January 27

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Pennsylvania Gazette (January 24, 1771).

“All Persons that now choose to encourage American Manufactures.”

On January 24, 1771, Robert Bell continued marketing an American edition of “Robertson’s History of Charles the Fifth” with advertisements in both the New-York Journal and the Pennsylvania Gazette.  In the latter, the flamboyant printer, publisher, bookseller, and auctioneer announced publication of the second volume and promised that the “THIRD VOLUME of this celebrated History is now in the Press, and will soon be finished.”  Bell noted that the second volume was “now ready to be delivered to the Subscribers,” purchasers who reserved copies in advance.  In a nota bene, he advised “SUBSCRIBERS in the Jerseys” to visit Isaac Collins in Burlington or Dunlap Adams in Trenton to retrieve their copies.

Bell also invited those who had not yet subscribed to join the fellowship of their peers who “choose to encourage American Manufactures.”  Both before and, especially, after the American Revolution, Bell was one of the eighteenth-century’s leading proponents of creating a distinctly American literary market in terms of the production of books.  Printers and booksellers imported most of the books they offered for sale, a situation that Bell sought to modify.  In deploying the language of “American Manufactures,” he made this into a political project familiar to both producers and consumers as a result of nonimportation agreements enacted in opposition to the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts.  Yet prospective customers had another reason to choose Bell’s American edition over an imported alternative:  price.  Bell charged one dollar for each volume of Robertson’s history.  In comparison, “the British Edition cannot be imported for less than Four Dollars each Volume.”  Bell’s customers enjoyed significant savings, acquiring the entire set of the American edition for less than a single volume of the British edition.

Bell concluded his advertisement with some of the verbose language that became a hallmark of his marketing efforts over the course of several decades.  Those who wished to become subscribers by sending their names to Bell or other booksellers “may depend upon Ebullitions of Gratitude.”  Bell’s advertisement incorporated several marketing strategies, including the politics of “American Manufactures,” the financial advantages for customers, and his colorful language and personality.

January 26

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (January 26, 1771).

“THE TRIAL … published by Permission of the Court.”

In January 1771, John Fleeming published an account of the trials of the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.  His marketing campaign began in the January 14, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post with a brief notice that he would soon take the book to press.  A week later, he published a much more extensive advertisement in the same newspaper, that one listing the various contents of the book from “The Indictments against the Prisoners” through “the Verdict returned by the Jury.”  Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, the printers of the Boston Evening-Post, joined Fleeming in selling copies in Boston.

The account of the trials was soon available in other towns as well.  On January 25, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, inserted a short advertisement informing the public that “A few of the TRIALS of the SOLDIERS in Boston, are just come to Hand, and may be had of the Printers hereof.”  The next day, Benjamin West published a longer advertisement in the Providence Gazette.  Like Fleeming, he listed the names of the “Soldiers in his Majesty’s 29th Regiment of Foot” tried “for the Murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Grey, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday Evening, the 5th of March, 1770.”  West may not, however, have intentionally replicated that portion of Fleeming’s advertisement.  Instead, he incorporated the lengthy title as it appeared on the title page of the book into his advertisement, a common practice when marketing all sorts of books in the eighteenth century.  West did compose unique copy, making appeals that had not previously appeared in other newspaper notices, for his advertisement.  “In this Book may be read,” he explained, “all the Evidence and Arguments on both Sides, which are contained in no less than 217 Pages.”  In addition to the length suggesting that the account was complete, West also promoted its accuracy, commenting on “The Whole being taken in Short-hand, and published by Permission of the Court.”  Fleeming made similar appeals, but he named the transcriber, John Hodgdon, and noted that his copy had been compared “with other Minutes taken at the Trial.”

Fleeming, West, and the Fowles adopted different approaches in their advertisements for an account of the trials for the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, but they all marketed memorabilia about a significant event with implications that reverberated throughout the colonies and across the Atlantic.  They and their potential customers did not know that the Boston Massacre and other events part of the imperial crisis they were experiencing would eventually culminate in the American Revolution.  Today, however, we look at the production and marketing of books and pamphlets about the Boston Massacre and prints depicting it and recognize that the commodification of the American Revolution began years before the first shots at Lexington and Concord in April 1775.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 26, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Providence Gazette (January 26, 1771).

