What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Yesterday was published in Boston … An ORATION … to commemorate the BLOODY TRAGEDY.”
As soon as Benjamin Edes and John Gill informed readers of the Boston-Gazette that they published an oration that Joseph Warren delivered to commemorate the second anniversary of the “BLOODY TRAGEDY Of the FIFTH of March, 1770,” the printers of the Essex Gazette ran their own advertisement. “Yesterday was published in Boston, and now to be sold by Samuel Hall, in Salem,” the notice announced, “An ORATION, delivered March 5th, 1772, at the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, to commemorate the BLOODY TRAGEDY of the Fifth of March, 1770. By Dr. JOSEPH WARREN.” That advertisement did not include the lengthy excerpt from the address that Edes and Gill included in their notice, but it did encourage consumers to participate in commemorating the Boston Massacre by purchasing their own copy of Warren’s remarks.
Not surprisingly, given its location, the Essex Gazette engaged in the most extensive remembrances of “Preston’s Massacre–in King-Street … In which Five Persons were killed, and Six wounded” of any newspaper published outside of Boston. On the occasion of the second anniversary, the Halls devoted the entire first page of their newspaper to a memorial that honored the patriots who gave their lives and listed grievances against the “British Ministry” that “contrived and effected the Establishment of the late Standing Army” in Massachusetts. In addition to such memorials, the Essex Gazette carried advertisements for commemorative items connected to the Boston Massacre. Nearly a year before promoting Warren’s address, the Essex Gazette carried an advertisement for “A few of Mr. Lovell’s ORATIONS on the Massacre in Boston, to be sold by the Printer hereof.” Residents of Salem and surrounding towns had an opportunity to purchase the same commemorative pamphlet printed and sold in Boston. The commodification and marketing of the Boston Massacre helped to create a culture of commemoration of the Boston Massacre throughout the colony. Colonizers who did not live in the busy port and could not witness Warren’s oration themselves read the Essex Gazette and the various newspapers printed in Boston. When they did so, they read coverage of the commemorative events and encountered invitations to purchase their own copies of orations and other items related to the Boston Massacre, opportunities to partake in civic participation through consumption even if they could not attend in person.