The Dunlap Broadside, printed 4 July 1776
The broadside in the title is not all of the cannons on one side of a wooden ship being fired at the same time (or in a rolling sequence). That would be a ‘naval broadside’ and something completely different.
A broadside was a printed announcement that called attention to a one time event. The Dunlap Broadside was an exception to that and was printed because it was the fastest way to spread the news. (There were other exceptions.) Most broadsides, however, announced to the reading public that something out of the ordinary was about to happen.
Broadside for slave sale, Charleston SC, 1774
A broadside was printed on only one side. When it was pinned or tacked to a wall or tree, no one would read the backside, so there was no reason to print on it.
Most broadsides were printed on the full-sized paper of the day, 22½ X 30½ inches. The sheets were handmade in a paper mill (first colonial one built in 1690, common to most colonies by 1730s). Paper was sold in 480 sheet reams (half day’s production for a three man team).
Rhode Island’s Declaration of Independence
May 1776—another exception
Broadsides had the latest news (which we would call a ‘bulletin’), government announcements of special events, advertisements for something on sale that was perhaps not always available, entertainment news that somebody from out of town was going to be in town at a certain time and date, and death notices (usually with a prayer at bottom). In fact, they could be about anything that someone was willing to pay a printer to put up.
The Sons of Liberty posted many broadsides
in their ten year existence. It was one step
short of terror for some merchants.
Broadsides were desirable jobs for printers. They were unanticipated sources of money, were one time only work that lasted only a few hours, and were seldom rush jobs where other work had to be set aside.
Broadside printed by Nicholas Boone, Boston Mass, 1704
Repentance on the scaffold apparently sold well in Puritan Boston