Archibald Loudon of Carlisle: Disseminator of Early American Culture

Archibald Loudon was perhaps the most important printer to set up shop in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Actively at work between the years 1804 and 1818, Loudon was involved in bringing the first bit of cultural material of the United States to what was then the frontier of the new republic.

Loudon was born at sea August, 1754 of parents who were Scottish immigrants enroute to the colonies of America. In 1755 his father moved into what was then called the Racoon Valley of Pennsylvania but is now known as Perry County.

 Historians lose track of Loudon until the Revolutionary War, when his name made a list as one of the "Rangers on the Frontiers" between the years 1778 and 1783. He served under Captain William Kerr's Cumberland County Militia during the years 1781-1782. After the war he was part of one of the companies that helped subdue the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. In 1802 Loudon was named postmaster of Carlisle by Thomas Jefferson.

Loudon was a man of many experiences, but books were his life-long pursuit. In 1790 he announced the opening of his book-binding business on Bedford Street in Carlisle. Loudon began to publish books in 1797, although he did not set up his own press until 1804. Until 1804 all of Loudon's publications were printed by another Carlisle printer, George Kline.

Prior to the opening of his own press in 1804 Loudon was responsible for eleven publications that made their way into a list of Carlisle imprints. Seven of these publications are of a didactic sort, that is they are made up of primer books and short catechisms. The other four are more interesting, perhaps a harbinger of later Loudon works. In 1797 he published Travels Before the Flood an imaginary record of an ancient civilization. In the same year he published an early piece of social satire entitled The Progress of Dulness by John Trumbull. An almanac came out in 1797, and then some documents of Congress in 1798.1

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Archibald Loudon (1754-1840)

Oil on canvas of Archibald Loudon, painted in 1807 by Cezeron.

Printer, publisher, postmaster, bookseller, paper manufacturer and author, Archibald Loudon was “the most interesting of the early printers and publishers of Carlisle.” Archibald, son of James and Christiana Loudon, was reportedly born at sea on August 24, 1754 during his parent’s emigration from Scotland.