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ence from the top of the porch of the Old South Church.* In the spring of 1778, Mr. Thomas resumed the publication of the “Spy," which came out in a new form.
Though the disordered state of the country when he returned made it a hard time to begin business anew, he gained ground slowly but surely. The circulation of the "Spy” was extended, and he did a little job printing. After the peace of 1783, his business rapidly increased. The "Spy” appeared in new type and on better paper, and was enlarged to five columns; besides the news, it published the whole of Robertson's History of America, Gordon's History of the Revolution, and other British publications, which made it more valuable than any other paper in Massachusetts. From March, 1786, to March, 1788, on account of a stamp duty on newspapers, it was changed to magazine form and called the “Worcester Magazine.”+
He built a large paper-mill at Quinsigamond in 1793 (the second in the county), and established an extensive bindery. With his partners he controlled sixteen presses, constantly employed, seven of them in Worcester. He had five book-stores in Massachusetts, one in Concord, N. H., one in Albany, and one in Baltimore. In 1788 he established a printing and bookselling business with Ebenezer T. Andrews, at the sign of Faust's head, in Neu bury street, Boston, which continued until 1822; but his principal
** The first time the Declaration of Independence was read in Massachusetts was at Worcester by Isaiah Thomas, Esq., who is now living, and participated in the late celebration. It was read from the top of the Portico of the S. Meeting-house --"New England Palladium,” Boston, July 7, 1826.
A bronze tablet in front of the City Hall now marks this spot.
† The other newspapers and magazines published by Mr. Thomas were: “The Essex Gazette,' at Newburyport in 1773; the "Royal American Magazine,” in January, 1774; the "Farmer's Museum," at Walpole, N, H., in 1793; the "
"Farmer's Journal," at Brookfield, Mass., in 1799; and the firm of Thomas & Andrews published the “Massachusetts Magazine, "from 1783 to 1795, illustrated with engravings, which was very popular, and had a wide circulation. The last year he was in Boston he published "Thomas' New England Almanac, or the Massachusetts Calendar for the year of our Lord Christ 1775.” This he continued to publish until 1803.
establishment remained in Worcester. At the "Worcester Book-store” he always had a large stock of the publications of the day, and the lists as published in his catalogues and in the “Spy” would make no inconsiderable showing at the present time. For instance, in the "Spy” of March 3rd, 1785, he publishes a list containing fifty-five works on divinity; fifteen on medicine; eleven of history, biography, geography and travels; thirty-one of novels, miscellanies and poetry; twenty-six classical and school-books; and six dictionaries.
He became one of the largest publishers of his time on either side of the Atlantic. His work, remarkable for its elegance and accuracy, caused Brissot de Warville, the famous Girondist leader, to write of him in his travels in the United States in 1788: "Thomas is le Didot des Etats-U'nis;" and Franklin spoke of him as the Baskerville of America.
Some idea of the extent of his publications may be gained from Dr. Charles Lemuel Nichols' recent “Bibliography of Worcester,” which gives nearly three hundred titles of books and pamphlets bearing his Worcester imprint alone. Among these the most important, perhaps, are the folio edition of the Bible (1791), which contains fifty copper plates and which, with the quarto edition, was carried through in a little more than twelve months; the "Laus Deo! The Worcester Collection of Sacred Harmony" (1786), upon a copy of which Christopher Columbus Baldwin has written: “I believe this is the first specimen of music printed from types in this country. Before this it had been engraved;" and "Perry's Royal Standard English Dictionary,” of which Mr. Thomas states in his dedication, "the first work of the kind printed in America."
In 1802 he relinquished his business in Worcester to his son, Isaiah Thomas, Jr. He retired to private life, and devoted his time to the realization of two designs, which he had planned for many years: "A History of Printing in America" and the founding of the American Antiquarian Society.
Mr. Thomas died 4 April, 1831, at the age of eighty-two, and was buried in the plain but massive tomb he had built in the Mechanics street burying-ground. When this burying-ground was removed, in 1878, the tomb was rebuilt in the Rural Cemetery, and his remains were placed there with Masonic ceremonies, in the presence of the members of the family, of the city government, and of the American Antiquarian Society.
