What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“We beg such Delinquent Customers would reflect upon their extreme Ill usage of us.”
Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, “THE Printers of this Paper,” meant business. They were exasperated with subscribers and advertisers who refused to pay their bills. To demonstrate that they were not going to put up with such “Arrearages” any longer, they placed this advertisement in a prominent location in their newspaper. It appeared at the top of the final column on the third page, the very last item readers encountered when scanning the interior of a broadsheet folded in half to create a four-page newspaper. In length, it extended halfway down the page. This was valuable space that the printers could have given over to advertising (assuming said advertisers actually paid their bills), but Fowle and Fowle determined that calling in debts was the better investment.
Fowle and Fowle offered a valuable service at a low price – “the most material Foreign and Domestick Intelligence carried with very trifling Expence” – and they expected to be compensated in a timely manner. Credit was an important part of the colonial economy, but the printers were more than generous in extending credit to their patrons. Some subscribers had fallen behind “three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine Years.” As a result, the printers threatened to sue “delinquent Customers for News Papers, Advertisement, &c.” if those customers did not settle their accounts. The printers even arranged a series of meetings in the towns where they distributed their newspapers. It was not necessary for subscribers to visit their printing office in Portsmouth. The printers were willing pay the necessary expenses to come to them, if only they would pay their bills.
Benjamin Franklin famously made such a fortune as a printer that he was able to retire at a relatively young age to pursue a variety of other vocations. This advertisement demonstrates that other printers experienced challenges to achieving such success.