What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Ames’s Almanack, for 1772, may be had at the Printing-Office.”
Colonial printers usually began advertising almanacs for the coming year in the fall, first alerting prospective customers of their intentions to take certain popular titles to press and later informing them that they could purchase copies. Occasionally printers made initial announcements in the summer, but most appeared in colonial newspapers in October and November. Starting in November, printers proclaimed that they “just published” almanacs and called on consumers to acquire copies of their favorites. Many also offered discounts to retailers who bought in bulk. Not surprisingly, the greatest number of advertisements for almanacs ran in newspapers in November and December as the new year approached. During those months, practically every issue of every newspaper printed in the colonies carried at least one advertisement for almanacs, those published by the printer of that newspaper, and many carried multiple advertisements. Almanacs generated significant revenues for printers.
Advertising for almanacs continued in January, but tapered off over time. By February, most advertisements disappeared, though some printers continued to run short notices to attract stragglers. Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, inserted a brief notice in the February 7, 1772, edition. It announced, “Ames’s Almanack, for1772, may be had at the Printing-Office.” The Fowles apparently had surplus copies that reduced any profit they earned on the venture. They exercised their prerogative as printers in making decisions about the format and placement of the advertisement. Even though it extended only two lines, the words “Ames’s Almanack” featured some of the largest type on the final page of the newspaper. The Fowles placed the notice at the top of the center column, likely in an attempt to draw even more attention to it. In contrast, their advertisement for “BLANKS of most Sorts, for respective Counties, sold by the Printers” ran at the very bottom of the final column on the third page, seemingly filler as much as intentional marketing. The advertisement for “Ames’s Almanack” may have functioned in part as filler as well, but its format and placement suggest that the Fowles made deliberate decisions beyond merely seeking to complete a column or fill a page.