George Howe, Australia's first government printer, editor, journalist and publisher, and one of its first poets, was born on the Caribbean island of St Kitts. Howe's family printed the local gazette, and as a youth he was sent to England to gain further experience in the printing trades. Howe spent some time on the staff of The Times, but in 1799 he was convicted - as 'George Happy alias Happy George' - of stealing from a shop in Warwickshire. He was sentenced to death but reprieved to transportation for life, and in April 1800 Howe, his wife Mary and their young son Robert, embarked on the Royal Admiral for New South Wales. George and Robert Howe arrived in Sydney in November 1800; Mary died on the voyage.
On arrival in the colony, Howe was quickly employed in the printery, assisting George Hughes in the production of government orders on the wooden screw press which had come to the colony with the first fleet in 1788. The more experienced Howe replaced Hughes as manager of the press from early 1802, and later the same year the first book printed in Australia, a small quarto compilation of government orders entitled General Standing Orders, was published. From 1803, Howe produced Australia's first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette, a medium for information, advertisements and government orders which made the production of broadside orders obsolete. Howe received a conditional pardon in 1803, and an absolute pardon in 1806.
Gradually, Howe began to supplement his activities as government printer with private enterprise. He opened a stationery shop, and advertised his services as a private tutor. He also broadened his printing activities, producing almanacs from 1806. On his death, Howe left an estate of some measure, considering the mean state of the colony during his residence. He was described by governor Phillip G. King as an 'ingenious' man, and as a printer and publisher he achieved a great deal despite the limited resources available to him. Howe was also important as a patron of locally produced literature. Although the Sydney Gazette was nominally an official publication, more than one hundred poems were published in its columns during the period George Howe conducted the paper. A number of these poems (not all of which have been identified) were written by Howe himself.