What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“They have Removed their PRINTING-OFFICE two Doors lower down Queen-Street.”
Colonial printers adopted various strategies when it came to inserting advertisements in their newspapers. Some reserved advertisements for the final pages, appearing only after news items, editorials, lists of prices current, shipping news from the custom house, poems for amusement or edification, and other content selected by the editor rather than paid for inclusion by advertisers. Others placed advertisements on the first and fourth pages, with other content on the second and third pages. Doing so reflected practical aspects of producing newspapers. Most consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. That meant the first and fourth pages were printed with one pull of the press and the second and third pages with another. Advertisements, often repeated from week to week, could be printed first on the first and last pages, allowing for any breaking news to be set in type as late as possible before the second and third pages went to press. Both of those methods kept advertisements clustered together, either at the end of an issue or bookending it. Another method more evenly distributed advertising throughout the newspaper, placing advertisement on every page, often, but not always, at the bottom or in the final column.
For the August 27, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette, printers Benjamin Edes and John Gill included advertising on each of its four pages. Advertisements constituted the first of three columns on the first page, but only a few short advertisements appeared at the bottom of the third column on the second page. Advertisements accounted for half of the third page, but, like the second page, they ran after news content, sequestered at the bottom of the second column and in the third. The fourth page consisted entirely of advertising, with the exception of the colophon at the bottom of the final column. No matter which page they perused, readers encountered advertising in this edition of the Boston-Gazette. In the midst of all those paid notices, Edes and Gill reserved a privileged place for an advertisement concerning their own business. In the first item in the first column on the first page, “THE PUBLISHERS of this Paper” placed an advertisement to “hereby inform their Customers and others, That they have Removed their PRINTING-OFFICE two Doors lower down Queen-Street, to the House formerly improv’d by Messieurs Kneeland & Green, directly opposite the new Court-House.” Edes and Gill exercised their power as printers of the Boston-Gazette and their access to the press to increase the chances that readers would see and take note of their advertisement. Other advertisers paid for access to the press, but they usually had little control over where their advertisements appeared in the newspaper. When it came to the placement of advertisements within newspapers, printers had an advantage that “their Customers and others” did not.