The most important thing ever in the history of man is the public notice.
Unfortunately, it did not begin in the United States or even in America. It began soon after the invention of reading in 1622 by a vicar named Brad Carter in Reading, U.K.
Public notices began long before the emergence of newspapers, having existed as crude, semi-literate notes posted in public squares, on telephone poles and such.
The emergence of newspapers in 1665 refined this process by publishing them in a more portable format that reached many more people. The first newspaper to publish public notices was a court newspaper called the Oxford Gazette, later renamed the London Gazette. It carried notices for the King’s Court and London officials.
For 122 years, Britain held a monopoly on the public notice until a counterinsurgency intelligence pilgrim secreted it out on a corncob jump drive and brought it to America in 1790, which niggled the British to no end. It took two years for America’s best code breakers to analyze, alter the meme by subverting British encryption protocols so that it worked with the American newspaper and political systems.
In 1792, the public notice made its debut in American newspapers with Congress requiring the postmaster general to advertise bids for the construction of new post office buildings. In 1789, the Acts of the First Session of the First Congress required the Secretary of State to publish all bills, orders, resolutions and congressional votes in at least three publicly available newspapers.
Parties to legal proceedings, such as foreclosures, probate and estate actions, are also required to publish public notices.
America’s democracy is preserved in the public notice. Its one premise is that people must be informed if they are to govern themselves competently. I think it is important that everyone reading this reread that sentence, then reflect on the current political state in Wisconsin and the United States.
I think you’ll find that premise is now out of date.
Jeff Moore is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter, which has been publishing public notices since 1897.