April 12

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (April 9, 1772).

“The Second Edition.”

In the spring of 1772, Benjamin Edes and John Gill marked the second anniversary of the Boston Massacre by printing “AN ORATION DELIVERED MARCH 5th … TO COMMEMORATE THE BLOODY TRAGEDY Of the FIFTH of March, 1770.”  Dr. Joseph Warren gave the address to “the INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF BOSTON.”  Edes and Gill advertised the pamphlet widely, starting with a lengthy notice in their own Boston-Gazette on March 23.  The next day, the Essex Gazette carried an advertisement alerting readers in Salem and nearby towns that Samuel Hall stocked copies of Warren’s oration “published in Boston.”  Over the next week, Edes and Gill ran advertisements in other newspapers, including the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on March 26 and the Boston Evening-Post on April 1.

Did those advertisements work?  Perhaps.  Edes and Gill sold enough copies of Warren’s oration that they printed a second edition and began advertising it in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on April 9.  Their new advertisement, much more extensive than the one that previously appeared in that newspaper, proclaimed that “The Second Edition” was “THIS DAY PUBLISHED … by EDES and GILL.”  It informed prospective customers that they could acquire the address for nine pence.  It also included two other details that appeared in Edes and Gill’s original advertisement in the Boston-Gazette but not in subsequent advertisements in other newspapers, a quotation in Latin by Virgil and a note that the printers also had on hand “A few of Mr. LOVELL’S ORATIONS Deliver’d last April, on the same Occasion.”  Why did Edes and Gill decide to include Lovell’s address from the first anniversary of the Boston Massacre in this new advertisement?  Did they believe that the advertisements in several newspapers incited such demand for the address that Warren recently delivered that they had a good chance of selling surplus copies of Lovell’s oration?  That Edes and Gill expanded their advertising campaign for “The Second Edition” of Warren’s oration suggests that they considered their first round of notices successful and effective.

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