On this Day in History: Lancaster prints its first newspaper under the guidance of Benjamin Franklin

On January 15, 1752, Lancaster’s first newspaper, Lancastersche Zeitung or The Lancaster Gazette, was published in the New Printing Office on King Street under the guidance of Benjamin Franklin.

American newspapers Pennsylvania Lancaster County / German American newspapers Pennsylvania Lancaster County / Lancaster County (Pa.) Newspapers / Lancaster (Pa.) Newspapers

Franklin had formed a partnership with two of his former journeymen, Samuel Holland and Henry Miller, for a printing shop in Lancaster. Similar to Franklin’s Philadelphia version, Holland and Miller’s biweekly Zeitung was printed in both German and English due to the town’s then large German-speaking population.

Franklin had established Lancaster City’s first print shop the previous year, in 1751. Although at the time, Lancaster was still just a borough with a population of only 2,000. Franklin initially partnered with James Chattin to establish the business. However, Lancaster disagreed with Chattin, and he returned to Philadelphia the following year.

Franklin then put Miller and Holland in charge of the shop. As mentioned above, the duo (likely) published Lancaster’s first newspaper in early 1752. Due to the large percentage of Lancastrians speaking German, articles in the newspaper were written in both English and German.

Interestingly enough, the first existing issue of the Lancastersche Zeitung is dated January 29, 1752, with the issue number of 2. This makes the date of its establishment January 15, 1752. The first may have been printed in Philadelphia as a prospectus number.

The New Printing Office also printed religious tomes, school primers, and German translations of Poor Richard’s Almanack. Miller soon withdrew from the operation, and Holland abandoned it in 1753.

The business floundered, and Franklin attempted to sell it in 1753. However, it returned to him a year later when the bond could not be met. Perhaps Franklin was being edged out by competition for the nearby Ephrata Cloister.

William Dunlap took over the printing office in 1754. Franklin described him as “a sober young man.” Under Dunlap, the press became profitable. Dunlap rented the shop for three years from Franklin. During this time, his nephew, John Dunlap, apprenticed under him.

John Dunlap

In 1757, the New Printing Office in Lancaster closed when Franklin moved to England, and Dunlap relocated to Philadelphia to take over Franklin’s busy printing operation.

However, John Dunlap trained for a time in Franklin’s Lancaster print shop, and eventually became a prominent printer in Philadelphia. On July 4, 1776, when the Continental Congress approved the final version of the Declaration of Independence, they sent the document to be printed. That printer was John Dunlap. He printed approximately 200 copies of the Declaration that night. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were on hand to oversee the publication’s creation. It was likely a stressful night for Dunlap with these two American titans looking over his shoulder.

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