The Mein and Fleeming partnership was first established in a house in Wing's Lane, before a subsequent move to Newbury Street, "almost opposite the White Horse Tavern." The print shop was on the ground floor and Mein and Fleeming, both bachelors, and some of their employees lived on the second floor.
|Newbury Street -|
Mein's acquisition of a printer partner profited him in another way. In his book selling business, he faced the Bostonians' belief that imported books were better than locally printed ones. The partners solved the problem practically, but hardly ethically. They falsely printed books with a London imprint that were actually printed in their printing shop. Modern researchers have established that the Scottish type that Fleeming brought back from his trip to Scotland is so distinctive and unlike anything that London publishers used "as to make its presence valid evidence of Mein and Fleeming printing even when their imprint does not appear..." It also speaks to the technical skill of John Fleeming and the quality of his presses and type.
The strongest evidence of an early link between Mein and Fleeming and the British authorities was the firm's appointment as stationer to the Board of Customs Commissioners on April 5, 1768. This sudden change, vociferously but vainly, protested by the previous stationers, Green and Russell (publishers of The Boston Weekly Advertiser) is taken by some as an official subsidy. The records of the Customs Board over the next seven years show that they paid Mein and Fleeming L819 for "Incidental Expenses" for stationary and "Salary as Stationer." Whether this was a subsidy or simply good business since one would assume that Fleeming's technical expertise would probably have produced a superior product for the Board is a matter of opinion. And, the Board continued to buy from Fleeming long after Mein was forced to flee Boston and the Boston Chronicle ceased publication.
The success of the Chronicle as evidenced by its frequent sellouts and the decision to publish it more frequently as well as John Mein's "wars" with the Boston merchants and Whigs have been "chronicled' in the Mein posts. That Fleeming stood by his partner throughout his struggles is fairly well established. Whether or not he fired his pistol in the infamous incident that forced Mein to flee Boston had become moot for Fleeming since, after his partner's escape from the mob, he was not further bothered or molested by the mob or the Boston Whigs.
We should report what happened on October 28th, 1769 just after Mein and Fleeming escaped from the mob. Since the mob was thwarted in its attempt to exact revenge from Mein, they turned their attention to another victim. They seized one George Galer, suspected of informing on smugglers to the Customs Board. As later reported in the Chronicle, Galer "was stripped naked, put in a Cart, where he was first tarred, then feathered, and in this condition, carried through the principal streets of the town, followed by a great concourse of people." The way to the Liberty Tree, the spot to which victims of the mob's summary justice were usually taken, led along Newbury Street past the Chronicle office. There the mob amused itself by throwing rocks at the office building and breaking windows. An apprentice pressman, perhaps in panic and fear, fired a gun from the second floor. No one was hit; perhaps it was a blank charge. Nevertheless, the mob did not take too kindly to being fired at and stormed the printing office. Strangely, little damage was done. Some books were thrown about and two guns were taken, but the presses and the type fonts were, oddly enough, left undisturbed. The mob did not find anyone in the building; for the young man, fortunately for his own sake, and anyone else who might have been in the building made their escapes.
No mention is made of Fleeming later that day. He probably also took refuge in the guardhouse with Mein and quietly returned home when the mob had dispersed. He made no mention of the altercation he and Mein had with the mob in any subsequent issue of the Chronicle, but he did mention the Galer incident.
Part Two of Fleeming's story will resume his story in Boston after the departure of his partner, John Mein.
* Some historians have insisted on spelling this as "Fleming." Fleeming, a literate printer, always spelled his name "Fleeming." Fleeming is an old Scottish name and I see no reason to spell it like Fleming, another old Scottish name.