March 8

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

Pennsylvania Journal (March 5, 1772).

“There is another edition, JUST PUBLISHED.”

Get a copy while they are still available!  That was the message that William Bradford and Thomas Bradford delivered to prospective customers in Philadelphia when they advertised their own edition of A Dissertation on the Gout, and All Chronic Diseases by William Cadogan, a “Fellow of the College of PHYSICIANS.”  The Bradfords noted that “a number of Gentlemen were disappointed in the purchase of the first publication” so they set about producing “another edition” in order to meet demand.  Still, copies went so fast the first time around that the Bradfords warned consumers not to miss their opportunity to purchase the volume this time.

The printers underscored the popularity of the book on both sides of the Atlantic, stating that it was “so much esteemed in England, that it has already past through Eight Editions.”  This testified to the reputation it had earned.  Printers would not have published so many editions, the Bradfords implied, if the public did not clamor for them.  Furthermore, all sorts of people, not just physicians, found the “rational METHOD of CURE” helpful.  “The Doctrines advanced,” the Bradfords advised, “are delivered in a familiar style, which renders them intelligible to Gentlemen of all professions, as well as to Physicians.”

The Bradfords were not alone in publishing American editions of Cadogan’s Dissertation on the Gout in 1772.  Printers in two other cities produced their own editions.  Hugh Gaine did so in New York, while John Boyle, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, and Henry Knox published competing editions in Boston.  In Philadelphia, Robert Aitken appended the work to William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine or, The Family Physician, perhaps as a bonus intended to make the entire volume more attractive to perspective customers.  With a “first publication” that sold out in 1771, the Bradfords confirmed that Cadogan’s Dissertation on the Gout likely had as much potential in American markets as it did in England.

March 4

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

Boston-Gazette (March 2, 1772).

“THE FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE … By SUSANNAH CARTER.”

In 1772, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, published an American edition of The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook by Susannah Carter of London.  The book included “Five Hundred approved Receipts” for everything from roasting and frying to sauces and soups to tarts and puddings to jellies and custards as well as instructions for preserving, pickling, and candying various foods.  In addition, Carter provided “Various BILLS of FARE, For DINNERS and SUPPERS in every Month of the Year” to guide readers in consulting the many recipes and choosing which items to prepare together.  The book also featured “a copious Index of the whole” to help readers find the recipes.  Edes and Gill promised that “Any Person, by attending to the Instructions given in this Book, may soon attain to a compleat Knowledge in the Art of Cookery.”

The printers marketed The Frugal Housewife in their own newspaper, but they also turned to other publications in their effort to create a larger market for what they believed had the potential to be a popular American edition of a cookbook first published in London in the 1760s.  On March 2, 1772, they ran advertisements in both the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette.  Three days later, they placed an advertisement in the Massachusetts Spy.  The notices in the other newspapers were not as elaborate as the one that appeared in their own.  The version in the Boston-Evening Post, for instance, did not include the price nor the nota bene assuring prospective customers that they would acquire “a complete Knowledge” of cooking.  The version in the Massachusetts Spy, on the other hand, included both of those items as well as a note that the book “contains more in Quantity than most other Books of a much higher Price.”  It did not, however, feature the distinctive typography with only two items on each line that made the notices in the other newspapers occupy significantly more space.  Instead, a dense list of the contents comprised most of the content of the advertisement in the Massachusetts Spy.

Edes and Gill sought to expand their marketing and sales by placing advertisements in multiple newspapers.  Though they exercised control over the copy, they did not exert as much influence when it came to the format.  Compositors who labored in other printing offices made decisions about the appearance of Edes and Gill’s advertisements for The Frugal Housewife.

February 24

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

Supplement to the Pennsylvania Packet (February 24, 1772).

“A GENERAL ASSORTMENT OF BOOKS … AN ASSORTMENT of CURIOUS HARD-WARE.”

John Sparhawk sold a variety of goods at the “LONDON BOOK-STORE” on Second Street in Philadelphia in the early 1770s.  He ran an advertisement in the February 24, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet to announce that he had in stock “A GENERAL ASSORTMENT OF BOOKS,” listing a dozen titles.  Like many other booksellers, he also carried “papers and stationary of all kinds” as well as patent medicines popular among consumers.

