Peter Timothy (1724–1782), originally named Peter Timothee, was an 18th-century Dutch-American printer and politician. He immigrated to the American colonies with his parents, French Huguenots
, Lewis and Elizabeth Timothy. Lewis worked for Benjamin Franklin
and learned the trade in Philadelphia
before moving to Charleston, South Carolina
(called Charles Town before the American Revolutionary War
. His parents ran the ''South Carolina Gazette
'', which was turned over to Timothy after his father's death, his mother's period of operating the printing business, and after he became of age. In addition to running the newspaper, Timothy, ran a printing business, was postmaster, and politician. He was particularly active in the period leading up to and during the war. A notable event was his publication of the Declaration of Independence
for public viewing, which included his name as printer. Afraid that he printing press would be damaged or confiscated, there were periods of time, such as during the Siege of Charleston
when he had suspended publishing. He was taken prisoner as a traitor and held for ten months at the alligator-protected prison at St. Augustine, Florida
. He died during a ocean voyage, after which is wife Ann Timothy
took over the printing business.
He was probably born in the Netherlands
in 1724 to a French Huguenot father, Lewis Timothy
(originally Louis Timothee
), and a Dutch mother, Elizabeth
(originally Elisabet Timothee).
Lewis was a printer, librarian, and linguist fluent in Dutch, German, French, and English. Elizabeth was adept at business and accounting.
Peter married Ann Donovan
on December 8, 1745 in Charleston
Ann and Peter were believed to have had at least twelve
and as many as fifteen children, seven of whom died as infants.
Their children include Elizabeth–Ann and Frances–Claudia, who were on their own or married by 1780. The remaining children at that time were Anne, Sarah, Robert, Sarah, and Benjamin Franklin. He held a pew in St. Philip's Church
. Timothy owned land in Berkeley
and Orangeburg counties
of South Carolina.
The family first immigrated to Colonial Pennsylvania
in 1731 to work for Benjamin Franklin
in Philadelphia. The following year, Franklin sent them to Charleston, South Carolina
, where they operated the ''South Carolina Gazette
Six years later, Lewis Timothy
died, leaving the press to his widow and 14-year-old son Peter (who had learned how to use the press). Elizabeth Timothy
ran the business until Peter took over in 1746.
[Hennig Cohen, ''The South Carolina Gazette, 1732–1775'' (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1953), p. 240]
Printing and political career
Beginning in 1746,
Peter Timothy ran the ''South Carolina Gazette
'', which became "South Carolina's best-known and most enduring eighteenth-century newspaper."
He became increasingly interested in South Carolina politics and was elected by St. Peter's Parish
to the Twentieth Royal Assembly
from 1751 to 1754.
He was elected to the South Carolina's Commons House of Assembly for a term in 1755 (rare for an artisan).
Until 1758, Timothy held a monopoly of printing services in South Carolina. He was the official printer for the state's Commons House of Assembly
In 1756, he became Charleston's postmaster general. He became the deputy postmaster of the southern colonies during the Stamp Act Crisis
of 1765. The next year, he became the acting postmaster of the district.
A patriot, during the events leading up to the American Revolution
, he published political opinions, such as condemnation of the British governments actions during the Boston Massacre
He became increasingly interested in the concept of the freedom of the press and began to print radical tracts in his columns and letters to the editor.
[Frakes, George E., ''Laboratory for Liberty: The South Carolina Legislative Committee System, 1719–1776'' (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1970), p. 110.]
He became an active member of the Sons of Liberty
and the South Carolina Committee of Correspondence, clerk of Council of Safety, and Committee of Observation.
He served on Charleston's Committee of Ninety-Nine,
which became the state's ''defacto'' government. In 1775 to 1776, he served in the First and Second Congressional Congresses, representing St. Michael's and St. Peter's Parishes.
He was elected as the clerk of the First General Assembly in 1776. He was a founding member of the Charleston Library Society and was a member of the South Carolina Society and secretary of the Grand Lodge of Free Masons.
Tensions grew in the colonies against the rule of King George III
and the desire for the American colonies achieve independence. Fearing that British soldiers would take or destroy his printing press, Timothy stopped publishing the ''South Carolina Gazette
'' newspaper. After the Declaration of Independence
was signed in 1776, Timothy began to print broadside
copies of the Declaration which were then hung in public places. To show his support, but also to identify himself as a revolutionary, Timothy took the singular step by colonial printers of signing his name (“CHARLES-TOWN, Printed by PETER TIMOTHY”) at the bottom of the document.
Siege of Charleston
Timothy was a military observer who was stationed at the St. Michael's Church steeple to identify of the arrival of the British fleet at the start of the Siege of Charleston
on March 29, 1780. The British maintained their occupation until May 12, 1780.
In May 1780, British soldiers were unable to ascertain the loyalty oath from Timothy and captured him and other prominent patriots from Charles Town.
Prisoner of war and death
After the British captured Charles Town in 1780, he was identified by the British as a rebel and sent to prison in St. Augustine, Florida
After ten months he was furloughed to stay with family members in Philadelphia, as long as he did not return to Charles Town.
During the war he lost all of his savings and he planned for a "get rich quick scheme".
In the fall of 1782, he sailed with his family with the goal of reaching Antigua
, in the West Indies
. However, his ship sank and all on board died.
He left his estate to Ann, and three of his children: Sarah (an unmarried daughter), Robert (disabled), and Benjamin Franklin Timothy.
, a former printer who knew Peter Timothy in Charleston (and later a historian of early newspapers in America), wrote regarding Timothy that he was a "much respected citizen" and a "decided and active friend of his country."
[I. Thomas, History of Printing in America as cited in Jeffrey Smith, "Impartiality and Revolutionary Ideology: Editorial Policies of the South Carolina Gazette, 1732–1775," ''Journal of Southern History'' 49 (1983), 511-526 at 525.]
*Borick, Carl. ''Relieve Us of this Burden: American Prisoners of War in the Revolutionary South, 1780–1782'' (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2012).
*Cohen, Hennig. ''The South Carolina Gazette, 1732–1775'' (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1953).
*Frakes, George E. ''Laboratory for Liberty: The South Carolina Legislative Committee System, 1719–1776'' (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1970).
*King, Martha. "Timothy, Peter," South Carolina Encyclopedia at: http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/timothy-peter/
*McMurtrie, Douglas C. "The Correspondence of Peter Timothy, Printer of Charlestown, with Benjamin Franklin," The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 35 (1934), 123-129.
*Smith, Jeffrey. "Impartiality and Revolutionary Ideology: Editorial Policies of the South Carolina Gazette, 1732–1775," Journal of Southern History 49 (1983), pp. 511–526.
Category:Members of the South Carolina General Assembly
Category:18th-century American politicians