Dunlap, John (1746/7–1812), printer, was born in what is now Meetinghouse Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, a younger son among probably three sons and four daughters of John Dunlap, saddler, and Sarah Dunlap (née Ector). He may have been apprenticed to learn the printing trade in Gray's of Strabane; when he was about ten, he was sent to assist his uncle William Dunlap, who had earlier emigrated to America. William Dunlap had married Benjamin Franklin's niece, and was a printer and bookseller; Franklin appointed him postmaster of Philadelphia (1757), but in 1764 he was replaced by another Franklin relative. Partly as a result, William Dunlap got into financial difficulties. In 1766 he gave up bookselling to enter the ministry of the Church of England, and in 1768 John Dunlap, who had completed his apprenticeship, bought his uncle's printing business. He at first had to sleep under the counter in the printing shop. The following year he reprinted an English political satire and attributed it to Benjamin Franklin to increase sales.
In November 1771 Dunlap started a weekly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet; on 21 September 1784 it became the first newspaper of significance in America to be published daily. Around 1777 he was also publishing the Maryland Gazette. In 1774 Dunlap published a reprint of Thomas Jefferson's Summary view of the rights of British America; he was also official printer to the Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia. On 4 July 1776 that body formally adopted the declaration of independence, which was thereupon printed overnight by Dunlap for distribution to the colonial assemblies; surviving copies of this document are regarded as historical and bibliographical treasures of the United States. In September 1777, when Philadelphia was taken by the British, Dunlap moved his press to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he printed material for the revolutionary Pennsylvania assembly and also printed the journals of the continental congress. He was the first printer to reestablish business in Philadelphia in July 1778. Dunlap and his partner also printed the constitution of the United States in 1787.
Dunlap, one of the founders in 1774 of the 1st Troop of Philadelphia City Cavalry, saw active service as a cornet in the war of Independence in 1776–7; in 1780 he subscribed £4,000 to found the National Bank for the United States to provide supplies for the new country's army. He was a major in command of the cavalry during the Pennsylvania ‘whiskey insurrection’ of 1794. From 1789 to 1792 he was a member of the common council of Philadelphia. Dunlap helped several of his relations to emigrate from Ireland, was charitable and fair-minded, and somewhat intemperate. He retired in 1795 a very wealthy man; he had speculated in land, and owned 98,000 acres in several states. He married (4 February 1773) Elizabeth Ellison (née Hayes), a widow from Liverpool, and they had five daughters and three sons; two of the sons died in infancy. Dunlap died on 27 November 1812 of apoplexy while reading the newspaper, and was buried with military honours in the graveyard of Christ Church, Philadelphia.