January 25

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-Hampshire Gazette (January 25, 1771).

“A few of the TRIALS of the SOLDIERS in Boston.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, inserted a brief notice at the bottom of the final column on the second page of the January 25, 1771, edition.  “A few of the TRIALS of the SOLDIERS in Boston,” the Fowles advised prospective buyers, “are just come to Hand, and may be had of the Printers hereof.”  Readers did not require further explanation identifying “the SOLDIERS in Boston” to know that the Fowles referred to the men who fired into a crowd on the night of March 5, 1770, the perpetrators of an event now known as the Boston Massacre.  The printers advertised a recently published account of the court proceedings in which six of the soldiers were acquitted and two found guilty of manslaughter.  The latter pleaded benefit of clergy to have their sentences reduced to branding on the thumbs in open court.

Some readers may have already been aware of this pamphlet if they happened to read newspapers published in Boston that circulated far beyond that busy port.  John Fleeming announced his intention to publish an account of the trial in the January 14 edition of the Boston Evening-Post, prompting Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, the printers of that newspaper, to once again advertise “A short Narrative of the horrid MASSACRE in BOSTON.”  A week later, in a much more extensive advertisement, Fleeming notified the public that he had “JUST PUBLISHED” the pamphlet and listed its various contents.  In addition to purchasing the account of the trials directly from Fleeming, buyers could also acquire copies from the Fleets.  They also continued to advertise the “short Narrative,” attempting to direct demand for one pamphlet into demand for both.

Both of these pamphlets served as auxiliary sources of information that supplemented coverage in the newspapers.  They kept readers better informed of current and recent events.  They also likely played a role in shaping the politics of many colonists, the one documenting a “horrid MASSACRE” and the other demonstrating that most of the soldiers involved in the incident were not at fault.  In addition, these pamphlets were part of larger process of commodifying the American Revolution that began years before shots were fired at Lexington and Concord.  Fleeming and the Fleets sold copies of an account of the trials to consumers in Boston and other towns in Massachusetts, but that was not the extent of the potential market.  The Fowles gave consumers in New Hampshire an opportunity to participation in the commemoration of such a significant event by purchasing their own copies of the account of the trials.

January 24

Who was the subject of advertisements in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today?

Maryland Gazette (January 24, 1771).

Will be SOLD, by PUBLIC VENDUEin Baltimore Town, Maryland.”

On January 24, 1771, Jacob Giles and W. Young placed an advertisement about an upcoming “PUBLIC VENDUE” or auction of several enslaved men, women, and children.  The sale was scheduled for March 6 “in Baltimore Town, Maryland.”  That advertisement appeared in the Maryland Gazette, published in Annapolis.  Simultaneously, the same advertisement ran in the Pennsylvania Journal, published in Philadelphia.  That Giles and Young advertised in two newspapers published in different cities demonstrates an important aspect of the circulation of newspapers prior to the American Revolution.  They tended to serve entire colonies or regions rather than just the cities or towns of publication and their hinterlands.

In order to run newspaper advertisements, Giles and Young had to look to Annapolis and Philadelphia, the nearest places where printers published newspapers.  Baltimore did not have a newspaper printed locally in 1771.  William Goddard commenced publication of the Maryland Journal in Baltimore on August 20, 1773, but until then residents of that port on the Chesapeake relied on newspapers published in Annapolis, Philadelphia, and Williamsburg, Virginia, for their news and advertising.  Giles and Young certainly welcomed prospective bidders from other places to their auction, but their advertisement was not intended solely for faraway readers who might not see any broadsides or handbills that may have been posted or distributed in Baltimore.  Giles and Young anticipated that prospective bidders in Baltimore and its environs would see their notice in the Maryland Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal.

Pennsylvania Journal (January 24, 1771).

