What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Several Kinds of Blanks.”
Like his counterparts in other cities and towns, John Carter did more than print a newspaper at his printing office. In addition to distributing a new edition of the Providence Gazette on Saturdays, Carter also produced and sold blanks (or printed forms) and did job printing on behalf of customers. Many also sold books, most of them imported. Those various services established multiple sources of revenue for printers throughout the colonies.
Printers regularly promoted blanks in short advertisements in their own newspapers. Some of those notices were very brief, just a couple of lines that completed a column, but others were more extensive. In the March 9, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette, for instance, Carter died more than inform readers that he provided blanks for sale at his printing office “at Shakespear’s Head, in King-Street, near the Court-House. Instead, he listed many of the different kinds of blanks on hand, including “SUPERIOR and INFERIOR Court Executions, … long and short Powers of Attorney, … Bills of Sales, Bills of Lading, … Policies of Insurance, [and] Apprentices Indentures.” The Providence Gazette served an entire region, not just local residents, so Carter also printed and sold “several Kinds of Blanks for the Colony of Connecticut, such as Writs of Attachment, [Writs] for Recovery of Notes and Book-Debts at a County Court, [and Writs] before a Justice.” Colonists used standardized blanks to facilitate a variety of legal and commercial transactions.
Carter focused primarily on the many different kinds of blanks available at his printing office, but he also promised quality. He assured prospective customers that no matter which of his blanks they selected, they were “all neatly printed on good Paper.” The printer combined skill in execution and quality of materials in his appeal to customers. The appearance and durability of these blanks enhanced any legal or financial transaction they recorded.
Carter supplemented revenues from subscriptions and advertisements in the Providence Gazette with additional revenues from printing and selling blanks intended for a variety of legal and financial purposes. Like other printers, he inserted notices about blanks in his newspaper, leveraging one of his endeavors in support of another for the overall benefit of the entire operation of his printing office.