NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

September 24, 2013

Port printer in the style of Benjamin Franklin

(Continued)

Blunt and Robinson issued the Impartial Herald, and it was well received. A few months into the gig, Robinson ventured alone and printed the Morning Star, which Blunt rubbed out almost immediately. Blunt’s avant-garde style echoed Ben’s doctrine: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing;” and the Port adored and relished his “broadened cultural contact,” so much so that he ran out all the competition. His popular paper would eventually become The Newburyport Herald.

Blunt was an advertising “pioneer,” and many spectacular displays spurted from Ben’s old press. His hard work exhibited Franklin’s ideals: “Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” Blunt boldly spread full-page ads, creating an entirely new fashion in printing.

His shop also produced famous nautical texts, including The American Coast Pilot and Bowditch’s New American Practical Navigator. The Pilot enjoyed universal success (18 editions), and the Duke Alexis of Russia dubbed it the official textbook of naval officers. Offering meticulous details about every port along the U.S. coast, these sailing directions saved thousands from shipwreck. Thanks to such successes, Newburyport became the center of American nautical publications.

Blunt had a notorious squabble with James Akin, an engraver he hired. Apparently, Akin rubbed Blunt the wrong way, and he spurned payment. According to the legend, the banter between the two went down in the shop of Josiah Foster on State Street. Blunt hurled a heavy kettle pan at Akin, who managed to dodge the makeshift weapon; however, it busted through a window and walloped Capt. Nicholas Brown instead. Akin settled the score by sketching a caricature of Blunt in the heat of the crime on selected crockery and chamber vessels, aptly entitled “Infuriated Despondency.” When they got word that Akin’s newest line was in town, several of Blunt’s friends attempted to buy up all the pieces, but a few survived and are displayed in museums. Rather than show his ire, Blunt should have heeded Ben’s wisdom: “Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame” because the incident sadly caused Blunt to move on to calmer seas in New York.

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