Singapore Chronicle



Singapore Infopedia

by Cornelius, Vernon

Background

The Singapore Chronicle was the first newspaper in Singapore. Its inaugural issue was published on 1 January 1824. Originally owned by publisher and editor, Francis James Bernard, it was initially a commercial newspaper which included official government notices, as well as details of trade and shipping.1 The early editions were printed by the Mission Press, following which the newspaper set up its own printing press at Commercial Square (now Raffles Place). Due to competition, the newspaper folded in September 1837.2

Background
In mid-1823, then British Resident John Crawfurd made the application to publish Singapore Chronicle on behalf of Bernard, who was a former master attendant and at the time the officer-in-charge of the police department.3


In the early days of Singapore as a British colony, the press was subjected to censorship by the authorities. The Gagging Act (1823) required newspapers to be licensed and proofs of each issue submitted to the authorities for vetting before publication.4 The act forbade criticisms on the East India Company, the local government and their policies. However, no such problem was anticipated for the Singapore Chronicle, since the application was submitted by Crawfurd. He assured the East India Company’s government in India that the newspaper was for commercial purposes only, and it would be entirely under the local authority’s control.5

Establishment and key developments
The first issue of the newspaper was named Singapore Chronicle or Commercial Register and published on 1 January 1824. Bernard was its editor for a short while (probably not more than three issues). Crawfurd was the newspaper’s main contributor for its first two years. After a fall-out between Bernard and Crawfurd and the subsequent resignation of Bernard, the editorship of the newspaper was taken over by William Campbell in April 1824.6 Under Campbell, the paper was published fortnightly and its name was also shortened to Singapore Chronicle.7

As trade flourished in Singapore, it was felt that more frequent information on commercial matters was needed. Consequently, a separate single-sheet paper called Commercial Register and Advertiser was published every Saturday from mid-1826.8

Crawfurd maintained close control of the newspaper during its early years, and proofs were sent to him before publication.9 With Crawfurd’s personal involvement, the Gagging Act did not cause any difficulty for the newspaper initially.10

While the newspaper was a semi-official gazette when Crawfurd was resident of Singapore, restriction and supervision of the paper by the government was relaxed after his departure on 14 August 1826.11 At the end of that year, Campbell left the settlement and his interests as proprietor and editor of the paper was transferred to James Loch, a newcomer to Singapore.12 Under Loch’s editorship, the newspaper increasingly published critical commentaries directed at the government, leading to the re-imposition of censorship, which required then Resident Councillor John Prince to vet each proof before it was published.13

Loch remained as editor for two years until 30 March 1829, when the newspaper was sold to William Renshaw George. Under George, the paper covered more reports on local affairs and key news events in India and Europe, as well as a fuller account of commerce in the Eastern seas. For the additional coverage, George added an extra half-sheet to the paper, and later five to six pages became its normal length.14

In early 1830, John Henry Moor, a former schoolmaster with newspaper experience in Melaka, took over as editor, while George continued to provide commercial news. During this period, the publication was occasionally extended to seven or more pages. With the amalgamation of the Singapore Chronicle and the Commercial Register and Advertiser in end 1830, the pages were doubled and the first issue appeared on 6 January 1831, Thursday. The newspaper became a flourishing enterprise, particularly after 1833, when then Resident Councillor Samuel George Bonham persuaded the government of India to abolish censorship in Singapore by lifting the requirement for proofs to be vetted before publication.15

In September 1835, the newspaper was sold to Singapore merchant Walter Scott Lorrain. The first issue to bear Lorrain’s imprint was dated 26 September 1835. A month later, ownership of the paper was transferred to Scottish merchant James Fairlie Carnegie (Carnegy) from Penang, who had ideas of news distribution throughout the Straits Settlements. The Penang takeover, however, spurred a group in Singapore to set up a rival newspaper, The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, which first appeared in October 1835.16 To compete, the Singapore Chronicle halved its price and advertising rates, but the business eventually failed despite these moves.17 The last issue of the paper was dated Saturday, 30 September 1837.18


Timeline19
1 Jan 1824
: Singapore Chronicle or Commercial Register is first published with Bernard as editor.

