What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
The headline expressed some exasperation. The partnership of Stewart and Taylor sought to settle their “Company Accounts, which was to have taken Place in November last,” but six months later they were placing an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to “Once more!” call on “all that are indebted to them to make immediate Payment.” Merchants, shopkeepers, and others regularly ran newspaper notices for the same purpose. John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, inserted his own notice in the same issue that carried Stewart and Taylor’s advertisement, though it was brief in comparison. Carter declared, “ALL Persons indebted for this Gazette one Year, or more, are requested to make immediate Payment.”
Along with the headline intended to attract attention, Stewart and Taylor provided details about the consequences for not complying with their final notice. They wished to settle accounts quickly, “otherwise they will be necessitated to sue [at the] June Court.” The partners hoped that such threats would prompt “all Delinquents [to] come and make Payment, to prevent a Method being taken that will be very disagreeable.” Although not all advertisements placed for the purpose of settling accounts included allusions to legal action, enough did so that readers recognized the tactic for leveraging the “Delinquents.” Relatively few, however, included such a headline. The “Once more!” likely communicated to those “Delinquents” that Stewart and Taylor meant business.
Among those who devised headlines, most advertisers used their names, including Jabez Bowen, Nicholas Brown and Company, Polly Chace, Nathaniel Green, Jonathan Russell, Thurber and Cahoon, John Updike, Joseph West, and Samuel Young. Joseph Russell and William Russell deployed their names as a secondary headline that followed the primary headline that promoted “WEST-INDIA RUM.” In his advertisement about an indentured servant who absconded, Samuel Jefferys used “Eight Dollars Reward” as the headline. That made “Once more!” unique among the headlines featured in advertisements in the May 15, 1773, edition of the Providence Gazette. Stewart and Taylor shrewdly invoked a phrase intended to arouse curiosity and capture the attention of the “Delinquents” who had not yet settled accounts.