May 1

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

May 1 - 5:1:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 1, 1767).

“MEIN and FLEMING’S MASSACHUSETTS REGISTER, with an Almanack for 1767.”

Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette knew that John Mein had not “JUST PUBLISH’D” the “MASSACHUSETTS REGISTER, with an Almanack for 1767.” Printers throughout the colonies produced almanacs for the next year during the final months of the previous year. Some began advertising almanacs for 1767 as early as September 1766. Advertising continued throughout January and even into the first works of February, with every newspapers inserting notices about at least one and often several competing almanacs, but such advertising tapered off as the year progressed. By the time that May arrived, one-third of the year had passed and a good portion of the contents of any almanac became obsolete. Compared to the fall and early winter, it was probably particularly difficult to sell almanacs in the middle of spring.

This advertisement, however, cleverly emphasized the continuing usefulness of this volume. The Massachusetts Register just happened to include an almanac, but it also contained all sorts of other valuable reference information that residents of Portsmouth and other parts of New Hampshire might need to consult. For instance, readers knew more about the operations of local government and the legal system because the Massachusetts Register listed “the sitting of the superior and inferior Courts in the Four Provinces of New England.” In addition, its contents facilitated commerce and communication, especially the lists of the “Names of the Packet Boats and times of sailing” and the “Roads along the Continent.” To that end, “a Table of the different Currencies in North America” and a “Table of Interest at 6 per Cent” would have been useful throughout the colonies, not just in Massachusetts and other parts of New England.

Daniel and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, indicated “a Few of the above Registers to be sold by the Printers hereof.” John Mein may have had nothing to do with inserting this advertisement so late in the year, though he likely composed the copy for its initial publication, realizing that much of the contents would appeal to potential customers in the neighboring province. The Fowles likely had surplus copies, space to fill in their weekly newspaper, and type previously set for this advertisement (hence “JUST PUBLISH’D” as the headline), making it worth an attempt to move this inventory before it became any more outdated.

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