A good portion of the inventory he promoted in his advertisement, however, deviated from the sorts of ancillary merchandise that most booksellers sold.  Sparhawk devoted more space in his advertisement to “AN ASSORTMENT of CURIOUS HARD-WARE” than to “Blackstone’s commentaries,” “Kalm’s history of America,” and other books.  He had everything from “A variety of spectacle” to “An assortment of very neat pocket and horse pistols, brass and iron barrels, bolted, plain and silver mounted” to “Pinchbeck buckles of the best kinds” to “Knives and forks, from the best to the common kinds in wood boxes or shagreen cases.”  Shoppers encountered the same sorts of merchandise at the “LONDON BOOK-STORE” that they found at general purpose stores around town.

Even though his list of tea urns, gloves, scales, and other wares occupied more space than his catalog of books, Sparhawk did draw attention to two books in particular.  In a nota bene, he advised prospective customers about bargains for purchasing American editions of two medical texts.  They got a great deal on “TISSOT’S Advice to the People with regards to their Health, an American edition, at 10s. the London edition is 15s.”  Similarly, they could acquire “Dimsdale’s present method of Innoculation for the Small-pox, at 3s. 9d.” for an American edition, but “the London edition is 6s.”  Sparhawk also noted that he “has a few sets of the 12th, 13th and 14th volumes of Van Swieten’s Commentaries, to match the eleven preceding,” for those who wanted to complete their sets.

Booksellers often diversified their inventory with stationery, writing supplies, and “DRUGS AND MEDICINES” to generate additional revenues.  Most, however, did not advertise extensive selections of other kinds of merchandise.  Sparhawk made it clear that customers could browse far more than books when they visited the “LONDON BOOK-STORE,” yet he also made special appeals about some of his books to demonstrate that customers interested in that branch of his business would be well served.  In some ways, the diversification of merchandise available at many modern book stores resembles Sparhawk’s strategy for earning a living in eighteenth-century Philadelphia.

January 28

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 28, 1772).

“Those who are animated by the Wish of seeing Native Fabrications flourish in AMERICA.”

Robert Bell worked to create an American literary marketplace in the second half of the eighteenth century.  The flamboyant bookseller, publisher, and auctioneer commenced his efforts before the American Revolution, sponsoring the publication of American editions of popular titles that other booksellers imported.  His strategy included extensive advertising campaigns in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  He established a network of local agents, many of them printers, who inserted subscription notices in newspapers, accepted advance orders, and sold the books after they went to press.

Those subscription notices often featured identical copy from newspaper to newspaper.  For instance, Bell attempted to drum up interest in William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1772.  Advertisements that appeared in the Providence Gazette, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, and other newspapers all included a headline that proclaimed, “LITERATURE.”  Bell and his agents tailored the advertisements for local audiences, addressing the “Gentlemen of Rhode-Island” in the Providence Gazette and the “Gentlemen of SOUTH-CAROLINA” in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  In each instance, though, they encouraged prospective subscribers to think of themselves as a much larger community of readers by extending the salutation to include “all of those who are animated by the Wish of seeing Native Fabrications flourish in AMERICA.”

Bell aimed to cultivate a community of American consumers, readers, and supporters of goods produced in the colonies, offering colonizers American editions of Blackstone’s Commentaries and other works “Printed on American Paper.”  Given the rate that printers reprinted items from one newspaper to another, readers already participated in communities of readers that extended from New England to Georgia, but Bell’s advertisements extended the experience beyond the news and into the advertisements.  He invited colonizers to further codify a unified community of geographically-dispersed readers and consumers who shared common interests when it came to both “LITERATURE” and “the Advancement” of domestic manufactures.  To do so, they needed to purchase his publications.

April 29

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

Boston-Gazette (April 29, 1771).

“INNOCENT BLOOD CRYING TO GOD FROM THE STREETS OF BOSTON.”

When ships from England arrived in American ports in the spring of 1771, they delivered news of reactions to George Whitefield’s death from the other side of the Atlantic.  The prominent minister died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  It took several weeks for news to reach England and even longer, given the difficulty and dangers of crossing the North Atlantic in winter, before colonists learned how that news was received.  In addition to newspaper accounts, colonists also received commemorative items produced in England, including sermons dedicated to the memory of the minister.  Yet that was not the only memorabilia associated with major news events that vessels from England carried to the colonies on the spring of 1771.  They also delivered items that commemorated the Boston Massacre.

Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, received a London edition of “INNOCENT BLOOD CRYING TO GOD FROM THE STREETS OF BOSTON,” a sermon “Occasioned by the HORRID MURDER” of several colonists “by a Party of Troops under the Command of Captain [THOMAS] PRESTON” on March 5, 1770.  John Lathrop, “Pastor of the Second Church in BOSTON,” gave the sermon on the Sunday following the Boston Massacre.  Lathrop or an associate apparently sent a manuscript copy to London.  Printers there took the sermon to press.  The sermon then crossed the Atlantic in the other direction.  When Edes and Gill received it, they published an American edition of a sermon originally delivered in their own city, further disseminating it to consumers in Boston and beyond.  In so doing, they expanded the simultaneous commemoration and commodification of the Boston Massacre already underway in the colonies.

