Francis Bailey is my favorite Revolutionary War printer. He was defiant. He was radical. He fought British taxes with his press. He was anti-Federalist in a Federalist Lancaster County. He was Swedenborgian, when his neighbors were Presbyterian and Mennonite. Francis Bailey was a rascal.
Francis Bailey is the perfect Scots-Irish symbol of a revolutionary American free press. He is one of Lancaster's greatest claims to letterpress fame.
Francis' family had deep roots in southern Lancaster County. Francis learned the printer's trade from Peter Miller, at the Ephrata Cloister. Francis then set up shop in Lancaster, at the site of today's Lancaster Newspapers.
Francis Bailey's Firsts:
We bibliophiles have an obsessive lust for firsts: First editions, First printings, First American editons, First Australian editions, First illustrated editions, First thus editions.... Fortunately, Francis Bailey has lots of Firsts.
Francis printed some of the great, iconic works of our Early American nation. He was:
- The first printer to name George Washington, in print, as the Father of His Country.
- The first printer to print the first official printing of the first U.S. constitution (the Articles of Confederation)
- The first printer to print the first editon of the first major book of poetry of the "Father of American Poetry," Philip Freneau, who was also known as "The Poet of the Revolution".
- The first printer to print the first publication (A Sermon on Tea) of Lancaster-born David Ramsay, an important historian of the American Revolution.
- The first printer to print government securities certificates for the first opening of the New York Stock Exchange in 1792.
- The first printer to print in America the works of Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg ...helping Johnny Appleseed (of cooking-pot hat fame) become a Swedenborgian missionary.
- The official printer of the U.S. Congress and the state of Pennsylvania. (Not a First, but not bad.)
A Francis Bailey Timeline:
1735? - Octorara, Lancaster County: Bailey is born in Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County, into an old Scots-Irish / Presbyterian family. His parents are Robert Bailey and Margaret McDill Bailey.
ca 1753 - Ephrata, Lancaster County: Bailey is a printing apprentice to Peter Miller and the printers at the Ephrata Cloister. (Yes, Bailey has to use a block of wood for a pillow, like everyone else in the cloister.)
1771 - Lancaster City: Bailey opens a print shop in Lancaster.
1773 - Lancaster City: Bailey begins printing on West King Street, at the site of today's Lancaster Newspapers. He prints here until he moves his business to Philadelphia circa 1780.
1774 - Lancaster City: Bailey prints Sermon on Tea, calling for American resistance to the British, authored by Lancaster-native David Ramsay. (Don't be a slave to the British. Don't drink their tea.)
1776 - Lancaster City: Bailey prints an early edition of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, the first American publication to openly call for independence from England. The first edition had been published anonymously in Philadelphia, earlier that same year.
1777 - Lancaster City: Bailey prints the first official printing of the Articles of Confederation, which is the first constitution of the U.S. The next year he prints these Articles in German, titled Artikel Des Bundes...This is probably the first German-language printing.
1778 - Lancaster City: Bailey prints a short-lived newspaper: Das Pennsylvanische Zeitungs-Blat (The Pennsylvania News Sheet) He calls himself Frantz Bailey in this newspaper. Frantz uses this newspaper mainly to tell Lancastrians about the British occupation of Philadelphia.
Also in 1778 - Lancaster City: Bailey is the first to name George Washington "Father of his County, when the cover of Bailey's 1779 almanac calls "Waschington" "Des Landes Vater."
1779 - Philadelphia: Bailey prints and publishes the United States Magazine, edited by York-County native Hugh H. Brackenridge. Philip Freneau, know as "The Father of American Poetry" contributes poetry to each issue.
1780 - Lancaster City and Philadelphia: Congress authorizies Bailey to print an impossibly-tedious, 226-page book: The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America and the Treaties; The Declaration of Independence; The Articles of Confederation between the said States; The Treaties
Bailey prints this book at his Lancaster print shop, with some of the work "farmed out" to Philadelphia printers. This book serves as the basis for many reprints in Europe, Britain, and America. (The book has a 1781 Philadelphia imprint.)
