What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Send or bring the Receipts they have received, that a final Settlement may be made.”
Daniel Fowle, printer of the New-Hampshire Gazette, marked the seventeenth anniversary of the newspaper with a note running across the bottom margin of the first page of the September 23, 1774, edition. A manicure directed readers to an announcement that “This Paper completes the seventeenth Year since its first Publication.” In addition, Fowle inserted an advertisement calling on “Customers who are in Arrears for one Year or more” to pay their bills. Colonial printers often inserted notices in their own newspapers for the purpose of encouraging their customers to pay, especially those who had not done so for several years. Printers typically extended credit to subscribers, anticipating that increasing their circulation numbers would yield more advertisements and more advertising revenue. (Some of the notices placed by printers, however, also called on advertisers to settle accounts, though not nearly as often as they singled out subscribers. Apparently, not all printers required payment for advertisements in advance.) Like merchants, shopkeepers, and other entrepreneurs who allowed credit for consumers, printers regularly resorted to advertisements requesting payment. For many newspaper printers, this became part of an annual ritual upon completing another year of publication.
In addition to dealing with him directly, Fowle instructed customers who lived at a distance and “have sent by, or paid any Money to Post-Riders, or others,” to inform him that was the case and submit “the Receipts they have received” in order “that a final Settlement may be made, and the proper Persons charg’d.” Fowle would consult his ledgers to confirm that post riders who carried the New-Hampshire Gazette to distant towns and received payment for both their services and the newspapers made the proper remittances to the printing office. To that end, he expressed his desire that “there may be no Misunderstanding.” That phrase, however, did not apply solely to reconciling accounts with post riders. Regular readers likely would have recognized the implicit threat of legal action in that phrase. Fowle was not as assertive as he and his nephew, Robert, had sometimes been when they ran similar advertisements during their partnership. They explicitly threatened to sue and once even suggested that they would publish the names of subscribers who were delinquent in paying their bills. Fowle did not resort to those measures this time, but he did make it clear that “Attendance will be given at the Printing-Office” with the expectation that customers would make overdue payments.