Patriot Printer, Publisher And Postmistress, Mary Katharine Goddard, Born

On this day in 1738, Mary Katharine Goddard is born in New London, Connecticut. She went on to publish the first version of the Declaration of Independence to include all of the Congressional signatures.

Mary Goddard’s professional life was inextricably bound with that of her brother, William. They worked together in print shops he owned in Providence, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before moving to Baltimore, Maryland. While William traveled extensively in his efforts to build their business, Mary maintained the day-to- day operations in Baltimore. In 1775, William and his network showed their confidence in Mary’s abilities by naming her Baltimore’s postmaster. She held this post throughout the turbulent years of the War of Independence. In 1777, when Congress decided to print the Declaration of Independence including a complete list of signatures, they chose the Goddards as printers. As usual, Mary, not William, was running operations, and thus the document appeared “printed by Mary Katherine Goddard.”

During the war years, Mary printed the revolutionary Maryland Journal begun by her brother. William resumed control of the business following a quarrel between the siblings in 1784. With the founding of the new federal government in 1789, the new postmaster general, Samuel Osgood, replaced Goddard with a male novice political appointee, John White. Osgood claimed that the job involved too much travel for a female. Despite a petition from 230 citizens demanding that Goddard “be restored” to the role in which she had given “universal Satisfaction to the community,” Mary Goddard was reduced to running the bookstore attached to the print shop. She died on August 12, 1816, leaving her personal property to her black maid and companion.

Posted in American Revolution.

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