TIFFANY, GIDEON, printer, office holder, publisher, mill-owner, and militia officer; b. 28 Jan. 1774 in Keene, N.H., son of Gideon Tiffany and Sarah Farrar, née Dean; m. c. 1802 Ruth Tomlinson, and they had five children who reached adulthood; d. 29 Aug. 1854 in Delaware Township, Upper Canada.
The Tiffany family removed from Keene to Hanover, N.H., about 1782, and there young Gideon completed his secondary school education. He then became a printer, presumably by joining his eldest brother, Silvester*, who conducted a printing business in Lansingburgh (Troy), N.Y. It was probably through his brother-in-law, Davenport Phelps, who in 1794 was living in Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), that Gideon learned the office of king’s printer for Upper Canada was available. In November he succeeded Louis Roy* in this appointment and on 3 December published his first issue of the Upper Canada Gazette; or, American Oracle. Tiffany also undertook job printing and in 1795 published a pamphlet by Richard Cockrell* entitled Thoughts on the education of youth; this is believed to be the earliest non-governmental publication in the province. By early 1796 he had been joined by his brother Silvester who became assistant to the king’s printer.
Although the Tiffany brothers were experienced printers, they were viewed by provincial authorities as having pro-American leanings. This dissatisfaction led to Gideon’s tendering his resignation as king’s printer in May 1797 and the subsequent appointment of the loyalist Titus Geer Simons. As Simons was not a trained printer and as the government did not have a press, the Tiffanys continued to print the Gazette at their shop. Even after the appointment of William Waters as king’s printer in July 1798, the government probably continued to use the Tiffanys’ press until the publication of the Gazette was transferred to York (Toronto) that September.
On 20 July 1799 the Tiffanys began publication in Niagara of the first independent newspaper in Upper Canada, the Canada Constellation (later the Canadian Constellation). The issue of 18 Jan. 1800, however, announced that Gideon was to be the sole publisher of the weekly, and he appears to have carried on alone for several months thereafter. Although Silvester continued to publish newspapers until his death in 1811, Gideon abandoned publishing and printing by 1801.
In March of that year, with five-year promissory notes amounting to £3,050 New York currency, Gideon and another brother-in-law, Moses Brigham, purchased 2,200 acres in Delaware Township, Middlesex County, from Ebenezer Allan*. The property included two sawmills formerly owned by Allan, and by 1804 Tiffany and Brigham were annually producing 300,000 to 500,000 board feet of lumber for the Detroit market. They were apparently also engaged in fur trading with Indians in the area. In November 1806, possibly because of a dispute with Allan over the construction of a church on the lands originally granted to him and a lack of funds to make the final payment on them, Tiffany and Brigham, together with Allan, had the entire property conveyed to Dr Oliver Tiffany, a well-to-do older brother of Gideon then living in Ancaster Township. Gideon Tiffany and Brigham continued to reside in Delaware Township and operate the mills. As well as managing his brother’s lands, Gideon purchased additional lands in both Delaware and Caradoc townships. In 1810 he rented out one of his farms in Delaware to a tenant for the purpose of cultivating hemp, while he himself was engaged in constructing a breaking-mill for its processing.
Although Lord Selkirk [Douglas*] thought that Tiffany and Brigham were “intellegent Yankees” who seemed “to have the manners of the world much beyond what would be expected in such a place,” Tiffany was mainly content to confine his talents to Delaware, where for more than 30 years he served in various township offices, acting as assessor, pound-keeper, and overseer of roads and fences, as well as churchwarden. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the 1st Middlesex Militia in February 1812 but there is no record of his name on militia rolls beyond December of that year. He may have moved to Ancaster Township with his family during 1812–14.
One of the few incidents in which Gideon was involved that extended beyond the confines of Delaware was his successful effort in 1806 to enlist others in the London District to contribute to the hiring of an individual to “ride post.” Thereafter newspapers, letters, and other mail were conveyed from Niagara every three weeks.
Another larger concern was his involvement in the reform movement. On 6 Oct. 1837 he was unanimously elected to chair a large, widely publicized meeting of reformers in adjacent Westminster Township. At the meeting of 2 December which led to the formation of the Delaware Reform Association or Branch Political Union, he was a signatory to its constitution and advocated civil disobedience by not paying provincial taxes. He also proposed a resolution declaring that the delegates, of which he was one, to the provincial convention in Toronto on 21 December “should be instructed to propose to the Convention to petition Her Majesty to effect a peaceful separation of the Province from the mother country in order to prevent a civil war.” Consequently, on 15 December at the age of 63, he was jailed for his involvement in this “Delaware conspiracy” and, according to the records of his trial examination, the charges included “alleged attempts to spread disaffection among the Indians.” On 7 May 1838 he was tried, acquitted, and freed.
Thereafter, he continued to live out his life quietly, engaged in farming in the township and well liked and highly respected by his neighbours who found him possessed of a great “fund of anecdotes and history” and “a very agreeable conversationalist, warm hearted, sympathetic and liberal in his sentiments.” Following his death at his residence, his remains were interred in the Tiffany Cemetery in the village of Delaware laid out by his brother Oliver in the mid 1820s in the anticipation of its becoming the administrative and judicial seat of the London District.
[This biography is based on the author’s examination of diverse primary sources, including gravestone inscriptions in the Tiffany Cemetery (Delaware, Ont.), and corrects a number of factual errors found in the previous studies, N. O. Tiffany, The Tiffanys of America: history and genealogy ([Buffalo, N.Y., 1901]), W. S. Wallace, “The first journalists in Upper Canada,” CHR, 26 (1945): 372–81, and “Historical plaque to commemorate Gideon Tiffany, 1774–1854” (press release issued by Ont., Dept. of Public Records and Arch., Hist. Branch, [Toronto], 27 May 1968), available at the AO. d.j.b.]
AO, RG 1, A-I-1, 63: 2728–29; RG 22, ser.321, nos.56, 131. Eva Brook Donly Museum (Simcoe, Ont.), Norfolk Hist. Soc. Coll., Thomas Welch papers, 1023–24. Middlesex West Land Registry Office (Glencoe, Ont.), Instruments 6–7, 68, 3168. PAC, RG 1, L3, 495: T2/54; 511: T misc., 1791–1819/4. UWOL, Regional Coll., Delaware Township, London District, minutes of annual town meeting, 1807. [Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of] Selkirk, Lord Selkirk’s diary, 1803–1804 . . . , ed. P. C. T. White (Toronto, 1958), 307. “Minutes of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the London District . . . ,” AO Report, 1933: 135–36. The Talbot papers, ed. J. H. Coyne (2v., Ottawa, 1908–9), 1: 175. Canada Constellation (Niagara [Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.]), 20 July–7 Dec. 1799, called the Canadian Constellation, 14 Dec. 1799–1800. Constitution (Toronto), 18, 25 Oct. 1837. Upper Canada Gazette; or, American Oracle, 3 Dec. 1794–October 1798. Marie Tremaine, A bibliography of Canadian imprints, 1751–1800 (Toronto, 1952), 649–53. Hist. of Middlesex, 478–79, 568. Read, Rising in western U.C. W. S. Wallace, “The periodical literature of Upper Canada,” CHR, 12 (1931): 5–6, 11–12.