Christopher Sower, Sr. ...Friend of the DunkardsImagine having the power to determine the destiny of a nation through the gift of sharing the printed word. When God gives us special gifts, we should use them just as Christopher Sower and his son did many years ago. Christopher brought German printing to America and suddenly books and newspapers started to influence the culture and well-being of the Dunkards and their neighbors.
Christopher Sower was born in Germany in 1693 to a middle class society. His family were Christians, but he never committed to any particular church. Instead he became a supporter and friend of the Dunkards. He was lucky that his family could afford to send him to a university. He graduated from a medical university in Germany. Christopher was a man who had a special gift of loving life and all it had to offer. He took full advantage of the culture of the times and used his knowledge to teach himself many trades. At one time it is said that he taught himself thirty trades without the help of a teacher. Some of those trades were tailor, clockmaker, wheelwright, farmer, mechanic, and many more. Even though Christopher learned many different trades, it took time for him to finally find the trade that was to have the greatest influence on the new colony of Pennsylvania. Mariah Christina became his wife in 1720, and a few years later they came to America with their infant son, Christopher Sower, Jr. The printing press was set up in the fall of 1728 in Germantown. It was a press designed to print in German. Most presses in America were set to print English or Roman type. His business was a variety of common printing jobs; however, he did print a German almanac and the first German newspaper in America. His first major printing job was a hymnal for the Ephrata Cloister group. This proved to be his biggest challenge yet. He could only print a few pages at a time and had to set each letter by hand. It was a very time consuming job. Today we don't think much about where paper comes from or just how hard it was to find paper to use for making books in the 1700s. Unfortunately Ben Franklin had a monopoly on the paper business and when Christopher Sower needed more paper, he was not able to buy it because Ben Franklin refused to sell him more. You see Ben Franklin had printed two hymnals for the Ephrata group in English and wasn't happy that Christopher was given the honor of printing the third book. Finally Conrad Weiser was able to talk Ben Franklin into selling the paper to Christopher, and the book was finished. Christopher Sower didn't want to ever have problems with Ben Franklin again, so he established his own paper mills of quality linen paper.
There is a lot more to this story of Christopher Sower and his family. I will stop here for now and tell another tale next time about the wonderful printing press of the Sowers. In the meantime if you have an old family Bible, take a look at it or one of the old Bibles in the church library. Who knows what tales they may tell!