The New Hampshire Sentinel

History of the New Hampshire Sentinel

Today the Keene Sentinel brings daily news to the people living in Keene and the surrounding towns in Cheshire County, New Hampshire. The Sentinel is the fifth-oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. The paper has a long and rich history, originally founded as the New Hampshire Sentinel in 1799. 

Compared to larger towns near the coast like Portsmouth, a town like Keene in southwestern New Hampshire faced more challenges in the printing business in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It was difficult to find advertisers, collect the price of subscriptions and the newsprint had to be brought farther, as towns were farther spread out across the Monadnock Region. In eighteenth century Keene, roads were rough and depending on the time of year, often impassable. Four publications were started prior to the creation of the New Hampshire Sentinel, each owner believing firmly in the good a newspaper could do for the community. By 1795, however, they had all gone out of business. 

In 1799, twenty-one year old John Prentiss moved from Leominster, Massachusetts to Keene and purchased a hand press and other equipment from Abijah Wild, owner of The Rising Sun (the last failed paper in Keene). Prentiss paid $250 for the equipment and on March 23, 1799 he published the first recorded copy of the New Hampshire Sentinel. The weekly issue was distributed first to 70 subscribers, each paying $1.50 for the year. Within two years, the paper had 500 subscribers. 

The New Hampshire Sentinel was an important source of information for the people of the Monadnock region. When George Washington died at the end of 1799, for example, news of his death was published in Prentiss’ weekly paper- though it did take two weeks for the information to reach Keene. 

John Prentiss ran the publication from 1799 to 1847. The paper stayed in the Prentiss family for many years. In 1890, a daily newspaper was added with the inauguration of the Keene Evening Sentinel.

A small-town, rural newspaper, the Sentinel has withstood the test of time. The 225 year old paper presents an incredibly rich record of the region’s history, telling the story of Monadnock Region’s residents.

In 2021, the Historical Society of Cheshire County completed the massive undertaking of digitizing all Sentinel editions from the paper’s creation in 1799 through the year 1945. The digitized copies are free to access, and can be found at the Community History Archive

In 2019, the Walldogs, an internationally renowned organization of sign and mural artists came to Keene to paint 16 historical murals in the downtown area. Community members voted on historical topics they felt best represented the town. One of the 16 murals represents the Keene Evening Sentinel, still painted on a building on 28 Washington Street in downtown Keene. It recognizes the rich history of Keene’s newspaper, one of the oldest continually published papers in the United States.

Whose history is told by the New Hampshire Sentinel?

It is important to note that while the Sentinel reflects an important record of New Hampshire’s past, it is not an accurate portrayal of the lived experience of every resident in the state. 

In the years of focus for this project, from 1800 to 1815, not every person living in New Hampshire benefited from Prentiss’ weekly Sentinel. Between these years, a person had to have a disposable $1.50 to spend on a year’s subscription to receive the information. Many people living in Cheshire County during this time could not afford to do that. 

Advertisements published in the paper are written by people with the means to not only afford a subscription to the paper, but might have also paid an extra fee to post an ad in that week’s issue. The subscribers, people in positions of enough economic prosperity to both subscribe to the paper and post in the paper, were also in positions of power which allowed them to post an ad in a newspaper claiming ownership over another human being. 

While the project inevitably records the names of the people in positions of wealth and power, it more so hopes to highlight the names of people who resisted that power and concept of ownership. These people resisted oppression in nineteenth century New Hampshire through their acts of escape. The narrative told in the Sentinel is not one of the marginalized of Cheshire County. However, glimpses into the lives of New Hampshire’s poor, women, contractual workers, and other marginalized groups can work to shift the traditional narrative.


Keene Sentinel, “Our Mission,” 

Historical Society of Cheshire County, “Sentinel Mural,” 

Clement, Jaci, “Inside Historic Keene Sentinel,” Medium (2023), 

Prentiss, Grace B., “Newspapers,” 

City of Keene, “Keene Public Library Announces Searchable Digital Index of the Sentinel through 1945,”  

PBS, “Made Here: The Walldogs Create the Magical History Tour,”