What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“WILLIAMSBURG: Printed by CLEMENTINA RIND, at the NEW PRINTING OFFICE.”
It was the first time that Clementina Rind’s name appeared in the colophon of the Virginia Gazette, formerly published by her late husband. William Rind died on August 19, 1773. A week later, his widow revised the colophon to read: “WILLIAMSBURG: Printed by CLEMENTINA RIND, at the NEW PRINTING OFFICE, on the Main Street.” Clementina continued her husband’s practice of using the colophon as an advertisement for subscriptions and advertising. “All Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE,” the colophon continued to inform readers, “at 12s6 per Year. ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length are inserted for 3s. the first Week, and 2s. each Time after; and long ones in Proportion.” A thick border, indicative of mourning, separated the colophon from the rest of the content on the final page. Similarly, mourning borders appeared in the masthead as well, alerting readers of a significant loss.
Due to a variety of factors, the death notice in digitized copy of Rind’s Virginia Gazette is not fully legible. His fellow printers, Alexander Purdie and John Dixon, however, ran an even more extensive tribute to their former competitor in their own Virginia Gazette, though lacking mourning borders. They first described William as “an affectionate Husband, kind Parent, and a benevolent Man” before lauding his work as “publick Printer to the Colony.” Purdie and Dixon memorialized a colleague whose “Impartiality on the Conduct of his Gazette, by publishing the Productions of the several contending Parties that have lately appeared in this Country, cannot fail of securing to his Memory the Estee, of all who are sensible how much the Freedom of the Press contributes to maintain and extend the most sacred Rights of Humanity.” Purdie and Dixon underscored the important contributions of all printers in paying their respects to the departed William. They also gave an extensive account of the funeral rituals undertaken by “the ancient and honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons” in memory of “so worthy a Brother.”
Clementina printed the Virginia Gazette for thirteen months. Following her death on September 25, 1774, John Pinkney became the printer. Clementina was not the only female printer producing and distributing a newspaper in the colonies at the time. In Annapolis, Anne Catherine Green and Son published the Maryland Gazette. The widow of Jonas Green, Anne Catherine printed the newspaper upon his death, sometimes as sole publisher and sometimes in partnership with a son. The Adverts 250 Project has also traced some of the work of Sarah Goddard, printer of the Providence Gazette in the late 1760s. Female printers joined their male counterparts in contributing to the dissemination of information (and advertising) during the era of the American Revolution.