What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“One of the most useful and entertaining Almanacks in America.”
The new year was fast approaching. Just three weeks remained in 1767 when this advertisement for “FREEMAN’s New-York ALMANACK For the Year 1768” appeared in John Holt’s New-York Journal. Over the past month advertisements for almanacs had proliferated in New York’s newspapers and their counterparts printed throughout the colonies. Some merely encouraged customers to acquire their almanacs, but others, like this one, provided much more detail about the contents as a means of inciting demand and convincing consumers to select this particular almanac over any of the alternatives.
Freeman’s New-York Almanack included the usual calendars and calculations, including “Hour and Minute of the Sun’s Rising and Setting” and the “Moon’s Age, Quartering, Full and Change, Rising, Setting,” but these were “intermixed with Proverbs or moral Sentiments.” It also contained a combination of astronomical and astrological material inserted in most almanacs, especially “The 12 signs, with an Account of the several Parts of the Body they are supposed to govern” and “a Table of the Planets’ Motions.” The almanac also featured other valuable reference information, such as a “Table of Interest at 7 per Cent,” a “List of the Council Assembly, and Officers in New-York,” and a “Table of the Value of Coins in England, New-York, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Quebec.” The author also incorporated a variety of items to entertain and instruct readers, including “The Rose, a Fable” and “Verses on New-Year and Winter.”
Many printers relied on the contents of their almanacs to do most of the work in marketing them, but Holt added a nota bene proclaiming that Freeman’s New-York Almanack “contains more in Quantity than any other Almanack publish’d in America, and is at least as useful and entertaining as any other.” Just in case potential customers had not been duly impressed with the extensive contents listed in the advertisement, Holt underscored that this almanac overflowed with useful and entertaining material. Still, sensible that the astronomical calculations remained the foremost reason many colonists purchased almanacs, he also promised that they had been “made with the greatest Care and Accuracy.” He also placed special emphasis on the treatment of an impending eclipse on January 19, a “great Eclipse” that merited additional attention.
Holt concluded the advertisement by announcing that he also sold “DUTCH ALMANACKS,” pocket almanacs, and sheet almanacs, though he provided no other information except the prices. At his “PRINTING-OFFICE, at the EXCHANGE,” customers could select from a variety of titles and an assortment of sizes and formats. They also enjoyed a similar range of choices at other printing offices and bookseller shops throughout the city. Realizing the fierce competition to sell publications that could not be held in reserve and sold at a latter date, Holt invested significant effort in marketing the one he had published.