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Pioneer Printers

Benjamin Titcomb, Jr., who established the first printing office in Maine, was a native of Portland. In his later years it was a source of great pride to him that he "struck off with his own hands the first sheet ever printed in Maine". His partner Thomas B. Wait, came to Falmouth from Boston in 1784. For a short time previous to his connection with Titcomb he had a stationer's shop but with Titcomb in 1785 when the Falmouth Gazette appeared. In later times he ran the paper alone for several years. He published in 1807 an edition of Blackstone Commentaries in four volumes. In connection with John P. Sawin, "an ingenious mechanic" he invented a circular power printing press, patented in February, 1810. It was of sufficient importance to receive a lengthy description in Thomas's History of Printing, issued the same year. Titcomb withdrew from the firm in 1790 and issued a rival publication, the Gazette of Maine. Eight years later he left the printing business entirely to devote his time to preaching. In 1804 he became pastor of the Baptist Church in Brunswick, retaining that position for forty years. In 1819 he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and made the opening prayer. He was one of the original trustees of the Waterville College, now Colby College, and was always greatly interested in its progress.

To Ezekiel Goodale is ascribed the honor of establishing the first permanent printing house in Hallowell and the first book store east of Portland. He settled in Hallowell in 1802. For a time he conducted a book shop only but in 1813 his printing establishment, "At the Sign of the Bible" was opened. Several important volumes issued from his press, among which were reprints of valuable books published in the old country. One of his early publications was "McFingal: a modern epic", written by John Trumbull, Esq., and inspired by the events of the Revolution. The Maine Farmer's Almanac, considered next to the Bible in importance in many homes, first came from his press. For over sixty years it was published in Hallowell but in 1880 was purchased by Charles E. Nash of Augusta, where it is now published. Goodales's firm also published the first Maine Reports. Williamson's History of Maine was printed at the same establishment, as were early volumes of the Revised Statues of Maine. Goodale imported from England the best books of the time, including the latest novels. Some of his advertisements call attention to the Rambler, the Spectator, works of Shakespeare, Milton, Scott, Bryon, Moore and Fielding, also to "Guy Mannering: a new novel by the author of Waverley" and "Childe Harold: a poem by Lord Byron".

The pioneer printer at Augusta, then part of Hallowell, was Peter Edes, who came to the Fort Western settlement in 1795 and immediately commenced publishing the Kennebeck Intelligencer. He had contemplated a partnership with Wait in Portland in 1785 but had remained in Boston. After a few years spent in Newport, R.I., he again determined to establish a business in Maine. His position as the most important figure in the early history of printing in this state is due in part to his connection with his father's establishment in Boston. This had given him a knowledge of the business which few others possessed and a certain amount of prestige as the son of the famous journalist of the American Revolution. It is thought probable that political motives prompted him to start a paper in the vicinity where two news sheets had already been established. Although one had died an early death, the other was still in existence. During the publication of his paper at Augusta Mr. Edes changed its name three times. In 1800 it became the Kennebec Gazette, later, at the request of his patrons, it was changed to Herald of Liberty. In 1815 Mr. Edes decided that a change of location was necessary if he desired to make a living and he accordingly transferred his business to Bangor. His types and press were moved by Ephraim Ballard with a team of six oxen. Because of the weakness of the Kennebec Bridge it was considered wise to take the four-ton load across in sections. Three weeks were required to accomplish the journey to Bangor and return and the expense was one hundred forty-three dollars, which Edes considered "quite moderate". His venture in Bangor proved unsuccessful and he retired after about a two years' struggle.

Nathaniel Willis, one of the first publishers of the Eastern Argus, deserves more than a passing notice. His dauntless courage in support of his convictions, causing his imprisonment, has been mentioned in connection with that paper. After leaving Portland Mr. Willis was for a time engaged in literary work in Boston. His next move was to New York, where he later became co-editor, with Morris, of the New York Mirror. Mr. Willis was distinguished for his graceful style and for his rare skill in the use of words.

Source(s) for narrative on this page: The Maine Book, by Henry E. Dunnack, Librarian of Maine State Library. Augusta, Maine 1920. pages 153-154.

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