June 21

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

Supplement to the Pennsylvania Packet (June 21, 1773).

“Esteemed to be a paper of as good credit and utility as any extant.”

As Samuel F. Parker and John Anderson prepared to take over publishing the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy when the lease held by Samuel Inslee and Anthony Car came to an end in August 1773, they placed notices in both the New-York Journal and the Pennsylvania Packet.  They hoped to attract local subscribers in New York and nearby towns as well as distant subscribers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, just as James Rivington had successfully solicited subscriptions for Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer or Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser from far beyond the bustling urban port in recent months.

To entice prospective subscribers, Parker and Anderson emphasized that they intended to publish content “for the especial service of the commercial interest” in addition to articles “for the amusement and information of private families.”  They realized that merchants in Philadelphia and other towns served by the Pennsylvania Packet benefitted from various features that regularly appeared in newspapers published in New York, including prices current for commodities, entries about vessels arriving and departing from the customs house, and news about the location and progress of ships as reported by captains and others when they arrived in port.  Even paid notices, such as advertisement for consumer goods and legal notices, provided valuable intelligence for merchants keeping track of markets.

Parker and Anderson boasted about the reputation of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy when Parker’s father previously published it, declaring that it was “esteemed to be a paper of as good credit and utility as any extant.”  The printers suggested that under their management the newspaper would rival any of the others published in New York, making it as good or better a choice for merchants in Philadelphia who wished to consult newspapers from that city.  Parker and Anderson did not invest as much effort in marketing their newspaper to prospective subscribers and other readers in neighboring colonies as Rivington did, but their advertisements in the Pennsylvania Packet demonstrates that they recognized the potential to increase their circulation by acquiring subscribers beyond New York.

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