Exeter Historical Society

Exeter Historical Society: 47 Front Street, Exeter, NH 03833

‘Robert Luist Fowle Press’ [Gaskell USA5]

Gaskell (1954, page 170, USA5) writes: “Mid-eighteenth-century. A line drawing of this press, together with notes on its provenance (which is doubtful) will be found in ‘Old-time new England.” In 1970 Gaskell adds (p 27): “Mid-eighteenth-century. Yet another press that has been claimed as having been worked by Benjamin Franklin: but it is more likely to have come to Massachusetts from New Hampshire.”

This press was between the 1950 and 1998 in Old Sturbridge Village. Video: [00:30. Printing press starts at 00:18]

Barbara Rimkunas (November 17, 2010) writes: “Robert Luist Fowle’s printing press now stands in the museum room of the Exeter Historical Society. As an artifact of the American Revolution it is an odd accident of fate that it is a British press, used to print the Declaration of Independence by an American Tory.”

Website: “The Exeter Historical Society still has Fowle’s original printing press in its collection at The museum on Front Street.”

The bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (Boston, Mass. April 1947), xxxvii, 90-91. “This is yet another press that has from time to time been claimed as having been worked by Benjamin Franklin: but it is more likely to have come to Massachusetts from New Hampshire.”

Tom Kelleher (Historian, and Curator of Mechanical Arts, Old Sturbridge Village) adds: “It belongs to Historic New England (HNE), formerly known as the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA).  It had been on long term loan to us since the 1950s or perhaps earlier, but was returned to them in 1998.  We recorded it as # 59.2.4, and it is indeed wooden and dates to the middle of the 18th century. As to its history, it was a gift to the Bostonian Society in 1888 by William Wilkins Warren. It had been formerly at the Boston Museum, and was exhibited at the Old State House 1888-1932. It was given to SPNEA in 1932. It originally had been used in 1765 by Furber & Russell, Portsmouth, NH for the ‘Portsmouth Mercury’ before being taken to Exeter in 1774 by Robert Fowle, who published the ‘N.H. Gazette’  in 1776.  It was taken to Newburyport, MA by Edwin Blunt in 1795 for the ‘Impartial Herald’, then purchased by Ben Purley Poore who died in 1887.”

Caption with photograph 2: “Exeter Historical Society Vice President Peter Smith looks over the printing press of Robert Luist Fowle in 1998. The press had been stored at Sturbridge Village and owned by Historic New England for decades before its ultimate return to Exeter. It now resides at the Exeter Historical Society.”