secthead Resources

The Columbia Spy


The Columbia Spy began publication June 17, 1830, with John L. Boswell as the editor and publisher. Twenty-year-old Boswell came to Columbia from Hartford, Connecticut, where he served an apprenticeship with The Courant. The paper was allegedly named "Spy" to reflect the strong anti-slavery sentiment in the community. Read more about the paper's early days in "John L. Boswell and The Columbia Spy" by Robert L. Goodell from the Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society.

What You Can Find in the Spy

  • Local, national, and international news
  • Vital statistical information
  • Marriage announcements
  • Death notices
  • Advertisements, including ads for runaway slaves
  • Political and legal notices
  • Articles about the African American community
  • Literary selections, including pieces by Edgar Allen Poe
  • References to prominent free African Americans


Educational Resources

Teachers: Use the Columbia Spy in your classroom:



  • The digitization of The Columbia Spy was made possible by a grant from the Library Services Technology Act, Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • Digitization of the Civil War years (1850-1869) of The Columbia Spy was completed as part of Penn State University Libraries' Pennsylvania Newspaper Project. We extend our thanks to Penn State Libraries for their assistance in this project.
  • The Lancaster County Historical Society is a participant in the Lancaster County Digitization Project, a consortium of institutions interested in digitizing the county's newspaper and manuscript collections.

Facebook Slider
Facebook Slider
Facebook Slider