1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bradford, William (printer)
BRADFORD, WILLIAM (1663 – 1752), American colonial printer, was born in Leicestershire, England, on the 20th of May 1663. He learned the printer's trade in London with Andrew Sowle, and in 1682 emigrated with William Penn to Pennsylvania, where in 1685 he introduced the “art and mystery” of printing into the Middle Colonies. His first imprint was an almanac, Kalendarium Pennsilvaniense or America's Messenger (1685). At the outset he was ordered “not to print anything but what shall have lycence from ye council,” and in 1692, the colony then being torn by schism, he issued a tract for the minority sect of Friends, whereupon his press was seized and he was arrested. He was released, however, and his press was restored on his appeal to Governor Benjamin Fletcher. In 1690, with William Rittenhouse (1644 – 1708) and others, he established in Roxboro, Pennsylvania, now a part of Philadelphia, the first paper mill in America. In the spring of 1693 he removed to New York, where he was appointed royal printer for the colony, a position which he held for more than fifty years; and on the 8th of November 1725 he issued the first number of the New York Gazette, the first paper established in New York and from 1725 to 1733 the only paper in the colony. Bradford died in New York on the 23rd of May 1752.
His son, Andrew Sowle Bradford (1686 – 1742), removed from New York to Philadelphia in 1712, and there on the 22nd of December 1719 issued the first number of the American Weekly Mercury, the first newspaper in the Middle Colonies. Benjamin Franklin, for a time a compositor in the office, characterized the paper as “a paltry thing, in no way interesting”; but it was continued for many years and was edited by Bradford until his death.
The latter's nephew, William Bradford (1722 – 1791), established in December 1742 the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, which was for sixty years under his control or that of his son, and which in 1774 – 1775 bore the oft-reproduced device of a divided serpent with the motto “Unite or Die.” He served in the War of American Independence, rising to the rank of colonel. His son, William Bradford (1755 – 1795), also served in the War of Independence, and afterwards was attorney-general of Pennsylvania (1791), a judge of the supreme court of the state, and in 1794 – 1795 attorney-general of the United States.