Solomon Southwick was born in Newport, Rhode Island in December 1773. He was the son and namesake of the publisher of the Newport Mercury which became a champion of the American cause. His mother was the widow Ann Gardner Carpenter. He was at least the fourth generation of his family to be christened "Solomon." His family was forced from their landmark Newport home by the British but soon returned and his father was granted a master's degree by Yale in 1780.
As his father died in poverty, Solomon grew up "a destitute orphan, without friends, without resources of any kind, other than such as nature had bestowed upon him in the inappreciable blessings of a sound and vigorous constitution — he commenced the work of self-education in the stern school of adversity, and progressed step by step with an unfaltering determination and an unyielding energy."
Destined to be a cook for a Cape Cod fishery, young Solomon instead became a coastal sailor. At age eighteen, he had left the sea to become an apprentice printer in New York City. In 1792, he migrated to Albany as a journeyman landing in the office of the Albany Register - published by his brothers-in-law Robert then John Barber. His slightly older brother, Henry C. Southwick (1772-1821), also settled in Albany and was a printer as well.
In 1792, he became a partner in The Register following the exit of its founder, Robert Barber.
In March 1795, he married Jane Barber of Albany. By 1815, the marriage had produced nine children. After living first with the Barbers, by 1810 his household began to be configured on the Albany census in 1810
In 1801, he was a member of an Albany fire company.
In 1809, he was named State printer.
In 1812, he was named to the New York State Board of Regents.
Although apparently without formal training, at age forty he was admitted to practice law in several courts based in Albany.
For a time, he was the postmaster at Albany. He was removed from the office in 1822.
He ran for a number of offices including congress and the governorship but seems to have been unsuccessful.
Dating from the 1790s, he was an advocate for the establishment of a number of libraries in Albany and beyond.
He was an officer of at least one Albany bank.
After the Register ceased operations in 1820, he published a number of specialty newspapers. In 1826, he retired from the press and opened a lottery office.
Although his various presses had printed a number of Masonic works, by 1827 he was writing and publishing A Solemn Warning Against Freemasonry. In 1828, he was selected to be a delegate to the State Antimasonic convention at a meeting held at the house of Daniel Shields. He was the party's candidate for governor in that year and received twelve percent of the vote. His political exploits at that time have been graphically described by James Sulllivan in his History of New York State.
Solomon Southwick died unexpectedly in November 1839 and was buried in the Episcopal burial ground. He had lived almost sixty-six years. He was said to have been "a remarkable man; with strong convictions, great boldness, untiring devotion, and great ambition. During his later years, he devoted his high powers to doing good." His widow is said to have survived until 1861.
Sources: The life of Solomon Southwick has not been assigned a CAP biography number. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. Online: Most outstanding is a profile by Samuel S. Randall; Famous Americans; Salzmann; Random Recollections; American Biographical Sketch Book;
Excerpt from New England in Albany by Jonathan Tenney:
first posted 4/30/09; last updated 2/19/13