What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Just Published, and to be Sold by TIMOTHY GREEN, Freebetter’s New-England ALMANACK.”
The “POETS CORNER,” a regular feature, appeared in the upper left corner of the final page of the New-London Gazetteon November 27, 1772. Except for the colophon, advertising filled the remainder of the page. Although some colonial printers interspersed news and advertising throughout their newspapers, Timothy Green, the printer of the New-London Gazette, tended to segregate advertisements from the news, running articles and editorials on the first several pages and then reserving the remainder for paid notices. Such was the case in the November 27 edition. Advertising began in the final column of the third page and filled the rest of the issue, except for the poem and colophon.
That description, however, does not take into account an advertisement for “Freebetter’s New-England ALMANACK, For the Year of Our Lord CHRIST 1773” that ran just below the masthead as the first item in the first column on the first page. The news, starting with “An Act for preventing and punishing he stealing of Horses,” followed that advertisement. Like many other advertisements for almanacs, it promoted a variety of “useful, entertaining, and instructive” contents “beside the usual astronomical Calculations,” including “a Table of the Weight and Value of Coins, as they pass in England, New-England, and New York,” an essay on “the mental and personal Qualifications of a Husband,” and a guide to “an infallible Method to preserve our Health, to secure and improve our Estates, to quiet our Minds, and to advance our Esteem and Reputation.”
Why did that advertisement merit such a privileged place in the newspaper? It happened to be “Just Published, … and Sold by TIMOTHY GREEN.” The printer took advantage of his access to the press to give his own advertisement a prime spot that increased the likelihood that prospective customers would see it. Given that printers exchanged newspapers in order to reprint content for their own subscribers, Green may have seen John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, recently deploy the same strategy to hawk “The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY.” On the other hand, Green did not need to see that example to take the initiative in placing an advertisement for the almanac he printed on the front page of his newspaper. Colonial printers frequently gave their own notices priority over news, editorials, and paid advertisements.