Your Newest Facebook Friend: Isaiah Thomas

It’s always a fun – and somewhat ahistorical – activity to wonder how historical figures would react to the technology of the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to wonder what our founder Isaiah Thomas, a man whose business was the printed word and the spreading of ideas and news, would have felt about new communication networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

In many ways, it’s very possible that he would have liked the idea of these types of communications. They spread news quickly and allow for the creation of a public image and self-promotion, all activities in which Thomas took part in his own lifetime. Thinking about it another way, you could make comparisons between Thomas’s influence on society and the technology giants of today. As our Director of Outreach, Jim Moran, likes to say, Thomas was like the Bill Gates of his day in that his work influenced all aspects of life for all classes.  Farmers planted by his almanacs, families prayed with his bibles, women read his novels, citizens became involved in politics with his newspapers, and so on. Although he would certainly bemoan the decrease in physical printing seen in the last few years, as a businessman and a communicator it’s very possible he would have taken advantage of the technology to spread his ideas, influence, and business.

Perhaps these types of “what ifs” and analogies are not entirely historically sound, but they do help us to try to understand the past and make it relevant to our own times. In that spirit we decided that Isaiah Thomas, since he is not here to do his own self-promotion, should have his own Facebook page to help spread his legacy and tell his story. Visit and like his page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Isaiah-Thomas/299053830157602! There are images of Thomas, his printing press, his indenture papers, and so much more. We will also be posting excerpts from his journal, letting you know what he was doing on the same day over 200 years ago.

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