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The Worlds of Mathew Carey- Part 2

The much-anticipated second half of the transatlantic conference ‘Ireland, America and the Worlds of Mathew Carey’ is now over.  The second part of this conference, held in Trinity College Dublin on 17-19 November filled in many of the gaps left by the first three days of papers in Philadelphia, while continuing many of the conversations begun on the other side of the Atlantic.

Like the Philadelphia conference, full versions of the papers from Dublin have been made available online on a private wiki.  (Contact Johanna Archbold at TCD for access.)  Meanwhile the papers from Philadelphia will be maintained online by the McNeil Center for the foreseeable future.  So anyone unable to attend, one or both parts of the conference, should still be able to view the papers.

The Dublin conference began with an excellent keynote lecture by Richard B. Sher of the New Jersey Institute of Technology titled ‘Piracy of Patriotic Publishing? Conflicting visions of the reprint trade in late eighteenth-century Britain, Ireland, and America’.  Sher described the ‘baggage’ Mathew Carey brought with him from Dublin to Philadelphia.  In this instance it was the Irish tradition of patriotic and heroic reprinting which he had learned from the members of the Dublin book trades.  Here Sher echoed what was an important theme throughout both halves of the conference – the importance of Carey’s early life in Dublin to his later American career.

Sher’s talk, along with the first panel of papers on Friday morning gave the Dublin conference more of a book history focus.  Papers by Molly O’Hagan Hardy, Carl Keyes, and myself (Sarah Crider Arndt) discussed aspects of Carey’s printing publishing business in the US.  Here the question of Carey’s position on race was again raised by Hardy’s paper.  Later James Kelly spoke on Carey’s Dublin paper the Volunteer’s Journal, and Andrew Fagal spoke on the reception of Carey’s Navel History by members of Congress and the Republican party.  This focus on Carey’s printing and publishing career addressed a slight gap in the Philadelphia program, although it is important to note that Carey’s role as a publisher of American literature was not covered by any of the papers at either half of the Conference.  It is interesting to note that one of the big questions which came out of the Philadelphia conference was whether Carey was an innovator or simply an aggregator.  While many of the papers on political economy came down on the side of aggregator, both Carl Keyes and myself noted that Carey was often quite innovative in terms of his printing and publishing business, taking advantage of new markets, advertising strategies, and business models.

One area where the Dublin conference addressed a noticeable gap in the Philadelphia program, was in terms of the other members of Carey’s family.  A highlight from Friday’s program was the panel titled ‘House of Carey’ which included a paper by James N. Green on Mathew Carey’s relationship to Benjamin Franklin, and papers by Niall Gillespie on William Paulet Carey and Anne Markey on John Carey.  Together these papers painted a picture of a very prickly collection of brothers, often at odds with each other and the world around them.  One very noticeable absence was the mention of any female member of the Carey family.  Only Karen Kauffman’s paper on Carey’s philanthropic activities among the working poor, given in Philadelphia, significantly addressed Carey’s relationship to anyone of the female persuasion.  Although Padhraig Higgins, in his closing talk in Dublin did discuss the way in which Carey was effected by the very gendered political climate in Dublin.

Political economy continued to be an important topic of discussion in Dublin.  Eoin Magennis did an excellent job of describing Carey’s Irish milieu and the range of opinions regarding free trade which Carey absorbed in Dublin.  Daniel Peart meanwhile demonstrated how Carey later acted on these views in his campaign to influence the US tariff policy.  Finally, a paper submitted by Marc-William Palen, who was unfortunately unable to present the material himself, outlined Frederik List’s influence on the political economic theories of Henry Charles Carey.

In the last panel session on Saturday, Michael Brown gave a very interesting paper placing Carey within a world he described as the ‘Green Atlantic’.  As part of this world Carey was steeped in the eighteenth century culture of social enlightenment.  His paper, offered up several new lenses for gaining insight into Carey’s identity.

Several other papers asked the question of how singular a figure was Mathew Carey, by putting his life in contrast to other Irish radicals.  While these papers were a bit mixed, they did help to place Carey within the context of the ‘Green Atlantic’ as described by Brown, and within a broader wave of Irish emigrants.

