December 25

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 25, 1772).

“Those who neglect, & are Indebted, must expect … the Accounts will be lodged with such Gentlemen as will create Trouble.”

As 1772 drew to a close, Daniel Fowle and Robert L. Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, announced their intention to dissolve their partnership.  Robert planned to leave the colony “in a short Time.”  Daniel founded the New-Hampshire Gazette in October 1756.  Nearly eight years later, according to Clarence S. Brigham, “Daniel admitted his nephew … to a share in the management” in September 1764.[1]  The Fowles worked together for more than eight years, distributing their last issue as partners in April 1773.  Daniel then became sole proprietor of the newspaper once again.

As Robert prepared to set out on his own, he inserted a notice in the December 25 edition, the final issue of the year, to alert readers that he “earnestly desires all Persons who have Accounts open, in which he has any Connections,” including accounts with the New-Hampshire Gazette, “to settle the same, as soon as possible.”  As the Fowles often did when they placed notices calling on subscribers and others to pay their bills, Robert threatened legal action against those who ignored this notice.  “Those who neglect, & are Indebted,” he warned, “must expect, that without respect to Persons, the Accounts will be lodged with such Gentlemen as will create Trouble and needless Charges.”  In other words, it did not matter if those who owed the Fowles happened to be the most influential colonial officials and the most affluent merchants; Robert intended to hold them accountable no matter their status.  To that end, he would hire attorneys, those “Gentlemen as will create Trouble and needless Charges.”  He hoped to avoid that “very disagreeable” action if “all Persons who have Accounts open” settled them, but he did not consider it “ungenerous” to sue them “after the repeated Solicitations for a Settlement” published in the newspaper and likely communicated to them in other ways.

As many colonial printers did, the Fowles gave this notice a privileged place in their newspaper.  It appeared at the top of the first column on the first page, immediately below the masthead.  That made it difficult for readers, including those indebted to the Fowles, to overlook the notice.  Perhaps as a means of reminding some of those readers of his other contributions to the community and their mutual obligations to each other, another notice signed by Robert L. Fowle appeared immediately below the one calling on colonizers to settle accounts.  In his capacity as “Pro. Sec.” of the New Hampshire lodge of the “Brethren of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted MASONS,” Robert extended an invitation on behalf of the master of that lodge to gather “to celebrate the Festival of St. JOHN the Evangelist” on December 28.  Robert may have intended for that notice to alleviate some of the sting of the blunt language in the other notice, having the one follow after the other.

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[1] Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Massachusetts:  American Antiquarian Society, 1947), 471.

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