What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“She has resigned Business to her Son.”
When Susannah Brimmer “resigned Business to her Son,” Andrew Brimmer, in 1771, she (or they) placed an advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post. The occasion of transferring her business to her son was the first time that Susannah’s name appeared in the public prints. She did not previously advertise when she operated the shop. A week after the advertisement first appeared, two versions ran on March 25. Susannah or Andrew or the two working together updated the original advertisement.
The placement of these two advertisements helps to explain the likely sequence of events. The original version appeared on the fourth page. The updated version appeared on the third page. Like most other newspapers published in the 1770s, the Boston Evening-Post consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. The first and fourth pages, the “outside” of the newspaper, were printed simultaneously, as were the second and third pages, the “inside” of the newspaper. Usually, the first and fourth pages were printed first. That means that even though readers who perused the Boston Evening-Post from start to finish encountered the updated version first, it most likely was printed after the original version they eventually encountered on the last page.
The additional copy in the updated version made that even more likely. More than doubling the amount of space occupied by the original version, the new copy listed dozens of items available at the shop. The first portion retained the copy and layout for all but the final two lines. The compositor made minor revisions that introduced a transition to the catalog of goods. Who was responsible for extending the advertisement so significantly? Given that Susannah never previously advertised, even though she made other astute entrepreneurial decisions, like making improvements to her shop, should the list of goods and the expense of publishing it be attributed to Andrew? Was this an innovation that he introduced when he took control of the business? Did Susannah make recommendations about strategies for relaunching the business in the public prints? What explains the two variants of the advertisement and the timing of their publication? Do the two versions represent different visions for establishing a presence in the public prints? Or did other factors play a role in an updated version of their advertisement running in the same issue as the original version? What stories about the intersections of gender, family, and business might these advertisements suggest but not fully reveal?