What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The publication of two Papers on the same day was rather inconvenient to the public.”
In the summer of 1772, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, altered their publication schedule, moving their weekly issues from Thursdays to Wednesdays. They placed an announcement on the first page on July 15, explaining that a “Great number of our friends” convinced them to make the change because “the publication of two Papers on the same day was rather inconvenient to the public.” They did not name the Pennsylvania Gazette, but residents of Philadelphia knew that new issues of both newspapers became available on Thursdays as well as new issues of the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Packet on Mondays. Heeding the advice of their friends, the Bradfords decided to publish the Pennsylvania Journal “regularly every Wednesday,” but assured readers that all other aspects of the newspaper remained the same. They pledged that they “shall still make it our constant endeavour, to keep up the well-known spirit and impartiality of the paper” to serve subscribers and those who “chuse to have advertisements inserted in this extensive paper.”
Whether or not the publication of two newspapers on the same day was “inconvenient” for readers or advertisers, that remained the schedule for the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal as well as the newspapers published in Boston. In that city, all five newspapers clustered publication on just two days, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy on Mondays and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Massachusetts Spy on Thursdays. In New York, the printers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal distributed new issues on different days in 1772, but other newspapers previously competed with them. In Charleston, the printers of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, the South-Carolina Gazette, and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal usually managed to publish new issues on different days of the week, but their schedules had significantly more variability than newspapers in other cities and towns.
The Bradfords may or may not have been counseled by a “Great number” of friends and patrons to publish the Pennsylvania Journal on a different day than their competitors published the Pennsylvania Gazette, but they certainly recognized an opportunity to promote the change to prospective subscribers and advertisers. That change will have an impact on the advertisements featured on the Adverts 250 Project. No other eighteenth-century newspapers that have been digitized were published on Wednesdays, making it necessary to necessary to select advertisements from newspapers published earlier in the week. The change in the Pennsylvania Journal’s publication schedule means that the Adverts 250 Project will feature one of its advertisements once a week. That has the benefit of giving readers access to an advertisement published 250 years ago that day, but the shortcoming of disproportionately representing content from the Pennsylvania Journal … at least “until” another eighteenth-century printer commences (commenced) publication of a newspaper on Wednesdays.