February 14

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

New-London Gazette (February 14, 1772).

“SUBSCRIPTIONS … will be received by T. & J. Fleet, in Boston, T. Green in New-London, and by the other Printers in Connecticut.”

When a “Gentleman in England, of Distinguished character for many munificent deeds to the Publick,” supposedly wished to sponsor publication of “a second Volume of Collection of Papers relative to the History of Massachusetts Bay” in 1772, Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, printers of the first volume, set about promoting the project.  Advertisements initially appeared in newspapers published in Boston, but eventually ran in other newspapers as well.

An advertisement nearly identical to one in the January 23, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter appeared in the New-London Gazette on February 14.  It featured the same introduction that gave the story of the “Gentleman in England” and cautioned that “None will be printed for Sale” except those reserved by subscribers in advance.  It also included the primary justification intended to persuade colonizers to support the project: “As most of these Papers will, probably, be irrecoverably lost in a few Years, unless preserved by Printing, it is hoped that a sufficient Number of Subscribers will soon appear, from a regard to the Public.”  Readers had a duty “for the Benefit of Posterity,” the advertisement underscored, to participate in the preservation of important documents through printing them so widely that they would always remain accessible.

The version of the advertisement that ran in the New-London Gazette did have some variations.  Timothy Green, the printer of that newspaper, reserved space for other content by significantly reducing the list of local agents who worked with the Fleets.  “SUBSCRIPTIONS to encourage the Printing of this Collection,” the advertisement instructed, “will be received by T. & J. Fleet, in Boston, T. Green in New-London, and by the other Printers in Connecticut.”  The original version listed local agents in nearly a dozen cities and towns in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.  It also concluded with a note that “A few of the first Volumes of Collection of Papers, may be had at the Heart and Crown.”  Compared to readers of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, readers of the New-London Gazettewere less likely to know that a sign depicting a heart and crown marked the location of the Fleets’ printing office.  Green edited that final note to advise readers of his newspaper that “A few of the first Volume of Collection of Papers may be had of T. & J. Fleet, in Boston.”

Green participated in an extensive network of local agents, comprised primarily of printers, who accepted subscriptions for the proposed “second Volume of Collection of Papers relative to the History of Massachusetts Bay.”  His responsibilities included marketing as well as collecting names of colonizers who wished to reserve copies.  He published advertisements consistent with those distributed by the printers in charge of the project, but edited them to suit his own purposes and to provide clarifications for readers of his newspaper.  That resulted in an advertising largely consistent from newspapers in one town to another, but with minor variations.

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