At the beginning of 1771, there were only twenty-seven newspapers published throughout the thirteen colonies that eventually became the United States.  No newspapers were published in Delaware or New Jersey.  Of the remaining eleven colonies, newspapers emanated from only one city or town in seven of them, though some of the major ports had multiple newspapers.  The Georgia Gazette (Savannah), the Maryland Gazette, and the New-Hampshire Gazette(Portsmouth) were the only newspapers published in those colonies.  Three newspapers were published in New-York City, four in Philadelphia (including one in German), three in Charleston, South Carolina, and two in Williamsburg.  In each case, those newspapers served readers far beyond those cities.  Rhode Island had two newspapers, one in Newport and the other in Providence.  North Carolina also had two, one in New Bern and the other in Wilmington.  Massachusetts had the greatest number of newspapers, six in total, with five published in Boston and one in Salem.  Only Connecticut had newspapers published in three towns, the Connecticut Courant in Hartford, the Connecticut Journal in New Haven, and the Connecticut Gazette in New London.  That they all bore the name of the colony rather than the town testifies to their dissemination to other places in Connecticut as well as portions of Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island.

When Giles and Young sought to advertise an auction of enslaved people in Baltimore, necessity prompted them to insert notices in newspapers published in Annapolis and Philadelphia.  Those newspapers served extensive regions, making them the local newspapers for readers in Baltimore, especially in the absence of any newspaper published in that town.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 24, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Maryland Gazette (January 24, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (January 24, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (January 24, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (January 24, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (January 24, 1771).

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New-York Journal (January 24, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (January 24, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (January 24, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (January 24, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 24, 1771).

January 23

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 21, 1771).

“SADLERY WARE.”

Ornamental printing helped to make the final page of the supplement that accompanied the January 21, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury more visually interesting than any other portion of that issue.  Rather than use a single line to separate advertisements, the compositor instead selected a variety of decorative type.  Compare, for instance, the line between the advertisement for “SADLERY WARE” and George Ball’s advertisement about his new location to the ornaments that appeared above and below most of the other advertisements.

Eighteenth-century newspapers tended to feature few visual images other than a crest or signet in the masthead and a small number of woodcuts depicting ships, houses, horses, enslaved people, and runaway indentured servants.  Sometimes those woodcuts appeared in great numbers, but most often advertisers deployed them sparingly.  The edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury under consideration here ran only three advertisements with woodcuts, one on the third page and two on the fourth page.  No images appeared on the second page; only the crest in the masthead adorned the first page.  The two-page supplement included six woodcuts, two on the first page and four on the second.  (Three of them can be seen in the detail of that page above.)  With four woodcuts, the last page of the supplement already incorporated greater visual diversity than any other page of the standard issue and the supplement.

Beyond that, the compositor spruced up the page with more than twenty lines of decorative type that separated advertisements.  The third and fourth pages of the standard issue and the first page of the supplement all consisted entirely of advertising, yet none of them received such treatment.  Instead, single lines sequestered advertisements.  What explains the burst of creativity on the final page?  Was it a ploy to attract attention from readers once they discovered no news or editorials, especially those prone to skip over advertisements?  Did more than one compositor set type for that issue and its supplement?  What other factors might have influenced the design decisions that produced a final page so different from the rest of the issue?  The format of these advertisements raises interesting questions without clear answers.

January 22

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

“Scotch camblets for negro wenches gowns.”

Advertisers took to the pages of the January 22, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to offer a variety of commodities for sale.  A good number of advertisers also sought to sell enslaved men, women, and children; their notices were interspersed among the others, ubiquitous in the commercial landscape represented on the printed page and enacted in everyday life.  The executors of Edward Smilie’s estate, for instance, advertised “Twenty-seven valuableSLAVES, among whom are, a carpenter and driver, as few good house-wenches, a seamstress, and several handy boys and girls.”  Thomas Knighton advertised “Nineteen valuable NEGROES, among which are, one copper, two sawyers, and a good house wench.”  An anonymous advertiser instructed interested parties to “Enquire of the Printer” to learn more about purchasing a “Young NEGRO FELLOW, that has been used to attend on a Gentleman in the Country.”

