October 25

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

Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 22, 1772).

“PROPOSALS For Re-Printing by Subscription … Baron de MONTESQUIEU’s celebrated Spirit of Laws”

On October 22, 1772, Richard Draper distributed a two-page supplement to accompany the standard issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  That supplement consisted almost entirely of advertising, though it did include brief news items from London and Quebec.  A subscription proposal for an “American Edition of … Baron de MONTESQUIEU’s celebrated Spirit of Laws” filled most of the second page of the supplement.  That subscription proposal would have looked familiar to colonizers who also read the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy since it appeared in that newspaper three days earlier.  It may have also looked familiar to those who had not perused the other publication.  As I argued when examining the first appearance of the subscription proposal in Boston’s newspapers, it likely circulated separately as a handbill or broadside.

Draper adopted the same method of making the subscription proposal fit on the page that John Green and Joseph Russell used in their newspaper.  Since it was wider than two standard columns, he created a narrower third column by rotating the type to run perpendicular to the rest of the page.  Draper also added a colophon, centered at the bottom of the subscription proposal.  This method of making the broadside fit on a newspaper page was not the only similarity between its appearance in two newspapers.  It looks as though the printing offices shared the type.  If that was the case, who produced the broadside?  Draper or Green and Russell?  Even if the subscription proposal did not circulate separately as a broadside or handbill, the printers almost certainly shared type between their offices.  That was not the first time in 1772 that Draper collaborated with other printers in that manner.  In May, Jolley Allen’s advertisements in the Boston-Gazetteand the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter had identical copy and format.  At the same time, Andrew Dexter’s advertisements in the Boston Evening-Post and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter also featured identical copy and format.  At various times, Draper apparently shared type already set with three other printing offices.  Yet he was not always involved in instances of sharing type.  Advertisements for a “Variety of Goods” that ran in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette on October 12, for instance, appear identical, with the exception of the last two lines either added to the notice in the Boston-Gazette or removed from the one in the Boston Evening-Post to make it fit the page.  Examining advertisements reveals several other examples of printers in Boston seemingly sharing type in the early 1770s.

As I have noted on other occasions that I have identified what appears to be type transferred from one printing office to another, these observations are drawn from digitized copies of eighteenth-century newspapers.  Examining the original editions, including taking measurements, may yield additional details that either demonstrate that Boston’s printers did not share type for newspaper advertisements or that further suggest that they did indeed do so.  This question merits further investigation to learn more about business practices in printing offices that competed for both newspaper subscribers and advertisers.

Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 22, 1772).

October 19

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 19, 1772).

“PROPOSALS For Re-Printing by Subscription … Baron de MONTESQUIEU’s celebrated Spirit of Laws.”

It would have been hard for readers to miss the subscription proposal that dominated the final page of the October 19, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  John Boyles announced his intention to publish an “American Edition” of the “Baron de MONTESQUIEU’s celebrated Sprit of the Laws,” a work of political philosophy “Which ought to be in EVERY MAN’s Hands.”  Boyles explained that the book had been “Translated from the French Original” as well as “translated and published in most of the civilized Nations of EUROPE.”  Colonizers who wished to participate in the transatlantic republic of letters needed to acquire copies of their own.  To make this particular edition even more attractive than imported alternatives, the publisher stated that it would include “a larger Account of the Life and Writings of the AUTHOR, than is in the European Editions.”

The format of the subscription proposal suggests that it may have been printed separately as a broadside or handbill, on paper of a different size, for distribution beyond subscribers to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  If that was indeed the case, the compositor did not wish to set the type once again in order to insert the subscription proposal in the newspaper.  Its width exceeded two newspaper columns, causing the compositor to create a narrow third column by rotating the type for additional advertisements to run perpendicular to the page.  In the years immediately preceding the American Revolution, advertisers sometimes arranged to have book catalogues, broadsides, or handbills incorporated into newspapers, expanding the reach of their marketing efforts.  That being the case, I suspect that more advertising ephemera circulated in early America than has been identified and preserved in research libraries, historical societies, and private collections.  This subscription proposal in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy hints at a hidden history of early American advertising impossible to recover in its entirety.  Although newspaper notices constituted, by the far, the most voluminous form of advertising in early America, other printed media likely circulated more frequently than previously realized.

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 19, 1772).

August 22

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 22, 1772).

“The APPENDIX is not in the London Edition.”

Henry Miller, printer of the Wöchentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote, published and advertised an American edition of A Complete German Grammar by John James Bachmair in 1772.  German-speaking colonizers constituted a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s population, prompting Miller, himself born in the principality of Waldeck on the Upper Rhine, to believe a local market existed for this book.  He informed prospective customers that he charged nine shillings for his edition, compared to fourteen shillings for the London edition.

In addition to declaring that he published the third edition, “greatly altered and improved,” Miller also promoted an Appendix that included “An Index of German Words similar in Sound, but of different Orthography and Signification,” “Names of the most common Occupations and Trades, as also the Names of the Materials and Implements, &c. thereto belonging,” and an “Explication of a German Proverb.”  In a nota bene, Miller underscored that all of those items were bonus materials not included in the London edition.  In addition to the lower price, the useful and entertaining supplemental materials likely made Miller’s American edition seem like an even better choice for colonizers interested in learning German.

Miller also deployed a blurb from the first edition in his efforts to market the book.  He quoted from the preface to the first edition, highlighting Bachmair’s assertion that “those who have a Mind to learn fundamentally the German Language, will find such plain and easy Instructions, that, even without a Master, they may at least attain to read and understand it.”  The blurb simultaneously offered encouragement and set expectations.  With some diligence, those who studied from the book could learn to read and understand German, even if they did not become fluent enough to speak and write the language.  They could achieve that level of proficiency studying on their own rather than working with tutors or schoolmasters.

Miller incorporated a variety of marketing strategies into advertisements for his American edition of Bachmair’s German Grammar.  He hawked supplementary materials that did not appear in the more expensive London edition, while also including a blurb in which the author gave encouragement and promised “plain and easy Instructions.”  In describing the contents of the appendix and inserting the blurb, Miller sought to help prospective customers imagine themselves learning German with greater ease than they previously anticipated.

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.