What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Subscriptions are taken in by T. GREEN.”
When John Dunlap distributed subscription proposals in advance of publishing the Pennsylvania Packet, he expressed his intention to disseminate the new newspaper widely. He lined up local agents from a variety of occupations in towns in Pennsylvania and far beyond. They included “James Wilson, Esq; Attorney at Law, Carlisle,” Pennsylvania, “Richard Thomas, Esq; Sheriff, Charlestown,” Maryland, “Rev. William Dunlap, King and Queen county, Virginia.” He also enlisted booksellers Noel and Hazard in New York as well as printers in the major port cities. Some of them published their own newspapers, yet they assisted a fellow printer in another town launch his own publication. They likely received complimentary copies of the Pennsylvania Packet, part of an exchange network that allowed printers to liberally reprint content from one newspaper to another. From Cape May, Massachusetts, to Charleston, South Carolina, local agents stood ready to receive subscriptions to the Pennsylvania Packet. Beyond the continent, “Messrs. Esmand and Walker, Printers in Bridgetown, Barbados” also accepted subscriptions on Dunlap’s behalf.
In addition to that extensive list, the proposals ended with a note that “many other Gentlemen, whose names will be particularized in our first Number” also served as local agents in other towns. Timothy Green, printer of the New-London Gazette was one of those local agents. His newspaper carried the same subscription proposals for the Pennsylvania Packet that ran in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, though Green trimmed the list of local agents. The final line simply stated, “Subscriptions are taken in by T. GREEN.” When it came to local subscribers, Green probably did not worry too much about the Pennsylvania Packet competing with the New-London Gazette. Given the time required to deliver it from Philadelphia to Connecticut, its contents supplemented rather than replaced the “freshest ADVICES, both FOREIGN and DOMESTICK” that the masthead of the New-London Gazette promised. In addition, Green’s newspaper exclusively carried certain content, including local advertisements, legal notices, and shipping news from the custom house. Colonial printers served as editors, selecting items from multiple newspapers to reprint, but some readers also acted as their own editors through consulting several newspapers on their own, deciding for themselves which “ADVICES” they considered most important. When they served as local agents for newspapers published in other towns, printers like Green facilitated that process.