September 20

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (September 20, 1773).

When there will be added to his other Performances.

Mr. Bates continued exhibiting feats of horsemanship for audiences in Boston in late September 1773, advertising once again in the September 20 editions of the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  He planned his next performance for Tuesday, September 21, weather permitting.  He placed shorter notices in the first two newspapers, but in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy reverted to some of the material from the lengthier version that he initially published to introduce himself when he arrived in town.

The copy of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy digitized in America’s Historical Newspapers features manuscript additions, likely notes generated in the printing office when producing a handbill for Bates’s performance a week later on September 28.  For instance, the date has been crossed out and “28” written above it.  Similarly, “at the Bottom of the MALL in Boston” has a line through it after a description of the act with the location added in manuscript to the portion giving the date.  Manuscript additions for “A Variety of Manly Exercises never se[en here]” and the word “with” to introduce “a Burlesque on Horsemanship” appear on that copy of the newspaper, later integrated into the handbill, along with a line through “The Seats are made proper Ladies and Gentlemen,” which did not appear on the handbill.  The newspaper advertisement also features manuscript lines under each of the European courts where Bates previously performed.  Perhaps the compositor or an assistant underlined each when added to the handbill, ensuring none were overlooked or inadvertently omitted.  Large crosshatching at the bottom of the advertisement may have been added once all the material had been set in type and transferred to the handbill.

Handbill: Mr. Bates, “Horsemanship,” (Boston: [likely Nathaniel Mills and John Hicks], 1773). Courtesy American Antiquarian Society.

The manuscript additions do not capture all of the additions made to the handbill.  For instance, the handbill included an appeal intended to incite a sense of urgency to see the show: “AS Mr. BATES’s Stay in Town will be but short, he will go thro’ all his Performances at the above Time.”  In other words, audiences would see all of the acts in his repertoire during a single performance, but only if they acquired tickets quickly before Bates departed from Boston.  He previously used a similar marketing strategy in New York.  Even though the manuscript notes do not document every revision made for the handbill, they do suggest that Bates turned to the printing office of Nathaniel Mills and John Hicks, the printers of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, to produce the handbill.  The colophon for their newspaper solicited advertisements, presumably both newspaper notices and other formats, and stated that they pursued the printing business “in its different branches.”  This copy of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy digitized for broader access to the newspaper likely reveals some of the consultation between the printing office and the advertiser that went into producing a handbill that circulated in Boston.

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