New Zealand historical newspapers
This page is a guide to the main New Zealand historical newspapers available at Christchurch City Libraries. You can also read an overview of the main historical newspapers published in Christchurch.
New Zealand historical newspapers online
Papers Past is a collection of digitised newspapers and periodicals covering the years 1839 to 1945 and including 74 publications from across New Zealand. Canterbury papers on Papers Past are listed here.
Newspapers from elsewhere in New Zealand which have been microfilmed can be interloaned. These newspapers are listed in the publication New Zealand newspapers on microfilm.
Your library has local newspapers from the first Lyttelton Times, through to the present day. Most of these newspapers are available on microfilm. Access these newspapers at the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre, at the Central Library Peterborough.
Historical outline of the main Christchurch newspapers
Canterbury Times, 1865 - 1917
This was the Lyttelton Times’ answer to the Weekly Press starting some five months after that paper. Designed to meet the needs of settlers living outside Christchurch, the paper regularly featured half-tone illustrations from 1895. It was published weekly.
Christchurch Citizen, 2002 - 2003
The Christchurch Citizen was first published under the title The Citizen Today by Media Publications, under chief executive Geoffrey Botkin. It changed its title on 24 November 2001. It was published three times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) and sold for 50c. The first editorial stated:
If a city wants to understand the times and is concerned about the wide, sometimes confusing but always urgent range of issues before us, then it needs several papers.
Lyttelton Times, 1851 - 1935
The first issue of the Lyttelton Times appeared on 11 January 1851, some 26 days after the presses arrived on board the Charlotte Jane on December 16, 1850. The printing plant was set up in a shed on Section No. 2, Norwich Quay. The paper was financed chiefly by Ingram Shrimpton of Crown Yard Printing Office, Oxford, although he did not arrive in New Zealand until 1854. Shrimpton engaged a foreman and a compositor, and persuaded his son and nephew to come out as cadets. James Edward Fitzgerald agreed to act as unpaid editor until Shrimpton came out, although, in fact, he virtually relinquished this position once he was elected Superintendent of the Province.
The paper was published weekly until 1854 when it became bi-weekly. It was printed on double foolscap paper until 1857 when it increased its column length from 11 inches to 14 inches. In 1863 the business was moved from Lyttelton to Christchurch into a two-storeyed building with a Cathedral Square frontage. The name was unchanged until 1 August 1929, when it became the Christchurch Times.
The Lyttelton Times began as a non-party paper but by the 1860’s was distinctly liberal in flavour and remained so throughout its history. It achieved an enduring reputation in the newspaper world. Its demise on 29 June 1935 was the result of one of the most notable struggles in newspaper history. At this time Christchurch had two morning and two evening newspapers. The competition proved fatal: one morning paper, The Press, and one evening paper, the Star-Sun, remained. At the time of its cessation Lyttelton Times was the oldest surviving newspaper in New Zealand. Its publisher, Lyttelton Times Co. was renamed N.Z. Newspapers Ltd.
The Press, 1851 -
The first issue of The Press appeared on 25 May 1861. Its establishment as a rival to the Lyttelton Times was intended to create an alternative means of political and public comment. James Fitzgerald, who had edited the Lyttelton Times in its early stages, now found that paper to be a supporter of William Moorhouse, the Superintendent of the Province, who, in Fitzgerald’s view, was spending too lavishly. In particular, he was pushing the Lyttelton Tunnel project which was contrary to Fitzgerald’s own scheme for leading all traffic through the district of Sumner. Although Fitzgerald denied having a financial interest in the paper, he was certainly to the forefront in its instigation.
The first home of The Press was a small cottage in Montreal Street. In January 1862 it moved to a single-storey building in Cashel Street and in 1909 a new building was completed in Cathedral Square. The Press started life as a six-page weekly tabloid; in 1862 it became an eight-page bi-weekly and in 1863 a daily, the first in the Province. In 1865 the Weekly Press was published, five moths ahead of the Canterbury Times published by the Lyttelton Times Co.
In 2011, The Press main building in central Christchurch was badly damaged in the February earthquake. One staff member was killed and the building was demolished as a result of damage. All production was transferred to their printing plant near Christchurch Airport until June 2012, when the Gloucester Street end of the central Christchurch building was partially rebuilt and upgraded. It was one of the first buildings in the Christchurch CBD to be rebuilt and operational.
The motto on the masthead — "Nihil utile quod non honestum" translates to "Nothing is useful that is not honest."
The Star, 1868 -
The Star, an evening paper, was started by the Lyttelton Times Co. on May 14, 1868. It was a four-page paper costing one shilling which was reduced for some time to 1/2 a shilling. It had some competition in its early days from a paper called the Evening Mail and from The Press’s evening paper The Globe. However, neither of these survived and The Star jogged along until it received a jolt in 1914 when The Sun began publication. The Star’s position was strengthened with the publication of a Saturday night’s Sports edition and the addition of six-shilling "wanted" advertisements.
In 1935 The Sun and the Christchurch Star combined and the new paper was published as the Christchurch Star-Sun. It retained this name until 1958 when it reverted to the Christchurch Star. In 1980 it became simply The Star, but returned to the Christchurch Star at the end of 1988. The Star-Sun made innovations in typography, running news stories horizontally rather than vertically, greater use of illustrations on news pages and introduced a new style of headline.
The Sun, 1914 - 1935
With the advent of the Sun in 1914, Christchurch now had three evening newspapers (the Evening News - published by The Press, The Star and The Sun itself), two morning papers and two weeklies. This number of papers for a town with some 88,000 population was not sustainable and the Canterbury Times and Evening News ceased publication in 1917. The Sun first appeared on 6 February 1914 and was a new type of newspaper for New Zealand, modelled on the London Daily Mail. It gave a bright display of news with lots of illustrations and was very popular. It was combined with The Star in 1935.
The Weekly Press, 1865 - 1928
The Press Co. began publishing a weekly edition in 1865. It was aimed at country districts and became very popular, containing sports news, agricultural writing, light reading, and original writing. It later became New Zealand’s most popular magazine.
The Weekly Press took the initiative in the South Island in illustrating in half-tone engravings from 1894 and soon it contained several pages of illustrations of exceptional quality. These illustrations now provide a most important photographic history of the Canterbury area and further afield for the early part of this century. Many photographs in our photograph collection come from the illustrations published in The Weekly Press and Canterbury Times.
Books, articles and newspaper issues relating to the history of newspapers in New Zealand with particular reference to Christchurch.
- Booth, Pat. Catch a falling Star. North and South, March 1991 : 94 - 103.
- Christchurch Star. 1868 - 1968; centennial supplement, May 14, 1968.
- Lawlor, Pat. The tragedy of Sun newspapers, in his Confessions of a journalist. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1935. p. 153 - 161.
- Lyttelton Times. 75th anniversary number : January 11, 1926. p. 20 - 21.
- O'Neill, R.B., comp. The Press, 1861 - 1961; the story of a newspaper. Christchurch, Press Company, 1963.
- Scholefield, G.H. Newspapers in New Zealand. Wellington, Reed, 1958.
Search our catalogue for more items about the history of newspapers in New Zealand.