For the last 127 years, the Westerly Sun has served as the primary source for local news, and for much of this time, Westerly was a one-newspaper town. This was not always the case, however. At the peak of newspaper production in Westerly from 1893 to 1896, there were as many as five separate newspapers were being published.
“No Party, No Sect”: The Literary Echo
The history of newspapers in southern Rhode Island is largely believed to have begun in 1825 when 15-year-old Charles Perry published the Bung Town Patriot, widely regarded as the first newspaper published in Washington County. The paper did not last particularly long and ceased printing before the decade came to an end. 
It was not until more than two decades later that another notable and long-lasting newspaper began publication in Westerly. In April 1851, The Literary Echo started its run as the sole source of local news in town.  After less than six months, the Echo saw its first major change when, on August 21, 1851, it was renamed The Literary Echo and Pawcatuck Advertiser, a name which would last for nearly five years.  The Echo was owned by George H. Babcock and edited by a man named H.G. Champlin.  The Echo focused its content on “Literature, Science and Art” and they strove to remain independent politically and religiously. This independence was championed by the newspaper’s motto “Literature, Science and Art, ‘No Party, No Sect.’” 
Once again, a name change was in the cards, and on June 22, 1856, the newspaper was renamed The Westerly Echo and Pawcatuck Advertiser.  In 1858, the paper was taken over by the Utter family with George Benjamin and J.H. Utter becoming its proprietors. On April 29, 1858, the paper was first published under its most well-known name: Narragansett Weekly.  Under the ownership of the Utters, the paper had offices at 56 Main Street in downtown Westerly.  The newspaper was maintained under the same title for two full decades before it was renamed a final time, beginning publication on March 28, 1878, as The Westerly Narragansett Weekly. The newspaper’s 48-year run was ended on March 16 1899 when it was formally absorbed by the Westerly Sun. 
The News and The Tribune: The Peak of Newspaper Publication in Westerly
During the Narragansett Weekly’s run in the second half of the nineteenth century, several other newspapers were introduced in Westerly. Of these competing newspapers, two, The News and Stillman’s Idea were published by E.A. Stillman. The News, which began on 25 August 1873, was published irregularly with a large gap in publication that ended on November 12, 1896.  When the newspaper returned in 1896, it was labeled a new volume one, number one and there was more news coverage than the previous incarnation.  Stillman’s Idea first appeared in the summer of 1885 and was a bi-weekly publication. It is uncertain when or why either of these newspapers folded.
During the late 19th-century, a number of specialized newspapers intending to promote a specific ideology or lifestyle were started in Westerly. Perhaps the most successful of these was the Westerly Daily Tribune which was published from September 6, 1888, to May 19, 1898.  This newspaper, which briefly operated under the name The Daily Tribune from 1889 to 1890, claimed to be “The First Prohibition Daily Newspaper Established in the World.”  Given the fleeting nature of some short-lived publications, this claim is difficult to truly very; however, it is known for certain that it was the preeminent source of news for the Prohibition cause in Westerly. During the periods leading up to elections, the paper would publish information regarding candidates on the Prohibition Party ticket.  In addition to the daily edition, the Tribune also published two weeklies: The Westerly Journal and The Weekly Tribune. 
The Tribune carried the “Latest News By Wire from All Over the World,” providing citizens in southern Rhode Island with a means of accessing stories from across the globe. The Tribune cost only one cent (equivalent to just 28 cents in 2020), making it an affordable way for Westerly residents to read about the goings-on in the world around them.  Local news was also important to the Tribune as they noted that their offices, located at the Foster House Block on Canal Street, were “in telephonic communication with all parts of Washington and New London Counties.”  Over the course of its history, the Tribune claimed to have an ever-growing readership.
In 1889, they claimed to have a daily circulation of 2,500, and the following year, that number grew to 2,700 subscribers.  By 1896, the daily circulation of The Westerly Tribune was claimed to be over 3,500.  By the time the newspaper was in its final year, subscribers could have the paper delivered daily for three dollars annually ($92.67 in 2020, or approximately twenty-five cents per day in today’s money).  For the last four years of its existence, the Westerly Daily Tribune was one of at least five newspapers in town, which may have led to difficulty in maintaining their readership base. On May 19, 1898, the Westerly Daily Tribune published its final edition, ending a nearly decade-long run as one of the town’s most important news sources. 
Watch Hill Life: Newspapers in Watch Hill
Nearly all of the newspapers printed in Westerly during the nineteenth century spread the focus of their local news stories across the town’s many villages and neighborhoods. However, there were some which covered a more specific area and catered to a particular segment of the population. Westerly newspapers often dedicated a portion of their coverage to the happenings in Watch Hill, but as the popularity of the village increased in the final two decades of the nineteenth century, it became apparent that a news source dedicated to the area was needed. Out of this need, Watch Hill Surf was born. In June 1888, the five-cent newspaper began its brief run.  This newspaper contained information on arrivals and departures of guests, social news, and advertisements.  The August 31, 1888 edition contained a formal farewell from the staff, and it is unclear when the paper officially folded or why publication ceased. 
Six years after Watch Hill Surf broke ground as the first known newspaper dedicated exclusively to the booming village, another publication sprung up to serve both locals and visitors. On July 12, 1894, Watch Hill Life began as a semi-weekly endeavor with a five-cent price tag.  Much like its predecessor, Watch Hill Life focused on the happenings in the area, including news from the Watch Hill Chapel, an electric car schedule, and hotel news.  The newspaper was published during the summer from July to September by a man named J.C. Kebabian.  A decade after the start of Watch Hill Life, a third newspaper began in Watch Hill. In the summer of 1904, Watch Hill Topics began as a weekly seasonal newspaper and the following summer, it became Seaside Topics, a popular newspaper among residents of Watch Hill. 
The Sun, The Times, and The Westerly News
At the height of the newspaper boom in Westerly, one periodical would emerge which would outlast all others: The Westerly Sun. In 1893, the Sun began its service to the town of Westerly and 127 years later, it is still going strong. This is not to say that it was without competition in the twentieth century, however. In 1901, The Westerly Times joined the market. The Times was published every Saturday and could be purchased for just two cents or one dollar for a full year.  The newspaper was headquartered at 16 Chestnut Street in Westerly and claimed to have the largest circulation of any weekly newspaper in Rhode Island.  Despite this popularity, the Times would eventually come to an end in 1916.
The lapse in competition for the Sun did not last long, though. The same year that the Times folded, The Westerly News emerged to fill the weekly newspaper void in Westerly. However, the News was different, as they claimed “this paper has enlisted with the government in the cause of America for the period of the war.”  Although it was said that the paper was “for the period of the war” they continued to publish every Friday from their office at Main and Broad Streets through at least January 1919, after World War I had come to an end.  It is not clear exactly when the News stopped publishing in Westerly; however, it is clear that the Westerly Sun was the preferred paper throughout town, as they have remained the primary purveyors of local news for more than a century.
During the most prolific period, Westerly was home to as many as five local newspapers, providing a variety of perspectives. Each newspaper that has come and gone over the last two centuries brought something different to offer readers. Since 1851, the presses have never stopped rolling, and there has always been at least one newspaper serving the citizens of Westerly.