Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HOLT, John, printer, born in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1721; died in New York city, 30 January, 1784. After failing as a merchant and serving as mayor of Williamsburg, he removed to New York in 1759, and with James Parker established "The Gazette and Post Boy," In 1766 he founded the "New York Journal," "containing the freshest advices, Foreign and Domestick." The heading of this paper was ornamented with the king's arms, which were afterward discarded for the famous device of a snake cut into parts, with " Unite or Die " for a motto, and in 1775 the snake appeared joined and coiled, with the tail in his mouth, forming a double ring; within the coil was a pillar standing on Magna Charta and surmounted by the liberty cap. In 1770 Holt established a printing press in Norfolk, Virginia, which after the Declaration of Independence did good service in the patriot cause. In 1775 Lord Dumnore made Norfolk the rendezvous of the British fleet, sent soldiers and sailors into the town, under cover of the squadron, carried away Holt's printing press, and took two of his men prisoners. Holt induced the timid corporation of Norfolk to send a letter of remonstrance to Dunmore, who replied that he had done them good service by depriving them of the means of poisoning their minds by rebellious doctrines, and that cowardice alone prevented their protest when the types were carried to the fleet. Holt then left the city and went to Williamsburg, where he avenged himself by writing and printing a severe attack on Dunmore. Returning to New York, he again became an editor of the "Journal," but was obliged to fly when the British army entered in September, 1776. Taking his little press with him, he resided at Fishkill, Esopus, Hudson, and other retired points along the Hudson, continuing to issue his paper until the conclusion of peace. While in Esopus he published General Burgoyne's proclamation of 29 June, 1777, and in Poughkeepsie the first authentic account of the Wyoming massacre, which he received from the fugitives themselves. Returning to New York. he published his paper under the new title of "The Independent Gazette, or New York Journal." Isaiah Thomas says of him: "Holt was a man of ardent feeling, and a high churchman, but a firm Whig, a good writer, and a warm advocate for the cause of his country." His tomb may still be seen in St. Paul's church yard, New York city.
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