August 31

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

Aug 31 - 8:31:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle Postscript
Postscript to the Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 31, 1768).

“James Gordon Is removed from his store in Third-street.”

When he moved his shop from Third Street to Chestnut Street in the summer of 1768, James Gordon placed an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle to advise former and prospective customers where to acquire the array of goods he offered for sale. One insertion of his advertisement did not, however, appear in a standard issue distributed on Mondays, nor in a supplement that accompanied such an issue. Instead, Gordon’s advertisement and a handful of others appeared in a Postscript to the Pennsylvania Chronicle published on Wednesday, August 31. The Pennsylvania Chronicle was usually a counterpoint to the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal, both distributed on Thursday, but subscribers and other readers gained access to this special issue just a day before the publication of the other two newspapers printed in Philadelphia.

William Goddard, the printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, explained the purpose of distributing the Postscript midway between issues instead of keeping to the usual schedule. “By the Earl of Halifax, arrived at New-York, from Falmouth, we have the following fresh Advices,” Goddard trumpeted, “which we now issue out in an extraordinary Half Sheet, as a Proof that we have as good Intelligence as our vigilant Neighbours, and are as willing to exert ourselves in the Service of the Public.” In other words, when it came to reporting the news from abroad the Pennsylvania Chronicle had the connections to keep its readers informed in a timely manner. That newspaper’s efforts rivaled those of its local competitors, both of which had been established for much longer. Indeed, by issuing the Postscript Goddard scooped the Gazette. The following day Hall and Sellers issued a Postscript to the Pennsylvania Gazette (in addition to the regular issue and the advertising supplement that usually accompanied it) that delivered the same news received “By the JULY PACKET, arrived at New-York from Falmouth.” That special edition also carried several advertisements.

Goddard issued the Postscript not only to keep readers informed but also to promote his newspaper. He hoped to increase circulation and, in turn, revenues from subscriptions and advertising. Compared to the Gazette and the Journal, the Chronicle carried fewer advertisements, but Goddard knew that he could attract more advertisers, like James Gordon, by increasing distribution. Prospective advertisers would be more willing to make that investment if the Chronicle increased its readership. Goddard’s note introducing the special edition was directed to advertisers as much as to readers.

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