Excerpts from “The History of Printing in America” by Isaiah Thomas 1810

The printing for this colony was executed in Boston, Massachusetts, until 1756. Only two printing houses were opened in New Hampshire before the year 1775, and one of these had for several years been shut. The productions of the press were few: the largest work printed was the laws of the province.


Although this place was the capital of the colony, and had been settled a long time, yet no means had been used to introduce printing into it until about the year 1755, when several of the influential inhabitants exerted themselves for this purpose; and, in the year following, the press was established there, at which was executed the first printing done in New Hampshire.

Daniel Fowle, who had been arrested and imprisoned in Boston, on a charge of having published a libel against the government of Massachusetts, was, as has been stated, solicited by several gentlemen in Portsmouth, and afterwards encouraged by the government, to set up a press in that town. He accordingly removed from Boston to Portsmouth in July, 1756, and soon after published a newspaper. Fowle did but little at book printing; it being his principal business to publish the newspaper. He was appointed printer to the government; and the laws,  were issued from his press.

In September, 1764, he took his nephew Robert Fowle as his partner. The firm of the company was Daniel & Robert Fowle. They remained together until 1774, when they separated, and Robert soon after removed to Exeter.

Daniel Fowle continued in business until his death, but did not acquire much property. He married into a very respectable family in Boston, some years before he removed from that town, but had no children. He received the commission of a magistrate a short time after he settled at Portsmouth. He was a correct printer and industrious. He was mild in his disposition, agreeable in his manners, liberal in his sentiments, and attached to the cause of his country. He died in June, 1787, aged 72 years. 

Thomas Forbes was born in Portsmouth, and served his apprenticeship with Daniel Fowle. Some zealous whigs, who thought the Fowles were too timid in the cause of liberty, or their press too much under the influence of the officers of the crown, encouraged Forbes to set up a second press in the province. He in consequence opened a printing house in Portsmouth, toward the end of 1764, and soon after published a newspaper. In 1765; he received as a partner Ezekiel Russell. Their firm was Forbes & Russell. Excepting the newspaper, they printed only a few hand-bills and blanks. The company became embarrassed, and in less than a year its concerns terminated, and the partnership was dissolved. Upon the dissolution of the firm, the press and types were purchased by the Fowles. Forbes became their journeyman, and Russell went to Boston.

Forbes had been taught plain binding, and undertook to connect it with printing. Although he was not very skillful, either as a printer or as a binder, he began the world under favorable circumstances; and, had he been attentive to his affairs, he might have been successful. He was good natured and friendly, but naturally indolent; and, like too many others, gave himself up to the enjoyment of a companion, when he should have been attending to his business. He died in Baltimore, at the house of William Goddard, who had employed him for a long time and shown him much friendship. He left a widow and several children.


A difference in the political sentiments of D. and R. Fowle, printers and copartners at Portsmouth, was the cause of their separation in 1774; and probably the reason of the establishment of a press in Exeter.

Robert Fowle was the son of John Fowle, who was several years a silent partner with Rogers & Fowle in Boston, and afterwards an Episcopal clergyman at Norwalk in Connecticut. He served his apprenticeship with his uncle, at Portsmouth; and when of age became his partner, as has been mentioned. This copartnership being ended they divided their printing materials. Robert, who was neither a skillful nor a correct printer, took the press and types which had been used by Furber, and settled at Exeter. He did some work for the old government, and, in 1775, some for the new. He made several attempts to establish a newspaper, and in 1776 began one, which he published more than a year.

The new paper currency of New Hampshire had been printed by Fowle, and it was counterfeited; and suspicion rested on him as having been concerned in this criminal act. He was a royalist, and fled within the British lines in New York. By this step the suspicion, which might not have been well founded, was confirmed. Thus ended the typographical career of Robert Fowle. With other refugees from the United States, he was placed upon the British pension list. Some time after the establishment of peace, he returned to this country, married the widow of his younger brother, who had succeeded him at Exeter, and resided in New Hampshire until he died. Robert Fowle had very respectable connections.