Calendar Considerations: When Were Newspapers Published?

Last week I documented which newspapers printed during the third week of January 1766 were accessible via my campus library’s subscription to the Readex database of America’s Historical Newspapers. I included the following list, arranged geographically.

New Hampshire

  • New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth)

Massachusetts

  • Boston Evening-Post
  • Boston Gazette
  • Boston Post-Boy
  • Massachusetts-Gazette (Boston)

Rhode Island

  • Newport Mercury

Connecticut

  • Connecticut Courant (Hartford)
  • New-London Gazette

New York

  • New-York Gazette
  • New-York Mercury
Massachusetts Gazette Masthead
Masthead for the Massachusetts Gazette (January 16, 1766)

The list for the fourth week of January 1766 is the same. As I indicated last week, each of these newspapers was printed only once each week, making a list organized by chronology rather than geography more helpful in selecting which issues to examine and, eventually, which advertisements to select. This is what the publication history of these ten newspapers for the third week of January 1766 looks like when mapped out on a calendar.

January 16 (Thursday in 1766, but Saturday in 2016)

  • Massachusetts-Gazette (Boston) – plus a Supplement

January 17 (Friday in 1766, but Sunday in 2016)

  • New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth)
  • New-London Gazette

January 18 (Saturday in 1766, but Monday in 2016)

January 19 (Sunday in 1766, but Tuesday in 2016)

January 20 (Monday in 1766, but Wednesday in 2016)

  • Boston Evening-Post
  • Boston Gazette
  • Boston Post-Boy
  • Newport Mercury
  • Connecticut Courant (Hartford)
  • New-York Gazette
  • New-York Mercury

January 21 (Tuesday in 1766, but Thursday in 2016)

January 22 (Wednesday in 1766, but Friday in 2016)

Note that January 22, 1766, fell on a Wednesday, while January 22, 2016, fell on a Friday. It is important to realize when during the week these newspapers first came into the hands of eighteenth-century readers. Of these ten newspapers, seven were published on Monday, one on Thursday, and two on Friday. Three of the Boston newspapers appear to have competed with each other at the beginning of the week, while Richard Draper and Samuel Draper may have been attempting to eke out a space of their own with a fresh issue of the Massachusetts-Gazette midway through the week. Similarly, subscribers and other readers in New York enjoyed new issues of John Holt and Hugh Gaine’s newspapers on the same day. Overall, most printers distributed their current issue either at the very beginning or at the end of the week.

The fact that publication was clustered on just a few days affects which advertisements I select to include in this project. Whenever possible, I aim to feature an advertisement published on the same date exactly 250 years ago. As the calendar above demonstrates, this is not always possible because there are dates on which no newspaper was published (or at least no newspaper included in my subscription to Early American Newspapers, but more on that another time). In such cases I work backwards, going to the most recent date on which a newspaper had been published. As a result, I feature an advertisement that would have been among those most recently available to colonial American readers, somewhere, exactly 250 years ago.

Boston Post-Boy Masthead
Masthead for Boston Post-Boy (January 20, 1766)

Here’s how I worked through the past week. I only had one choice for last Saturday; the featured advertisement came from the Massachusetts-Gazette.

But I had two options for Sunday: the New-Hampshire Gazette or the New-London Gazette. I have discovered, however, that few advertisements were inserted in the New-London Gazette in 1766, which means that it rarely gets incorporated into this project. That also means that when I do discover an advertisement for goods or services in that newspaper I select it.

The fact that I do not have access to any newspapers on Monday or Tuesday further contributes to including the New-London Gazette whenever possible because most weeks I find myself in the position of featuring multiple advertisements – as many as three days in a row – from the New-Hampshire Gazette.

By comparison, I have access to an embarrassment of riches on Wednesday: seven newspapers were published on that date 250 years ago. This certainly gives me a lot more choice and flexibility. Looking ahead, I see that no other newspapers were printed on the next two days, which means that I will have to choose from among these seven for three days. In such instances, I do not draw from the same newspaper twice in the course of those three days. Not only do I seek to spread out coverage among multiple publications, I also attempt to achieve the most extensive geographic reach possible.

For Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week I was able to choose from three newspapers printed in Boston, two in New York, and two more from southern New England. This narrowed down my choices. I keep a running tabulation of which newspapers have been included (and how many times) since the project launched as a blog at the beginning of the year. This allows me to rotate through the newspapers to give relatively even coverage of each.

New-London Gazette Masthead
Masthead for the New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766)

Here’s what this process yielded for the past week:

  • Saturday, January 16: Moses Deshon, advertisement for female slave in Massachusetts-Gazette (January 16, 1766)
  • Sunday, January 17: Robert Hebbard, advertisement for runaway wife in New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766)
  • Monday, January 18: Thomas Bell, advertisement for tailoring services in New-Hampshire Gazette (January 17, 1766)
  • Tuesday, January 19: Jonathan Jackson, advertisement for imported goods in New-Hampshire Gazette (January 17, 1766)
  • Wednesday, January 20: Samuel Fletcher, advertisement aimed at women in Boston Post-Boy (January 20, 1766)
  • Thursday, January 21: Thomas Green, advertisement for almanacs in Connecticut Courant (January 20, 1766)
  • Friday, January 22: Joseph Fox, advertisement for legal services in Newport Mercury (January 20, 1766)

This is an interesting glimpse of early American advertising, commerce, and consumer culture during the third week of January 1766. In some ways it is representative, but in a variety of others it is also problematic. I believe that I have developed a methodology that is well-crafted and appropriate given the sources available, but I will devote next week’s extended commentary to an examination of some of the shortcomings that are apparent to those who work with early American newspapers regularly.

This may seem like excessive detail to some, but I had two purposes in writing this post. I wanted those who have not previously worked systematically with colonial newspapers to gain a better understanding of the process. In addition, my Public History students will soon be guest curating. I hope that this is a resource that will help them through selecting advertisements, in addition to our in-class workshops.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s