William's life is the story of a printer's apprentice who rises through the ranks to become one of Pennsylvania's most powerful newspaper publishers ...and then falls from grace into bankruptcy to end his days "insane" in the local poorhouse.
Along the way, William Hamilton printed important books that have become landmarks of Early American bibliography, such as the first English-German dictionary printed in America. (It's authored by Henry Muhlenberg.)
William Hamilton learned to print and publish newspapers in Philadephia, where he was an apprentice in the print shop of Benjamin Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache.
Hamilton came to Lancaster from Philadelphia in 1794. His print shop was on West King Street "at Franklin's Head" ( The "Head" meaning his print-shop sign was a painted portrait of printer Ben Franklin.)
In 1794 Hamilton co-founded the newspaper Lancaster Journal, with Henry Willcocks. This newspaper was a forerunner of today's Intelligencer Journal.
Hamilton turned this newspaper into Lancaster's most influential Federalist newspaper, although to do this he had to change his political party, and flip-flop his newspaper out of the anti-Federalist camp.
Hamilton's Lancaster Journal was often a showcase of partisan politics. Hamilton wrote his Lancaster Journal's aggressive commentaries "with a pen steeped in gall" (my favorite Henry Long quote about Hamilton). Hamilton's style may have been abrasive, but his forceful editorializing helped spur on local participation in voting and civic involvement to levels never before seen in Lancaster.