Ep. 19: Print Culture in Early America

NYG graphicKen Owen, Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and Jonathan Wilson explore “print culture” in early America, including its increasing role throughout the period from colonial society and the imperial resistance to the American Revolution and the early republic.


Print played an important role in early American culture almost from the start. Its importance grew throughout the eighteenth century as the number of printers, printed matter, and readers also increased. Print facilitated political and religious debates but it also played a crucial role in the burgeoning colonial and Atlantic economies by transmitting commercially valuable information and providing advertising outlets for domestic merchants and shopkeepers. “Print culture” is a term that encompasses not only printed matter as texts but includes the people involved in the production, distribution, and reception of print and the networks they created to facilitate those processes. By thinking of the people, networks, and processes involved in creating, circulating, and consuming printed matter, the concept of “print culture” allows us to see the connections and importance of print to individuals, groups, communities, and, most importantly, to early American society as a whole.


  • What is “print culture?”
  • What role did print play in colonial society?
  • What forms of print were available in the eighteenth century?
  • How important was print, especially newspapers, in colonial resistance to the British empire?
  • How did print contribute to the war?
  • How did print culture change in the early republic?


Jonathan Wilson received his PhD in History from Syracuse University. His dissertation on focused on articulations of national identity in early-republican and antebellum New York City through the so-called Knickerbocker circle and the writers of Freedom’s Journal.


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