Lydia Steele Bailey (Eicholtz portrait)


Lydia Steele Bailey was a well-known printer in Philadelphia in the first half of the 1800s. She lived from 1779 to 1869 and was an active printer in Philadelphia from 1808 to 1861.  In her era printing was done with hand-presses, and the end of her career marked the transition to the steam-presses of the industrial era.

In 1797 she married her first cousin Robert Bailey, who was managing the printing office of his father. When Bailey died in 1808, she continued the business.

The portrait by the famous painter Jacob Eicholtz is on display at the Lancaster Society Historical Society and in the records of the Smithsonian.

A link to her page on Lee J. Stolzfus’ website on early printing in Lancaster County is here.  Benjamin Franklin was one of this group!  Another example of her printing can be seen in this exhibition in the Princeton University Library.

Her life seems interesting enough that there should be a book!  On Amazon we can find a Penn State University Press book by Karen Nipps listing known “imprints” of her books. It includes a historical essay on her life.

Lydia Bailey is mentioned in a blogpost for Women’s History Month on

In regard to family history and family trees: as explained in this extract from the Lancaster Gazette  Lydia(1779-1869) was the daughter of William Steele (1750-1822) and Elizabeth Lydia Bailey (1754-1826). She was a niece of his brothers General James Steele (1765-1845) and General John Francis Steele (1758-1827).  This makes her an older cousin of James’ sons  John Steele (1809-1885) and Franklin Steele (1814-1880) , brothers who migrated from Lancaster to the early state of Minnesota.  Lydia Steele’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were also named William Steele.

Her connection to the other Eicholtz portraits of Samuel Humes  and Mary Hamilton Humes:  General James Steele’s wife Mary Humes(1782-1864) would have been Lydia Steele’s aunt (by marriage), but almost the same age, and Mary Humes’s parents were brother(James) an sister (Elizabeth) to Samuel and Mary respectively.


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