The Raleigh Register, edited by the Gales family for three generations, was, according to historian Robert N. Elliott, “the most influential newspaper in antebellum North Carolina.” Established in 1799, the Register was North Carolina’s leading voice for Jeffersonian Republicanism. Through a half-century of political changes (and its own changes in frequency of publication), the Register remained an outstanding social force locally and statewide.
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The Galeses were a remarkable publishing family. Joseph Gales (1761-1841) fled his native England in 1794 to avoid political persecution for his published writings. He and his young family (his wife Winifred was also a writer) made their way to Philadelphia. Nathaniel Macon persuaded him to move to Raleigh, offering the promise of the state printing contract. On October 22, 1799, the first issue of the Register appeared. The office and the Gales home were in the 300 block of Fayetteville Street, directly south of the Wake County Courthouse. In the era of political newspapering, Gales’s rival in Raleigh was William Boylan of the Federalist Minivera. Their ongoing feud led to the caning of Gales by Boylan on the steps of the State House in 1804.
Joseph Gales Jr. (1786-1860) worked briefly for his father’s paper before moving in 1807 to Washington, D.C., to edit that city’s first newspaper, the National Intelligencer. The elder Gales retired in 1833, to be succeeded as editor of the Register by his son Weston (1802-1848). He in turn was followed as editor in 1848 by his son Seaton (1828-1878). The paper was sold in 1856 to John Symes of Virginia, who seven years later ceased publication in Raleigh and moved the Register to Petersburg. Joseph Gales Sr. and Weston Gales are buried in Old City Cemetery in Raleigh. Seaton Gales is buried in Raleigh’s Oakwood Cemetery and Joseph Jr. in Washington, D.C.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 265-270—sketches of Joseph, Joseph Jr., Seaton, Weston, and Winifred Gales by Robert N. Elliott
Robert N. Elliott, The Raleigh Register, 1799-1863 (1955)
Grady L. E. Carroll, The Gales Family in Raleigh and Washington: Sketches for Portraits (1978)
Elizabeth Reid Murray, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, Vol. I: Prehistory through Centennial (1983)
William M. Ames, A History of the National Intelligencer (1972)
Joseph Gales Jr., 1786-1860