November 14

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

Norwich Packet (November 11, 1773).

“NOAH HIDDEN, has undertaken to ride Post between the town of NORWICH and PROVIDENCE.”

Today the Adverts 250 Project features an advertisement from the Norwich Packet and the Connecticut, Massachusetts, New-Hampshire, and Rhode-Island Weekly Advertiser for the first time.  After circulating subscription proposals during the summer of 1773, Alexander Robertson, James Robertson, and John Trumbull established the newspaper on October 7, “judging from the date of the earliest issue located, that of Nov. 4, 1773, vol. 1, no. 5.”[1]  America’s Historical Newspapers does not include that issue, but instead begins with the November 11 edition.  Noah Hidden, a post rider, placed the final advertisement in that issue, though he may have started advertising as early as the inaugural edition.

Hidden advised the public that he “has undertaken to ride Post between the Town of NORWICH and PROVIDENCE,” a distance of about fifty miles.  He departed from the printing office in Norwich on Thursdays and from Knight Dexter’s house in Providence on Saturdays.  Not by accident, this itinerary matched the publication schedule of the newspapers in both towns.  The Robertsons and Trumbull distributed a new edition of the Norwich Packet on Thursdays.  For many years, John Carter published the Providence Gazette on Saturdays.  Hidden carried “Letters, Papers, Memorandoms, or small Bundles left at either of said Places,” pledging to take good care of them and offering receipts “if required.”  In particular, he noted that he would provide “those who choose to employ him, with this PAPER.”

The post rider presented this enterprise as a valuable service “to the Inhabitants of both towns and the intermediate Country.”  He underscored the “great utility” of disseminating the information in the newspapers and letters he delivered along his route.  Furthermore, Hidden asserted that his contributions to the regional information infrastructure merited the “Encouragement which a faithful Discharge of the Business he has undertaken shall entitle him to.”  His endeavors help to explain how the Robertsons and Trumbull could suggest that a newspaper published in Norwich served each of the colonies in New England.  Like other colonial newspapers, the Norwich Packet circulated far beyond its place of publication.


[1] Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1947), 66.

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