What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Physicians prescriptions, or family receipts put up in the most careful manner.”
Moses Bartram ran a shop that he called “the OLD MEDICINAL STORE.” In December, 1772, he ran a newspaper advertisement advising residents of Philadelphia that he “CONTINUES to carry on the business in its various branches” and offered a variety of goods and services. He stocked “a fresh and general assortment of DRUGS and MEDICINES, Chymical and Galenical preparations of the best quality.” He also carried patent medicines and, like many apothecaries, both “shop furniture for Practitioners” and “painters colours for either oil or water.” Bartram filled “orders from town and country.” He also prepared “Physicians prescriptions” and “family receipts” or remedies “in the most careful manner.”
In marketing the goods and services available at the Old Medicinal Store, Bartram placed his advertisement in three of the five newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time. Doing so helped him achieve greater market saturation with his notices. His notice first appeared in the Wöchentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote, a German-language newspaper, on December 15. A note that ran across the bottom of the masthead advised “All ADVERTISEMENTS to be inserted in this Paper, or printed single by HENRY MILLER, Publisher hereof, are by him translated gratis.” The following day, Bartram’s advertisement ran in both the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal.
The apothecary chose not to place his advertisement in the two newest newspapers published in the city, the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Packet. Both of them had a healthy number of advertisements each week, suggesting that other advertisers had confidence in the circulation numbers for those newspapers. The Pennsylvania Packet frequently distributed a two-page supplement to accommodate all of the advertisements submitted to the printing office. In making his choices about where to advertise, Bartram clustered the dissemination of his notices on Tuesdays (Wöchentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote) and Wednesdays (Pennsylvania Gazette and Pennsylvania Journal). He could have spread out the days by placing his advertisements in the Pennsylvania Packet, published on Mondays, or the Pennsylvania Chronicle, published on Saturdays.
Given that all of these newspapers were published only once a week rather than daily, allowing readers more time to peruse the contents before discarding an earlier issue in favor of the newest one, Bartram may not have considered it necessary to spread out the days that his advertisements initially appeared in print. Other factors, including price, his existing relationships with the various printers, and his perceptions of the circulation of each newspaper, may have been more important to Bartram in choosing where (and when) to advertise.