In Old Washington (Printers)

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 9, 1910 [pt. 2, p. 2]

In the early days of Washington the people were interested in the art preservative of all arts, printing and book stores made their appearance in a limited number. On Capitol Hill a book store was located immediately south of the Capitol on New Jersey avenue about 1800, and not far off was the office of the National Intelligencer, established by Samuel Harrison Smith, which a few years afterward passed into the hands of Gales & Seaton. This book store was conducted by Daniel Rapine, who for many years was prominent in municipal affairs, being a member of the first council, one of the organizers of the volunteer fire department and held high rank in the Masonic order. He succeeded Mayor Brent in that office and for years was one of the leading citizens of the section.

At the northwest corner of the Avenue and 6th street William Duane, who did some of the public printing had his office and bookstore. Subsequently Roger C. Weightman, who erected the buildings on the site of the National Hotel, succeeded to Duane’s book business. Mr. Weightman was also prominent in municipal affairs, a long time a member of the council and mayor of Washington in 1824 to 1826. He is well remembered in military affairs, in which he achieved the rank of major general of the District militia. He was long connected with he Bank of Washington, and the latter part of his life occupied a position in the patent office as librarian.

Adjoining Brown’s Hotel on the Avenue between 6th and 7th streets was the office of Davis & Force, who also dealt in books and stationery, and both of these gentlemen were also prominent in municipal affairs, the later becoming mayor of Washington in the thirties in which decade he published the National Journal. He was author of the valuable compilation known as the American State Papers. He too, was in the military service, long a captain of the Columbian Artillery, and he held a commission in the militia of the District as colonel at the time of his death.

Andrew Way’s Printing Office
At the corner of 9th street and Pennsylvania avenue Andrew Way had his printing office and book business prior to the twenties. Jacob Gideon became associated with Mr. Way, and the firm of Way & Gideon was a leading one for years. Mr. Gideon, succeeding to the business, continued it on 9h street to the end of his days. The original corner in 1820 became known as Gunton’s corner. In the building at the northeast corner of 10th and E streets the Columbian Star was published in the twenties by Anderson & Meeham. On Pennsylvania avenue between 3d and 4 ˝ streets, in the row long known as Elliott building, the Washington Gazette was published by Jonathan Elliott, and he had also a book business. At the corner of 21st street and the Avenue the National Republican was published by James G. Dunn and edited by Col. Thomas L. McKenney of Georgetown, who had been superintendent of the Indian supplies and was prominent as a military officer in the war of 1812.

Benjamin F. French in the twenties kept at Duane’s old stand, 6th and he Avenue, a popular book store. A few doors west of The Star building Fishey Thompson had a book store which was very popular. Mr. Thompson had come here from England, and after about a score of years he returned to his native land, it is said, with a fortune. Henry Guegan of Baltimore at intervals of a few weeks exposed a stock of foreign books and literature on the south side of the Avenue opposite Brown’s Hotel, but finally settled in a store above Willard’s, and it was the leading store for foreign and technical books, especially French.

Among the books popular in those days were the political essays of John Adams, Walter Scott’s works, Thompson’s poems, "McFingall" and other works of John Trumbull, books of travels by Lewis and Clark, Robinson, etc., Barlow’s "Columbiade," Mrs. Opie’s "New Tales," "The Judge Family," Morse’s Geography, Schoolcraft explorations, the lives of Washington, Patrick Henry, Gen. Green and other revolutionary heroes.

Many Printers in 1840
By the forties there were numerous printing offices. John T. Towers, afterward mayor, was then on 6th street below the Avenue, shortly after building an office at the southeast corner of Louisiana avenue and 6th street. G.A. Sage was on E street between 9th and 10th. Ritchie & Heiss published the Union on E street adjoining the National Theater; William Greer was on the east side of 9th street between D and E; Columbus Alexander was at 17th and F streets, but subsequently was burned out.

Theodore Barnard was on the southwest corner of 11th street and the Avenue, the site afterward occupied by The Star; Blair & Reeves, publishers of the Congressional Globe, on the north side of the Avenue, between 3d and 4 ˝ streets, in the building known as Jackson Hall. M. Buel was on the south side of the Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, and afterward was of the firm of Buel & Blanchard, publishers of the National Era, on 6th street below the Avenue. Gales & Seaton were at 7th and D streets, publishing the Intelligencer, and the Gideons were on 9th street.

If numbers indicate what was the literary center of Washington, that square on the Avenue between 11th and 12th streets was such a place, for here were he book stores of Garrett Anderson, William F. Bailey, William Fischer and E.K. Londy, while R. Farnham was at the northeast corner of 11th and the Avenue.

On the Avenue between 4 ˝ and 6th streets, William M. Morrison had his book store, and dealt largely in law books, his place becoming popular even with the judges of the Supreme Court. Frank Taylor was near by, and long kept a store dealing especially with standard works. On the square below, between 3d and 4 ˝ streets, George Templeman was engaged in the book business, dealing in lighter literature, as did also A. Hull and William Adam, nearby.

At the northeast corner of the Avenue and 15th street George Brook & Co. had a book and periodical store, and may be said to have been the pioneer firm in the periodical and newspaper business. Periodicals were then coming in vogue, and Frederick Luff, residing on Maryland avenue between 4 ˝ and 6th streets, was the agent of a number of them.