August 15

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 15, 1771).

“Bickerstaff’s Almanack For the Year 1772, Will be published in September next.”

Even though the middle of August 1771 was early, John Fleeming apparently determined that it was not too early to begin marketing “Bickerstaff’s Almanack For the Year 1772.”  In an advertisement in the supplement that accompanied the August 15 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Fleeming announced that the popular almanac “Will be published in September next.”  He did not even have copies ready for sale, but he gave both consumers and retailers advance notice about when the almanac would be available to purchase.  Doing so made sense in the crowded marketplace of Boston’s printers who annually published an array of almanacs and competed for customers.  Fleeming encouraged brand loyalty by letting readers who preferred “Bickerstaff’s Almanack” know that they could soon acquire an edition for the coming year.  He also attempted to incite anticipation among consumers, encouraging them to scan the pages of the public prints for further updates.

Like other printers who advertised the almanacs they published, Fleeming provided a brief overview of the contents.  It would contain “the usual Calculations” as well as “many excellent Receipts, interesting Stories, curious Anecdotes, useful Tables, &c. &c. &c.”  By concluding with the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera (and repeating it), the printer hinted at the variety of informative and entertaining items that would be included.  He may have also intended for that portion of the advertisement to provoke curiosity and anticipation about what might be included among those recipes, stories, anecdotes, and tables.  Printers often revealed those details in longer advertisements, but Fleeming might have also hoped that prospective customers would visit his shop to peruse the almanac to learn more after it went to press.

For the moment, Fleeming’s advertisement stood out for being the earliest and only one for an almanac in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News-Letter and other newspapers printed in Boston, but soon enough that would no longer be the case.  With the arrival of fall, more and more advertisements for almanacs would appear, a sign of the changing seasons.  Fleeming was ready to serve loyal readers and prospective customers.

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