BUSHELL (Bushel), JOHN, printer; b. probably 18 March 1715 in Boston, Massachusetts, son of John Bushel and Rebecca Parker; m. probably Elizabeth Strowbridge of Boston, by whom he had a son and a daughter; buried 22 Jan. 1761 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
John Bushell served his apprenticeship in Boston and began a business in that city about 1734. He printed the Boston Post-Boy in 1735, and then worked in association with several Boston printers until 1749. In 1741 he had inherited various houses, tenements, and lands from his father. He printed on his own from 1749 to 1751, when he moved to Halifax and assumed control of the printing establishment begun by a former partner, Bartholomew Green.
On 23 March 1752 Bushell started publication of the Halifax Gazette. The enterprise seems to have been financed jointly by Otis Little, king’s attorney in Nova Scotia, and a Boston resident. The Gazette was first issued on a half-sheet of foolscap, printed in two columns on both sides. About a quarter of the paper contained material relating to Nova Scotia, such as information on ship arrivals, proclamations, and occasional notices on runaway slaves, stolen goods, and straying wives. The rest of the paper consisted mainly of excerpts from British newspapers on European politics and government, and news from the American and West Indian colonies. In addition to publishing the Gazette, Bushell printed proclamations and laws for the government and likely did job-work for local merchants. He seems, however, gradually to have lost control of the Gazette. In 1754 Richard Bulkeley*, provincial secretary, assumed the editorship of the paper. In 1758 Anthony Henry* became Bushell’s assistant and was soon doing much of the printing.
According to Isaiah Thomas, who worked in Henry’s office, Bushell was a good workman, “but had not the art of acquiring property; nor did he make the most economical use of the little which fell into his hands.” A number of 20th-century studies, probably stemming from an article by J. J. Stewart, suggest that Bushell drank excessively. Thomas, however, says nothing about Bushell’s drinking habits although he knew Bushell’s son and undoubtedly some of Bushell’s acquaintances. Moreover, the records of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas of Halifax, which reveal that Bushell was frequently in debt while in that town, do not indicate that he owed excessive amounts for liquor. At various times Bushell owed money to his backers, his landlord, his assistant, Henry, and others. It is ironic that the earliest known piece of official printing by Bushell for the government of Nova Scotia was a six-page pamphlet containing “An act for the relief of debtors,” dated 6 Dec. 1752.
Bushell’s daughter is supposed to have remained in Halifax for some time after his death. His son was apprenticed to Daniel Fowle of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and later was a printer at Philadelphia, where he is said to have run a tavern.
PANS, RG 37, June 1757; March 1759; March, December 1760; June, September 1761. St Paul’s Church (Halifax), Burial records, index B (mfm in PANS). Boston, Registry Dept., Records (Whitmore et al.), , 103; , 33, 195. Checklist of Boston newspapers, 1704–1780, and bibliography (Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., IX, Boston, 1907), 470. Shipton, Sibley’s Harvard graduates, IX, 64. Marie Tremaine, A bibliography of Canadian imprints, 1751–1800 (Toronto, 1952), 661.
Brebner, Neutral Yankees, 136. Canadian book of printing; how printing came to Canada and the story of the graphic arts, told mainly in pictures, ed. Marie Tremaine (Toronto, 1940), 16, 19. Ægidius Fauteux, The introduction of printing into Canada; a brief history (Montreal, 1930), 44. D. C. McMurtrie, The first printing in Nova Scotia (Chicago, 1930), 6, 10. Isaiah Thomas, The history of printing in America . . . (2nd ed., 2v., Albany, N.Y., 1874), I, 127, 357. G. E. N. Trait, “A survey and listing of Nova Scotian newspapers, with particular reference to the period before 1867” (unpublished ma thesis, Mount Allison University, Sackville, N.B., 1957), 135. Marie Tremaine, Early printing in Canada (Toronto, 1934), 2. J. J. Stewart, “Early journalism in Nova Scotia,” N.S. Hist. Soc. Coll., VI (1888), 93–101.