James Davis of New Bern, Fit to Print

This Day in North Carolina History

On June 24, 1749, James Davis, a printer trained in Williamsburg, Virginia, printed the first official publication for the colony of North Carolina at the colony’s official press in New Bern.

Although printers had been active in some colonies for more than 100 years, North Carolina delayed acquiring a press. The provincial government liked to control the distribution of information and feared challenges to its authority, and the colony didn’t have the dense population necessary to finance a press.

Nearby printing presses in Williamsburg and Charleston also made it relatively easy to farm out the work that needed to be done.

A $10 bill printed by Davis in 1778. Image from the N.C. Museum of History. A $10 bill printed by Davis in 1778. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Complaints by Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston in 1736 prompted the Assembly to begin the process of hiring a printer and acquiring the press. In 1747, Johnston appointed James Davis to the…

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