Luke DiCicco is a senior with a double major in History and Political Science at Assumption University. East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, is his home town. His main historical interests include the World Wars and the history of Europe, but he is always eager to learn about anything related to history. He is a member of the Honors Program as well as a resident assistant. He is involved in the Campus Activities Board, Best Buddies, and Student Government Association. He is also an Admissions Ambassador. He has gone on SEND trips to both Washington, DC, and Delaware during spring break in 2018 and 2019. He has previously served as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when he enrolled in HIS 359 – Revolutionary America in Spring 2019. He conducted the research for his current contributions as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when he was enrolled in HIS 400 – Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2020.
Andrew Crawford, known as “AJ” to most, graduated from Assumption College in 2020 with a major in History and a minor in Education. He is especially interested in the history of the twentieth century, especially the World Wars and their legacies in the present day. He served as a resident assistant. AJ hopes to become a Special Education teacher. He conducted the research for his contributions as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when he was enrolled in HIS 400 – Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2020.
Garrett Cardoza is a senior pursuing a double major in History and Political Science at Assumption University. Originally from Somerset, Massachusetts, he is interested in political philosophy and the development of political theory over time. On campus, Garrett has served as a Senator and Committee Chair for the Student Government Association, an Orientation Leader and Student Program Executive, a sub-chair for the Campus Activities Board, ambassador for the Students Involved in Better Success Program, and member of the Model Senate Project sponsored by the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Center for Scholarship and Statesmanship. He is currently the president of the Student Government Association. He conducted the research for his contributions as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when he was enrolled in HIS 400 – Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2020.
Benjamin Bartlett is a senior at Assumption University. He is majoring in history in order to do research and uncover truths buried in time. He is especially interested in times of conflict that have shaped the world, especially in Russia and the Middle East. He is also one of the original seven founders of the Tabletop Gaming Club at Assumption. Participating in this club gives students opportunities to network and forge friendships while playing strategy board games (many of them based on historical events) and other sorts of tabletop games. He conducted the research for his contributions as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when he was enrolled in HIS 400 – Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2020.
Chloe Amour is a senior at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she is majoring in History with a minor in Education. She is from Holden, Massachusetts. Her interests in history include Colonial America, World War II, and the Vietnam War. Beyond history, Chloe is active on campus as a Resident Assistant, Campus Life Intern in the Office of Student Affairs, an Admissions Ambassador, and a Tutor in the Academic Support Center. She conducted the research for her contributions as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when she was enrolled in HIS 400 – Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2020. Chloe is currently enrolled in an independent study for HIS 366 – Careers in Public History. Throughout that independent study, she will make additional contributions as she learns more about producing the project in addition to conducting research for it.
Parker Sears is a 2020 graduate of Assumption College. He double majored in History and Political Science. He is planning to attend graduate school to get a master’s degree in Statecraft and International Relations. He specializes in political philosophy, diplomacy, politics of the Middle East, European history, and American political thought. During his senior year at Assumption College, he received a Daniel Patrick Moynihan Scholarship and participated in the Model Senate. Parker earned Dean’s List honors throughout his junior and senior years. Parker served as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the Fall 2019 semester as part of his senior capstone seminar. He composed tweets for advertisements republished by the project during the fall and conducted the research and prepared the entries for six weeks in late June through early August 2020.
Jenna Smith is a 2020 graduate of Assumption College. She double majored in History and Political Science. Jenna has taken a variety of history courses that cover different periods and parts of the world ranging from the ancient Middle East to the modern United States. Her true passion when researching and learning history is focused on the human element of every time period. She finds deep satisfaction and gratitude when hearing people’s stories or reading about them. Jenna earned a spot on the Dean’s List at Assumption College every semester. She lived and studied in Rome, Italy, and Berlin, Germany, during her time as an undergraduate at Assumption. Her passion for travel and connecting with different cultures was shown through her Study Abroad Ambassadorship. Jenna was also a History, Political Science, and Writing tutor at the Academic Support Center on campus. During her last semester at the school, she also participated in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Model Senate Project where students recreated significant Senate debates that have occurred throughout the history of the United States. Jenna served as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the Fall 2019 semester as part of her senior capstone seminar. She composed tweets for advertisements republished by the project during the fall and conducted the research and prepared the entries for six weeks in May and June 2020. The Assumption College History department presented her the Achievement in Public History award in 2020.
