten journals having suspended publication.
The inhabitants of the town of Westminster take much pride, in addition to their many other reasons, in the fact of the town being the pioneer in a business which has grown to such large proportions, and in its having the first printing press in this state, and from it was issued the first newspaper. At the present time, there are nine daily papers and 64 weekly papers published in Vermont, besides a number of semi-monthly and monthly publications.