March 8

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (March 8, 1773).


It was an annual event.  Patriots in New York gathered to celebrate the “ANNIVERSARY OF THE REPEAL OF THE STAMP ACT.”  Newspaper notices summoned them, including in 1770, 1771, 1772, and, once again 1773.  At that time, seven years had passed since colonial resistance contributed to Parliament’s decision to repeal the legislation, while simultaneously passing the Declaratory Act to save face.  Patriots gathered each year to commemorate their victory, encourage further vigilance, and call on others to make common cause with them.  The notice in the March 8, 1773, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury invited “those Gentlemen … who associated [at Abraham de la Montaigne’s tavern] last Year” as well as “their Friends” to join the festivities.  Occasionally, advertisements in newspapers published in other cities also promoted similar commemorations.  In 1771, for instance, a notice in the Boston-Gazette informed the public that “The Feast of ST. PATRICK is to be celebrated, together with the Repeal of the STAMP-ACT … at the Green Dragon.”

In addition to commemorating that triumph over oppressive legislation, colonizers also marked the anniversary of the Boston Massacre.  On March 8, 1773, the same day that the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury carried the notice about the upcoming dinner to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act, the Boston Evening-Post reported that on “the Anniversary of the 5th of March,” the day that British soldiers fired into a crown and “barbarously murdered” several colonizers in 1770, the committee that organized the commemoration the previous year “engaged Dr. BENJAMIN CHURCH, to deliver an ORATION, on the dangerous Tendency of Standing Armies being placed in free and populous Cities, and to perpetuate the Memory of the horrid Massacre.”  Church delivered the address “at the Old South Meeting, where the people crowded in such Numbers, that it was with Difficulty the Orator reached the Pulpit.”  According to the article, Church’s “Fellow Citizens … requested a Copy of his Oration for the Press.”  In the coming weeks, readers would encounter advertisements for the address.

In the evening, a “Select Number of the Friends of Constitutional Liberty” displayed a lantern with a pane painted with “a lively Representation of the bloody Massacre” perpetrated three years earlier.  When lit, the lantern cast eerie shadows depicting the event near the spot where it occurred.  The side panels included other images; on the right, a personification of America, “sitting in as Mourning Posture, looking down and the Spectators,” and, on the left, a “Monument, sacred to the Memory” of the victims.  The organizers extinguished the lantern at “a Quarter after Nine, the Time of the Evening when the bloody Scene was acted.”  Then, “most of the Bells in Town toll’d till Ten.”  The Boston-Gazette carried similar coverage the same day, as did the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Massachusetts Spy in their next issues on March 11.  Residents of Boston would have been familiar with these commemorations before they appeared in the newspapers.  The printers published the accounts to inform readers in other towns and for printers in other cities to reprint and disseminate to even greater numbers of colonizers.  The Essex Gazette, published in Salem, reprinted the account on March 9, the day after it first appeared in the Boston-Gazette.

Commemorations of the events that resulted in thirteen colonies declaring independence began before the fighting started at Lexington and Concord in April 1775.  As acts of resistance, colonizers marked significant events associated with the American Revolution even before they knew that the outcome would indeed be a revolution.  Such commemorations may have helped convince some colonizers of the merits of separating from Great Britain.

One thought on “March 8

  1. […] in SALEM.”  Both advertisements appeared in the same issue that reprinted a lengthy account of commemorations that took place in Boston on the third anniversary of the “horrid Massacre perpetrated by a Party of the 29th Regiment,” […]

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