Historical Markers
John Scull Historical Marker
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John Scull

Allegheny National Forest Region


Marker Location:
Blvd. of the Allies, just W of Market St., Pittsburgh

Dedication Date:
December 1958

Behind the Marker

Oil on canvas formal painting of Hugh Henry Brackenridge.
Hugh Henry Brackenridge, by Clayton Braun, copied from an original painted by...
Following the conclusion of the American Revolution, Pittsburgh grew from a small frontier outpost into a thriving commercial center, the gateway to the West.  And there, in 1786, Hugh Henry Brackenridge (1748–1816), a writer and lawyer who had just been elected to the Pennsylvania state assembly, arranged for John Scull and Joseph Hall, two twenty-one-year-old printers from Philadelphia, to make the arduous trip across state with a wooden printing press. 
Head and shoulders
John Scull, first editor and publisher of the Pittsburgh Gazette, 1786.
In 1786, Brackenridge was already an established author with great ambitions for himself and his new home. As a child, Brackenridge, whose family had emigrated from Scotland in 1752 when he was five years old, had survived the “Indian terrors” in York County following General markerBraddock's defeat in 1755.

After enrolling at The College of New Jersey in 1768 (today’s Princeton), Brackenridge trained for the ministry and there authored a satire on American manners with classmate Philip Freneau, who would go on to become “The Poet of the American Revolution.” After graduation, Brackenridge served as headmaster of a school in Maryland, where he wrote two patriotic plays after the outbreak of the American Revolution. During the War for Independence, he served as an army chaplain, briefly published a magazine in Philadelphia, took a law degree in Maryland, and after determining that his career prospects were limited in Philadelphia, moved to Pittsburgh in 1781.  Two years later he published Indian Atrocities: Narratives of the Perils and Sufferings of Dr. Knight and John Slover, among the Indians during the Revolutionary War, with Short Memoirs of Col. Crawford & John Slover (1783), a work of anti-Indian, anti-British propaganda, which included John Knight’s eyewitness account of the Indian torture and murder of markerColonel Willliam Crawford designed to fire up American patriotism.
Front page
Front page, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western...
On July 29, 1786, Scull and Hall released the first edition of a four-page weekly called the Pittsburgh Gazette, the first newspaper published west of the Allegheny Mountains. During its first years of publication the paper struggled. Scull experienced difficulty in procuring the materials necessary for publication and in distributing the paper in a region still largely isolated by mountains and a poor road system. Distribution increased after Pittsburgh established weekly postal service with Alexandria, Virginia, in 1787, and Philadelphia the following year, allowing the Pittsburgh Gazette to reach both cities more regularly. As Pittsburgh emerged as the commercial gateway to the west, the city and the Gazette also became a hub for the dissemination of news between the American frontier and the East.
Page of newspaper
Front page, Pittsburgh Gazette, 1795.    
Scull may have been the printer, but it was Brackenridge who shaped the paper’s editorial policies and most contributed to Pittsburgh’s growth as a publishing center. After his election to the Pennsylvania State Assembly in 1786, Brackenridge became a political leader of the region, establishing the Pittsburgh Academy in 1787, (today's markerUniversity of Pittsburgh) and introducing the bill for the creation of Allegheny County in 1788. 
Within a few months of the first edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette, Joseph Hall died. Influenced by Brackenridge, Scull entered a short-lived partnership with John Boyd of Philadelphia. In 1787, the two men published The ABC with the Short Catechism, and Pittsburgh’s first almanac, Pittsburgh Almanac, or Western Ephemeris, For the Year of Our Lord, 1788.
In the early 1790s, Brackenridge turned his hand to fiction and began to write Modern Chivalry, a rambling satirical novel modeled after Don Quixote, in which he tried to make sense of the changes taking place in the politics, society, and culture of the New Republic through his own experiences on the Pennsylvania frontier. Brackenridge would work on it for more than a decade—he published the first volume in Philadelphia in 1792 and the final addition in 1815—and though it sold poorly in its own time, it has since become recognized as one of the first great American novels. In his grand History of the United States of American, Henry Adams in 1889 would call it "a more thoroughly American book than any written before 1833."
In 1794, Brackenridge tried unsuccessfully to play a mediating role in the great western Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion.  Lambasted in the pages of the Gazette, he lost his bid for a seat in Congress, then wrote a history of the rebellion, Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania (1795), justifying his own role in the conflict.
The Whiskey Rebellion created fierce political antagonisms in western Pennsylvania. The angry war of words that raged between Federalist and Jeffersonian-Republican newspapers in Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, was also waged in Pittsburgh. The collaboration between Scull and Brackenridge ended when Scull turned the Pittsburgh Gazette into a pro-Federalist party newspaper. In 1798, Brackenridge supported markerThomas McKean, a Jeffersonian Republican, in his run for governor. In December 1799, McKean rewarded Brackenridge by appointing him a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The next year, Brackenridge persuaded John Israel to establish Pittsburgh’s second newspaper, the anti-federalist Tree of Liberty. Scull, in turn, launched violently anti-Semitic attacks against Israel (who ironically was not Jewish), a Philadelphia printer who came west.
Brackenridge would die in 1816, a year after publishing his final addition to Modern Chivalry. That same year, Scull stepped down as publisher of the Pittsburgh Gazette, after which the paper changed hands several times before Neville Craig took the helm in 1822, infused new life in the paper, and transformed it into Pittsburgh’s first daily.
In the mid-1830s, Pittsburgh, like other American border towns, became a battleground over slavery, and Craig, who first refused to print ads for runaway slaves, and then began to publish articles steeped with anti-slavery sentiment.  Pittsburgh soon developed a reputation as a center of abolitionist activity and in the 1840s was home to several antislavery newspapers, including markerMartin Delany'sThe Mystery and markerJane Grey Swisshelm's Pittsburgh Saturday Visiter.  These papers had short lives, but the Pittsburgh Gazette would survive, switching hands, merging with other publications, and undergoing several name changes. With more than 243,000 daily subscribers in 2010, the Post-Gazette remains the oldest newspaper published west of the Alleghenies.
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