What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“SUBSCRIPTIONS are taken in … in different parts of America.”
In the spring of 1769, William Goddard inserted a subscription notice for his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, in several newspapers published in other cities. It ran in the Connecticut Courant, the Connecticut Journal, the Newport Gazette, the New-York Journal, and the Providence Gazette in May. The printers who ran the advertisement likely did not expect that subscribers would choose the Pennsylvania Chronicle over their own newspapers but rather as a supplement, especially since Goddard marketed his own publication as “a repository of ingenious and valuable literature, in prose and verse,” in addition to “a Register of the best Intelligence.”
Goddard printed the news and more, distinguishing the Pennsylvania Chronicle from other newspapers printed in the colonies. His subscription notice made the Pennsylvania Chronicle sound as much like a magazine as a newspaper, placing it in competition with the American Magazine. Lewis Nicola, the publisher, and William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, the printers of the American Magazine (and also the printers of the Pennsylvania Journal), embarked on their own advertising campaign, placing subscription notices in several newspapers beyond Philadelphia, their local market. Although the Pennsylvania Chronicle carried advertisements from Philadelphia and the surrounding area, Goddard’s subscription notice promoted the other contents of the publication as a rival to the American Magazine.
An eighteenth-century newspaper was not a local publication in the sense that it served just the city where it was printed. Most newspapers served an entire colony or even larger regions, circulation radiating out from the place of publication. Yet printers did not tend to advertise their own newspapers in newspapers published in other cities. Yet Goddard aggressively advertised the Pennsylvania Chronicle in newspapers in New England and New York in the spring of 1769 and in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette early in the summer. The latter concluded with a familiar note for interested readers: “SUBSCRIPTIONS are taken in by the Printer in Market-street [Philadelphia]; by most of the Postmasters, Booksellers and Printers, and many other Gentlemen, in different parts of America.” In addition, it specified that Robert Wells, the printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, accepted subscriptions in Charleston.
Goddard was not content to cultivate a regional audience for the Pennsylvania Chronicle. The contents of the publication, the distribution network envisioned by Goddard, and the participation of newspaper printers in collecting subscriptions positioned the Pennsylvania Chronicle as akin to a magazine. Goddard’s counterparts apparently did not consider it a rival to their own newspapers, though the time required to deliver it to faraway subscribers may have influenced their views as much as the contents Goddard described in his subscription notice. The reach of his advertising campaign helped to distinguish the Pennsylvania Chronicle as a different sort of publication when compared to other newspapers printed in the colonies at the time.