What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Every particular that may contribute to the improvement, information, and entertainment of the public, shall be constantly conveyed through the channel of the NEW-YORK GAZETTEER.”
A week after James Rivington’s proposal for publishing a newspaper, Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, first appeared in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle, it ran in the Pennsylvania Packet. During that week, Rivington also inserted the proposal, with variations, in the Connecticut Journal, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal. In advance of publishing a newspaper intended to serve an expansive region, the bookseller, printer, and stationer launched an advertising campaign in multiple newspapers throughout that region. Once his notice appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet on March 1, 1773, all four English-language newspapers in Philadelphia carried it to readers dispersed far beyond that busy urban port.
These advertisements likely helped Rivington attract subscribers. In his History of Printing in America (1810), Isaiah Thomas notes that Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer “was patronized in all the principal towns by the advocates of the British administration who approved the measures adopted toward the colonies” and “obtained an extensive circulation.” Furthermore, the newspaper “undoubtedly had some support from ‘his Majesty’s government.’” Patriots found Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer “obnoxious.” On November 27, 1775, “a number of armed men from Connecticut entered the city, on horseback, and beset his habitation, broke into his printing house, destroyed his press, threw his types into heaps, and carried away a large quantity of them, which they melted and formed into bullets.” Rivington departed for England soon after that encounter, but he returned to New York once the British occupied the city. In October 1777, he began publishing Rivington’s New-York Gazette; or the Connecticut, Hudson’s River, New-Jersey, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser once again. That title lasted for two issues before he changed it to Rivington’s New-York Loyal Gazette and, not long after that, the Royal Gazette.
Although Thomas did not care for Rivington’s politics, he did give him credit for his skills as an editor, a printer, and an entrepreneur who disseminated his newspaper widely. Thomas acknowledged that “for some time Rivington conducted his paper with as much impartiality as most of the editors of that period; and it may be added, that no newspaper in the colonies was better printed, or was more copiously furnished with foreign intelligence.” In addition, Thomas reported that Rivington claimed that “each impression of his week Gazetteer, amounted to 3,600 copies” in October 1773. For the period, that was an extensive circulation indeed.
 Isaiah Thomas, History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers and an Account of Newspapers (1810; New York: Weathervane Books, 1970), 508-9.
 Thomas, History of Printing, 511.