By 1780 - Philadelphia: Bailey opens a full-time print shop in Philadelphia on Market Street between Third and Fourth Streets. His print-shop sign is a painting of a skull: the skull of Shakespeare's Yorick ...made famous by Hamlet's skull monologue. Bailey's Philly imprints say "Printed by Francis Bailey at Yorick's Head."
1781 - Philadelphia: Bailey begins printing and publishing his infamous Freeman's Journal newspaper. This newspaper is stridently anti-federalist. Meanwhile, Lancaster County is stridently Federalist.
1784 - Philadelphia: Bailey hears a lecture by Swedenborgian Scotsman James Glen, and becomes the first American apostle of the Swedenborgian church, and their first American printer. This year he also prints the Pennsylvania Constitution in German: Die Regierungsverfassung der Republik Pennsylvanien...
1786 - Philadelphia: Bailey prints the first collected edition of the poetry of Philip Freneau who is "The Father of American Poetry." The book is titled The Poems of Philip Freneau. Written Chiefly During the Late War.
1792 - Philadelphia: Bailey buys the type-founding equipment used by Jacob Bay of Germantown, near Philadelphia. Bay was the Swiss-American type founder who had become one of the first American typefounder in the 1770s, after working for Christoph Saur II. Bailey had purchased much of his type from Bay.
1797 - Philadelphia: Bailey prints the first American book on the subject of bridge building: An Essay on Building Wooden Bridges, authored by the artist Charles Wilson Peale. (Three years later the cornerstone is laid for the first known American covered bridge at Easton, PA., built by Timothy Palmer.)
1797 - Octorara, Lancaster County: Francis Bailey's father transfers the Bailey homestead in Octorara to Francis, two years before the father's death at age 90. Francis Bailey builds a print shop here, and continues on as the official printer for the State of Pennsylvania, until his death in 1815.
1800 - Lancaster City: Francis and his son Robert print numerous books here, including Pennsylvania's Acts of the General Assembly and reports of the state House of Representatives.
By 1803 - Lancaster City: Bailey has transferred his Lancaster printing business to his son, the printer Robert Bailey.
1807 - Octorara, Lancaster County: Bailey prints The Young Mill-Wright's and Miller's Guide, authored by Oliver Evans and Thomas Ellicott, about flour mills. It is "one of the most important native-grown works of early American technology." (William Reese, authority on printed Americana.)
1812 - Philadelphia: McCulloch describes Bailey: "He is a very aged man, has often the vertigo, and is not often to be seen. He was bred a carpenter, in Lancaster county. He obtained some knowledge of printing in a country town."
1815 - Philadelphia: Bailey dies. His daughter-in-law, Lydia Bailey, and his grandson, Robert William Bailey continue their own printing business.
More Bailey Links:
Bailey Poses for his Portrait: Bailey's 1791 portrait is at the Cincinnati Art Museum. It is by Charles Wilson Peale. Bailey holds a letter "A" in his hand. (You might not be able to see the "A" unless you Photoshop it.) Bailey has big ears. (To see the portrait you have to click on the museum's "I accept these terms.")
Mrs. Bailey Holds a Book: Mrs. Francis Bailey was Elenor Miller Bailey, formerly of Bart Township, Lancaster County. Her 1791 portait is also at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Hopefully the book she is holding was printed by her husband. (To see the portrait you have to click on the museum's "I accept these terms.")
Bailey's 1775 Lancaster Broadside about the Battle of Bunker Hill. It's boring typography, but it's not boring history.
Swedenborgian Church names a Building for Bailey: Urbanan University, in Ohio, built "Bailey Hall" in 1853.
Bailey was a Witness to Ben Franklin's Will. This is the text of Ben's will.
Bailey Prints Money. Some of Bailey's Pennsylvania notes and stock certificates are at this link. Search for the word Bailey.
Bailey Prints Another Revolutionary Broadside in 1776: This one is signed by Matthias Slough, one of Lancasters most ardent revolutionaries. Slough also was Lancaster's most prominent innkeeper. His White Swan tavern was located where today's Watt and Shand building is located.
Bailey Prints a New Testament, but Only One Complete Copy Survives: In 1780, Bailey printed an English-language New Testament in Philadelphia. The Houston Baptist University has the only known copy.