Such advertisers, however, were not alone in their efforts to profit from the enslavement of Africans and African Americans.  Henry Rugeley and Company advertised a variety of goods, mostly textiles but also tea and seeds.  Their textiles included “a variety of long and clear lawns, Silesia linens, tandems, Russia drab, dowlas, garlix, osnabrugs, and half-ell German linen” as well as “Scotch camblets for negro wenches gowns.”  Although Rugeley and Company did not seek to sell enslaved people, at least not in that advertisement, the partners did want a share of the market for supplying provisions to enslavers.  They derived some of their revenues from selling textiles intended to clothe enslaved women.  The transatlantic slave trade had tentacles that extended beyond the buying and selling of enslaved men, women, and children.  Like Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal who collected advertising fees and facilitated sales of enslaved people, Rugeley and Company deliberately played a supporting role in the perpetuation of slavery in colonial America.  As newspaper advertisements and other sources make clear, there was money to be made through enslavement and exploitation, not only by slave traders but also by printers, merchants, shopkeepers, and others in a vast commercial infrastructure that catered to enslavers.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 22, 1771

GUEST CURATOR:  Chloe Amour

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 366 – Introduction to Public History at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Fall 2020.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

January 21

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Boston Evening-Post (January 21, 1771).

“The Trial of … Soldiers in His Majesty’s 29th Regiment of Foot.”

On January 14, 1771, John Fleeming announced that he would publish a pamphlet documenting the trial of the soldiers prosecuted for “the Murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, & Patrick Carr, on the Evening of the 5th March 1770,” an event now known as the Boston Massacre.  John Adams defended the soldiers in court, winning acquittals for six of them.  The other two, convicted of manslaughter for deliberately firing into the crowd, received reduced sentences after pleading benefit of clergy.  They avoided the death penalty in favor of branding on the thumbs in open court.  When Fleeming, a Tory sympathizer and former partner in publishing the discontinued Boston Chronicle, announced his plan to publish an account of the trial, Thomas and John Fleet, printers of the Boston Evening-Post, placed their own advertisement for “A short Narrative of the horrid MASSACRE” immediately below Fleeming’s notice.  Perhaps suspicious of what might appear in Fleeming’s pamphlet, the Fleets offered an antidote.

In the next issue of the Boston Evening-Post, Fleeming inserted a more extensive advertisement to proclaim that he had “JUST PUBLISHED” an account of “The Trial of … Soldiers in His Majesty’s 29th Regiment of Foot; For the MURDER of” the five men who died during and soon after the Boston Massacre.  The printer noted that this account had been “Taken in short Hand by John Hodgdon” and furthermore it was “Published by Permission of the Court.”  Perhaps to alleviate lingering suspicions about how much commentary he might insert or otherwise attempt to further shape the narrative in favor of the soldiers, Fleeming included a note near the conclusion of his advertisement.  “In this Publication,” he declared, “great Care has been taken to render the Evidence as accurate as possible, by comparing Mr. Hodgdon’s Copy with other Minutes taken at the Trial.”  Fleeming also listed the various contents of the pamphlet, from “The Indictments against the Prisoners” to “the Verdict returned by the Jury.”  The pamphlet provided a complete account of events associated with the trial, Fleeming assured the public.

This advertisement met with different treatment by the Fleets compared to Fleeming’s previous advertisement.  They placed it in the lower right corner of the first page, the only advertisement on that page.  In addition, the advertisement listed both Fleeming and “the Printers hereof” as sellers of the pamphlet.  Apparently the Fleets, who tended to favor the patriot cause, though not as vociferously as Benjamin Edes and John Gill in the Boston Gazette, found that the pamphlet accurately rendered the events of the trial.  They even saw an opportunity to generate revenues at their own printing office by retailing copies.  They already encouraged participation in the commodification of events related to the imperial crisis, having marketed “A short Narrative of the horrid MASSACRE.”  Even as they endorsed Fleeming’s new publication, they also continued to run advertisements for that earlier pamphlet elsewhere in the newspaper.  Interest in Fleeming’s new pamphlet about the trial had the potential to reinvigorate demand for an account of the events that led to the trial.