James Robertson was born in Stonehaven, Scotland about 1747. He was the son of printer James Robertson and the younger brother of Alexander Robertson. He emigrated to America about 1768 and brought over his invalided brother. In 1771, they established the Albany Gazette and were Albany's first printers.
By 1773, he had married Sarah Fairchild when their daughter was baptized in St. Peter's Anglican church. Perhaps he was the widower of Amy Robertson who had died in Norwich, Connecticut.
Although The Albany Gazette had a short initial run, the Robertsons continued to produce contract printing from their Albany base and even employed journeymen compositors. Among their clients was the city of Albany for whom they produced a compilation of the city's Laws and Ordinances in 1773. They also were involved in a newspaper in Norwich, Connecticut in partnership with John Trumbull.
Healthier and thus more mobile than his crippled brother, James Robertson appeared more dangerous to the revolutionaries. Later, he applied to the British government for compensation for losses as a loyal subject of the King. He stated that in 1777 he was forced into hiding thirteen miles away from Albany and that he took his printing material with him. By early 1777, he did escape to New York City and began publishing the Royal American Gazette - which lasted to mid-1783. He also followed the British to Philadelphia and South Carolina where he issued royalist newspapers.
By 1784, the Robertsons had relocated to Shelburne, Nova Scotia where they published the Royal American Gazette. Alexander Robertson died and James moved the paper to Charlotteton, Prince Edward Island.
In 1789, he returned to Scotland where he continued as a printer and bookseller. He retired about 1810. James Robertson died in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1816.
Sources: The life of James Robertson is CAP biography number 481. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. He is the subject of several web-based profiles. An entry on him in the DAB volume 16, pp. 23-24 has many errors!
first posted: 8/15/03