Old Washington. The Typographical Fraternity.

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, June 16, 1913 [p. 5]

The history of the printers craft in this city dates back o the settlement of Washington, before the government was removed from Philadelphia to this city, and n that period when the population gradually grew up to about 3,000 there were included a number of printers. In Georgetown there were a few offices and a paper published under the name of the Sentinel of Liberty, and in Washington Thomas Wilson, who came from Philadelphia, published a paper near the entrance of the present War College called the Universal Observer, but this was short-lived. The material of this paper was bought about 1795 and removed to the house of John Crocker, at the northeast corner of 9th and E streets, which house on the removal of the government here in 1800, became the general post office.

In 1796 Benjamin More, who then resided in South Washington, commenced the publication of the Washington Gazette, and continued this publication until 1798. That printers were in demand at that time is to be found in advertisements of “Printers Wanted at This Office,” and also one offering such a position at the office of Thomas Thornton, Dumfries, Va.

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At Philadelphia the printing of the Senate was being done by John Fenno and that of the House by William Ross. When the government moved here and Congress was convened, November 17, 1800, the printing of the senate went into the hands of Way & Groff, who had established an office at the northwest corner of 9th street and Pennsylvania avenue, and the House printing of that session was continued by William Ross of Philadelphia. At the next session Way & Groff continued the Senate printing until the end of the season, May 3, 1802. At the beginning of that session Samuel Harrison Smith became the House printer. Mr. Smith had established the Intelligencer here October 21 previously, his residence and office being one of the row at the corner of New Jersey avenue and C street, erected by Thomas Law.

In 1803 William Duane of Philadelphia, the publisher of the Aurora, became the Senate printer. He had established a printing office and book store at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania avenue and 6th street, and in 1807 he was succeeded by R.C. Weightman, who was located at the northeast corner of 6th street and the Avenue, and he continued as the Senate printer until 1815, when the firm of Way & Groff had given way to that of A & W. Way, and William A Davis, who had an office near the present site of the Metropolitan Hotel, became the printer to both house of Congress.

Samuel Harrison Smith continued the publication of the Intelligencer until about 1809, when he was succeeded by Joseph W. Gales and W.W. Seaton, who removed the office to the south side of the Avenue opposite the Metropolitan Hotel, where the publication was continued until about 1816. When the office was there and the British were in the city devastating the public property a British force, led by Admiral Cockburn, entered the office, destroyed the type and presses and threw the library, a valuable one, into the street. This was because Mr. Gales, the editor of the paper although English by birth, was a strong advocate of the war. The office was removed a short time thereafter to the northwest corner of 7th and D streets, where the Intelligencer was published for fifty years or over, and during that time much of the government printing – that of Congress and the departments – was done.

Contemporaneous with the establishment of the government here was the printing office, bookstore and general publishing house of rapine, Conrad & Company, whose office was on the corner of B street and New Jersey avenue southeast, and this firm was connected with the firm of Conrad & Co. of New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. This office was continued for twenty years or more and Daniel Rapine was at one time mayor of Washington.

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The number of journeymen printers had gradually increased, especially during the sessions of Congress, and ere the smoke of the devastated public buildings burned by the British in 1814 had cleared away and before the news of the treaty of peace had ended the war of 1812, the printers of the District were discussing the propriety of forming an association. The carpenters, tailors, shoemakers and other tradesmen had formed associations for mutual benefits in various parts of the country and the printers in Philadelphia were united in a society.

