Hannah Bunce Watson

Hannah Bunce Watson

Induction Category:
Business & Labor

Born: 1750

Died: 1807

Inducted: 1994

Town: Hartford

Hannah Bunce Watson became the publisher of The Connecticut Courant at a remarkable moment in American history. The year was 1777, George Washington was not yet President, and Jonathan Trumbull was governor of Connecticut. A fledgling nation was emerging, and its patriots needed to know what was going on in the world. Boston papers had been shut down by the British, and in New York only Tory papers were being published. The Courant, then the oldest and largest newspaper in the colonies (8,000 circulation), was the only one that could keep them informed.

It was in December of that year that the young owner/publisher, Ebenezer Watson, took sick and died of smallpox. His widow, Hannah, already burdened with the care of five children under the age of 7, was catapulted into a job for which she was ill-equipped. In desperation, she admitted to partnership George Goodwin who, at age 20, was already a 12-year veteran of The Courant.

Within a month, a second disaster struck: Tory supporters set fire to the mill that provided printing paper to The Courant and writing paper to the state. In a joint statement, Hannah Watson and George Goodwin announced the imminent demise of the Courant, its last issue to be on February 3, 1778. Then in a last-ditch effort, Watson and Sarah Ledyard, co-owners of the mill, appealed to the Connecticut Assembly for help. Within hours, the Assembly authorized the establishment of a state-wide lottery to rescue the paper. The lottery was a success and the mill rebuilt. The Courant never missed an issue—to this day, a proud boast. Hannah Watson later remarried, and under her leadership the Connecticut Courant (which became a daily in 1837 called the Hartford Courant) focused on issues related to temperance, cleanliness and scientific stories.

During This Time
1640 - 1799: A New World Colony & its Revolution