New Hampshire Glossary: Town Crier

town criera person selected to shout or “cry” the town news aloud.

Since the ability to read and write among the citizenship of early America was fairly low, in addition to being written, proclamations, edicts, laws and news were often also communicated by word of mouth.

Usually the town crier was a person of good standing in the community, able to write and read the official proclamations. They made use of a signalling device to draw attention to their announcements, using a bugle, hunting horn, other musical instruments, metal pots and large spoons, and bells.

The official job of Town Crier can be traced back to Europe as far as 1066. Town criers were protected by law. “Don’t shoot the messenger” was a very real command– anything that was done to a town crier was deemed to be done to the King.

The Town crier would read a proclamation, usually at the door of the local inn, then nail it to the doorpost. The tradition has resulted in the expression “posting a notice”, and calling a location for sending and receiving mail (notices) the “post office.”

Janice

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