Printing and Publishing

People that would print during Colonial times were called printers.  They would print newspapers, books, pamphlets, speeches, and other things.

Printing Shops

The shops of printers were sometimes found in the same places where mail would go in and out.  It was an easy place to have a printing shop where the mail was made because mail used ink and so many thoughts that it was smart to have the businesses together.

The printers that would print the newspapers would get their paper usually from paper makers and paper mills.  The paper was made from things such as cotton, linen and other materials.

The ink that was used in the printing shops was usually made in the shop and it was made from iron sulfate, water, gum and tannin.

How Was Printing Possible?

Printing was not something that was easy, and it was hard to get something printed.  It could take more than a whole day in order to print one page of the newspaper in a printing shop.

In order to print, the printer had to take a piece of metal that had a letter, a number or even a punctuation and set it up in order.  They would then have to use ink and a pad in order to spread the ink over that piece of metal that was then pushed into the paper.

It was easiest for the printer to do one line at a time and this is why it took so long to print one page.  The way that the letters were set was called a type setting.  The type setting would be arranged and held in place with a composing stick.

When type setting was done, the printer or the apprentice of the printer would set up the letters.  He would take the inking pad and spread ink over the letters, number and punctuation.

The paper would then be held with a stone and a press was used to put the type setting on the paper.  The press would work by squeezing the paper against the type setting and pressure would make sure that the ink was put on the paper.

The paper would then be put away to dry before the other side would be able to print on.


There were many publications that were printed during the Colonial times.  These would be papers that would be passed out or purchased by people so that they would have things to read.

One thing that was printed during this time was Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”  This was one of the most famous things that was printed, and Ben Franklin printed this himself from his own printer in Philadelphia.

“Poor Richard’s Almanac” was a famous book that made predictions, gave advice and information for the people.  Many of our sayings today come from Ben Franklin’s book.

Laws were also printed and in 1683, William Nuthead printed laws for a meeting with the General Assembly.

The “Virginia Almanak” was printed in 1730.

Facts About Printing and Publishing:

  • The apprentice of the printer was called a compositor.
  • The inking pad was called a beater.
  • There were about 200 pounds of pressure put on the paper from the printing press.
  • “A penny saved is a penny earned,” is a saying from Poor Richard’s Almanac.
  • William Caslon was one person that made fonts that were used during Colonial times.
  • The type setter was made up of single letters, numbers and punctuation and had to be put together in a frame in order to form a word.

What Did You Learn?

Was printing an easy job?
Printing was a very hard job.

How long did it take to print one page of a newspaper?
It could take over a day to print one page of a newspaper.

What was it called when letters, numbers and punctuation were arranged in order to make a sentence? When letters, numbers and punctuation were arranged in order to make a sentence, this was called type setting.

What were some things that were printed in Colonial times?
Some of the things that were printed in Colonial times were laws, books, pamphlets, speeches and more.

What were some printing business in with?
Some printing businesses were in with mail businesses.