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the aid of friends, opened a small shop, sending her children into the country to board. She finally saved enough to purchase a small estate in Cambridge, which she eventually lost by selling it for a large price in continental currency.
In 1755, her youngest son, Isaiah, was brought back to Boston, and placed with Zechariah Fowle, a printer of ballads and small books; and 4 June, 1756, was apprenticed to him. Mr. Thomas always charged that Fowle, having gotten him into his power, compelled him to perform all sorts of menial work, in utter disregard of the terms of the indenture. His first trial at typesetting was upon a licentious ballad, “The Lawyers Pedigree,” when he was seven years old, and so small that, in order to reach the typeboxes, he was placed on a bench eighteen inches high. This , he finished in two days, “though he knew then only the letters and had not been taught to put them together and spell.” Several years later, he cut plates on wood or typemetal to illustrate Fowle's ballads. During the ten or eleven years of his apprenticeship, he had acquired the elementary branches of learning, and at the age of seventeen was considered an excellent workman. He loved the art of printing, and his great desire was to go to England to perfect himself in it.
In 1765, on account of trouble with his master, Thomas left Boston secretly and went to Halifax, hoping to find his way from there to London. But the means were wanting. He found employment with Anthony Henry, the government printer, and publisher of the “Halifax Gazette.” The latter, an indolent man who knew nothing of printing, let Thomas take things into his own hands, and he became virtually the editor of the paper. It was at the time of the Stanip Act, and his notions of liberty soon got him into trouble. Seditious articles began to appear in the "Gazette." One day the year's stock of stamped paper for the “Gazette” was received from England. It was soon found that the stamps had been removed, and the next issue contained
a notice, that "all the stamped paper had been used, and as no more could be had, the paper would in future be published without stamps.” A few days later the “Pennsylvania Journal" arrived, in full mourning for the passage of the Stamp Act. Thomas wished to copy it for the “Gazette,” but he did not dare to do it directly. As near an imitation as was possible was made of the Journal containing this notice: “We are desired by a number of our readers to give a description of the extraordinary appearance of the Pennsylvania Journal of the 30th of October last. We can in no better way comply with their request than by the exemplification we have given of that “Journal' in this day's ‘Gazette.'” In one issue, death's heads were inserted in place of the stamps; in another the devil was represented in the act of thrusting his fork into the stamp.
Both Henry and Thomas were several times summoned before the governor and council; but warnings and threats had no effect. Henry soon saw that he must part with his journeyman or give up the government business, and Thomas, after between six and seven months' residence in Halifax, went to Portsmouth, N. H.
Mr. Thomas' own narrative of his life in Portsmouth has disappeared, but we have a glimpse of it in the following notice from the “Portsmouth Journal," which was copied in the Boston Courier, 13 April, 1846:
[From the Portsmouth Journal.] RELIC OF ISAIAH THOMAS, THE HISTORIAN.
The past week, the old building belonging to Mr. Supply Ham, next east of the Franklin House in this town, has been remodeled. In taking up the chamber floor a quantity of type was found, which indicate that the room had, some long time ago, been used for a printing office. On removing the casing of one of the windows, on the top of the frame a marble covered memorandum book was found, covered with dust, brown with age, and some of the leaves decayed. On opening, appeared these words:
* Isaiah Thomas His Book 1766." On examination it proves to be the pocket memorandum of the apprentice boy, kept by him from the time he left Boston, to the time he was at work
in this building with Furber & Russell. It is probable that he had laid it
“Left Mr. Fowle the 19th of September 1765, and sat sail the next Day'
Went to Mr. Henry's and engaged work with him for 3 Dollars per month
Received of Mr. Anthony Henry the following Articles, viz.
0 15 0
3 5 9
Work with Mr. Fowle of Portsmouth 13 Days.
Friday, April 10, 1766. Came to work with Messrs. Furber & Russell
Received of Messrs. Furber & Russell 5 yards & half of Black Serge at
2 9 6."
The appearance of the paper on which he worked dis-
He returned to Boston, and in partnership with Fowle,
The “Spy” soon became a power in the Massachusetts Bay, and some of the ablest writers in the colony contributed to its columns. Its bold and defiant tone drew widespread attention to the printer; and while the paper was being burned by the common hangman in North Carolina, and Mr. Thomas burned in effigy, applications came from the whigs in all parts of the country, to set up presses.
The hostility of the loyalists toward him was extreme; he was frequently threatened with violence, his name was placed on the list of the suspected, and his office was known as the "sedition factory.' He was one of the most patriotic of the Sons of Liberty; meetings were often held in his office, and he worked far into the night printing handbills to be posted throughout the town before morning. So frequent did the threats against him become, that a few days before the Battle of Lexington, his friends insisted on his keeping in retirement; and he went to Concord to consult with Hancock and the leading members of the Provincial Congress.
In 1774 the Whigs of Worcester had urged Mr. Thomas to start a paper there. He consented to do so early in 1775, and in February had issued a proposal for publishing "The Worcester Gazette; or American Oracle of Liberty.' Though he had not intended to give up his Boston press, the early outbreak of hostilities rendered this necessary. He went back to Boston, packed up his presses and types, and on the 16th of April, with the aid of Gen. Joseph Warren and Colonel Timothy Bigelow, "stole them out of town in the dead of night," and sent them ahead to Worcester. He remained behind, assisted in giving the alarm on the night of the 18th, and was actively engaged in the fight on the following day.
He arrived in Worcester on the 20th, and set up his press in the cellar of Colonel Bigelow's house. After a suspension of three weeks, the "Spy” reappeared in Worcester, May 3rd, 1775. Here he also did all the printing for the Provincial Congress, until presses were set up in Cambridge and Watertown. Upon the pamphlet, “A Narrative of the Excursions and Ravages of the King's Troops under the Command of General Gage, on the nineteenth of April, 1775," etc., printed by order of the Provincial Congress, is a note in his own handwriting: "This was the first printing done in Worcester, Mass.”
We have no connected record of Mr. Thomas' life during the Revolution. In the latter part of 1774, with William Goddard of Baltimore, John Holt of New York, and Thaddeus Burr of Fairfield, Conn., he had established a line of post-riders from Boston to Baltimore. In May, 1775, on the establishment of a temporary system of post-riders and post offices by the Provincial Congress, he was appointed postmaster at Worcester; in the fall of that year, when a regular post office department for all the colonies was created, Franklin again selected him and his successors renewed the commission until he was removed by Jefferson in 1802.
In 1776 and 1777 he leased the "Spy" and went to Salem, intending to start in business there; but financial difficulties prevented this. During these two years his family were living in Londonderry, X. H., but his own movements are unknown, with the exception that, while on a visit to Worcester, in July, 1776, he read the Declaration of Independ