The great patriot printer Isaiah Thomas must have known something was up. After all, his newspaper was named “The Massachusetts Spy,” a weekly dedicated to the cause of liberty. His press, located on the second floor of what is today’s Union Oyster House in downtown Boston, was called “The Sedition Foundry” by Tories. If you go to the Oyster House, which I highly recommend, there are several paintings on the second floor depicting life in Isaiah Thomas’ press room.
On the evening of April 16, 1775, Thomas, loaded up his press and type and supplies and sent them off to Worcester. Comfortable that his investment was in good hands, Thomas headed back to Boston to confront what he must have known was coming – British troops marching to capture military stores in Lexington and Concord. A couple of days previous, Thomas had met with John Hancock and others to express his fear of an upcoming conflict. Just in time, Hancock and Robert Treat Paine headed off to Worcester as well.
Not likely an oversight, but rather a necessity in his flight from Boston, Thomas had no paper. But he had friends in high places – Worcester.
On April 26, John Hancock addressed a letter to Dr. Joseph Warren and “the other Gentlemen of the Committee of Safety &c &c,
Mr. Thomas the Printer is here, fix’d his Press & Ready to go on with Business but is in want of Paper. I undertake for him to Desire you will order the undermention’d Quantity to be Sent him from Milton, his being Supplied with it will answer Publick Service. We are not like to have even a Single Person to attend us. Mr Paine is here, his Townsmen who Came with him are Return’d home. My Servants house furniture is in Boston. I should not like to be Demolish’d by a Tory, but I must Submit to be unnoticed – God Bless you,
I am Gentn
Your Sincere Friend
Paper for Mr Thomas
50 Ream Crown Printing
40 do. Demy do.
20 do Fools Cap do.
5 do. Writing —
An excellent telling of this story comes from the American Antiquarian Society in – guess where – Worcester. Founded by – guess who – Isaiah Thomas.
The Liberty Paper Mill Ledger does not show a purchase from Thomas on that date. Since there were only two paper mills in Massachusetts at the time, and this was a huge order, and because we know there are at least eight other Liberty Mill ledgers, we will assume that at least part of that order came from Vose, Lewis and Crane. Most likely the order was not attributed to Thomas, but rather through a member of the Committee of Safety or the Committee of Supplies.
Why did Thomas need paper in such a hurry? He had actually followed the action at Lexington and Concord and wanted to publish a report to his fellow patriots as soon as possible.
Americans! forever bear in mind the BATTLE of LEXINGTON! where British Troops, unmolested and unprovoked wantonly, and in a most inhuman manner fired upon and killed a number of our countrymen, then robbed them of their provisions, ransacked, plundered and burnt their houses! nor could the tears of defenseless women, some of whom were in the pains of childbirth, the cries of helpless, babes, nor the prayers of old age, confined to beds of sickness, appease their thirst for blood! – or divert them from the DESIGN of MURDER and ROBBERY=
You can read his full report here: