Extra!, Ep. 2: Printers in Early America

printer_2Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers follow episode 19 on “print culture” with a discussion about printers in early America, including the fiscal and political challenges of being a printer, their role in curating and circulating information, and how the occupation changed after the Revolution.


Serving as the primary circulators of relatively scarce and important information, printers played an important role in early American culture, politics, and economics. Unlike the eighteenth-century America’s most famous printer, Benjamin Franklin, however, most printers struggled to make a living while also having to navigate the shark-filled waters of colonial and revolutionary politics. Through the Revolution and beyond, printers increasingly became content creators rather than just curators and, at the same time, were more willing to engage in politics directly. By the early nineteenth century, party newspapers were becoming more and more common and printers played an important role in the organizing of national party politics on the local and state levels.


Bond, Gordon. James Parker: A Printer on the Eve of Revolution. Union: Garden State Legacy, 2010.

Botein, Stephen. ”Meer Mechanics’ and an Open Press: The Business and Political Strategies of Colonial American Printers.” Perspectives in American History 9 (1975): 127-225.

Chopra, Ruma. “Printer Hugh Gaine Crosses and Re-Crosses the Hudson.” New York History 90, no. 4 (2009): 271–285.

Frasca, Ralph. Benjamin Franklin’s Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006.

Harlan, Robert D. “A Colonial Printer as Bookseller in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia: The Case of David Hall.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 5 (1976): 355–369.

Hildeburn, Charles Swift Riché. Sketches of Printers and Printing in Colonial New York. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1895.

Lorenz, Alfred L. Hugh Gaine: A Colonial Printer-Editor’s Odyssey to Loyalism. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1972.

Parks, A. Franklin. William Parks: The Colonial Printer in the Transatlantic World of the Eighteenth Century. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012.

Pasley, Jeffrey L. “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002.

Silver, Rollo G. The American Printer, 1787-1825. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1967.

Smith, Jeffery A. Printers and Press Freedom: The Ideology of Early American Journalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Thomas, Isaiah. The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers. Worcester: 1810.

Wroth, Lawrence C. The Colonial Printer. New York: The Grolier Club, 1931.

Zenger, John Peter. A Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger: Printer of the New York Weekly Journal. Edited by Stanley Nider Katz. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1963.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s