ISAIAH THOMAS (1749-1831), American printer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 19th of January 1749. He was apprenticed in 1755 to Zechariah Fowle, a Boston printer, with whom, after working as a printer in Halifax, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Charleston, South Carolina, he formed a partnership in 1770. He issued in Boston the Massachusetts Spy three times each week, then (under his sole ownership) as a semi-weekly, and beginning in 1771, as a weekly which soon espoused the Whig cause and which the government tried to suppress. On the 16th of April 1775 (three days before the battle of Concord, in which he took part) he took his presses and types from Boston and set them up at Worcester, where he was postmaster for a time; here he published and sold books and built a paper-mill and bindery, and he continued the paper until about 1802 except in1776-1778and in 1786-1788. The Spy supported Washington and the Federalist party. in Boston Thomas published, in 1774, the Royal American Magazine, which was continued for a short time by Joseph Greenleaf, and which contained many engravings by Paul Revere; and in1775-1803the New England Almanac, continued until 1819 by his son. He set up printing houses and book stores in various parts of the country, and in Boston with Ebenezer T. Andrews, published the Massachusetts Magazine, a monthly, from 1789 to 1793. At Walpole, New Hampshire, he published the Farmer's Museum. About 1802 he gave over to his son, Isaiah Thomas, junr., his business at Worcester including the control of the Spy. Thomas founded in 1812 the American Antiquarian Society. He died in Worcester on the 4th of April 1831.
His History of Printing in America, with a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers (2 vols., 1810; 2nd ed., 1874, with a catalogue of American publications previous to 1776 and a memoir of Isaiah Thomas, by his grandson B. F. Thomas) is an important work, accurate and thorough.
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