What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Give him the Preference of buying his Ames’s Genuine Almanack before any PIRATED Edition.”
Ezekiel Russell claimed that he published “The Original Copy of Ames’s Almanack, For the Year 1772.” On December 9, 1771, he announced that he would print the almanac the following week, as well as disseminate new advertisements that included the “Particulars of the above curious Almanack with the Places where the Original are sold.” True to his word, he placed much more extensive advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy on December 16 and 23. Those notices included an overview of the contents, such as “Eclipses” and “Courts in the Massachusetts-Bay, New-Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island,” as well as a list of nearly twenty printers and booksellers who carried copies, many of them in Boston, but others in Salem, Newburyport, and Portsmouth.
Russell also took an opportunity to air a grievance with other printers in hopes of convincing consumers to purchase his edition of Ames’s Almanack. He asserted that he “purchased of Doctor AMES, at a great Expence, the true Original Copy of his Almanack.” That being the case, he hoped that “the Publick, with their usual Impartiality,” would buy “hisAmes’s Genuine Almanack before any PIRATED Edition.” Furthermore, he accused “some of his Elder Typographical Brethren,” other printers in Boston, of attempting to “prejudice the Interest of a YOUNGER BROTHER.” In other words, Russell declared that his competitors, men with much greater experience as printers, unfairly attempted to sabotage his endeavor and ruin his business. It was not the first time that residents of Boston witnessed disputes over which printers published the “Original” or the most accurate version of Ames’s Almanack. In a crowded marketplace, several printers aimed to profit from the popular title. Russell sought to convince consumers that the character of the printer mattered as much as the contents of the almanac. At the very least, he wanted those who purchased copies of Ames’s Almanack to make informed decisions about what kind of behavior they were willing to tolerate from printers who produced and sold the almanac.