December 20

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 20, 1771).

Every Gentleman who holds and Office … ought and will furnish himself with one.”

A week after first advertising “A Civil, Military & Ecclesiastical REGISTER of the Province of New-Hampshire, for the YEAR 1772” in the New-Hampshire Gazette, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle updated their advertisement.  The original version announced publication of the pamphlet and listed its contents, but did not make any direct appeals to prospective customers.  The Fowles remedied that in the subsequent iteration by adding six new lines following the contents.  On one line, they advised readers, “Price half a Pistereen only,” letting them know that acquiring a copy was indeed affordable.

The other appeal addressed the many officeholders whose names appeared in the Register, everyone from “Judges and Officers of the Superior Court, and Courts of Admiralty” and “Justices of the Peace through the Province and for each County” to “Custom House Officers and Notaries Public” and “Sheriffs, Judges and Registers of Probate, Recorders of Deeds and Treasurers of each County” to “Field Officers of the several Regiments in each County” and “Ministers … of the several Denominations in each County.”  The Fowles decreed that “Every Gentleman who holds and Office, and has the Honor of having it recorded in the above Register, undoubtedly ought and will furnish himself with one.”  For local officials, this was an opportunity to see their names listed alongside those of “the Governor, Council and House of Representatives.”  The Fowles saw the various officeholders as a likely customer base for the publication, but they also encouraged others to purchase a copy “in order rightly to know their Superiors.”  The Fowles probably did not mean, at least not exclusively, that colonists needed to recognize the officeholders among them in order to show proper deference; instead, “rightly [knowing] their Superiors” may have also referred to knowing who to contact with concerns and requests in order to maintain good government throughout the colony.

Apparently, neither those who held office nor “other Persons” heeded the call to buy their own copies in sufficient numbers to convince the Fowles to publish a Register for 1773 or any subsequent year.  The disruptions of the imperial crisis and the American Revolution may have also played a role in such decisions.  They experimented with offering a product to consumers, but even after tinkering with their advertising did not manage to generate a robust market for it.

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