Samuel Bangs, pioneer printer and publisher, son of Samuel and Hannah (Grice) Bangs, was born about 1798, probably in Boston, Massachusetts. During the five years preceding September 1816, when he sailed from Baltimore as a printer for Francisco Xavier Mina's expedition, he served as a printer's apprentice in the shop of Thomas G. Bangs, a printer and distant relative. En route to Mexico the expedition stopped on Galveston Island, where, on February 22, 1817, Bangs and John J. McLaren issued a Manifesto for Mina, using a portable press brought from England. The proclamation was similar to one Mina had earlier issued in Pennsylvania. On the back of this first documented Texas imprint were the names of the young printers, Juan J. McLaren and S. Bangs. No original copy survives, but a reprint is in Carlos María Bustamante's Cuadro histórico de la revolución de la America Mexicana (1843–46). On April 12, 1817, Bangs was at the mouth of the Rio Grande, where the two probably printed another proclamation, which Mina addressed to his compañero de armas. If it was printed in the area that later became Texas territorial waters, it is the second documented Texas imprint. No original copy has survived. It too was reprinted in Cuadro histórico. Two copies of a contemporary printing by Mina's press at Soto la Marina have survived.
Louis M. Aury left Mina, his men, and the printing press at Soto la Marina in mid-April. Having established his press on the mainland of Mexico, Bangs published a patriotic song composed by Joaquín Infante, the auditor of the expedition, in honor of the successful debarkation. On April 25, 1817, the Río Bravo proclamation was printed again under the title Boletín I de la División Austiliar de la República Mexicana. Two copies of the Boletín have survived, one in the National Museum of Mexico and the other in the Thomas W. Streeter Collection, Yale University.
At Soto la Marina, Mina's force disintegrated and scattered. McLaren vanished forever. Shortly after landing, Bangs printed a broadside entitled Canción Patriótica–que al desembarcar general Mina y sus tropas en la Barra de Santander compuso Joaquín Infanta auditor de la división. A copy is in the Streeter Collection. The Royalists captured Bangs and his press and spared his life only because he knew how to operate the press. He printed for the Royalists at Monterrey until the successes of the Mexican War of Independence freed him and he began printing for the new government.
Bangs soon returned to his home in New England, married Suzanne Payne, and, not finding satisfactory employment in the United States, returned to Mexico and established himself in Tamaulipas as a government printer in Ciudad Victoria. There in the summer of 1827 he collected and printed the Colección de Leyes y Decretos de la Primera Legislatura Constitucional del Estada Libre de Tamaulipas. Bangs and Suzanne had two sons. She died at Victoria in the yellow fever epidemic of 1837. In 1838, after the success of the Texas Revolution, Bangs visited the United States, taking his two sons to be placed in school. He inspected printing presses in Baltimore and New York and worked on others in Cincinnati and Mobile. He then established himself at Galveston, where he acquired a printing press and published a succession of newspapers–the Galveston News and others. The Galveston Commercial Intelligencer was attributed to him but was really published by Moseley Baker. The successor to the San Luis Advocate appeared from Bangs's press on October 11, 1842, as the Galveston Texas Times, with Ferdinand Pinchard continuing as editor. Bangs rented his press to others to print the Galveston Independent Chronicle, the Daily Globe and Galveston Commercial Chronicle (see GALVESTON DAILY GLOBE), and the Texas State Paper. By 1839 Bangs had married Caroline H. French, sister of Robert H. and George H. French, who at times were his associates in the printing business.
With the coming of the Mexican War, Bangs followed Gen. Zachary Taylor's troops to Corpus Christi in the summer of 1845 and with George W. Fletcher, a local physician, began printing the Corpus Christi Gazette on January 1, 1846. He also did job printing for both the army and civilians. When Taylor moved to the Rio Grande, Fletcher and Bangs dissolved their partnership, and Bangs planned to publish a new paper, the Rio Grande Herald, at Matamoros in partnership with Gideon K. Lewis, but instead, on June 24, 1846, began publication of the Reveille in both English and Spanish, the Spanish section being entitled La Diana de Matamoros. Lewis and Bangs soon stopped publishing La Diana and rented their press to a Mexican who printed El Liberal, a Spanish-language newspaper that strongly defended the Mexican side of the war, thus causing General Taylor to order the Reveille's office closed and the printers jailed. Lewis departed in haste and left Bangs to explain that he had had no part in the editorial policy of El Liberal, but had merely rented his press to its publisher. He convinced the authorities of his innocence and obtained permission to resume publication of the Reveille, but never did so. Instead, he joined his competitors in the publication of the American Flag, sold his printing materials and press to them, and worked as a printer at their office until February 17, 1847, when for lack of paper the Flag was temporarily suspended.
Bangs moved to Point Isabel to operate a hotel and to establish a newspaper. He soon returned to Galveston, liquidated his business, and shipped his household effects and printing office to Point Isabel, but all was lost in a wreck at sea. For a while he and his wife operated a hotel at Point Isabel, and in the summer of 1848 he made his last attempt to establish a paper there, to be entitled the Texas Ranger. It never appeared, owing to Indian depredations, the gold rush to California, and controversy over plans to form a new government to be called the Sierra Madre in northern Mexico–a revival of the old Republic of the Rio Grande. In 1849 Indians captured the stage between Point Isabel and Brownsville and took Bangs, a passenger, prisoner. Bangs and a companion escaped in a state of nudity. Shortly thereafter, Bangs abandoned his venture in Texas and Mexico and moved to Kentucky, where he worked for the Georgetown Herald. He died of typhoid fever on May 31, 1854, in Georgetown, Kentucky.