As we pause our presses on July 4th to celebrate our nation’s independence we would like to extend our gratitude to those early American patriots who used print as a means to gain and protect the freedoms we enjoy today. Muskets and cannons will be mimicked with fireworks this 4th but, as printers, we can’t help but reflect on the importance of presses as weapons in the fight for freedom. It was through the printed word that the democratic ideals and calls for independence could be spread throughout the colonies. Newspaper printers took strong editorial stances and backed the idea of an independent Republic. It was a chance for the working class, and not just aristocrats, to have a voice.
Pamphlets were a particularly effective means of communication then, just as they are now. “Common Sense,” part of The American Crisis pamphlet series written by Thomas Paine, inspired colonists to action during the American Revolution. It is estimated that more than 500,000 copies of it were sold during the Revolution alone. Considering the population of the colonies was approximately 2 million at the time this is an amazing number and a testament to the importance of the written word.
Paine was assisted in the printing of his pamphlets by another famous Founding Father – Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was one of the most noted of early American printers. Along with his famous “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” he wrote and printed newspapers and magazines, as well as dissertations on public education and the democratic values that the United States would come to be founded on. He even printed a form of currency, bills of credit, for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware! The man definitely knew his way around a printing press. It has been noted that even after achieving fame and fortune as an American statesman, diplomat, scientist and inventor, he still chose to sign his correspondence “B. Franklin, Printer.” We like to think it was a nod to the important role printing played in the establishment of the United States of America as a free country. So even as we “ooh” and “ahh” at the booming fireworks this holiday we know we will hear echoes of our forefathers in every click of the press as we go back to work on Thursday and are reminded of the rich legacy they have given us.
Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!