October 5

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 5, 1770)

“[illegible due to ink bleeding through from other side of sheet]”

Like many other eighteenth century newspapers, the masthead for the New-Hampshire Gazette proclaimed that it “CONTAIN[ED] the Freshest ADVICES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.”  In other words, it carried current news from the colonies and abroad.  Those “ADVICES,” however, were not confined to the news articles and editorials; advertisements also delivered news to readers, sometimes about commerce and consumption, sometimes about politics, and sometimes about current events.  Advertisements relayed an array of valuable information to readers, supplementing contents that appeared elsewhere in the newspapers.

Advertisements sometimes provided additional information about articles that ran in the same issue, but in the case of some advertisements in the October 5, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette the news bled through, literally, in a very different way.  George Whitefield, one of the most influential ministers associated with the religious revivals known as the Great Awakening, died on September 30.  The October 5 edition, the first published following Whitefield’s death, included a lengthy notice on the third page.  As was the custom in eighteenth-century newspapers, thick black borders denoting mourning enclosed the news, honoring Whitefield and attracting the attention of readers.

So thick were those borders and so firm the impression of the hand-operated printing press that ink bled through from the news item on the third page to the advertisements on the fourth page.  Among them, Neal McIntyre’s advertisement for tobacco from Virginia featured a faint unintended border.  The first lines of a notice that “the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of this Province is now Prorogued” were partially obscured by ink from the other side of the page.  Even when readers moved past the most significant news article of the October 5 issue, word of Whitefield’s death continued to reverberate in other items as the result of the printing technologies of the time.  In any newspaper, news and advertising were not delivered separately from each other.  In this particular instance, news left a very visible mark on several advertisements.

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