Alexander Robertson was born in Stonehaven, Scotland about 1742. He was the son of printer James Robertson and the older brother of James Robertson. An invalid, he followed his brother to America in 1768. Career printers, the Robertsons established the Albany Gazette in 1771 and were Albany's first printers.
Alexander Robertson probably did not marry but lived with his brother. They published the New York Chronicle newspaper in 1769 and moved to Albany two years later. He was described as "deprived of the use of his limbs and incapacitated (by paralysis) for labor." However, he was characterized as "intelligent, well educated and possessed some abilities as a writer."
Although the Albany Gazette lasted lest than a year, the Robertsons remained in Albany - providing handbills and more substantial publications for clients that included the Albany government. Beginning in 1773, they also published the Norwich Packet (Conntecticut) in conjunction with John Trumbull. But where they lived during that time is unclear!
Scottish newcomers, the brothers immediately came under suspicion with the onset of difficulties between crown and colonists in 1775. However, they continued to print for the Albany Committee of Correspondence with business stretching into 1777.
After his brother fled to New York in 1776, Alexander was arrested by the revolutionaries and, with his employees, sent to the Tory jail. He suffered there under adverse conditions. In 1777, was sent to the jail in Kingston. He was trapped inside when the jail burned in October 1777, but crawled out "burned and bruised." By the end of 1777, he was able to join his brother in New York.
From Manhattan, they issued the Royal Gazette and then the Royal American Gazette of Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Before the end of the war, they relocated to Canada and settled in Nova Scotia.
Alexander Robertson died at Port Roseway, Nova Scotia in November 1784. His death was noticed in the resurrected version of the Albany newspaper he had founded. Handicapped but determined, Alexander Robertson had lived only forty-two years.
first posted: 8/10/03