Long Island Press celebrates its bicentennial

Two hundred years ago, the very first edition of The Long Island Farmer, a weekly publication that later changed its name several times to the Long Island Press, rolled off the presses to become essential reading.

Henry C. Sleight, a Sag Harbor resident who served in the War of 1812, founded the paper in Jamaica, Queens, kicking off a long and proud legacy of chronicling the Island’s historic moments, and becoming part of the fabric of the region along the way.

“Fear no man and do justice to all men,” was the paper’s motto years later during the Civil War.

The newspaper’s founding predates some of the region’s fundamental institutions, such as the Long Island Rail Road and the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge — both of which the paper covered at the time.

A lot has changed since then. When the Farmer was founded in 1821, James Monroe, the nation’s fifth president, was beginning his second term in the White House. Spain had just ceded Florida to the United States. Missouri became the 24th state.

Since the paper’s founding, the population of LI has grown from 56,978 — slightly more than the Village of Hempstead today — to 7.6 million, or 2.8 million for those who only consider the Island to be Nassau and Suffolk counties, and not Queens or Brooklyn. As the population grew with expansions of the LIRR, construction of additional East River crossings and, after World War II, the development of America’s first modern suburb, in Levittown, the Press’ coverage followed its readers east.

At its peak, the Press had a circulation of more than 445,000 in 1969. Many a Baby Boomer shares fond memories of delivering the thick broadsheet newspaper as their first job. The paper went out of business in 1977, but the title was revived as a weekly in 2003. Four years ago, it was reborn as the monthly news and lifestyle publication on stands today.

As the paper celebrates the 200th anniversary of its founding, readers are invited to send their stories and memories of the Press over the years. Send submissions to [email protected]

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