What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Dr. OGDEN’S very successful Method of Cure, which the Printer inserted in the Almanack at the particular request of some of the Inhabitants.”
As the new year approached and printers throughout the colonies advertised almanacs for 1774, James Rivington of New York took to the pages of his own newspaper to advise prospective customers that the “very great Demand for Rivington’s Almanack … HAS occasioned him to print a new Edition.” Like many other printers who marketed the almanacs they published, Rivington provided an extensive list of the contents as a means of generating interest. He enumerated twenty items. They included helpful reference information, such as “Courts in this and the neighbouring Provinces,” “Fairs,” “FRIENDS Meetings,” and “Roads.” They also included six “Cures for Disorders in Horses” and five “Receipts [or cures] from some of the most eminent Physicians” for a variety of symptoms. For entertainment, the almanac contained “Pleasant Jests.” For the edification of readers, it included “A very important Lesson.” Rivington emphasized that the contents of his almanac “vary in many particulars from others” sold by competitors. The items he selected for inclusion “have been so well received by the Public, as to occasion a very large Quantity to be sold in a few Days.” Existing demand served as a recommendation for the new edition.
Before commenting on the reception that the almanac already enjoyed or listing the contents, Rivington opened his advertisement with a note intended to resonate with prospective customers in nearby Connecticut. “The following Almanack is particularly recommended to the Inhabitants of the Colony of Connecticut,” the printer asserted, “where the ulcerous and malignant Sore Throat, at this Time rages in a very high Degree.” Rivington reported that he inserted “Dr, OGDEN’S very successful Method of Cure … at the particular Request of some of the Inhabitants.” Among the contents enumerated in the advertisement, “Dr. JACOB OGDEN’S Method of treating the Malignant Sore Throat Distemper” appeared first. That item alone, Rivington suggested, justified purchasing this particular almanac. He implied that he provided an important service, though his altruism had limits. After all, he could have published the “Method of Cure” in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser for the benefit of readers throughout the region he distributed his newspaper. Still, Rivington framed his choice of contents for his almanac as an act of benevolence that took current events in account. His awareness of the particular needs of prospective customers in Connecticut led him to respond in a manner that he intended would simultaneously contribute to public health and further his own commercial interests.