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Historic Annapolis celebrates birth of press freedom

Date: October 10, 2015, Capital Gazette

Robert Hardy spent 20 hours designing posters for the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

He didn't use Adobe, Microsoft Word or a computer. He used an antique printing press.

"To think what they did with those very limited tools…," he said in the basement of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.


Hardy hand made the 40 posters with a technique similar ones used to print the Maryland Gazette as publisher Jonas Green protested the Stamp Act — a turning point in American history that many believe set the Colonies on the road to revolution.


To mark the 250th anniversary of Green's protest, Historic Annapolis has organized Sons of Liberty Week, complete with historical reenactments, lectures and a walking tour from Oct. 19 through Oct. 25. The newspaper is still published by Capital Gazette Communications, making it one of the oldest newspapers in the country.


"It was the first place journalists have a voice of protest," said Lisa Robbins, vice president of public programs, education and visitor services for Historic Annapolis. "Jonas Green and the Maryland Gazettereally could be seen as the birthplace of the freedom of the press."


The British Parliament passed The Stamp Act of 1765 to levy taxes on paper, including wills, deeds, licenses, playing cards, dice and newspapers. Green discontinued the newspaper and circulated a series of supplements against what became known as "taxation without representation."


Patriots in other parts of the Colonies followed suit, using Green's words and images to protest the Stamp Act, Robbins said.


Headlined "The Maryland Gazette Expiring: In Hopes of a Resurrection to Life Again," the Oct. 10, 1765 edition announced the end of the paper. It was stamped with a skull and crossbones in the bottom right hand corner.


"Instead of putting the stamp the government wanted on his paper, he put a death's head, saying 'screw you' basically," Hardy said while perusing copies of the supplements at Maryland Hall.


"We are sorry, heartily sorry, to acquaint the public in general and our good customers in particular that this Gazette will not any longer be published (for some time) for reasons already given, which cannot but be known," Green wrote.


Hardy's broadsides will help publicize the events. Last week, he pulled type — metal stamps with raised letters — from his box and put it in a line upside down and backward to be placed in a tray for the printing press.


To emulate Green's death's head stamp Hardy had to carve the image into a piece of linoleum. The real stamp was found in the backyard of the house where Green lived with his family and published the newspaper.


Today, it is in the collection of Historic Annapolis, which will put it on display, along with reproductions of Green's newspapers, during the Sons of Liberty Week Oct. 19 to 25.


Hardy rolled black ink over the tray that had the week's events outlined into three columns, just as the Gazette series had been, with his copycat dead head in the middle.


"Now we're going to take this over to the press," he said walking the tray to a small metal object. He placed it between two metal edges that create a track for a cylinder with handles.


Hardy came to Maryland Hall in April and began monthly letterpress workshops in June. His love for perfecting the old-fashioned printing methods began about six to eight years ago when he started collecting type.


At a gallery show to introduce the letterpress program July 23, volunteer and reenactor Diane Rey had approached him with the idea of creating the broadside for the Annapolis Sons of Liberty Week using a printing press.


"It sounded like a great idea," Hardy said. Although he said he wouldn't have agreed if he didn't already have Colonial period type available. "I didn't want to say this is a Colonial broadside with 1920s type."


The printing press he used was the late 19th century, so there were some differences between how the Maryland Gazette was printed and Hardy's poster.


But the effect is similar.


"That's what the letterpress is all about, that kiss of the paper," Hardy said, pointing out the indentations the type made after he rolled the cylinder over a piece of paper placed on the type.


The printing press Green used would have allowed for six to eight pages to be printed at a time, meaning two people working the press could print 200 papers in an hour.


Caslon, the font Hardy used, was typical of the time period, he said. It was also used for the Declaration of Independence.


Robbins said it would have been strange to have historical reenactors dressed in period clothing handing out fliers designed in a modern style. The Colonial style broadsides add to the spirit of the week's events, she said.


"It completes the whole image."


Annapolis Sons of Liberty Week

Several special events are planned for the 250th anniversary of the Maryland Gazette protest of the Stamp Act, including:


A lecture and panel discussion on "Freedom of the Press: Then, and Now," at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the James Brice House, 42 East St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a wine and cheese reception. The cost is $5 for Historic Annapolis members and students and $10 for general admission. Space is limited. Reservations can be made at


A 1-hour guided walking tour, "Revolutionary Annapolis," will be held at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Oct. 24, starting at the William Paca House, 186 Prince George St. Stops will include St. John's College, the Chase-Lloyd House, Peggy Stewart House, and other city locations with ties to the Revolution. The cost is $10 and reservations are required.


"Sons of Liberty Day" will kick off with a Stamp Act protest march up Main Street at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 25, recalling events of Aug. 26, 1765, when angry townspeople burned an effigy of stamp commissioner Zachariah Hood. Marching is free and open to the public.


Revolutionary fun for all ages will take place in the William Paca House and Garden from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 25, and will include music, musket firing, a Rebel Rum tasting by Blackwater Distilling, and children's activities. Events are included with admission to the house and garden.


Costumed re-enactors will also appear at random throughout the Annapolis historic district in October to exhort townspeople and visitors to join the rebellion.


At the Historic Annapolis Museum at 99 Main St., visitors can read Jonas Green's newspapers of the period and view the ongoing exhibit, "Freedom Bound." Entry is free.

For more information, contact Historic Annapolis at 410-267-7619.




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