Edes and Gill intended to place copies of Lathrop’s sermon in the hands of as many readers as possible.  They offered discounts to buyers who purchased a dozen or more copies for retail sales, though they also sold single copies.  As entrepreneurs, they wished to generate revenues, but that did not comprise their sole motivation.  Edes and Gill were perhaps the most vocal of Boston’s printers when it came to supporting the patriot cause.  Their newspaper provided extensive coverage of current events, both news accounts and editorials with a patriot slant, during the imperial crisis that culminated in the American Revolution.  Both profits and their principles likely guided their decision to print and distribute Lathrop’s sermon on “INNOCENT BLOOD CRYING TO GOD FROM THE STREETS OF BOSTON.”  In so doing, they helped cultivate a culture of remembrance of significant events.  For several years, colonists had been marking the anniversary of the repeal of the Stamp Act.  In 1771, residents of Boston commenced a new tradition of commemorating the Massacre on or near its anniversary.  Edes and Gill participated, printing both James Lovell’s oration occasioned by the first anniversary and Lathrop’s sermon delivered just days after the Boston Massacre.

January 27

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (January 24, 1771).

“All Persons that now choose to encourage American Manufactures.”

On January 24, 1771, Robert Bell continued marketing an American edition of “Robertson’s History of Charles the Fifth” with advertisements in both the New-York Journal and the Pennsylvania Gazette.  In the latter, the flamboyant printer, publisher, bookseller, and auctioneer announced publication of the second volume and promised that the “THIRD VOLUME of this celebrated History is now in the Press, and will soon be finished.”  Bell noted that the second volume was “now ready to be delivered to the Subscribers,” purchasers who reserved copies in advance.  In a nota bene, he advised “SUBSCRIBERS in the Jerseys” to visit Isaac Collins in Burlington or Dunlap Adams in Trenton to retrieve their copies.

Bell also invited those who had not yet subscribed to join the fellowship of their peers who “choose to encourage American Manufactures.”  Both before and, especially, after the American Revolution, Bell was one of the eighteenth-century’s leading proponents of creating a distinctly American literary market in terms of the production of books.  Printers and booksellers imported most of the books they offered for sale, a situation that Bell sought to modify.  In deploying the language of “American Manufactures,” he made this into a political project familiar to both producers and consumers as a result of nonimportation agreements enacted in opposition to the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts.  Yet prospective customers had another reason to choose Bell’s American edition over an imported alternative:  price.  Bell charged one dollar for each volume of Robertson’s history.  In comparison, “the British Edition cannot be imported for less than Four Dollars each Volume.”  Bell’s customers enjoyed significant savings, acquiring the entire set of the American edition for less than a single volume of the British edition.

Bell concluded his advertisement with some of the verbose language that became a hallmark of his marketing efforts over the course of several decades.  Those who wished to become subscribers by sending their names to Bell or other booksellers “may depend upon Ebullitions of Gratitude.”  Bell’s advertisement incorporated several marketing strategies, including the politics of “American Manufactures,” the financial advantages for customers, and his colorful language and personality.

January 9

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 7, 1771).

“ADDRESS To those who possess a PUBLIC SPIRIT.”

When bookseller Robert Bell inserted a notice about upcoming auctions in the January 3, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal, he devoted the second half of the advertisement to promoting an American edition of William Robertson’s multivolume History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V.  He addressed the “real friends to the progress of Literary entertainment, and to the extension of useful Manufactures in a young country.”  Bell advanced a “Buy American” marketing strategy during the period of the imperial crisis that ultimately culminated in the American Revolution.

Later that week, he continued his advertising campaign with another notice in the January 7 edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Bell included some of the copy from the earlier advertisement in this much lengthier iteration.  Both versions highlighted the phrase “THE LAND WE LIVE IN” by printing it in all capitals and centering it on a line of its own within the advertisement, drawing attention to Bell’s proposition that consumers who purchased this work also contributed to the “elevation and enriching” of the colonies.  He enhanced that argument with a headline that described the entire advertisement as an “ADDRESS To those who possess a PUBLIC SPIRIT.”  Potential customers, Bell asserted, had an opportunity to engage in acts of consumption that possessed political significance.

