What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“There are some Almanacks with Dr. Ames’s Name thereto that are very erroneous.”
In the December 24, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Richard Draper continued the efforts to inform the public about counterfeit editions of “AMES’s Almanack for 1773” that he, Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, printers of the Boston Evening-Post, and Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, began three days earlier. According to a note from Nathaniel Ames, the author of the popular almanac, “The only True and Correct Almanacks from my Copy, are those printed by R. Draper, Edes & Gill and T. & J. Fleet.”
Draper expanded on the notice that previously appeared in other newspapers, advising readers and prospective customers that “there are some Almanacks with Dr. Ames’s Name thereto that are very erroneous.” In particular, those counterfeits contained misinformation about “Roads and Stages,” but in the “true Almanack” those errors had been “corrected, amended and placed in a better Manner than in any Almanack heretofore published.” Draper offered a justification not only for choosing Ames’s “true Almanack” over counterfeit editions but also for choosing it over any other almanacs advertised and sold in New England.
Isaiah Thomas, printer of the Massachusetts Spy, advertised some of those almanacs on the same day that Draper published the extended version of the advertisement about Ames’s “True and Correct Almanacks.” Under a headline that simply declared, “ALMANACKS,” Thomas listed “AMES’s, Lowe’s, Gleason’s (or Massachusetts Calender) and Sterne’s ALMANACKS” available at his printing office. Thomas did not note whether he sold Ames’s almanac printed by Draper, the Fleets, and Edes and Gill, but his newspaper was the only one in Boston that did not carry the notice from those printers that week.
In addition, the supplement that accompanied that edition of the Massachusetts Spy contained just one advertisement. It advised prospective customers about “AMES’s Almanack, for 1773, just published and to be sold by Russell & Hicks, in Union street, next the Cornfield.” Whether or not Thomas sold the counterfeit almanac at his own shop, he did not seem to have any qualms about generating revenue by running advertisements placed by the printers who published the suspect edition. Given that households from the most grand to the most humble acquired almanacs each year, those pamphlets were big business for printers. Rivalries in printing, marketing, and selling almanacs became a regular feature of newspaper advertising each fall and into the winter months.