The history of the newspaper press in Northern NSW is entangled with our history.
When the Maitland Mercury, the North's first great paper and journal of record, was founded in 1843 Maitland was the North's largest town, a position it would hold for many years. North of the Hunter, the pastoral rush was well underway, but the European population was thinly spread.
Between 1841 and 1859 ten newspapers were established, most failing quickly. Seven of the ten were in the lower Hunter where the European population was concentrated.
Of the remaining three, two would go on to become major Northern newspapers, the Armidale Express (1856) and the Clarence & Richmond Examiner (1859).
From 1860, there was a rush of newspaper formations across country New South Wales with 47 papers launched between 1860 and 1864. Of these, 35 died in infancy.
This newspaper rush coincided with the early gold rushes. These created new population centers with their own papers such as The Miner (Lambing Flat).
The process of newspaper formation was a little different in Northern NSW.
Here the early gold fields were smaller and more ephemeral, too small at that point to support papers.
However, they did added population to existing townships as a consequence of new business generated by gold.
This new business came in part from servicing nearby gold fields, in part from increased business from pastoralists and farmers supplying the miners.
In the New England, the squatters were sending stock as far south as the Victorian fields, helping lay the basis for later fortunes.
The papers that were created in Northern NSW in the decade from 1860 were located not on the gold fields, but in the emerging port towns (the Macleay Herald and Manning Times) and in existing town centers inland or on the lower Hunter.
One feature of the 1860s was the early emergence of competing newspapers in many towns.
There were two new starts in Grafton, two in the lower Hunter, adding to existing papers.
This would become a major feature by the end of the nineteenth century. By then, even small centers had two newspapers.
This competition reflected ease of entry: have printing press will travel! It also reflected the commercial and political dynamics holding in particular areas.
I will look at this in my next column.