Mary Katharine Goddard (1738-1816) was a well respected printer and publisher who became one of the first postmasters in America and happens to have her name on some official editions of the Declaration of Independence.
Upon her father’s death, Goddard and her mother started working in her brother’s printing shop in Providence, Rhode Island. Her brother moved the shop to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and later Baltimore, Maryland. Although Goddard always helped with writing, editing, and printing the various periodicals, her name was not listed on the final publications. In 1775, Goddard’s name finally appeared in the credits of the “Maryland Journal” as “Published by M. K. Goddard”.
That same year, she became the postmaster general of the Maryland colony in making her not only the first female to do so but also one of the earliest postmasters on record in America. She was the only printer in the city of Baltimore during the Revolutionary War and in January of 1777, she was asked to print official copies of the Declaration of Independence which would be distributed throughout the colonies. At the bottom of some early editions of the Declaration of Independence just below John Hancock's famous signature, it says “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by MARY KATHARINE GODDARD”. Although she didn’t actually sign it, by publishing her full name and taking on the task of printing the copies, she would have been considered just as treasonous against the crown as the signers themselves. This was a brave act especially considering that she used her full name and not the androgynous initials of M. K. (Other printers also made official copies of the Declaration of Independence. The two most well known are the Philadelphia edition by John Dunlap and the Boston edition from the Printing Office of Edes & Gill. They have slight variations and are equally important to historians. Goddard’s version has the most complete list of signatures --55 out of 56--and was the first one intended to be preserved for posterity.)
She held the position of postmaster in Baltimore until 1789 when she was forced to resign so that a man could take the job. Authorities believed that it would be too difficult for a woman to do all the necessary traveling in order to superintend the southern distribution centers. Over two hundred of the top businessmen in Baltimore signed a petition endorsing her abilities to manage the job and urged the Postmaster General to let her keep her job but she was forced out. Afterwards, she opened a book shop and continued her work as a printer including publishing her own almanack.
Sadly the image on the “Mary K. Goddard’s Baltimore Almanack” is not actually Goddard. In 2001, Christopher J. Young proved that it is actually Anne Brunton Merry (1769-1808), an actress. The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has this exact portrait of Merry in their collection. Much the same way that the man on the Samuel Adams Brewery’s labels looks a lot more like Paul Revere than the actual Samuel Adams, Goddard chose to use an image of an actress on the cover of her book.
The National Park Service sells Goddard’s Baltimore edition of the Declaration on their website. (The Philadelphia and Boston versions area also available.)
Learn more about the Boston edition here:
Bonus: The lettering style used for the Dunlap edition of the Declaration is “Caslon”, created by William Caslon (1692/3-1766). Variants of his original typeface are still found in contemporary computer font choices.