February 12

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (February 12, 1773).

“This LAST Notice is given to the delinquents for this Gazette or Advertisements.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among the colonial newspaper printers who most frequently ran notices calling on subscribers and others to settle accounts.  On one occasion, they threatened to publish a list of delinquent subscribers, though nothing ever came of that.  More often, they pledged to place the matter into the hands of an attorney.  In most instances, they likely did not follow through on that.

In February 1773, however, circumstances prompted Robert Fowle to take action.  He inserted a notice in the February 12 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform readers that he “lodged a large Number of Accounts in the Hands of OLIVER WHIPPLE, Attorney at Law.”  Those who owed “for this Gazette or Advertisements” had one last chance to make payment.  Robert instructed them to do so at Whipple’s office rather than visit the printing office.  Fowle had warned them seven weeks earlier in an advertisement that announced “the Co-partnership of Daniel and Robert Fowle, will be dissolved.”  That being the case, the printers needed to settle accounts, so Fowle requested that “all Persons who have Accounts open” make payment “as soon as possible.”  He cautioned that those “who neglect, & are Indebted, must expect … the Accounts will be lodged with such Gentlemen as will create Trouble and needless Charges.”  Fowle’s plans to “leave this Province” apparently prompted him to get an attorney involved when “delinquents” ignored that notice.

Robert alone signed both advertisements, perhaps because Daniel intended to remain in Portsmouth and continue publishing the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Robert resorting to legal action allowed Daniel to remain neutral in his dealings with subscribers, advertisers, and others with overdue accounts, frustrated as he may have been with them.  The printer also advised that customers who “owe for less than a Year … are desired to take no Notice of this Advertisement” because their accounts would be settled at the printing office in the usual manner.  He apparently did not see a need to create trouble with customers who kept relatively current with their accounts.  Similarly, he aimed to avoid trouble with associates who “have any Thing due to them from the Printers,” inviting them to visit the printing office for payment rather than get an attorney involved.

Colonial newspaper printers often vowed to take legal action against subscribers who did not take their bills, but those were often empty threats.  However, when Robert Fowle ended his partnership with his uncle and prepared to leave the colony, those circumstances made it necessary to enlist the aid of an attorney.  Some of the “delinquents” who had ignored similar notices for years may have been quite surprised by that turn of events.

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