What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“It was intirely the Printer’s mistake in advertising last week that Mr. BATES would perform only once more.”
On Thursday, July 22, 1773, Mr. Bates ran an advertisement in the New-York Journal to promote his next performance showcasing feats of horsemanship, informing the public that it would take place on Tuesday, July 27. In the same notice, he announced that he “proposes, but twice more, before he leaves this City, to exhibit his Performances in Horsemanship.” He did not indicate the date of his final performance, but the same day he inserted a much shorter advertisement in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer. “MR. BATES,” that notice proclaimed, “PROPOSES to perform on Tuesday next, and on Friday the 30th instant, and no more, before he leaves this City.” The performer placed a longer advertisement, with nearly identical copy to the one in the New-York Journal, in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury on July 26, the day before one of those final performances. In it, he stated that “Mr. Bates’s stay in town will be very short, as he intends performing only twice.” In each advertisement, Bates made it clear that he would remain in New York for a limited time only. Audiences interested in attending his show needed to purchase tickets before it was too late.
The next advertisement that appeared in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer was consistent with Bates’s marketing over the prior week. On Thursday, July 29, that notice encouraged readers to attend his final performance in the city: “MR. BATES PROPOSES to perform tomorrow at the usual place, for the last time.” The New-York Journal did not happen to carry an advertisement from Bates on the day before that final performance. On Monday, August 2, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury once again ran the advertisement from July 26, with one update. It now stated, “TO-MORROW, being TUESDAY the 3d August, he will perform on One, Two, Three and Four HORSES, at the Bull’s-Head, in Bowery-Lane.” Only the date changed, from “27th of July” to “3d August.” A note at the end still asserted that “Mr. Bates’s stay on town will be very short, as he intends performing only twice.” On August 5, he once again advertised in the New-York Journal. The opening paragraph remained the same as what appeared in the previous two issues, but he updated information about his final performance and departure from New York. “On TUESDAY next, the 10th of August, if the weather permits, if not on the Friday following, which positively will be the last time, as Mr. Bates intends to set out on a tour for Boston the next day,” the advertisement explained, “He will perform on one, two, three and four Horses, at the Bull’s-Head, in the Bowery Lane.”
That same day, August 5, Bates placed a new advertisement in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer, the publication that announced a week earlier that he would give his final performance on Friday, July 30. In this notice, Bates stated that he would perform the following Tuesday and allowed for the next Friday as the rain date. He once again underscored that this was the last chance to attend his who, that audiences had a limited time to witness the spectacle for themselves before he left town. He underscored that “the public may be assured this will be his last exhibition, and that he will leave this town on his way to Boston, the day after his finishing performance.” He added that it “was intirely the Printer’s mistake in advertising last week that Mr. BATES would perform only once more.” Was it? The advertisement in the July 29 edition of Rivington’s New-York Gazette accurately reflected the dates from the advertisement that appeared in the previous issue as well as the appeals that Bates made in notices in other newspapers. A savvy marketer like Bates may have intended all along to announce his imminent departure, creating demand for the final shows, and then “extend” his time in New York by a week in order to give two more performances. Alternately, his plans might have changed and that allowed him to sell tickets for two more shows.
The discrepancy in the advertisements and the supposed “Printer’s mistake” in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer raises questions about how closely Bates coordinated his marketing efforts with each of the printing offices. Given the revisions to the advertisements in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal, he apparently submitted new instructions. Did he also send updated information to the other printing office only to have it inadvertently overlooked? Or did Bates plan for that newspaper to carry the “Printer’s mistake” as a means of creating confusion to amplify the sense of urgency for purchasing tickets that he wanted audiences to experience? The relief they felt after learning that they had another chance following the “Printer’s mistake” might have convinced some readers to buy tickets for what would actually be Bates’s final performance in New York … but that was not a ploy that the performer could use in more than one newspaper. Bates carefully managed his marketing efforts while in New York. He certainly sought to manipulate audiences into attending his shows after announcing they he would soon leave the city. Was the “Printer’s mistake” an actual mistake or another manipulation intended to incite interest?