Isaiah Thomas, patriot printer and founder of the American Antiquarian Society, was born on January 30 (January 19 Old Style) in 1749. It’s quite an historical coincidence that the three most significant printers in eighteenth-century America — Benjamin Franklin, Isaiah Thomas, and Mathew Carey — were all born in January.
The Adverts 250 Project is possible in large part due to Thomas’s efforts to collect as much early American printed material as he could, originally to write his monumental History of Printing in America. The newspapers, broadsides, books, almanacs, pamphlets, and other items he gathered in the process eventually became the initial collections of the American Antiquarian Society. That institution’s ongoing mission to acquire at least one copy of every American imprint through 1876 has yielded an impressive collection of eighteenth-century advertising materials, including newspapers, magazine wrappers, trade cards, billheads, watch papers, book catalogs, subscription notices, broadsides, and a variety of other items. Exploring the history of advertising in early America — indeed, exploring any topic related to the history, culture, and literature of early America at all — has been facilitated for more than two centuries by the vision of Isaiah Thomas and the dedication of the curators and other specialists at the American Antiquarian Society over the years.
Thomas’s connections to early American advertising were not limited to collecting and preserving the items created on American presses during the colonial, Revolutionary, and early national periods. Like Mathew Carey, he was at the hub of a network he cultivated for distributing newspapers, books, and other printed goods — including advertising to stimulate demand for those items. Sometimes this advertising was intended for dissemination to the general public (such as book catalogs and subscription notices), but other times it amounted to trade advertising (such as circular letters and exchange catalogs intended only for fellow printers, publishers, and booksellers).
Thomas also experimented with advertising on wrappers that accompanied his Worcester Magazine, though he acknowledged to subscribers that these wrappers were ancillary to the publication: “The two outer leaves of each number are only a cover to the others, and when the volume is bound may be thrown aside, as not being a part of the Work.”
Thomas’s patriotic commitment to freedom of the press played a significant role in his decision to develop advertising wrappers. As Thomas relays in his History of Printing in America, he discontinued printing his newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy, after the state legislature passed a law that “laid a duty of two-thirds of a penny on newspapers, and a penny on almanacs, which were to be stamped.” Such a move met with strong protest since it was too reminiscent of the Stamp Act imposed by the British two decades earlier, prompting the legislature to repeal it before it went into effect. On its heels, however, “another act was passed, which imposed a duty on all advertisements inserted in the newspapers” printed in Massachusetts. Thomas vehemently rejected this law as “an improper restraint on the press. He, therefore, discontinued the Spy during the period that this act was in force, which was two years. But he published as a substitute a periodical work, entitled ‘The Worcester Weekly Magazine,’ in octavo.” This weekly magazine lasted for two years; Thomas discontinued it and once again began printing the Spy after the legislature repealed the objectionable act.
Isaiah Thomas was not interested in advertising for its own sake to the same extent as Mathew Carey, but his political concerns did help to shape the landscape of early American advertising. Furthermore, his vision for collecting American printed material preserved a variety of advertising media for later generations to admire, analyze, ponder, and enjoy. Happy 271st birthday, Isaiah Thomas!
 Isaiah Thomas, “To the CUSTOMERS for the WORCESTER MAGAZINE,” Worcester Magazine, wrapper, second week of April, 1786.
 Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers, vol. 2 (Worcester, MA: Isaac Sturtevant, 1810), 267-268.
Though Benjamin Franklin is often considered the patron saint of American advertising in the popular press, I believe that his efforts pale in comparison to the contributions made by Mathew Carey (1760-1839) in the final decades of the eighteenth century. Franklin is rightly credited with experimenting with the appearance of newspaper advertising, mixing font styles and sizes in the advertisements that helped to make him a prosperous printer, but Mathew Carey introduced and popularized an even broader assortment of advertising innovations, ranging from inventive appeals that targeted potential consumers to a variety of new media to networks for effectively distributing advertising materials. In the process, his efforts played an important role in the development of American capitalism by enlarging markets for the materials sold by printers, booksellers, and publishers as well as a host of other goods marketed by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans who eventually adopted many of Carey’s innovative advertising methods. Mathew Carey will probably never displace Benjamin Franklin as the founder of American advertising in the popular imagination, but scholars of early American history and culture should recognize his role as the most important leader in eighteenth-century advertising among the many other activities and accomplishments of his long career in business and public life.
