Keimer, Samuel (DNB00)

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KEIMER, SAMUEL (fl. 1707–1738), printer, was born of ‘parents of repute … in the parish of St. Thomas's, Southwark,’ and was apprenticed to Robert Tookey, printer, Christopher's Court, Threadneedle Street, London. Keimer, like his only sister, Mary, was at first an adherent of Jean Cavalier and of the French protestants in 1713, but after his marriage he joined the quakers. About the same date he hired a shop, but, failing to pay his way, was imprisoned in the Fleet (Brand Pluck'd from the Burning, passim). While in prison he wrote in doggerel verse ‘A Search after Religion among the many Modern Pretenders to it,’ London [1718], sm. 8vo, and ‘A Brand Pluck'd from the Burning exemplify'd in the unparallel'd case of Samuel Keimer,’ London, 1718, sm. 8vo. The latter contains a curious account of the quarrels of the French protestants and of prison life, and includes a letter from Daniel Defoe, which is unnoticed by the latter's biographers. On his release from prison, Keimer left his wife in England and went to America. In 1723 he opened a printing-house in High Street, near the Market-house, in Philadelphia. Andrew, son of William Bradford (1663–1752) [q. v.], had introduced the art into Pennsylvania, and he and Keimer were then the sole printers in the colony. Keimer only had ‘an old shatter'd press and one small worn-out font of English.’ His friend Bradford introduced Benjamin Franklin to him, and Franklin found him, with his worn-out type, and without manuscript, setting up an elegy of his own composition on ‘Aquila Rose, … Clerk of the Assembly and a pretty poet’ (Life of B. Franklin by himself, ed. J. Bigelow, 1874, i. 129). Keimer himself, who had been bred a compositor, knew nothing of press-work, and was without any business aptitude. Franklin became his foreman. A small pamphlet, ‘A Parable,’ said to be the joint work of Keimer and Franklin, gave so much offence to the quakers that the printer was denounced and disowned at their monthly meeting of 29 Sept. 1723. Keimer printed a few more pamphlets, and sold soap, candles, and other articles. After an interval during which Franklin visited England and Keimer took a larger house, the business increased, and Franklin on his return from England again became a journeyman with Keimer. The latter issued a spurious edition of Jacob Taylor's ‘Almanac’ in 1726, of which all but the calculations was compiled by himself; and in 1727 he printed Titan Leeds's ‘Almanac,’ the cause of a quarrel between him and Bradford. Franklin subsequently entered into partnership with Hugh Meredith and opened an establishment in Philadelphia in rivalry with his former master. But Keimer was engaged for some years upon an edition of Sewel's ‘History of the Quakers,’ which he finally completed with the help of Franklin in 1728. In order to forestall Franklin's intention of bringing out a newspaper, Keimer on 24 Dec. 1728 produced the first number of ‘The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences and Pennsylvania Gazette.’ It was more solid than lively, and included reprints of Chambers's ‘Universal Dictionary’ and Defoe's ‘Religious Courtship.’ It proved a failure, and nine months afterwards it was purchased by Meredith and Franklin. Keimer endeavoured to retaliate on his rivals with a small ill-printed tract, ‘A Touch of the Times,’ 1729. But from this date his business diminished, and selling his stock and materials, he went to Barbadoes. There in 1731, at Bridgetown, he published the ‘Barbadoes Gazette,’ the first newspaper in the Caribbee Islands. In 1733 he was bound over for a libel in his paper, but he continued it until the end of 1738. He died soon afterwards. A number of contributions to the ‘Barbadoes Gazette,’ arranged in imitation of the ‘Tatler,’ were printed under the title of ‘Caribbeana, containing Letters and Dissertations, together with Poetical Essays on various subjects and occasions, chiefly wrote by several hands in the West Indies,’ London, 1741, 2 vols. 4to.

Keimer and his oddities, his argumentations, his long beard, his observance of the seventh day as Sabbath, have been immortalised by Franklin (ib. 1874, i. 129–81, &c.). ‘Something of a scholar’ he calls him, but his literary productions were beneath contempt, and his religion of doubtful sincerity.

[I. Thomas's Hist. of Printing in America, Albany, 1874, i. 229–33, 321, ii. 134, 188–9; Memoirs of Hist. Soc. of Pennsylvania, 1826, vol. i.; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. iv. 283, 3rd ser. ix. 95; J. B. McMaster's Benjamin Franklin as a Man of Letters, London, 1887, sm. 8vo; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography, New York, 1887, iii. 502; J. Smith's Biog. Notices of Bradford, Jensen, and Keimer, London, 1891, sm. 8vo; J. Sabin's Cat. of Books relating to America, New York, 1887, ix. 402–3; Duyckinck's Cyclop. of American Literature, 1877, i. 109, 110, 117, 517.]

H. R. T.