Timothy, Lewis

?–December 1738

Newspaper printer. Timothy was born Louis Timothée, the son of a Huguenot who took refuge in Holland following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. With his Dutch-born wife, Elizabeth, and their four small children, Lewis sailed onboard the Britannia from Rotterdam to Philadelphia in 1731. Shortly after his arrival in North America, he anglicized his name to Lewis Timothy, swore a loyalty oath to King George II, and placed an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette (October 14, 1731) seeking employment as a French instructor. He found work, however, in the printing business. In May 1732 Lewis assisted Benjamin Franklin with the production of the short-lived German language newspaper called the Philadelphische Zeitung. He later became a journeyman printer for the Pennsylvania Gazette and the first librarian of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

In 1731 Franklin had sent Thomas Whitmarsh to South Carolina to establish a newspaper for the colony. When Whitmarsh died in September 1733, Timothy was invited to succeed him. On November 26, 1733, Timothy entered a six-year publishing agreement with Franklin whereby he would maintain a two-thirds interest as the new printer of the South-Carolina Gazette. The Timothy family moved to Charleston, where Lewis maintained a print shop on Church Street. The South-Carolina Gazette resumed weekly publication under Timothy’s name on February 2, 1734. Of Timothy, Franklin wrote, “He was a man of learning and honest, but ignorant in matters of account; and tho’ he sometimes made me remittances, I could get no account from him nor any satisfactory state of our partnership while he lived.”

The Timothy family achieved prominence in South Carolina society. Lewis became the official colonial printer. He and his family were members of St. Philip’s Church in Charleston. Lewis became a founder and officer of the South Carolina Society, a social and charitable organization made up of Huguenots. By 1736 he obtained land grants totaling six hundred acres and a town lot in Charleston.

In the October 12, 1738, issue of the Gazette, Timothy explained a delay in publication “by reason of Sickness, myself and Son having been visited with this Fever, that reigns at present, so that neither of us hath been capable for some time of working much at the Press.” Timothy died as the result of “an unhappy Accident” in December 1738 and was buried in the St. Philip’s Church cemetery on December 30. He left his widow, Elizabeth, to continue the printing business and to serve out the contract with Franklin until his eldest son, Peter, reached his majority. Peter Timothy was to carry on the business in the event of his father’s death and “to keep & improve ye materials of printing” until the expiration of the original partnership. The Timothy printing enterprise would last in South Carolina for three generations.

Cohen, Hennig. The South Carolina Gazette, 1732–1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953.

Labaree, Leonard W., and Whitefield, J. Bell, Jr., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. Vol. 1, January 6, 1706 through December 31, 1734. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Timothy, Lewis
  • Coverage ?–December 1738
  • Author
  • Keywords Newspaper printer, family achieved prominence in South Carolina society, official colonial printer, journeyman printer for the Pennsylvania Gazette
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date August 11, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 3, 2019
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