Carey’s efforts as an advertiser were enmeshed within transatlantic networks of print and commerce. Though he did not invent the advertising wrapper printed on blue paper that accompanied magazines in the eighteenth century, he effectively utilized this medium to an extent not previously seen in America, Ireland, or the English provinces outside of London. The wrappers distributed with his American Museum (1787-1792) comprised the most extensive collection of advertising associated with any magazine published in North America in the eighteenth century, both in terms of the numbers of advertisements and the diversity of occupations represented in those advertisements. In Carey’s hands, the American Museum became a vehicle for distributing advertising media: inserts that included trade cards, subscription notices, testimonials, and book catalogues in addition to the wrappers themselves.
Located at the hub of a network of printers and booksellers, Carey advocated the use of a variety of advertising materials, some for consumption by the general public and others for use exclusively within the book trade. Subscription notices and book catalogues, for instance, could stimulate demand among potential customers, but exchange catalogues were intended for printers and booksellers to manage their inventory and enlarge their markets by trading surplus copies of books, pamphlets, and other printed goods. Working with members of this network also facilitated placing advertisements for new publications in the most popular newspapers published in distant towns and cities.
Carey also participated in the development of advertising appeals designed to stimulate demand among consumers in eighteenth-century America. He targeted specific readers by stressing the refinement associated with some of his publications, while simultaneously speaking to general audiences by emphasizing the patriotism and virtue associated with purchasing either books about American history, especially the events of the Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution, or books published in America. In his advertising, Carey invoked a patriotic politics of consumption that suggested that the success of the republican experiment depended not only on virtuous activity in the realm of politics but also on the decisions consumers made in the marketplace.
For my money, Carey is indeed the father of American advertising. Happy 260th birthday, Mathew Carey!
Today is an important day for specialists in early American print culture, for Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 (January 6, 1705, Old Style), in Boston. Among his many other accomplishments, Franklin is known as the “Father of American Advertising.” Although I have argued elsewhere that this title should more accurately be bestowed upon Mathew Carey (in my view more prolific and innovative in the realm of advertising as a printer, publisher, and advocate of marketing), I recognize that Franklin deserves credit as well. Franklin is often known as “The First American,” so it not surprising that others should rank him first among the founders of advertising in America.
Franklin purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729. In the wake of becoming printer, he experimented with the visual layout of advertisements that appeared in the weekly newspaper, incorporating significantly more white space and varying font sizes in order to better attract readers’ and potential customers’ attention. Advertising flourished in the Pennsylvania Gazette, which expanded from two to four pages in part to accommodate the greater number of commercial notices.
Many historians of the press and print culture in early America have noted that Franklin became wealthy and retired as a printer in favor of a multitude of other pursuits in part because of the revenue he collected from advertising. Others, especially David Waldstreicher, have underscored that this wealth was amassed through participation in the colonial slave trade. The advertisements for goods and services featured in the Pennsylvania Gazette included announcements about buying and selling enslaved men, women, and children as well as notices offering rewards for those who escaped from bondage.
In 1741 Franklin published one of colonial America’s first magazines, The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, for all the British Plantations in America (which barely missed out on being the first American magazine, a distinction earned by Franklin’s competitor, Andrew Bradford, with The American Magazineor Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies). The magazine lasted only a handful of issues, but that was sufficient for Franklin to become the first American printer to include an advertisement in a magazine (though advertising did not become a standard part of magazine publication until special advertising wrappers were developed later in the century — and Mathew Carey was unarguably the master of that medium).
In 1744 Franklin published an octavo-sized Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Books, including 445 entries. This is the first known American book catalogue aimed at consumers (though the Library Company of Philadelphia previously published catalogs listing their holdings in 1733, 1735, and 1741). Later that same year, Franklin printed a Catalogue of Books to Be Sold at Auction.
Franklin pursued advertising through many media in eighteenth-century America, earning recognition as one of the founders of American advertising. Happy 314th birthday, Benjamin Franklin!