During the final wrap-up session Dan Richter of the McNeil Center acknowledged that as a result of these conference we now know much more about the man Mathew Carey, but he posed the question of what these conferences can tell us about the worlds of Mathew Carey?  David Dickson responded by pointing out that Carey can serve as an early precursor to later politically active Irish-Catholic immigrants.  Carey’s life also highlights the importance of personal networks to individuals within the Atlantic world.  Studying Carey’s experience may open new questions on the Irish diaspora.  Michael Brown added that this conference has shown how Mathew Carey, like many other radicals of his day, read America as the model of how Ireland should be.  While these are both good answers, they display an understandable bias towards issues of concern in Irish history.  It would be very interesting indeed if this question could have been posed to the audience of the Philadelphia conference as well.  What different answers and concerns might have been highlighted there?

Overall, both halves of the ‘Worlds of Mathew Carey’ conference have proven to be very exciting.  They have brought scholars together from across the Atlantic and across disciplinary lines, and they have gone some way towards integrating the many faces of Mathew Carey.  Further scholarship stemming from this conference should prove to be useful to both Carey scholars and to those interested in the wider Atlantic world of his time.


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Printing the Declaration of Independence

Today I saw a brief news article which claimed that a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence had been found by a man from Pennsylvania.  This find, if authenticated, would be the second known copy made with the anastatic printing process, a process which uses acid to transfer text, rom the copy of the Declaration which now resides and the US Nation Archives.

For a copy of the article click here.

However, since this week 235 years ago the Declaration was first signed, and since I am currently writing about Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the original signers, I think this is an appropriate moment to spent some time thinking about how the first few editions of the Declaration of Independence were produced.

The image of the Declaration of Independence that most of us have, is of a handwritten document. Photographs, television and movies have made sure that most Americans at least are fairly familiar with this version of the text.  Our image is of the text which is currently in the National Archives, the one which may now have a new copy.  This was how the document would have been presented to King George; however most people in the eighteenth century would have only seen a copy of the document in its printed form.

The first edition of the Declaration was printed by John Dunlap in Baltimore.  Dunlap was the official printer for the Continental Congress, but he also published a newspaper in Baltimore, Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette.  Dunlap was originally from Strabane, Ireland, but had been apprenticed as a printer under his uncle William Dunlap in Philadelphia.  Though nominally located in Baltimore during the 1770s, Dunlap followed the Continental Congress, so his imprints appear from several locations.

Though the first edition of the Declaration was produced by an Irishman, the first official edition of the document was printed by a woman.  Mary Katherine Goddard was also a printer in Baltimore, and Dunlap’s main competition.  There she ran the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser and the post office for her brother William Goddard.  Originally from Connecticut, Goddard was well-known and respected as a printer.  It is likely that she was given the contract to print the official version due to her brother’s connections.  William Goddard was at the time trying to set up a new American postal system, independent of the British.

The Declaration was very quickly printed as a one page broadside by printers up and down the American coast.  This format retained many of the visual features of the hand-written document, which was written in a fairly standard format for official petitions.  The broadside was useful both for personal reading and for posting up for public consumption.  The format was cheap and quick to reproduce.  For those who did not have access to the broadside, the text of the Declaration was widely re-printed in newspapers.

In an interesting side note, the first newspaper to reprint the Declaration outside America was the Belfast News-Letter.  Though it is not quite
clear how the Belfast printers got their copy of the document, there is one very plausible theory.  John Dunlap could have very easily sent copies of his edition of the Declaration to his relatives in Strabane or even directly to the News-letter’s editor in Belfast.  This is probably the only way that the News-Letter would have had time to print their copy before the London newspapers.

Though the Declaration of Independence was written by a Virginian in Philadelphia, it was some unlikely provincial printers who first made it available to the average American as a printed broadside.  Next time you think of the Declaration, try to imagine it not as a hand-written document, but as a contemporary reader would have seen it, as a printed one.

Printed Broadside 1776

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