On the evening of December 10, 1814, a number of typos assembled at the house of H.C. Lewis, on D street between 6th and 7th streets, to organize a society. At this meeting Andrew Tate, who had come here from Philadelphia with the government, and was the father of Capt. Joseph B. Tae, who in 1852 published The Evening Star, was the chairman, and William Duncan, who a few years after established a printing office on 12th street between E and F streets, was the secretary. A committee was appointed to draft a constitution, and after meeting at the office of the Messrs. Way, using an imposing stone as a desk, performed that duty and the constitution for the Columbia Typographical Society was presented Saturaday evening, December 17, 1814, and signed by the following persons: Alexander Graham, Andrew Tate, Francis Burke, Jacob Gideon, jr.; F. Coyle, Peter C. Konkle, .C. Lewis, Henry Martin, John H. Wade, Dvid McKenna, Christopher Byrne, William Righter, John Allen, Robert Allen, W.T. Nowland, John Hine, James Pettigrew, John Erskine, John Morrison, Alex. I. Lawrence, William Dougherty, H.G. Foster, James B. Carter, Robert Dodson, Augustin Searing, D. Tuttle, D. Force, T. Byrne and W.S.D. Grusko.

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What is considered the initial meeting of the pioneer typographical society took place on the evening of January 7, 1815, when the organization was perfected by the election of Alexander Graham, president; William Duncan, vice president; Andrew Tate treasurer, and John Suter, secretary.

The dues were 25 cents per month and sick benefits, $3 per week, ad at that period, bosses and journeymen having little to disturb their amicable relations, the association was mainly a social organization.

In addition to the officers, the following were admitted members; J.B. Burton, Peter G. Konkle, H.C. Lewis, Jacob Gideon, jr.; Francis Burke, J.H. Wade, Samuel Rea, James Pettigrew, Christopher Byrne, Henry Martin, David McKenna, William Hinckley,, Francis Coyle, William Righter, John Erskine, John Allen, John Hine, Robert Allen and William T. Nowland. Mr. Gideon was then working for the Messrs. Way, and shortly after became a partner under the firm name of Way & Gideon, which firm gave way to that of Gideon & Sons, and this office may be said to be in existence today as the Pearson office, corner 9th and D streets.

At the September meeting A.J. Lawrence and William Dougherty were admitted, and before the close of the year William McElwee, James B. Carter and Thomas G. Foster. The latter worked at various offices here and in Virginia, and before his death, at a ripe old age, some fifty years ago, had been an employe of the Treasury for years.

In 1816 Robert Dodson, Peter Force, Daniel Tuttle and John Morrison were admitted, and in the following months of that year Judah Delano, Alvin Monroe, C.C. Sebring, John K. Evans, Thomas Larner, James Corcoran, Timothy Burns, J.H. Doe, James Wilson and J.S. Gallaher. Mr. Force worked in the Davis office, and a few years after became a full partner, later moving to the northeast corner of 10th and D streets, where for some yeas he published a paper and gathered a valuable library. Among his publications were the National Calendar, which was continued annually for many years. Mr. Force became interested early in military affairs, commanding for many years the Columbia Artillery, and at his death held the commission of colonel. For many years he was in the city council and served a term as mayor of Washington. Mr. Delano was a compiler of the first Washington city directory printed by William Duncan in 1822 and afterward had an office of his own. Mr. Gallaher during the war of 1812 had commanded a Virginia regiment and for many years was a leading editor in that state, publishing the Charles Town Free Press, and during the Filmore administration was the third auditor of the Treasury.

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In 1817 there were admitted to membership in the typographical society William Harford, John Stewart, John Boyd, William S. Degrushe and Michael Caton, the latter being well remembered in later years as having spent most of his life in the employment of John C. Rives on the Congressional Globe.

In 1818 there were admitted James O’Neale, Patrick Haw, John McLaughlin, Patrick Lyddane, Samuel G. Weir, George Cochran, William Herr, jr.; George McGuire and John Fleming. The next year Josiah F. Read, john Brandon, Benjamin Croy, Patrick Crowley and Martin King were admitted. Samuel Harris, Benjamin Hall, William B. William, Samuel McElwee, Thomas H. Bennett, James Bane, James Kennedy, A.A. McCarteney, O. Hackman and Luther Severance were admitted in 1820. Mr. Severance, after working some years here, became the founder and editor of the Kennebec (Me.) Journal, which he published from 1825 to 1840, and was a representative in Congress from 1843-47 and in 1849, was Commissioner to the then Sandwich Islands.