Ripon’s 50th a Time to Reflect -Cagle

We may not have been safer (or saner) back then. But it sure was a blast, eh?

POWER OF PRINT(ERS): Our amigo from sister publication Publishing Executive, Jim Sturdivant, recently came across a gravestone in North Carolina that really drove home the importance of being a printer during Early America. The gravestone was of one James Davis, whose accomplishments seem to cast him as a southern Ben Franklin. I’ll let Jim take it from here.

“I’m a little dubious of the term ‘information scarcity,’ as if there was ever a time when people did not have loads of news and gossip coming their way. Back in the stagecoach era, when we all lived in close-knit, walkable communities (no need for terms like “new urbanist” back then), news and views flowed over fences and across tables, out of taverns and churches and docks.

“Still, the person in charge of the local printing press must have possessed a type of authority that’s difficult for us to grasp today. A printer was the hub, the establisher and keeper of records, the validator of all that was official, authoritative and lasting. The word imprimatur—from the Latin, “let it be printed”—connotes something being correct, proper, approved. The local printer did more than create documents; he created significance. Merely having a press lent importance to a town, and the more printers it had, the more important it was.

“My thoughts were led in this direction by a gravestone I encountered in New Bern, NC. The second oldest town in the state, New Bern was the colonial capital and briefly the state capital after independence. As an important port and the largest town for many miles up and down the East Coast, New Bern became a major center of commerce and culture in the early years of the republic.

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