The First Blogger Died in 1794

The patron saint of weblogging is Harbottle Dorr, a little-known figure from early America who was writing a hyperlinked daily journal on current events two centuries before the technology existed:

On January 7, 1765, in the middle of the Stamp Act controversy, Boston shopkeeper Harbottle Dorr took the current issue of the Boston Evening-Post and commented on its contents in the margins. Every week thereafter, he collected one or both of the Evening-Post or the Boston Gazette, (sometimes adding a Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser) and continued expressing himself in the margins on the events, referring backward and forward in a maze of cross-references to other documents and stories relevant to the events reported in the news.

The final result 12 years later was an astonishing archive -- 3,280 pages of annotated newspapers, plus the appended documents and Dorr's own indexes to the four volumes he compiled. This entire unbroken run of annotated Boston newspapers will not only allow students of American history a unique look at the pre-Revolutionary era in New England, but will also provide insight into the thinking of citizen Dorr on the controversies and topics of the times.

An average citizen marking up the news every day with his own opinions and furiously cross-referencing his work, Dorr was a blogger. Reading about this collection makes me want to park myself at a microfilm reader for a few months to read this hypertext. So many questions: Was he a warblogger? Did he fisk people? Would he have objected to autolinking?

When Dorr died in 1794, his entire estate consisted of the four "newspaper books" that constituted his blog. They sold for 7 pounds and 10 shillings.


An early blogger, to be sure, but Samuel Pepys beat him by a century, IMO.


And I thought I had something with this:

I was just reading an old (2002) post
at Radio Free Blogistan, by Christian Crumlish, called

Deep Roots of Hypertext Journaling.

He refers to Vannevar Bush's seminal
article, "As We May Think", in
Atlantic Monthly (1945).

Bush clearly envisioned hypertext linking in 1945, by using the human
brain/mind as a model.

Well, at least there's one Bush I can look up to.

Add a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication. These HTML tags are permitted: <p>, <b>, <i>, <a>, and <blockquote>. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA (for which the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply).