There was a constant stream of emigration to America from Wales during the first half of the 19th century and by the 1840s a number of Welsh communities existed in Wisconsin and Illinois.
The number of emigrants increased with the development of the coal and iron industries and the slate quarries in Pennsylvania. In 1890 it was estimated that over 100,000 American citizens had been born in Wales. The emigrants set about establishing Welsh chapels and societies with enthusiasm. The press also featured prominently in this pattern as a means of keeping the Welsh communities in touch with each other, and providing them with news.
John A Williams ('Don Glan Towy'), a printer from Swansea, was the pioneer of Welsh newspaper publishing in America. He emigrated to the United States during the early 1830s and established an English newspaper entitled The Mobile sentinel. Then in January 1832 he established Cymro America [The Welsh American], in New York, a bilingual fortnightly newspaper which appeared until the following June.
There wasn’t another attempt to establish a Welsh newspaper in America until 1848. Haul Gomer [The Sun of Gomer] was published in Utica, New York, by Evan Roberts ('Ieuan o Geredigion'), its existence however was brief, and only 9 issues appeared.
In 1838 William Rowlands had established his monthly periodical Y Cyfaill o'r hen wlad yn America [The Friend from the old country in America]. This periodical soon became the official publication of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists in the United States, and continued to appear until 1933. It was the first of several denominational periodicals published by the Welsh in America, and was soon followed by others such as:
The history of the Welsh periodical press in America not unnaturally reflects that of its counterpart in Wales, in that the denominational periodicals enjoyed most success.
However, these publications were in fact more than religious and denominational magazines. They also contained foreign and national news and expressed views on current controversies. Some editors held strong beliefs, such as Robert Everett, owner and publisher of Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd. He supported the abolition of slavery and expressed himself forcefully in his publication. In 1843 he established Y Dyngarwr [The Philanthropist], a monthly publication that wholly condemned slavery, but lasted barely a year. In 1850 Everett made another attempt with the establishment of Y Detholydd [The Digest], which lasted for 2 years.
Welsh Americans also published children's periodicals such as Yr Ysgol [The School] (New York, 1869-70), which was followed by Blodau yr oes a'r ysgol [Flowers of the age and the school] (1872-5), which was partly based on Trysorfa'r plant, Thomas Levi's successful periodical in Wales.
Literary journals included:
Y Traethodydd contained original articles by Welsh American authors, along with material taken from Lewis Edwards' periodical of the same title published in Wales. The Cambrian, which appeared first in Cincinnatti then in Remsen, New York, was one of the few English periodicals published to serve the Welsh communities in the United States, and appeared from 1880 to 1910.
A total of 21 newspapers served the Welsh in America at various times between 1832 and the 1920s. The overwhelming majority were short-lived but some titles survived for 5 years or more, such as Y Cymro Americanaidd [The Welsh American] (New York, 1855-60), Y Wasg [The Press] (Pittsburgh, 1871-90) and Colomen Columbia [The Dove of Columbia] (Emporia, Kansas, 1883-93).
Naturally the number of Welsh speakers in America declined gradually during the last quarter of the 19th century, and by the 1880s several of these periodicals and newspapers had become bilingual. The most successful of all these titles was Y Drych Americanaidd [The American mirror] founded in New York in 1851. It moved to Utica, one of the most important Welsh publishing centres in America, in 1861, and soon grew to be the principal newspaper of the Welsh in the United States. Y Drych was published in the Welsh language until the early 1930s, and in 1940, it began to appear monthly, rather than weekly. It is still published today in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Many Welshmen were instrumental in establishing English newspapers in the United States. Thomas Price ('Cuhelyn'), a native of Glamorganshire, established The Workman 's advocate and The Minersville bulletin during the 1950s. George Jones, another Welshman, assisted in the founding of ‘
The New York times. Ellis Roberts, owner of The Utica morning Herald, and George Harries, publisher of The Washington evening star, also had strong Welsh connections.