Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

William McNeir
MSA SC 5496-51622
Printer, Annapolis


William McNeir was a veteran of the War of 1812 and an Annapolis printer. He was most professionally active between the late 1820s and the early 1850s during which time he published a newspaper and contracted with the City of Annapolis and the State of Maryland.

McNeir was born in Annapolis in 1798 to Thomas McNeir and Elizabeth Corberth. His father Thomas was born at 3 AM on August 3, 1766 to the elder Thomas McNeir and Nancy "Ann" Burgess;1 he was the first of at least nine children, one of whom died in infancy.2 During the American Revolutionary War, the elder Thomas McNeir served as a captain in William Marbury's artillery company and was a sergeant in the Frederick German Artillery.3

Following the war, Thomas returned to Annapolis where he established himself as a tailor. Between 1795 and 1799 the elder Thomas McNeir signed three long term leases with Absolom Ridgley for 170, 172, and 174 in Lot 10 on Church Street (later renamed Main Street).4 Thomas owned a two story frame dwelling home with a shed and kitchen, also on Church Street.5

From July 9-14, 1814, William McNeir served in the 22nd Regiment of Maryland Militia under Captain Andrew Slicer during the War of 1812. His father Thomas and brother George also served.6  On April 17, 1821 William married Mary Ann Maccubbin in Baltimore County. They had eight children: Elizabeth Ann, Mary Rebecca, James Boyle Tyson, Julia Virginia, Isabella, William Thomas, George Alexander, and Laura.7 By 1850 his son James was also a printer and his daughter Laura was married to a professional editor from Virginia named William Davidson.8

Between 1818 and 1826 McNeir worked at the Maryland Republican and Agricultural Museum for Jehu Chandler and, following Chandler's death in 1822, Jeremiah Hughes. By 1823 McNeir rose to the position of foreman.9 In 1826 McNeir founded his own newspaper The Carrolltonian, or, Spirit of Seventy-Six. Based in his shop at Francis Street and State Circle, The Carrolltonian was published semi weekly during the legislative season and weekly all other times.10 The Carrolltonian ceased publication in 1829. Between 1828 and 1831 the City of Annapolis contracted with McNeir.  His contemporaries Jeremiah Hughes and Jonas Green, the latter of whom published the Maryland Gazette, received substantially more business from the city during this period.11

Between 1826 and 1851 McNeir was contracted by the state of Maryland to print session laws, indices, reports, proceedings, and the debates of the 1850 drafting of the Maryland Constitution. McNeir made a name for himself by publishing the journal of proceedings for the state senate. On March 14, 1832 a message drafted by the Maryland Senate and read to the House of Delegates said, in part, that since "the proceedings of the senate are not published in the newspapers, and as we believed that it was important for the public to be apprised of them as promptly as possible, the senate...passed an order...authorising four copies of the journal to be daily furnished to each senator. These copies have been punctually applied by William M'Neir, the printer to the senate...";12 McNeir became the official printer for every volume of the General Assembly's Session Laws in the 1840s. See below for a list of McNeir's imprints.

In 1827 he sold a "printing aparatus," 1054 pounds 12 ounces of type in various fonts, and related equipment to Richard B. Spalding of Baltimore for $462.59.13 In 1843 McNeir used "sixteen beds and bedsteads and their furniture seven bureaus three hundred yards of Carpeting four dozen chairs two sets of Merino Curtains and one Piano forte" to secure a $300 loan from Farmers Bank.14 In 1845 he sold two printing presses, one standing press, and their "fixtures" for $928.45 to James Iglehart, who oversaw the 1843 loan, to help settle a debt.15

In addition to his printing business McNeir owned other property in both land and slaves. In 1830 he owned one female slave between the ages of 36 and 55.16 By 1840 he owned five slaves including a female between the ages of 25 and 35, two boys, and two girls all under the age of 10;17 an 1839 indenture made with Mary Dryden Hall refers to McNeir's female slave as "Jane" but does not name her four children.18 Jane and her children were used by McNeir as collateral to settle a four-thousand dollar debt owed to Hall. In 1836, a debt owed to McNeir by Henry Hammond was paid with a slave named Wesley Anderson and various household furnishings.19 Although McNeir no longer owned slaves by 1850, his household had two free persons of color named Jane and Emily working as live-in servants.20 Jane's recorded age of thirty suggests that, if she were the same Jane from the 1839 indenture with Mary Dryden Hall, she was not the adult slave McNeir owned in 1830.

