What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An ORATION … to commemorate the BLOODY TRAGEDY.”
Encouragement to participate in the commemoration of the second anniversary of the Boston Massacre by purchasing a copy of the oration delivered by Joseph Warren to mark the occasion continued in the March 26, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter. Three days earlier, Benjamin Edes and John Gill announced in their own newspaper, the Boston-Gazette, that they had just published “AN ORATION DELIVERED MARCH 5TH, 1772 … TO COMMEMORATE THE BLOODY TRAGEDY.” The following day, a notice in the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, alerted readers that “Yesterday was published in Boston, and now to be sold by Samuel Hall … An ORATION … to commemorate the BLOODY TRAGEDY.” That advertisement was much shorter than the one in the Boston-Gazette. Edes and Gill included a lengthy excerpt from Warren’s address in their notice as a means of inciting greater interest and enticing prospective customers.
As proprietors of the Boston-Gazette, Edes and Gill had access to as much space in that newspaper for promoting the goods and services available at their printing office as they wished. On the other hand, they presumably had to pay to insert an advertisement in another newspaper, though they could have worked out some other arrangement with fellow printer Richard Draper when they advertised Warren’s oration in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter. The advertisement in that newspaper was much shorter, consisting of only six lines without any of the excerpt about “the ruinous Consequences of standing Armies to free Communities.” There may have been limits to what Draper was willing to publish, either paid or gratis. After all, the excerpt from the oration amounted to an editorial even though it appeared among advertisements. Draper’s newspaper tended to take a more supportive stance toward the British government, especially compared to the strident critiques that regularly ran in the Boston-Gazette. Among the printers in Boston, Edes and Gill were some of the most ardent in supporting and promoting the Patriot cause. For them to advertise “An ORATION … to commemorate the BLOODY TRAGEDY” in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter at all had political significance likely not lost on readers.