What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Now in the PRESS … THE N. England Town and Country Almanack.”
During the final week of August 1768, a signal that fall was soon approaching appeared in the Providence Gazette. The printers, Sarah Goddard and John Carter, inserted an advertisement announcing that the New-England Town and Country Almanack … for the Year of Our Lord 1769 was “Now in the PRESS, And speedily will be published.” Goddard and Carter intended to sell the almanac “Wholesale and Retail” at the printing office, but colonists could also purchase copies from “the several Gentlemen Merchants of Providence.”
Like many others who wrote, compiled, or printed almanacs, Goddard and Carter emphasized that the astronomical calculations were specific to the city in which it was published. In this case, the contents were “Fitted to the Latitude of PROVIDENCE, in NEW-ENGLAND.” Hoping to establish a wider marker, however, the printers advised potential customers that the calculations could “without sensible Error, serve all the NORTHERN COLONIES.” They faced competition from the various almanacs published in Boston and New York, but Goddard and Carter made a bid for readers throughout New England to acquire their almanac instead. After all, it carried the name New-England Town and Country Almanack rather than Providence Town and Country Almanack or Rhode Island Town and Country Almanack.
Goddard and Carter further attempted to create an affinity for the New-England Town and Country Almanack among readers throughout the region, especially throughout Rhode Island. They devoted half of the advertisement to reprinting the preface, providing a preview to prospective customers. In it, Abraham Weatherwise, the pseudonymous Benjamin West, underscored that the almanac “is printed on Paper manufactured in this Colony.” He then continued with a plea that mixed politics and commerce, asserting that “those who may be kindly pleased to promote the Sale thereof, will do a singular Service to their Country, by keeping among us, in these Times of Distress, large Sums of Money, which will otherwise be sent abroad.” Both the contents and the paper qualified as “domestic manufactures” that colonists had vowed to consume rather than continuing to purchase goods imported from Britain. The New-England Town and Country Almanack was an American production not only because it was written and printed in Rhode Island; the materials involved in creating it, in addition to the contents and labor, also originated in the colonies.
Extending more than three-quarters of a column, the first advertisement that notified the pubic of the imminent publication of the New-England Town and Country Almanack comprised a substantial portion of the August 27, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette. In it, the publishers and the author collaborated to convince prospective customers throughout the colony and throughout the region to choose this particular almanac from among the many options. They first advanced a standard appeal to accuracy, but concluded with an argument certain to resonate at a time when colonists continued to protest the Townshend Act and other abuses perpetrated by Parliament.