November 27

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

New-London Gazette (November 27, 1772).

Just Published, and to be Sold by TIMOTHY GREEN, Freebetter’s New-England ALMANACK.”

The “POETS CORNER,” a regular feature, appeared in the upper left corner of the final page of the New-London Gazetteon November 27, 1772.  Except for the colophon, advertising filled the remainder of the page.  Although some colonial printers interspersed news and advertising throughout their newspapers, Timothy Green, the printer of the New-London Gazette, tended to segregate advertisements from the news, running articles and editorials on the first several pages and then reserving the remainder for paid notices.  Such was the case in the November 27 edition.  Advertising began in the final column of the third page and filled the rest of the issue, except for the poem and colophon.

That description, however, does not take into account an advertisement for “Freebetter’s New-England ALMANACK, For the Year of Our Lord CHRIST 1773” that ran just below the masthead as the first item in the first column on the first page.  The news, starting with “An Act for preventing and punishing he stealing of Horses,” followed that advertisement.  Like many other advertisements for almanacs, it promoted a variety of “useful, entertaining, and instructive” contents “beside the usual astronomical Calculations,” including “a Table of the Weight and Value of Coins, as they pass in England, New-England, and New York,” an essay on “the mental and personal Qualifications of a Husband,” and a guide to “an infallible Method to preserve our Health, to secure and improve our Estates, to quiet our Minds, and to advance our Esteem and Reputation.”

Why did that advertisement merit such a privileged place in the newspaper?  It happened to be “Just Published, … and Sold by TIMOTHY GREEN.”  The printer took advantage of his access to the press to give his own advertisement a prime spot that increased the likelihood that prospective customers would see it.  Given that printers exchanged newspapers in order to reprint content for their own subscribers, Green may have seen John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, recently deploy the same strategy to hawk “The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY.”  On the other hand, Green did not need to see that example to take the initiative in placing an advertisement for the almanac he printed on the front page of his newspaper.  Colonial printers frequently gave their own notices priority over news, editorials, and paid advertisements.

June 3

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

Pennsylvania Packet (June 3, 1772).


Readers frequently encountered advertising on the front page of eighteenth-century newspapers.  Printers did not relegate that content to other sections.  Some filled all or most of the front page with advertising, as Hugh Gaine did in the June 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Others divided the space between advertising and news. William Goddard devoted the first two columns of the June 1 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle to advertisements, reserving the third column for news.  John Dunlap, on the other hand, gave priority to news on the front page of the Pennsylvania Packet published that day, but that did not prevent him from including some advertisements.  The first two and a half columns contained news.  Four advertisements filled the remainder of the final column.

Those advertisements delivered news of a different sort.  One notice informed the public that the Polly and Peggy sought passengers and freight for a voyage to Jamaica.  Another let travelers know that Martin Delany opened a tavern “at Appiquimany Bridge (commonly called Cantwell’s Bridge) on the great road from Philadelphia to Dover.”  He encouraged them to lodge there, promising “the best usage,” “a variety of the first wines, [and] spirits,” and “completely refitted” stables.  In another advertisement, Robert Mack called on “James Pearce, of George-Town” and “David Foset of Snowhill” to “pay charges” and “take away” Jack and Charles, enslaved men in his custody at the jail in New Castle.  In addition, White and Montgomery reported that “just opened [a] store on the north side of Market-street wharf.”  A note at the bottom of the column advised, “FOR MORE NEW ADVERTISEMENTS SEE THE FOURTH PAGE.”  Dunlap suggested that readers would be just as interested in the information relayed in the paid notices that appeared on the last page as the news from Europe, the shipping news from the custom house, and the prices current in Philadelphia on the second and third pages.

Printers did not adopt uniform practices about where advertisements should appear in relation to other content, though they usually reserved some or all of the final page for paid notices.  Advertisements could appear just about anywhere in the newspaper, including on the front page, with the arrangement within any newspaper changing from week to week. Printers did not classify advertisements as content that could not appear on the front page.  As a result, advertisements often accounted for some of the first news or information that readers encountered when they perused eighteenth-century newspapers.