Isaiah Thomas

oil painting of Isaiah ThomasIsaiah Thomas (1749-1831) was the foremost printer of the generation that came of age during the American Revolution. He was instrumental in starting the Revolution and once the new nation was founded he became its principal and most successful printer, publisher, and bookseller. His success made him one of the wealthiest men in the country. Thomas’s career is made even more remarkable by the fact that he was entirely a self-made man.

In 1812, Thomas founded the American Antiquarian Society, designed to be a learned society and national institution dedicated to preserving the written record of the United States. Thomas’s own collection of books, newspapers, and ephemera formed the basis of this collection, and his philosophy of collecting continues to shape the way Americans understand the past today.

Additional Resources

Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project
With over 800 images and 300 mini-essays, this site offers a unique and comprehensive view of the broadsides that Isaiah Thomas collected in early nineteenth-century Boston. Each broadside includes a brief explanation of its content by Kate Van Winkle Keller. To learn more about the history of this project and its contributors, please see the about page.


Isaiah Thomas portrait by Greenwood
The portrait of Isaiah Thomas by Ethan Allen Greenwood (pictured above) was painted six years after the founding of the American Antiquarian Society. Greenwood probably first came to Thomas's attention after the artist produced a likeness of his son Isaiah Thomas Jr., in March of 1818. In that year, Greenwood was establishing the Gallery of Fine Arts in Boston that displayed copies of famous European paintings and portraits of well-known Americans. More about this portrait


The Patriot Printer: Isaiah Thomas

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