What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“For … other new Advertisements, see the additional PAPER of this Day.”
The final column on the first page of the June 16, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette concluded with instructions to readers: “For more Articles of London News, and the other new Advertisements, see the additional PAPER of this Day.” The digitized copy that I consulted did not, however, include an “additional PAPER” for June 16. On the other hand, the digitized copy for June 9 did include a second sheet.
Regular visitors to the Adverts 250 Project may remember that the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette experienced a disruption in their paper supply late in the spring of 1769. Instead of publishing the standard four-page issue created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half they temporarily published two-page issues on sheets of a different size. This reduced the amount of content delivered to subscribers each week from twelve to eight columns … unless the printers distributed a second sheet, like the “additional PAPER” mentioned in the June 16 edition.
I realized that the “additional PAPER” might not have survived, but I also suspected that perhaps at some point it had been separated from the June 16 edition and mistakenly attributed to another issue … especially since I knew that the June 9 issue did have a second sheet that included many “new Advertisements.” When I looked more closely at the second sheet from June 9 I discovered that the page I examined last week, including William Appleton’s book catalog, did not include any information that invalidated the date attributed to it.
The other side of the sheet, however, told a very different story. The header for the first column read “Portsmouth, June 16, 1769.” A notice about a meeting of the “Antient and Honorable Society of FREE and ACCEPTED MASONS in New-Hampshire” was dated June 14. Other advertisements bore the dates June 14 and June 15. A second news item from Portsmouth was dated June 15. None of these items could have been published in an “additional PAPER” on June 9, leading me to believe that the second broadsheet had been presented as part of the June edition in error. Most likely, it was the “additional PAPER” mentioned in the June 16 edition.
One piece of evidence undermined that conjecture. The shipping news from the customs house bore the date June 18. Had this sheet been published even later than June 16? I ultimately decided that was unlikely, especially after determining that the previous shipping news had been dated June 8. Most likely the compositor worked too quickly to update the headline for the shipping news, inserting a “1” before the “8” but not substituting whichever digit should have appeared second (most likely a “5” or “6” that could have been mistaken for an “8” at a glance). Since no other issues of the New-Hampshire Gazette made reference to an “additional PAPER,” the second broadsheet associated with June 9 was almost definitely part of the June 16 edition.
This conundrum is exactly the sort of practical lesson that I like to present to my students to underscore that historians must constantly interrogate their sources, even those that seem unequivocally straightforward. When I first examined the second page attributed to the June 9 edition I expected it to be part of the June 9 edition and did not look closely enough at evidence that told a different story. Only after encountering contradictory evidence later did I notice some important details. When I do present this example to students, I will confess to them that I made a mistake the first time I worked with the page mistakenly associated with the June 9 edition, stressing that they should not be afraid to advance their arguments about the sources they consult for their projects but they must simultaneously be vigilant in their examination of those sources and willing to adjust their arguments when they encounter new evidence.