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"Declaration of Independence" printed by Mary Katherine Goddard (Baltimore)

"Declaration of Independence" printed by Mary Katherine Goddard (Baltimore)

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The first printing with the names of the signers

In 1777, after the victories at Princeton and Trenton, Congress decided to print the Declaration of Independence with a complete list of signatures and they chose the Goddards of Baltimore as printers. Because Mary was running the printing operation, the document, printed on January 18, reads “printed by Mary Katherine Goddard.”  More on the Declaration and Goddard below.

Ours are  printed by hand in the recreation of Franklin's printing office operated by the National Park Service. They are printed on 100% Cotton Linen, Very-Fine Crane Laid paper. The print is about 22 1/2" x 17 1/2". 

The Philadelphia broadside of the Declaration printed by John Dunlap is also available, as is the Boston broadside of the Declaration from the Printing Office of Edes & Gill. Use the pull down menu above to purchase all three and save $8.

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of The United States of America. Written by Thomas Jefferson, one of the five members of the Committee that Congress had appointed to draft the document, between June 11 and June 28, 1776. The other members were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

Congress voted for Independence on July 2 and then took up Jefferson’s draft for the next two days. Eighty-six alterations were made to the draft, and Congress approved the document on July 4, 1776.

Congress then ordered the committee that drafted the Declaration to oversee the printing of the Declaration. A fair copy was made of the amended draft and hand carried by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to the printing office of John Dunlap in Philadelphia on the afternoon of the 4. The Declaration was printed that night into the early morning of July 5. John Hancock, President of Congress began to send out “official copies” on the 5 and 6 of July to all thirteen Colonies, ordering them to print the Declaration in their newspapers and generally distribute the news as they saw fit." 

The broadside was quickly disseminated to the colonies and by July 18, twenty-four newspapers had used the Dunlap broadside as an exemplar from which to republish the text.

The signed manuscript copy, held by the National Archives, was not completed and signed until August 2. (This timeline shows the signing, printing, and dissemination of the Declaration.)

The Goddard Printing

From the Declaration Resources Project at Harvard:

"The Goddard Broadside was the first printed version of the Declaration of Independence specifically intended for preservation. It was the first printed broadside to use the title "The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America". It was the first version of the Declaration to list the names of (most of) the signers. And, it is the only "official" version of the Declaration of Independence to be printed by a woman. Mary Katherine Goddard's imprint at the bottom of her broadside proudly presents not only her full name, but also the city where Congress met for two crucial months, and where she lived and worked for over forty years." 

Mary Goddard, Printer

Author Tara Ross wrote this about Goddard:

"Mary Katherine Goddard was the daughter of a physician and postmaster. After her father’s death, the family moved around a bit. With each move, Mary’s brother opened and ran printing presses and newspapers. But the females in the family ultimately shouldered the burden of running these publications. To some degree, they had to! William was always engaged in some other pursuit. For instance, he helped to establish an intercolonial postal system, intended to replace the old British one.
In the meantime, the Goddard women were left behind to run the printing businesses. In 1770, Mary’s mom passed away. Mary was left to perform these duties alone.

She did a great job of it! Mary was a good business woman who worked hard to stay afloat during difficult times. Indeed, she managed to stay in business during the Revolution, when many other publishers were floundering. She opened up a book shop on the side to help bring in money. Her name soon appeared on the masthead for the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser. (You’ll remember that women’s names didn’t usually appear on publication mastheads in those days.) She also became the postmaster of Baltimore—most likely the first female to hold such a position in the colonies.

In 1777, her printing shop printed the first copies of the Declaration of Independence, complete with the name of every signer. It had been a long time coming! For many months, the names of all the signatories were not known. Signing that document was considered treason by the British, and the action was punishable by death.

Maybe that makes it even more interesting that Mary’s full name appeared immediately underneath? She was making a statement—a statement that could get her hanged! Goddard’s usual tagline was: “Printed by M.K. Goddard.”

During the first year of George Washington’s presidency, Mary was unfortunately the victim of patronage or sexism (or both). Despite 14 successful years as postmaster, she was forced to step down. The new postmaster general wanted to appoint a political ally for her position. Mary protested and even had a petition signed by more than 200 local businessmen, but to no avail.

William had, by then, returned to run his printing business. Apparently, his return was not an entirely amicable affair. Mary was left with only a book shop to run, which she did, until shortly before her death in 1816."

Tara Ross is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders' Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), and We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College.

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