James Davis of New Bern, Fit to Print

First Printing Press in N.C. Set up near this spot, 1749, by James Davis, who published first book and newspaper in the colony.

On June 24, 1749, James Davis, a printer trained in Williamsburg, Virginia, printed the first official publication for the colony of North Carolina at the colony’s official press in New Bern.

Although printers had been active in some colonies for more than 100 years, North Carolina delayed acquiring a press. The provincial government liked to control the distribution of information and feared challenges to its authority, and the colony didn’t have the dense population necessary to finance a press.

Nearby printing presses in Williamsburg and Charleston also made it relatively easy to farm out the work that needed to be done.

Complaints by Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston in 1736 prompted the Assembly to begin the process of hiring a printer and acquiring the press. In 1747, Johnston appointed James Davis to the position of public printer. Davis came to North Carolina specifically for the job and held it for 33 years. He printed at least 100 titles during that time. His first task in the job was likely the printing of currency.

The colony’s first official publication, published in June 1749, was the Journal of the House of Burgesses of the Province of North Carolina.

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