Patriotic printers: Benjamin Edes and John Gill both printed notes
- Published: Oct 20, 2015, 11 AM
This is the fourth in a series of articles about early American patriotics whose contributions included printing paper money, taken from the cover feature in the November 2015 issue of Coin World Monthly:
Benjamin Edes, 1732 to 1803, and John Gill, 1732 to 1785
Benjamin Edes and John Gill were proprietors of The Boston Gazette, and the Country Journal, the nerve center of the Boston Radicals from 1764 to the Revolution. The Radicals, led by patriot Samuel Adams, railed against British excesses and agitated for freedom in the years before the Revolution. As early as 1764, they proposed a union of the colonies.
In his comprehensive 1810 The History of Printing in America, fellow Boston printer Isaiah Thomas, reported, “When the dispute between Great Britain and her colonies assumed a serious aspect, this paper [the Gazette] arrested the public attention.”
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Edes was a founding member of the Loyall Nine, which morphed into the Sons of Liberty. On Dec. 16, 1773, a group of “Indians” met at Edes house before going to Griffin’s Warf to dump tea in the harbor.
During the 1775 British Siege of Boston, Thomas said Edes “made his escape by boat, with a press and a few types.” Across the Charles River in Watertown, he reestablished his press. Gill remained in Boston, where he was imprisoned on charges of treason and sedition.
Thomas wrote, “No publisher of a newspaper felt a greater interest in the establishment of the independence of the United States than Benjamin Edes; and, no newspaper was more instrumental in bringing forward this important event than The Boston Gazette.”
Both Edes and Gill printed paper money.
John Gill printed the backs of the Oct. 18, 1776, issues of the state of Massachusetts and signed his work, PRINTED BY JOHN GILL.
Famed silversmith and printer Paul Revere printed the fronts. Edes printed both sides of the Massachusetts issue of June 18, 1776, the last paper money issued in the name of the “Colony of Massachusetts.”
Paper money, curiously proved to be the undoing of Edes. An 1870 article in The Historical Magazine notes, “Like many others, Mr. Edes’s patriotism doomed him to close his days in poverty. His faith that the Government would redeem its obligations, led him to invest his hard earnings in its paper-money.”
Thomas wrote that Edes, 71, died in 1803, “oppressed by poverty and sickness.”
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