What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Said Carrier will begin to Ride as soon as sufficient Number of Subscribers can be had.”
Like other colonial printers, Daniel and Robert Fowle inserted advertisements for their own business endeavors in the newspaper they published (though they did not use the colophon as a standing advertisement for the various services provided at their printing office in Portsmouth). The Fowles were responsible for four of the advertisements that appeared in the February 6, 1767, issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette.
Three of those advertisements were fairly short: four lines each. Two of them peddled leftover almanacs for 1767 and the third informed readers that the Fowles supplemented the revenues from newspaper subscriptions and advertisements by selling “BLANKS of all sorts – and a variety of Books, Pamphlets, &c.”
The fourth advertisement took up considerably more space on the page. It advertised the newspaper itself, the title appearing in a larger font and on a line by itself in the middle of the notice. The Fowles outlined a plan to have a rider continue to deliver newspapers to subscribers in towns and villages beyond Portsmouth. The proposed route included “the Towns of Kittery, Berwick, Somersworth, Dover, Durham, Newmarket, [and] Stratham.” The Fowles offered this as a service to subscribers, though they also indicated that demand already existed among “some Persons who live at the Heads of the Rivers” who were “desirous of having a Carrier continue to Ride.”
The printers placed this notice to gauge interest in this plan, stating that “Said Carrier will begin to Ride as soon as a sufficient Number of Subscribers can be had.” Yet interest was not sufficient to bring the plan to fruition: subscribers needed to demonstrate their commitment by paying half of the delivery in advance. The printers also requested that current subscribers “in Arrears” pay up “before the Carrier begins to Ride, in order to prevent any future Disputes.”
This advertisement made clear that the rider would provide a continuation of an existing service, delivery to the local town (if not directly to each subscriber’s home). In so doing, it demonstrated the geographic reach of colonial newspapers beyond the cities where they were printed and into the towns and villages in the hinterland. Certainly some copies were disseminated even further afield, but the success (or even the continuation) of newspapers depended on cultivating local and regional customers and readers.