At the same time, the bookseller declared that the American edition was a bargain compared to imported alternatives.  He charged “the moderate price of One Dollar each Volume” for the three volumes, noting that the “British edition cannot be imported for less than Twelve Dollars.”  Colonists could acquire the work at a significant savings, a reward for their role in creating a distinctive American marketplace for the production and consumption of books.  Only the first volume had gone to press, so the advertisement also served as a subscription notice.  Bell encouraged “Gentlemen who have rationality enough to consider they will receive an equivalent” to an imported edition to sign on as subscribers, simultaneously flattering and cajoling prospective customers.

Bell informed the “Encouragers of printing this Grand Historical Work” that they “may depend upon ebullitions of gratitude,” but that was only an ancillary reason for purchasing Robertson’s biography of Charles the Fifth.  He presented their own edification and their responsibility for promoting domestic manufactures in the colonies as the primary reasons for buying the first volume and subscribing for the subsequent second and third volumes.

January 3

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

New-York Journal (January 3, 1770).

“The promotion of which vivifieth individuals, and tendeth towards the elevation and enriching of THE LAND WE LIVE IN.”

Robert Bell was one of the most innovative, industrious, and influential booksellers in eighteenth-century America, known for the larger-than-life personality he cultivated and the entertainment he provided at auctions.  Bell’s auctions were events, public spectacles that amused those in attendance.  The bookseller was also known for his work in creating and promoting a distinctly American market for books, especially after the revolution.  He got started on that enterprise, however, several years before the colonies declared independence from Britain.

In the first issue of the New-York Journal published in 1771, Bell launched a new advertising campaign that announced book auctions on Friday and Saturday evenings.  In addition to giving information about the auctions, he devoted half of the advertisement to a nota bene about the “American Edition of Robertson’s Charles the Fifth.”  Rather than purchase imported alternatives, Bell asserted that the “real friends to the progress of Literary entertainment, and to the extension of useful Manufactures in a young country” would acquire the edition produced in the colonies.  Over the course of his career, Bell became known for the verbose and convoluted prose he deployed in his marketing materials.  He used labyrinthine language even by eighteenth-century standards, including in this advertisement for an American edition.  Consumers were already familiar with arguments in favor of domestic manufactures in the wake of boycotting imported goods, but Bell approached the endeavor with more verve than proponents when he trumped that “the promotion” of American products “vivifieth individuals, and tendeth towards the elevation and enriching of THE LAND WE LIVE IN.”  The bookseller advocated on behalf of American commerce and American culture simultaneously, arguing that consumers could enhance both through the decisions they made when buying books.

Bell did not merely present customers with options for reading “Divinity, History, Novels, and Entertainment.”  Instead, he challenged them to think about how their participation in the marketplace could aid the American cause and contribute to the formation of a distinctly American identity.  He intensified those arguments as his career continued, building on marketing strategies from the early 1770s.

May 13

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

May 13 - 5:10:1770 Boston Chronicle
Boston Chronicle (May 10, 1770).

“WATT’S PSALMS … with a PREFACE of twenty four pages.”

John Mein and John Fleeming, printers of the Boston Chronicle, also printed and sold “WATT’S PSALMS WITH HIS HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS.”  Given the popularity of Isaac Watt’s Psalms, American printers produced several editions in the eighteenth century and booksellers imported others from London.  To incite demand for their edition, Mein and Fleeming sought to distinguish it from others.

They began by supplementing the title of the book with additional notes.  In writing the copy for advertisements for books, printers and booksellers often simply listed the title and extensive subtitle that doubled as a table of contents.  That preview gave prospective customers a glimpse of what they would encounter when they purchased and read books themselves.  In this case, however, Mein and Fleeming further embellished the subtitle of Watt’s Psalms: “IMITATED in the language of the NEW-TESTAMENT, and applied to the Christian state and worship, with a PREFACE of twenty four pages, being a Discourse on the right way of fitting the PSALMS of DAVID for Christian Worship.”  The underlined portion identifies deviations from the title page, which instead reads: “with the preface, or an enquiry in to the right way.”  Mein and Fleeming then described the contents of those twenty-four pages in greater detail before giving the same treatment to the “NOTES at the end of the PSALMS.”

The printers had good reason to be so particular.  They concluded their advertisement by proclaiming, “This is the only Edition of Dr. WATTS’s PSALMS and HYMNS printed in AMERICA, with the large Preface and Notes.”  They sought to underscore the value of their edition compared to others produced by local printers, drawing attention to the twenty-four pages in the preface as well as the notes and “proper directions for SINGING” that followed the hymns.  Although infamous loyalists, they appropriated the “Buy American” strategy deployed by supporters of the patriot cause in service of selling their edition of Watts’s Psalms.