September 12

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

Sep 12 - 9:12:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 12, 1767).

The useful and necessary Business of Printing in this Town.”

Throughout the eighteenth century, printers regularly turned to the pages of their own newspapers to insert notices calling on subscribers (and sometimes advertisers) to settle their accounts by paying their overdue bills. Printers often accompanied these reminders with threats to sue recalcitrant subscribers who did not respond.

Sarah Goddard and Company took a different approach when they called on “all those who have not yet settled for the last Year’s Papers.” First, they extended their “most sincere Thanks” to all subscribers, but then lauded the “Example of those who have already paid.” The printers pointed to them as role models to emulate; in so doing, they also implicitly shamed their counterparts who had not yet paid.

In addition, Goddard and Company suggested that the future of their printing business depended on settling accounts, yet it was not only their own livelihood at stake. Instead, the entire community benefitted from the “useful and necessary Business of Printing” undertaken by Goddard and Company. They positioned the Providence Gazette, revived thirteen months earlier after a hiatus that had lasted more than a year, as a public service, one that had met with great approval. More than just a service, the printers proclaimed that their newspaper was “absolutely necessary for many of the most useful Members of Society amongst us.”

Goddard and Company could have wheedled subscribers and threatened legal action. Instead, they asked readers to consider the benefits associated with the continuation of the Providence Gazette. They anticipated that such idealistic appeals would “enduce all our former Subscribers” to renew their commitment to the publication through a “Continuance of their past Favors.” They also expected this argument to convince others who had not previously subscribed to “encourage this Work.” Rather than inserting an ugly admonition, Goddard and Company challenged the community to provide “ready Assistance” and join in common cause in “promoting the Growth and extending the Progress of our Gazette” for the benefit of its printers and readers alike.

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