Today, the Massachusetts State Quarter Coin remembers when the Bostonians celebrated the 400th anniversary of moveable type printing on June 24, 1840.
From the Baltimore, Maryland Pilot and Transcript newspaper of June 29, 1840:
Correspondence of Commercial Advertiser.
The Anniversary of Printing
Boston, June 25, 1840. I arrived here yesterday, in season to attend the celebration, for which the Bostonians have been preparing for some time, of the four hundredth anniversary of printing with moveable types.
A regular holiday was made of it among the trade.
The streets where the printing business is principally carried on were decorated with flags stretched across them.
The offices were closed, as were also the different bookstores in the afternoon, and no morning papers are to be issued to-day.
The procession was formed at the State House, at three o’clock’, and proceeded through Tremont and several other streets to Faneuil Hall, where preparations had been made for the celebration of the festival.
The large room was appropriately decorated.
Directly behind the chair of the presiding officer was a statue of Faust.
On the columns of the building, one letter upon each, was the inscription, “Art of printing invented 1440.”
On sign boards, arranged completely around the apartment, were the names Green, Thomas, Ramage, Dodge, Wells, Ronaldson, Guttenburg, Franklin, Schaeffer, Clymer, Caxton, Caslon, Stanhope, Bramah, and Napier.
Mr. Buckingham, the veteran editor of the Boston Courier, presided.
On his right hand was the mayor of Boston, on his left a clergyman— I believe the Rev. Mr. Young.
After the good things which had been amply provided were properly discussed, Mr. Buckingham opened the intellectual feast with a sketch of the history of printing, interspersed with amusing reminiscences and anecdotes.
The first toast called out the mayor of Boston, who made a most humorous speech. He said that the magnitude of the subject made it impossible to dilate upon the benefits of the art of printing. You might as well speak about the benefits of the sun. So he should content himself with talking about the evils engendered by the press.
The most flagrant of these, he considered the encouragement which it gave to the manufacture of public speeches, which had now became so common, that if he were asked what were the principal products of the New England states, he should not answer granite and ice, but public speeches.
This was all the fault of the press; folks would not take the trouble of making addresses, if it were not for the pleasure of seeing in the paper next day, that Mr. So-and-so electrified a most delighted audience with the most thrilling eloquence.
Nay, such was the benevolence of the press, that if any gentleman was particularly dull or stupid in his remarks, it was announced that Mr. Blank made a most sensible speech.
His honor the Mayor, was succeeded by a member of the state Legislature, whose name as announced, I did not catch—a most capital speaker.
During the evening, addresses were delivered by the attorney general of Massachusetts; Mr. Bancroft, the historian; H. B. M. consul, Mr. Grattan; Dr. Howe, principal of the institution for the blind; Mr. Prentiss, editor of the New Hampshire Sentinel; the editor of the Farmer’s Cabinet, and several other gentlemen, whose names I did not learn.
An ode of peculiar appropriateness to the occasion, and a chaste and beautiful composition, was read by Mr. Shepherd, formerly an apprentice to the printing business, but now an under-graduate of Harvard university.
The whole affair went off well. It was such a celebration as none can get up in so good style as the Bostonians.
I have hut one fault to find; there was too much selfishness displayed. There was no allusion to any other place than Boston.
With my own limited acquaintance, I noticed gentlemen connected with the trade from Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, and no doubt several other states were represented, yet not a sentiment was uttered that called for an acknowledgment from any of them.
It was all Boston, Boston, Boston; and a foreigner unacquainted with the country, who might have been present, must have supposed that Boston was the Untied States of America.
The Massachusetts State Quarter Coin shows with an image of a printing operation, circa 1876.