When it was founded in 1737 by Francis Joy, The Belfast News-letter was the city's first newspaper. The paper took a consistently Conservative political stance in the nineteenth century, aiming at a Protestant land-owning and commercial readership throughout Ireland.
In 1804 The Belfast News-letter was acquired by Alfred Mackay. The paper was owned, published and printed by his descendants throughout the century, passing down the female line to James Alexander Henderson in 1844. The successful business was later inherited by his son, James, who became Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1898.
In the early nineteenth century the News-letter was published only on Tuesdays and Fridays, but in 1855 it became a daily paper. It doubled in size to eight pages in 1878 and the price fell to 1d. The newspaper increased in size again in 1900 to twelve pages. However, in comparison to other leading Irish newspapers, the News-letter remained relatively limited in both circulation and influence.
In terms of content, more significant change is visible in the News-letter . Between 1800 and the 1840s the newspaper published very little Belfast, or even Irish, news. Instead it focused on London and foreign affairs and was used extensively by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to publish proclamations from England. However, the Irish news coverage gradually increased during the century and by the 1860s detailed reports of Belfast news were included. The News-letter was also exceptional for the space it devoted to items that were unrelated to public affairs. It dedicated unusual attention to new English and Irish literature, and from 1860 novel items on horticulture, sporting news and a ladies' column were also published regularly.
For this newspaper, we have the following titles in, or planned for, our digital archive:
- 1767–1956 The Belfast News-Letter
- 1828–1956 The Belfast News-Letter
This newspaper is published by Johnston Press plc in Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland. It was digitised and first made available on the British Newspaper Archive in May 2, 2013 . The latest issues were added in May 23, 2017.