What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He has been enabled to contract for a new Sett of neat and elegant Types.”
With Alexander Robertson, James Robertson, and John Trumbull disseminating subscription proposals for a new newspaper, the Norwich Packet, Ebenezer Watson, the printer of the Connecticut Courant in Hartford, faced more competition. The Norwich Packet would bring the total number of newspapers published in the colony to four, including the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy and the New-London Gazette. Watson already felt as though he “has hitherto laboured under peculiar Disadvantages and Embarrassments, by Reason of the Badness of his Types,” his anxiety likely magnified by the printers of the Norwich Packet declaring that their newspaper “will be Printed with Splended new Types.” Watson did his best with the equipment he possessed, though “anxiously concerned to perform the various Branches of his Business in the neatest and most elegant Manner.” In particular, he wished to print newspapers “as welcome and entertaining as possible to his kind Customers, and the Public,” but lacked the “where with all to furnish his Office with better Materials.”
Such confessions may have generated some sympathy and understanding among readers of the Connecticut Courant, but they did not improve the legibility of the newspapers that Watson printed. He had acknowledged the issue several months earlier when he issued a call for subscribers and others to settle accounts. Even without “the Complaints of his Customers,” Watson was “sensible that the Courant is very badly printed” because “his Types are worn out,” yet he could not “replenish the Office with a new Set of Printing Materials” when those same customers who complained did not pay their bills. Fortunately for Watson, “through unexpected Interposition and Assistance of Friends, he has been enabled to contract for a new Sett of neat and elegant Types.” He anticipated that they would arrive “by the Beginning of Winter.” For the moment, however, he “asks the Patience and Candour of the indulgent Public till the Arrival of his Types.” Once he had access to them, Watson anticipated that “the CONNECTICUT COURANT will appear with a Lustre and Brightness equal (if not surpassing that of the other Papers in this Colony).” In addition, the printer realized that his newspaper circulated beyond Connecticut. With new types, he looked forward to the day that his newspaper would “rank with any Publications throughout this extensive Continent,” including the other newspapers published in his own colony.