According to Baird and Turnbull, the New York Price Current was established in 1795, four years after the first U.S. factory had begun operation. Other journalism historians, particularly Forsyth (1964), note that “price currents” – newspapers that offered prices of goods and services in a specific city or town – had begun appearing in America in the 1750s. Some of the first include a 1752 sheet printed in Nova Scotia and another in Charleston , South Carolina in 1774, although Forsyth stated that there is no definitive answer about the first “price current” newspaper. These newspapers were descendants of similar newspapers in the Netherlands and England that had been published as far back as the late 16th century.
Although printed in newspaper forms, these “price currents” were exactly what their names implied. These papers listed the current prices of various products offered for sale by local merchants, and they rarely, if ever, contained any editorial content. The papers were strictly information and extremely numbers intensive. Among the products listed in most price currents were cotton, flour, furs, leather, oil, skins, tobacco and wheat. A Philadelphia price current from 1783 also listed sample wages for workers such as carpenters, sail makers and blacksmiths. Later, 18 th century price currents in that city also included information about shipping traffic. Baltimore and Boston also had price currents published in the late 18 th century in the early 19 th century. 3 The Boston Daily Advertiser was one of these price currents. Published by Nathan Hale, the paper listed prices for foreign goods and domestic goods on the front page of its May 24, 1823 edition. Most of the rest of the four-page broadsheet contains shipping information and small advertisements from merchants.
The New York paper, however, was the most successful of these early price currents. It published its first issue in December 1795 and continued for more than 100 years under other names. And in addition to prices, it had some editorial content, notes Forsyth. It also included early stock prices and exchange rates. The Price Current’s success led to the first daily newspaper devoted to business, Daily Items for Merchants, which published for the first time in 1815. Printed by the publishers of the Price Current, the newspaper included additional information such as insurance premium quotes, prices of freight and stock and notices of ship arrivals at foreign ports.
As the first daily business newspaper, Daily Items set the stage for future business newspapers. Though Daily Items lasted less than two years, it showed other newspaper published that a daily newspaper devoted solely to business and commerce could exist. Still, some of the price currents were taken over by mainstream newspapers and delivered to subscribers. That typically meant the end of the price current, as most subscribers to general newspapers were not interested in the information in the price currents. For a business newspaper to be successful, it would have to develop a business-related readership.