In his personal appearance, Mr. Thomas is described by his contemporaries as being tall, slender and well formed, stooping slightly in his gait; courteous and frank in conversation, but somewhat conventional; singularly precise and studied in his dress, and fashionable to a fault. In his later years, he wore a blue broadcloth coat, lined with red, and small clothes.
After he built his mansion, he lived in some state, and entertained with great liberality. He was the first in Worcester to keep a carriage, and had a colored coachman in livery. Many of his journeys were made with his own coach and four.
When Mr. Thomas first came to Worcester, he is said to have lived in a small, one-story, red house, on the southerly side of Pleasant street, nearly on the site of High, known as the Fullerton-Warden house, which was removed when the latter street was opened.
A short time after the Revolution, he built his house on Court Hill, which was afterward his home. It stood but a short distance back from the street, with a high and, for the time, quite an elaborate fence before it. On the north, was a small, square, one-story building, once his printing office, which he used for his counting room and business office, after his retirement. It was later occupied by his coachman; and about the year 1838, was bought by the Proprietors of Rural Cemetery, and, with the addition of a French roof, still stands opposite the cemetery grounds, where it is occupied by the superintendent. Between this
building and the Court House, a little lane led up the hill to some cottages, which seemed to belong to Mr. Thomas' estate, as did also the house which still stands, much altered, back of the Unitarian Church. To the south of the house, where the church now stands, was the “Spy" printing office, a long, low building. All of these buildings were painted yellow. At that time there was a middle road between Court Hill and Main street, and two flights of wooden steps led to the street before the house.
Judge Thomas' advertisement for the sale of the estate, in March, 1835, says:-“This estate is beautifully and conveniently located, and has upon it a good Mansion-house, stables, and other out-buildings. There are connected with it an excellent garden and orchard. The front upon Main street is two hundred feet, giving on both sides of the mansion house excellent house lots."
Entering the house through the small front porch, which is still preserved in its original position, one came into a long, narrow entry (for it was not large enough to be called a hall), just wide enough for the door to be opened. Directly in front was the staircase, running around three walls. This had two landings, and its balustrades and pillars were elaborately carved. Back of the stairway, and nearly in the centre of the house, was the chimney, immense, even for those days, in which several people could sit with perfect ease.
The room leading from the right was a parlor, square furnished with wainscoting and cornice, and with window seats built into each of the three windows. The walls of this room were hung with cordovan leather, painted in landscape, and fastened at the top and bottom. The ceiling was painted sky blue, with silver stars, and with a large ostrich egg in the centre.
Beyond the parlor, entered through a small porch in front of the north wing of the house, was a long, narrow room, which was probably Mr. Thomas' library, the western end of the room being filled with arched shelves. For eight years, until Mr. Thomas built and gave to the society its hall on Summer street, this room served as the first home for the collection of the American Antiquarian Society.
Behind the parlor was the dining-room, and directly back of the chimney was the kitchen with its enormous oven and fireplace. To the left of the hall was another parlor, similar to the one on the right.
Mr. Thomas kept his diary in his interleaved almanacs, which are bound and in the library of the society. It covers the period from January, 1805 to December, 1828, inclusive, with the exception of the year 1808, in which there are no entries. The fact that it ends on the day before that of Christopher Columbus Baldwin's begins, and that there is a marked similarity in the character of the entries, would seem to indicate that it had been planned between them that the one should be the continuation of the other. But Mr. Thomas' interests were far more widespread than those of Mr. Baldwin, and his entries not so closely confined to mere local matters.
Unfortunately it does not cover the period of his business life, of which we know comparatively little. The only entries in the earlier almanacs are these short ones :
May 3. Went a journey to Hartford, Newyork, Philadelphia and Baltimore. July 1. Returned from Baltimore.
Oet. 11. Went a journey to Northfield and constituted Harmony Lodge and installed the Master, Solomon Vose, Esg". the 18th delivered Charge, &c in publick. 14. Went to Walpole & returned the 17th_-19th went to Boston with Mrs. Thomas.
1797. Printed 29,000 Almanacks for this year. 20 Aug!. proposed Installation at Monson. I consecrated and installed at Monson. gth Thomas Lodge and Installation at Groton. 15. Morning Star--Worcester. 16th Moriah & Morning Star Lodges in Connecticut. Sept. 27. Went to Boston.
28. Went to Newburyport. R Arch with Mrs. Thomas. Oct. 2. Returned to Boston,
5. do to Worcester.