What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“List of Commissioners and other Officers of the Revenue, WITH THEIR SALARIES!”
In the third week of February 1770, many printers continued to advertise almanacs, hoping to relieve themselves of surplus copies that counted against any profits they might earn on the venture. In contrast, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, advertised that they had plans within the next few days to publish their “North-AmericanALMANACK, AND Massachusetts REGISTER, For the Year 1770.” They either identified demand, even that far into February of the new year, or believed that they could incite sufficient demand to merit the expense of pursuing the project.
In presenting this edition of their almanac to the public, Edes and Gill focused on the contents of the “REGISTER.” They listed the contents, including useful reference material from tables of colonial currencies to descriptions of “Public Raods, with the best Stages or Houses to put up at” to dates of “Feasts and Fasts of the Church of England.” Many of the contents had a decidedly political tone, making it clear that Edes and Gill marketed this almanac and register to supporters of the patriot cause. The printers led the list of contents with “A Prospective View of the Town of Boston the Capital of New-England; and the Landing of – Troops in the Year 1768, in Consequence of Letters from Gov. Bernard, the Commissioners, &c. to the British Ministry.” This woodcut, fashioned by Paul Revere, depicted eight British warships delivering troops to be quartered in Boston. In addition to that frontispiece, the almanac and register also contained an overview of many of the other sources of tension between the colonies and Britain, including a “List of the Importers and Resolves of the Merchants &c. of Boston” and a “List of Commissioners and other Officers of the Revenue, WITH THEIR SALARIES!” More than just a handy register of practical information, this was a primer in patriot politics. Even items intended for amusement had a political flair, such as “Liberty Song” and “A New Song, to the Tune of the British Grenadier, by a SON OF LIBERTY.”
It was rather late in the year for Edes and Gill to publish an almanac, but they apparently considered it a good time to disseminate patriot propaganda. The “Judgment of the Weather, Suns and Moon’s Rising and Setting,” and other material commonly contained in almanacs did not receive much notice in their advertisement. Instead, they emphasized contents related to colonial grievances, presenting consumers with new opportunities to participate in acts of resistance by purchasing items that documented the events unfolding around them. By bringing those narratives into their homes, colonists would become better informed and perhaps even more politicized in favor of the patriot cause.