What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.”
Four days after James Rivington first published advertisements promoting a new newspaper, Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, a new notice appeared in yet another newspaper. The bookseller, printer, and stationer commenced advertising in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 22, 1773. Two days later, he inserted advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal. His next notice ran in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy on February 26.
That advertisement replicated, for the most part, the notices that ran in the Philadelphia newspapers. Rivington included lengthy copy explaining how his newspaper differed “in its Plan from most others now extant,” describing how the “State of Learning shall be constantly reported” in addition to “the most important Events, Foreign and Domestic, the Mercantile Interest in Arrivals, Departures and Prices Current, at Home and Abroad.” He also included a list of three local agents who accepted subscriptions in New Haven. As he had in most other notices, Rivington stated that the “first Number shall make its Appearance when the Season will permit the several Post-Riders to perform their Stages regularly.” The printer wanted subscribers to know when they could expect to receive the first issue.
Rivington added one short paragraph to his advertisement in the Connecticut Journal that did not appear in any of the other newspapers. “The Gentlemen, the Merchants and Traders of New-York,” he asserted, “have universally patronized this Design, and their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.” That reiterated what he said elsewhere in the advertisement about receiving “Encouragement from the first Personages in this Country” to publish the newspaper, but it also added a detail about the advertisements the newspaper would carry. Rivington expected that readers in New Haven and nearby towns would be interested in advertisements for consumer goods as well as legal notices concerning New York, more interested than readers in Newport and Philadelphia. That made sense since New Haven was much more within the commercial orbit of New York than the other two towns where he previously promoted his newspaper. After all, Newport and Philadelphia were both thriving ports. Residents of New Haven, on the other hand, had closer connections to New York, especially given the proximity. Advertisements relevant to New York and nearby towns may not have been of much interest to most prospective subscribers in Newport and Philadelphia, but Rivington considered them a selling point when marketing his newspaper to readers in New Haven.