In 1829 McNeir purchased between fifty and seventy acres of a tract known as Bessenton. Because the land, called "Bessington" in the cited document, previously failed to sell on numerous occasions and was acquired for only $31, it may have been undesirable land.21 In 1845 foreclosure proceedings were initiated against McNeir's personal and real property in a five year dispute involving his home, printing office, and property in Prince George's County;22 The suit involved various mortgages and deeds taken out by McNeir, his brother George McNeir, his wife Mary Ann McNeir, and James Iglehart. In 1849 the personal property of one of McNeir's real properties were sold to Iglehart and at least one other real property was set for auction.23 He probably retained a press through the foreclosure since he continued printing at least until 1851 when his state imprints cease. In addition to the printing business it seems that McNeir owned a bowling alley, which was subjected to a suspected arson in 1853.24

McNeir was an active participant of the Annapolis community. In 1833 he and twenty-nine other persons were founding members of newly incorporated Annapolis Savings Fund.25 Between 1830 and 1844 McNeir was a Justice of the Peace.26 From 1840 until its abolition in 1843, McNeir sat in the Annapolis Common Council.27

McNeir's wife Mary Ann died in 1856.28 Some time after her death McNeir moved to a boarding house in Washington, D.C. where he worked as a postal clerk.29 His sons George and William, also in Washington, worked as a printer and carpenter respectively.30 McNeir died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 10, 1864 at the age of 65.31 He was buried on January 14 at Philadelphia's Mount Moriah Cemetery.32

Partial List of Imprints


 Footnotes -

1. F. Edward Wright, Anne Arundel County Church Records of the 17th and 18th Centuries (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications), 59

2. Ibid., 59-61

3. Maryland Historical Society. 1900. Archives of Maryland: Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution 1775-1785. Baltimore: Published by Authority of the State, Under the Direction of the Maryland Historical Society. 575, 581

4. Edward C. Papenfuse and Jane W. McWilliams, Appendix F: Lot Histories and Maps, (1971), Final Report, Southern Urban Society After the Revolution: Annapolis, Maryland, 1782–1784, National Endowment for the Humanities Grant H 69-0-178 [MSA SC 829-B1]

5. MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Federal Direct Tax) 1798, Annapolis and Middle Neck Hundreds, No.7, 01/04/05/042 [MSA S37-2]

6. F. Edward Wright, Maryland Militia: War of 1812 Volume 4 Anne Arundel & Calvert (Silver Spring, MD: Family Line, 1981), 38

7. James Birtley McNair, McNair, McNear, and McNeir Genealogies (Chicago: Published by author, 1923), 83

8., United States Federal Census, 1850, Anne Arundel County, pg. 28

9.  CHANCERY COURT (Chancery Record)  1822-1823, B 122, p. 609. 1/35/03/030 [MSA S517-140]

10. The Carrolltonian, or, Spirit of Seventy-Six. Masthead. January 10, 1827. From the Maryland State Archives Special Collections [MSA SC 3695]

11. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS (Levy List) 1829-1837, pgs. 275, 330, 346, 365. 01/03/11/020 [MSA C104-1]

12. Maryland Session Laws (Annapolis: J. Hughes, 1832) p. 579

13. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 1826-1827, WSG 12 p. 543. 01/01/07/017 [MSA C97-63]

14. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Chattel Records) 1838-1845, WSG 2 p. 283. 01/01/08/004 [MSA C49-2]

15. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Chattel Records) 1845-1851, JHN 1 pgs. 13-15. 01/01/08/005 [MSA C49-3]

16., United States Federal Census, 1830, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, p. 17-8

17., United States Federal Census, 1840, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, p. 13

18. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Chattel Records) 1838-1845, WSG 2 p. 43. 01/01/08/004 [MSA C49-2]

19. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY COURT (Chattel Records) 1829-1838, WSG 1 p. 460. 01/01/08/003 [MSA C49-1]

20., United States Federal Census, 1850, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, p. 28

21. CHANCERY COURT (Chancery Record)  1829, B 140, p. 83. 1/35/04/004 [MSA S517-1158]

22. CHANCERY COURT (Chancery Papers) 1713-1853, 1844/04/09, 6835, 1/37/3/ [MSA S512-8-6877]

23. Ibid.

24. ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1852-1854, 1/22/1/059 [MSA 49-3]

25. Maryland Session Laws Chapter 30 (Annapolis: J. Green, 1830)

26. CHANCERY COURT (Chancery Record)  1832-1844, B 148 p. 211. 1/35/04/004, B 150 p. 537 1/35/04/018, B 154 p. 205 1/35/04/022, B 158 p. 34 1/35/04/029, B 165 p. 64 1/35/04/040  [MSA S517]

27. ANNAPOLIS MAYOR, ALDERMEN, AND COUNCILMEN (Proceedings) 1840-1843, April 1841, 1843, 1/22/1/058 [MSA M47-20]

28. James Birtley McNair, McNair, McNear, and McNeir Genealogies (Chicago: Published by author, 1923), 84

29., United States Federal Census, 1860, Washington Ward 3, Washington, District of Columbia, p. 35

30., United States Federal Census, 1860, Washington Ward 3, Washington, District of Columbia, pgs. 28, 530

31. Annapolis Gazette  January 14, 1864 (Annapolis, Anne Arundel County: Richard P. Bayly)

32. James Birtley McNair, McNair, McNear, and McNeir Genealogies (Chicago: Published by author, 1923), 84

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