What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An ORATION … to COMMEMORATE the BLOODY TRAGEDY of the FIFTH of MARCH 1770.”
Within a week of Benjamin Edes and John Gill announcing that “Dr. CHURCH’S ORATION will be Published by the Printers hereof as soon as possible,” advertisements for that pamphlet appeared in three of Boston’s newspapers. Edes and Gill referred to the address that Dr. Benjamin Church delivered “At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of BOSTON” on the third anniversary of the Boston Massacre “to COMMEMORATE the BLOODY TRAGEDY.” Edes and Gill reported on the commemorations in their newspaper, the Boston-Gazette, on March 8, 1773, reporting that Church spoke about “the dangerous Tendency of Standing Armies” to the “universal Applause of his Audience.” Furthermore, “his Fellow Citizens voted him their Thanks, and unanimously requested a Copy of his Oration for the Press.” In the next weekly issue of the Boston-Gazette, Edes and Gill advised the public that they would soon publish Church’s Oration.
Three days later, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter carried a notice that the “THIRD EDITION, corrected by the AUTHOR” was “Just Publish’d” and sold by Edes and Gill as well as Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, the printers of the Boston Evening-Post. Apparently, Joseph Greenleaf was the first printer to take Church’s Oration to press, but Edes and Gill produced a superior edition. In promoting the third edition, the printers gave their advertisement a privileged place in the Boston-Gazette. It appeared as the first item in the first column on the first page of the March 22 issue, making it difficult for readers to overlook. The same day, the Fleets ran the same notice in the Boston Evening-Post. Although not as prominently displayed as in the Boston-Gazette, the placement likely received special attention. Rather than nestled among the dozens of advertisements on the third and fourth pages, it ran as the sole advertisement on the second page. As readers moved from “Proceedings of the Town of Westminster” to news from London that arrived in the colonies via New York, they encountered the advertisement for Church’s Oration. In its own way, that notice served as news, continuing the coverage of current events and shaping how colonizers viewed their place within the empire.