Tuesday, September 29, 2015

American Biography - 1738 South Carolina Newspaper Publisher - Immigrant & Widow Elizabeth Timothy

Timothy Print Shop in Charleston, South Carolina

Elizabeth Timothy (d. 1757), printer & newspaper publisher, was born in Holland. She left Holland in 1731, with her husband Lewis & their 4 young children, all under the age of 6, sailing from Rotterdam in 1731, with other French Huguenots fleeing the Edict of Nantz, arriving in Philadelphia that September.

The family settled in Philadelphia, where Timothée, fluent in French, advertised in Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette that he would like to tutor French. The ever-practical Franklin saw a potential opportunity with the multi-lingual Timothee & persuaded him to become the editor of the 1st German newspaper in the colony Philadelphische Zeitung, but the operation lasted only for 2 months.

Although the German paper failed, Franklin must have been impressed with Timothée, for he next became librarian of Franklin’s Philadelphia Library Company, & a journeyman printer at Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin was teaching Timothee the printing business.

Franklin had contracted with Thomas Whitmarsh, to Charles Town to establish the South-Carolina Gazette. Not long after the paper began publication, Whitmarsh died of yellow fever & Timothée was persuaded to take his place.

Franklin & Timothée signed a 6-year contract with Franklin furnishing the press & other equipment, paying 1/3 of the expenses, & receiving 1/3 of the profits from the joint venture. The contract included a clause declaring that if Timothee died, his son Peter would take over the operation.

In 1733, Timothée did revive the South-Carolina Gazette, the colony’s first permanent newspaper. The early issues of the Gazette listed Louis Timothée as the publisher, but he soon anglicized his name to "Lewis Timothy."

The following year, his wife & children joined him in Charles Town, where they became members of St. Philip's Anglican Church. Timothée also helped organize a subscription postal system originating at his printing office &, in 1736, obtained a land grant of 600 acres & a town lot in Charles Town.

But 2 years later, Lewis Timothy died in an accident in December 1738. Without missing an issue, his widow continued publication of the Gazette in the name of her eldest son, Peter, who was then about 13 years old. A year remained on the contract with Franklin.

Because of her son's youth, Elizabeth Timothy assumed control of the printing operation. The publisher, however, was listed as Peter Timothy to comply with the contract. She asked the paper’s readers "to continue their Favors and good Offices to this poor afflicted Widow and six small children and another hourly expected."

As official printer for the province, Elizabeth Timothy printed acts & other proceedings for the Assembly. In addition to the Gazette, she printed books, pamphlets, tracts, & other publications. The colophon "Peter Timothy" appeared after each. However, she made most of the decisions in the operation of the business.

In addition to the newspaper, at least 20 imprints were issued during the years (1739-45) of Elizabeth Timothy’s connection with the printing business. According to Benjamin Franklin, the widow was far superior to her husband in the operation of the business.

In his autobiography, Franklin described Timothy as"a man of learning, & honest but ignorant in matters of account; & tho' he sometimes made me remittances, I could get no account from him, nor any satisfactory state of our partnership while he lived."

On the other hand, Franklin found that Elizabeth Timothy“continu’d to account with the greatest Regularity & Exactitude every Quarter afterwards; & manag’d the Business with such Success that she not only brought up reputably a Family of Children, but at the Expiration of the Term was able to purchase of me the Printing House & establish her Son in it.”

When Peter Timothy turned 21 in 1746, he assumed operation of the Gazette, & his mother opened a book & stationery store next door to the printing office on King Street.

In a Gazette ad published in October 1746, she announced the availability of books such as pocket Bibles, spellers, primers, & books titled Reflections on Courtship & Marriage, Armstrong's Poem on Health, The Westminster Confession of Faith, & Watts' Psalms & Hymns. She also offered bills of lading, mortgages, bills of sale, writs, ink powder, & quills to local Charlestonians.

She operated her shop for about a year, but during that time she advertised in the Gazette that she planned to leave the province & asked that anyone who owed money to her or to her husband's estate settle their debts within 3 months.

It is unclear when she left Charles Town or where she made her new home. But by 1756, she had returned to Charles Town: & on April 2, 1757, she wrote her will & died within a month. Her property included 3 houses, a tract of land, & 8 slaves.

Lewis & Elizabeth Timothy had 6 children: Peter, Louisa (Mrs. James Richards), Charles (d. September 1739), Mary Elizabeth (Mrs. Abraham Bourquin), Joseph (d. October 1739), & Catherine (Mrs. Theodore Trezevant). Their son Peter Timothy (c.1725-1782) continued to publish the South-Carolina Gazette, gained distinction as one of the leading American printers of his generation, & was prominent in South Carolina’s Revolutionary movement.

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