November 27

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1871 The Gaiety Theatre in Dublin opened with a performance of Goldsmith’s She stoops to conquer.
  • 1869 Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, imprisoned Fenian, was returned as MP in a County Tipperary by-election but was disqualified as a convicted felon.
  • 1812 John Dunlap, printer and publisher, who founded the first American daily newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet (1771), later the North American and United States Gazette, and printer of the Declaration of Independence (1777), died in Philadelphia.
  • 1812 John Dunlap (c. 65), County Tyrone-born printer and property developer, died. Best remembered for printing the first copy of the American Declaration of Independence—written in the hand of County Derry-born Charles Thomson—Dunlap’s success was down to family connections, hard work and good luck. Emigrating to Philadelphia at the age of ten, he served his apprenticeship with his uncle, a bookseller and printer, and took over the business within a decade when the elder Dunlap departed to study theology with a view to becoming an Anglican clergyman. He then launched a weekly newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet, which later became a daily and the first successful newspaper in America. When the American War of Independence began in April 1774, he enlisted as an officer in Philadelphia’s city cavalry and rose to the rank of major, serving as Washington’s bodyguard in his victories at Trenton (December 1776) and Princeton (January 1777). In the meantime, his printing business continued to thrive and, on the evening of 4 July 1776, as official printer to the Continental Congress, he famously printed the first copy of the Declaration of Independence and overnight several hundred other copies, known as the ‘Dunlap broadsides’, ready for dispatch to the colonies by dawn. Meanwhile, he speculated in real estate, purchasing pieces of land confiscated from colonists who refused to take Pennsylvania’s new loyalty oath. With other purchases, mainly in Kentucky, he owned some 98,000 acres when he retired at the age of 48. Retirement, however, didn’t entirely suit him and he apparently became somewhat of a drunkard in his later years. His birthplace in Strabane is marked by a plaque, and the eighteenth-century Gray’s Printing Press on Main Street is maintained as a museum.

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