1 Apr 1824: Name is shortened to Singapore Chronicle and published fortnightly. The four quarto, three-column single sheet carries news, editorials, shipping notices with selective births and deaths.
Jun 1826: Commercial Register and Advertiser is launched and published every Saturday in response to rising demand for commercial news.
Aug 1826: The newspaper’s editorship and proprietorship are passed on to Loch.
30 Mar 1829: The newspaper is sold to George.
1830: Moore becomes editor, bringing with him experience as editor of Malacca Observer. George continues to provide notes to the expanded commercial news, with the paper expanded to five or six pages.
Sep 1830: George sets up his own press, the Chronicle Press.
6 Jan 1831: Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register and Advertiser are amalgamated and published weekly under the name Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register. The paper size is doubled.
1831Oct 1835: With the cessation of several newspapers in Penang and Melaka, Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register becomes the only newspaper in the Straits Settlement, except for an independent paper, Prince of Wales Island Gazette, which is not regarded as a serious competitor.
Sep 1835: George sells the newspaper and his press to Lorrain.
Oct 1835: Lorrain sells the newspaper to Carnegy.
1837: The newspaper ceases publication, probably overwhelmed by its competitor, The Singapore Free Press.

Description
The style of the newspaper seems to vary slightly under different editors, but it was essentially a commercial paper for the mercantile community. The paper was initially printed on a single sheet of rough, Chinese-made paper and folded once to make four quarto pages, each with three columns of type. Later, five to six pages became the norm.20


From mid-1826, a separate complementary single-sheet weekly paper named Commercial Register and Advertiser was published every Saturday. When the Singapore Chronicle and the Commercial Register and Advertiser amalgamated, the page size doubled to 31.25 cm by 48.75 cm.21

The earliest issues of the Singapore Chronicle were printed by the London Missionary Society’s Mission Press. From early September 1830 till its last issue in September 1837, the paper was printed by the Chronicle Press.22

Cost
It has not been possible to determine the price of the Singapore Chronicle in the early period. The weekly Commercial Register and Advertiser introduced in 1826 was sold at half a Spanish dollar per month to subscribers, and 25 cents per issue to non-subscribers.23


From 6 January 1831, the Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register was sold at an annual subscription rate of $18 a year, and single copies were sold at 50 cents. The last page of the paper, titled Commercial Register, was also sold separately at 25 cents each.24

Content
The publication covered news of trade, commerce and shipping.25


In an era before the development of modern transport and communication, the newspaper provided vital information on shipping arrivals and departures, reflecting the movement of cargo, people and mail. The paper also included a list of imports and exports, local and foreign current prices of commodities, and carried advertisements and commercial announcements for a fee.26

News on the Straits Settlements was published in the form of editorial comment, as well as articles or letters from correspondents. Later, news was copied from Bengal or English papers, and this practice grew with time.27

News and notices on personal disasters, births, deaths and marriages were printed only at the request of interested people. The record of these occurrences is thus incomplete. All government notices were published in the paper, for which the editor received a subsidy of $60 per month until 1829, when the subsidy was withdrawn on economic grounds.28

Editors29
Dec 1823
Mar 1824: Francis James Bernard

Apr 1824Dec 1826: William Campbell
Jan 1827Mar 1829: James Loch
Apr 18291830: William Renshaw George
1830Sep 1835: John Henry Moor
SepOct 1835: Walter Scott Lorrain
Oct 183530 Sep 1837: James Fairlie Carnegy



Author
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 179–183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
2. Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR); Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
3. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 179. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
4. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 279–280. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
5. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 185. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, pp. 5–6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
6. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 180–183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
7. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 180–183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
8. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
9. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 183, 185. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, pp. 5–6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
10. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 280. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
11. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
12. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
13. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 184–186. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
14. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 186, 188, 190–191. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
15. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 194–197. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
16. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 197–199. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
17. Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
18. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
19. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 180, 182–183, 186, 188, 191, 195–196, 198, 201. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1995). Dateline Singapore: 150 years of The Straits Times. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 079.5957 TUR)
20. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 179, 182, 195. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
21. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 183, 196. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
22. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 195. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
23. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
24. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 196. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
25. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 182–183. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
26. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 182. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
27. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 182. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
28. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 182. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
29. Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1982). The Singapore Chronicle. In M. Sheppard (Ed.), Singapore 150 years (pp. 179–203). Singapore: Times Books International, p. 203. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])



Further resource
Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 134–317.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

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