What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“For other new Advertisements, see Supplement.”
Most colonial newspapers consisted of four pages published once a week, though a few printers experimented with publishing multiple issues each week or regularly providing an additional half sheet that expanded an issue to six pages. Even printers who did not regularly supply additional pages sometimes found themselves in the position of doing so, calling them supplements, postscripts, continuations, additions, and extraordinaries. Those various sorts of supplements sometimes contained news, sometimes advertising, and sometimes both. They usually accompanied the standard issue, but sometimes appeared in the middle of the week, especially when printers received word of events that merited immediate coverage. The repeal of the Stamp Act, for instance, occasioned midweek supplements in several cities and towns. Most often, however, supplements did not carry such momentous news. Instead, advertising dominated.
Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among those who rarely distributed supplements. By varying the font sizes for both news and advertising, they usually managed to fit all of their content within the four pages of their weekly standard issue. That was not the case, however, for the June 21, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Immediately below Mendum Janvrin’s advertisement for rum, sugar, and other commodities, the Fowles inserted a short note that instructed, “For other new Advertisements, see Supplement.” That note appeared two-thirds of the way down the final column on the third page, some of the last type set for that issue since printers typically prepared the first and fourth pages, printed on the same side of a broadsheet, and then the second and third, printed on the other. By the time the Fowles got nearly to the end of that last column, they knew that they did not have space for all of the paid notices intended for the June 21 edition. Presumably, the supplement accompanied the standard issue for the convenience of subscribers and other readers.
No supplement for the June 21 edition has been digitized and included in America’s Historical Newspapers. The Fowles may have been more ambitious in planning for a supplement than time and other resources allowed. They might not have printed the supplement at all. In this case, however, it appears that they instead delayed publication of the supplement by a week, dating it June 28, and distributed it with the standard edition for June 28. The Fowles used only the amount of paper necessary, printing solely paid notices that generated revenue and eschewing any additional news items. They selected a smaller sheet, one that accommodated only two columns per page instead of the usual three. In making those choices, they fulfilled their commitments to their advertisers, but minimized their own expenses for publishing the supplement. Some advertisers had to wait a week for their notices to appear in print because the savvy printers avoided driving up the costs of producing the additional sheet.