DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. -- TOWNE, Benjamin (d.1793, printer & publisher). The Pennsylvania Evening Post. Philadelphia: B.Towne, 24 January 1775-30 December 1777.
426 issues only in 3 volumes (containing numbers 1, 3-5, 7-91, 93-119, 121, 123-141, 148-296, 297-438; together with 1- or 2-leaf supplements to nos.82, 98, 219, 271, 275, 305, 383, 389), 4° or 2° (250 x 195mm). Occasional small woodcut vignette illustrations or decorations. (Tear to outer margin of second leaf of no.358 with resultant loss of a small amount of text.) Contemporary speckled half calf (the marbled-paper covers with sections of the paper torn or torn away).
THE FIRST PRINTING IN A NEWSPAPER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE INCLUDED IN A GOOD RUN OF NORTH AMERICA'S THIRD EVENING NEWSPAPER. IN VERY FINE UNSOPHISTICATED CONDITION. The spread of the text of the Declaration was rapid, but this printing (in the number for the 6th July 1776) is preceded only by John Dunlap's broadside version printed on the 4th or 5th of July.
On June 7th, 1776 the delegate for Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, put forward a resolution "that these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." On the 11th June a committee of five was appointed by the Continental Congress to draft a declaration endorsing Lee's resolution. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the initial draft. This was seen and commented on by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, and Jefferson consequently revised the text which was submitted to the Continental Congress. The Evening Post for July 2nd carried the announcement that "This day the Continental Congress declared the United States Free and Independent States." On July 4th they adopted Jefferson's revised text of the declaration and authorised its printing.
Towne was a pragmatist: he opened his own printing house in Philadelphia in 1774 and from the first number of the Evening Post clearly espoused Whig and Patriot ideals (to the extent that he was able to drive his Royalist competitor, James Humphreys, out of business). He remained true to his Whig principles right up until the issue of September 23rd, 1777 (this issue does include the rather nervous headline "All persons indebted to the printer are desired to pay him immediately"). However, by the appearance of the next issue on October 11th the British had occupied Philadelphia (on the 26th September) and he had become a Royalist. When the British evacuated the city seven months later he was able to avoid proscription, and the publication continued under the Patriot banner once again. One result of this manoeuvring was that the Evening Post was the only newspaper in Philadelphia to be published continuously throughout the Revolutionary period.
Lengthy runs of the Evening Post are rare at auction. This run is, in addition, in a contemporary binding, and includes supplements. It is thus possible to follow the build-up to and aftermath of the issuing of the document which created an independent United States. supplementary leaf to number 219 for example). (3)