Research Highlight: The Green Broadside

Research Highlights LogoIn 1949, Michael Walsh published a census of “Contemporary Broadside Editions of the Declaration of Independence” in the Harvard Library Bulletin. The Boston Public Library holds the only known copy of a broadside described by Walsh as follows: “Previously unrecorded. No imprint. Two columns, with a line of 65 type ornaments between.” Walsh established a rough chronological order in his census of contemporary editions, and placed the BPL broadside between the Gill, Powars and Willis broadsides printed in Boston and the Ezekiel Russell broadsides printed in Salem. It can be assumed that he believed the printer to have been located in Massachusetts (especially since the only known copy ended up at the Boston Public Library), and the broadside to date somewhere between July 14-20.

This undated and unattributed broadside has remained more or less a mystery since 1949. In our ongoing effort to assemble a database of every edition of the Declaration of Independence produced between 1776 and 1826, we have closely analyzed the 1776 newspaper and broadside editions of the text. Based on our research, the BPL broadside can now be conclusively attributed to New Haven printers Thomas and Samuel Green, and the date of production can be approximated to July 11, 1776.

Broadside of the Declaration of Independence, Printed by Thomas and Samuel Green, New Haven, CT
Broadside of the Declaration of Independence printed by Thomas and Samuel Green. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

Thomas and Samuel Green were the sons of New London printer Samuel Green (d. 1752), and great-great-grandsons of Samuel Green (d. 1702), one of the first printers in America. Two other great-great-grandsons, Frederick Green of Annapolis and Timothy Green of New London, also printed the Declaration of Independence in July 1776. Thomas and Samuel Green began printing The Connecticut Journal; and New-Haven Post-Boy in October 1767, “at the Printing-Office in the Old State-House.” By 1776, the newspaper was simply called The Connecticut Journal, and was printed “near the College” (Yale).

The Green brothers printed the Declaration of Independence in their newspaper on July 17, 1776. The text is on the second page of the issue, the back of a half-sheet, because the printers did not have enough paper to produce a full, four-page newspaper. This announcement appeared in the July 3 issue: “We are very sorry, that we cannot procure a sufficiency of paper to publish a whole sheet:—but as there is now a paper mill erecting in this town, we expect, after a few weeks, to be supplied with such a quantity as to publish the Journal regularly on a uniform siz’d paper, and be able to make ample amends for past deficiencies.” By July 24, The Connecticut Journal was once again a four-page paper, and the Greens apparently had enough paper by the end of the month to produce a supplement to the July 31 issue.

Page 2 of the Connecticut Journal, Printed by Thomas and Samuel Green, July 17, 1776
Page 2 of The Connecticut Journal, Printed by Thomas and Samuel Green, July 17, 1776. Image courtesy of Readex, a division of NewsBank, Inc.

In the July 17, 1776 issue, the Declaration of Independence was set in two columns, framed by a decorative border. Three columns of news items filled the rest of the page, and a few lines in three columns were rotated and tucked between the Declaration and the right hand margin. In the BPL broadside, the text is also set in two columns, the setting is nearly identical to The Connecticut Journal, and the vertical line of ornaments strongly resembles the horizontal line of ornaments setting off the text in the newspaper. The columns are slightly longer on the broadside, and the last two sentences of the Declaration were set in a larger size type. The only textual differences between The Connecticut Journal and the BPL broadside can be found in this final paragraph: “Congress” vs. “Congress,” “authority” vs. “Authority,” and “are” vs. “are,”. Otherwise, the text of the Declaration of Independence is identical, and two spelling errors occur only in these two editions: “Govornments” and “Cheracter.” The broadside and newspaper also share these less significant variants/errors in the text: “sufference” (sufferance), “System” (Systems), and “wholsome” (wholesome).

Clip of The Connecticut Journal for ComparisonPhotoshopped Clip of the Green Broadside for Comparison
Comparison of the two Green printings. Images courtesy of Readex, a division of NewsBank, Inc (left) and the Boston Public Library (right).

It can be concluded that Thomas and Samuel Green first set the type of the Declaration of Independence to print a broadside, and, after printing an unknown quantity, moved the type to the frame set up for their newspaper printing. The July 3 promise of a new paper mill in New Haven implies that the Greens would have had enough paper for such an endeavor. This attribution explains the awkward layout of the second page of The Connecticut Journal. An error in the text of the broadside — an upside down “u” in “Country” — was corrected when the type was moved to the new layout. Furthermore, a small advertisement in the July 10 issue of The Connecticut Journal indicated that, “Tomorrow, will be ready for sale, The Resolves of the Congress, declaring the United Colonies, FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES.”

Therefore, the previously unattributed broadside at the Boston Public Library can be attributed to Thomas and Samuel Green in New Haven, Connecticut, and dated to July 11, 1776. Four newspaper editions of the Declaration were printed in Connecticut in July 1776, including The Connecticut Journal. Broadsides of the Declaration were printed in Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and likely New Hampshire. But, the Green broadside is the only known contemporary broadside of the Declaration of Independence printed in Connecticut, which means this document at the Boston Public Library is incredibly significant in the textual tradition of the Declaration.

For more on printers and printed editions of the Declaration of Independence, see Isaiah Thomas's The History of Printing in America (pp. 187, 189-190, 322) and Michael Walsh's “Contemporary Broadside Editions of the Declaration of Independence" (Harvard Library Bulletin, 3:1, Winter 1949). Please note: the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the Boston Public Library is closed through 2019.

By Emily Sneff