What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper.”
In the eighteenth century, newspaper printers often inserted notices into their own publications to call on subscribers, advertisers, and others to pay their bills. They were not alone in resorting to such measures. Entrepreneurs of all sorts as well as executors of estates enlisted the aid of the public prints in instructing customers and associates to settle accounts. Given their access to the press, however, some printers more regularly ran such notices than other colonists. Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among the printers who most frequently made the collection of debts in the interests of continuing publication a feature of their newspaper.
The Fowles found it necessary to do so on October 26, 1770, expressing some exasperation. “THOSE Persons who are still delinquent in discharging their Arrears for this Paper, and for Advertisements,” the printers declared, “and have been repeatedly call’d upon from Time to Time, are desir’d to comply with so reasonable a Request.” Others who placed such notices usually threatened legal action against those who did not heed their warning. The Fowles had done so in the past. On one occasion they also threatened to publish a list of subscribers, advertisers, and others who did not pay their bills, though they did not follow through on that ultimatum. In this instance, they did not deliver any threats against those in arrears but instead explained the effect that such delinquency would have on their business and, by extension, their ability to serve the community by disseminating news and other information. The Fowles insisted that they needed to collect on debts owed to them because “a Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper, to carry on the Business.” Without paper, they could not continue to print and distribute the New-Hampshire Gazette.
Although the Fowles regularly inserted notices to encourage subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts, they did not merely adopt the formulaic language that often appeared in such advertisements. Over the years, they experimented with a variety of messages and tones, sometimes threatening and sometimes cajoling, in their efforts to attract the attention of clients in arrears and convince them to pay their debts.