What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Mrs. Sarah Wiggens’s APPEAL … will be in our next.”
The August 26, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included a notice from the printers concerning two advertisements, one that had been published and one that had not. “Mrs. Sarah Wiggens’s APPEAL to the Public, representing her Husband’s Advertising her in this paper,” the printers explained, “came too late, but will be in our next.” The printers encouraged readers to acquire the next issue and peruse it carefully in order to learn how gros[s]ly she has been injured and imposed upon by him.” The Wiggins resided in Stratham, but their marital squabbles became common knowledge far beyond their own town.
Readers did not need to look any further than the next page to witness (once again, since it also appeared in the previous issue) the quarrelsome advertisement that had elicited Sarah Wiggin’s “APPEAL.” Her husband, Tuften, announced to the residents of Portsmouth and its hinterland that his wife had “ELoped from me … and refuses to live with me as an obedient Wife.” Given that turn of events, he resorted to the same measures as many other spurned husbands, stating that he placed his notice in the public prints in order “to forbid any Person, giving her Credit on my Account” because “I will not pay any Debt by her contracted from the ninth of August last, 1768.” In a nota bene he magnanimously, from his perspective at least, counseled that “If she returns, she will be kindly received upon reasonable terms.”
Sarah apparently had no intention of returning to Tuften. Instead, she submitted a detailed defense of her flight to the printers for presentation to the public, a defense so lengthy that the compositor did not have sufficient time or space to include it in the August 26 edition by the time it arrived in the printing office. When it did appear the following week it occupied three-quarters of a column (more on that in a subsequent entry). Public awareness of domestic strife in the Wiggin household expanded as husband and wife each placed advertisements and the printers inserted notices concerning those advertisements.
The printers did not merely note that a response from Sarah would soon appear in the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Instead, they offered colorful commentary about “how gros[s]ly she has been injured and imposed upon” by her husband. Perhaps they found her response convincing and felt sympathy for her, but their own notice that another chapter in the saga would soon become available had the added benefit of provoking additional interest among readers. The printers leveraged these advertisements about an unhappy marriage to bolster circulation of their newspaper. It was not the first time that they capitalized on disputes made public in this manner.