Franklin’s Print Shop
Benjamin Franklin’s 18th-century printing shop
Years before his little kite-flying escapade, young Benjamin Franklin was making quite a name for himself as a printer. Progressing from apprentice to master printer, he took over publication of The Pennsylvania Gazette, and it soon became the most successful newspaper in the colonies.
An 18th-century print shop is recreated here on the site of his original property. Independence National Historical Park (INHP) rangers give demonstrations of the labor-intensive process of turning out a daily newspaper. Leather daubers stuffed with cotton are used to apply the ink. Then it’s onto the hand-operated 18th century printing press. The final product hangs from the drying racks along the ceiling. Typesetting desks and the tiny little letters and numbers are also displayed.
Before 1770, colonies mailed newspapers to England but not to other colonies. Franklin realized that sharing information was essential if the colonies were to unite. When he was appointed assistant postmaster general he introduced the practice of mailing newspapers throughout the colonies to improve communication. Newspaper delivery through the postal service typically took two to four days, a rate similar to today.
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They don’t advertise it, but the hand-printed broadsides and documents are available for sale. Just ask the Park Ranger.
Printing was messy and dirty, so it’s the only site in INHP where rangers dress in colonial costume, protecting their uniforms.
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