The First Blogs and Bloggers?

Services for Real Estate Pros with R. Michael Brown LLC Digital Marketing & Public Relations

Benjamin FranklinBlogs are considered to be a relatively new phenomenon in the last 20 years.  But are they?

In the 1500’s through the 1800’s, Ben Franklin, Samuel Sewell, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, and many others published what were called pamphlets – short small booklets with their news, ideas, and opinions (their content) about contemporary affairs.

Sounds like a blog doesn’t it?

There were thousands of these printed. In one reference they have more than 15,000 titles: Pamphlets in American History

How did a reader comment on another person’s pamphlet? They published their own as James Chalmers, a loyalist, did within weeks after Thomas Paine printed Common Sense.

The topics varied from war to women, civil liberties to labor, tariffs to free trade, taxes to finance, capitalism to socialism, religion to atheism, and many more.  Sound familiar?

Click to Read the Rest of the Story with Examples 

So is Active Rain a new idea?  I wonder if land use and real estate were part of the first "blogs."

Comments (16)

Emmer Group
Emmer Development Corp. - Gainesville, FL

Great post! Never thought about the pamphlets that way, but it makes perfect sense. It wouldn't be surprising if those were a great way to discuss property and optimizing land. What I think makes ActiveRain blogs such a great comparison, too, is that the "original blogs" had to be local, since there weren't ways to transport them world-wide, and ActiveRain is one of the few blogging communities that really harkens back to the idea of an integrated, local community. Thanks for sharing! 

Aug 16, 2011 03:48 AM
R. Michael Brown
R. Michael Brown LLC Digital Marketing & Public Relations - West Palm Beach, FL
Communication that increases sales!

Thanks for the comment Emmer Group. It's helpful to look back and see what the best did and see how we can apply it today.  How can you use this information or where do you suggest we look to spark ideas?

Funny, I used to think I was on the cutting edge by having a professional paid blogging group at IBM in 1987 - until I looked at the 15,000 pamphlet titles that were produced in the 1700's. 

BTW, one answering comment to Thomas Paine's Common Sense ran over 70 pages in a pamphlet.  Would that qualify as a "rant?" LOL!

Aug 16, 2011 03:50 AM
Bryan Robertson
Los Altos, CA

I'll bet property rights and land ownership were topics in those early blogs.  While King George was off giving land grants to big sections of the U.S., people on that land probably weren't too happy with it.

Aug 16, 2011 03:51 AM
R. Michael Brown
R. Michael Brown LLC Digital Marketing & Public Relations - West Palm Beach, FL
Communication that increases sales!

Bryan I'll bet you're right. Makes me want to go research!

Aug 16, 2011 03:53 AM
Donna Harris
Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - - Austin, TX
Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator

I hadn't thought about how it seems like everyone published something back in the day... good food for thought!

Aug 16, 2011 09:04 AM
R. Michael Brown
R. Michael Brown LLC Digital Marketing & Public Relations - West Palm Beach, FL
Communication that increases sales!

Hey Donna: Thanks for your comment. How do you think Thomas Paine would have handled Twitter?

Aug 16, 2011 10:13 AM
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

Ben Franklin would have loved to get his word out so quickly. They would have loved the opportunity that we have here.

Aug 16, 2011 02:11 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I'd never consider it like this, but I think it was along the same lines.  It was just much harder to express yourself in writing back then.

Aug 16, 2011 02:18 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

R. Michael, Indeed the hammer and chisel have been around for centuries. Great perspective post regarding blogs. 

Aug 16, 2011 03:45 PM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

The difference is that now we are saturated with blogs, opinions and discussions.  Back in the day if someone could AFFORD to publish a pamphlet they did.  It was only for the people that had money.  Now a 10-year old (with their wealth of knowledge) can blog.  Anyone that really has something to say, a political view, a direction is buried in blogs. 

Aug 16, 2011 03:51 PM
Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs

Nice point, that blogs aren't all that new. What is new-ish is the wide spread education that makes it possible for the masses to blog and take their ideas to a larger audience.


Aug 16, 2011 04:42 PM
Mike Mayer
Mike Mayer, Broker/Owner - i List For Less Realty, LLC - Lafayette, LA

Is this like that age-old question, "Which came first, the blog or the blogger?"

Aug 16, 2011 05:35 PM
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

Interesting post. The written word as expression must be human nature, in our DNA.

Aug 16, 2011 06:33 PM
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Very interesting. I had not thought of it in this way. Nice post.                               

Aug 16, 2011 06:38 PM
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Just like twitter. . in South America in teh 60's it was customary to write tweets anonymously in walls like graffiti when you show displeasure for the government. . whole phrases that gets read by thousands before they are deleted with a coat of paint.. .I remember about this growing up

Aug 17, 2011 12:57 AM
R. Michael Brown
R. Michael Brown LLC Digital Marketing & Public Relations - West Palm Beach, FL
Communication that increases sales!

Thanks for your comments. What can we learn from history?

Tammie: Speed is the name of the game! I tell the real estate sales people I advise they have 15 minutes to respond to a weblead, not 24 hours. The publishing world has been turned upside down. Now it's web first, everything else after.

Christine: Old English, the king's English. It was like poetry and I can't imagine trying to write that way. Read some of the pamphlets to see the writing style. 

Kathleen, Pamela, and Fernando: Were the first tweets on the walls of caves?  They had to be short... imagine writing with something fashioned like a hammer.  Graffiti, or wall art/writing, has been around since the beginning of humans. You're right, it's in our DNA.

Carla: You're absolutely right. I wonder what the cost (in today dollars) would have been back then. Only the rich and organized could do it. The cost is lower now but as I tell clients, e-communication is not free.  The time and talent to make and distribute quality content is worth a lot.  What is the time worth?

Question: Was one of the first tweets "Don't tread on me"?

Mel & Gretchen: You are correct about the education aspect of this. I teach college writing classes at night. Public opinion is that young people don't write enough. However, becasue of e-communication, they are writing constantly now. The quality and content may not be what we would like but they are writing like crazy.  My step-son wrote 9,000 text messages in 1 month. Yikes! One thing they are learning, cream rises to the top. Better quality content and writing usually gets more attention. I'm concerned now that students don't interact face-to-face enough or by talking - phone etc. Some refuse to do anything but text even if they are standing in a small group together. 

Thanks again for your comments!



Aug 17, 2011 02:58 AM