Two hundred and thirty seven years ago today, on July 2, 1776, the Pennsylvania Evening Post published momentous news.
It wasn’t emblazzoned across the front page as it would be today, because in the 18th century newspapers were produced slowly—typeset letter-by-letter and printed one-by-one.
“Each side of each sheet of each copy had to be pressed by hand, a complex task that involved (among many other procedures) wetting the paper, ‘beating’ the type with ink-soaked balls, and repeatedly pulling the heavy crank that lowered the platen and made the impression. . . . even a rural weekly, with barely adequate circulation of only 500 or 600, required a day and most of a night of unremitting labor to produce.”1
One can only imagine what it was like for the printers to insert this same-day news where there was still room, on the last page, just before the advertisements:
“This day the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES.”
Earlier that day, the Continental Congress had taken a decisive step by passing a resolution made by Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee, “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
Two days later, on July 4, 1776, Congress formally approved the Declaration of Independence, setting out—as John Adams put it in a letter to his wife Abigail—”the Causes, which have impell’d Us to this mighty Revolution.”2
These images are courtesy of Seth Kaller Inc., a dealer in rare historic documents based in White Plains. See the website for more information on the history of the Declaration of Independence.
Coming next: Croton’s connection to the Declaration of Independence.
- Paisley, Jeffrey. The Tyranny of Printers, Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2003) ↩
- Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, at the Massachusetts Historical Society. ↩
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