What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“CHOCOLATE warranted good.”
T. and J. Fleet, printers of the Boston Evening-Post, had far more content to publish than usual when they prepared the April 23, 1770, edition. Issued once a week, their newspaper, like most others in colonial America, typically consisted of four pages created by printed two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half. When printers had sufficient surplus content, they often distributed supplements, sometimes an additional four pages but more commonly two pages that required only half a broadsheet. The Fleets certainly had sufficient surplus content to justify publishing a supplement. Indeed, two supplements accompanied the April 23 edition of the Boston Evening-Post.
The first contained “Fresh Advices” that had “ARRIVED here last Week from LONDON.” The captains of several vessels had delivered “the Public Prints” through February 24. The Fleets extracted several items to republish from London’s newspapers. This supplement consisted of only two pages printed on a broadsheet the same size as the standard issue of the Boston Evening-Post. The second supplement, however, consisted of four pages printed on a smaller sheet. The first three pages delivered “Mr. Kent’s Vindications of his Character, from the Aspersions of Dr. Gardiner and others, in several late News-Papers.” Given the size of the page, these “Vindications” appeared in two columns of a different width than the three columns per page from the standard issue.
Publishing the “Vindications” required only three pages. The Fleets filled the remaining space with advertisements that ran in the Boston Evening-Post in previous weeks. Rather than reset the type to achieve a consistent column width throughout the supplement they instead conserved time and effort through an unusual format for the page. Two columns of advertisements filled most of the space. For the remainder, they rotated advertisements to fit them into the space remaining on the right side of the page, creating a third column with text that ran in a different direction.
The Fleets did not improvise this strategy. Colonial printers resorted to it on those occasions that they issued supplements of different sizes or when they could not acquire broadsheets of the usual size for their standard issues. Doing so maximized the amount of content they could deliver while generating advertising revenues important to the continued publication of their newspapers.