What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An ORATION … to COMMEMORATE THE BLODDY TRAGEDY of the FIFTH of MARCH, 1770.”
On the occasion of the third anniversary of the Boston Massacre, Dr. Benjamin Church delivered an address “upon the dangerous Tendency of Standing Armies, and in Commemoration of the horrid Massacre perpetrated by a Party of the 29th Regiment on the Fifth of March 1770.” According to coverage in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette on March 8 and reprinted in the Essex Gazette the next day, Church “had the universal Applause of his Audience; and his Fellow Citizens voted him their Thanks, and unanimously requested a Copy of his Oration for the Press.” John Greenleaf quickly printed Church’s Oration, followed by Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, promoting a “THIRD EDITION, corrected by the AUTHOR.” Commodification of the Boston Massacre occurred simultaneously with commemoration of it, as had been the case with the first and second anniversaries.
Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall, printers of the Essex Gazette in Salem, participated in both the commemoration and the commodification of the Boston Massacre. In addition to reprinting coverage of the events that marked the anniversary in Boston, they ran an editorial from Marblehead in the March 23 edition. “THE respectable metropolis of this province,” the anonymous author began, “has certainly acted worthy of itself in establishing, as a monument against ‘the foul oppression of quartering troops in populous cities, in times of peace,’ the MASSACRE ANNIVERSARY. It must ever do it honour, and serve to convince relentless oppressors, that such measures will produce disgrace to themselves, as well as distress to an injured people.” The author concluded with a call for colonizers beyond Boston to commemorate the Boston Massacre and remember its significance. “And while the city solemnizes the fifth of Marchwith its yearly oration,” the author asserted, “may every town in the province observe it in some suitable way; and by keeping up a memento of measures the most cruel and oppressive, be ever guarding its inhabitants against the intriguing designs of Pensioners, Despots, and Tyrants.”
Elsewhere on the same page, the Halls presented an opportunity for consumers to do their part in guarding against “cruel and oppressive” measures by doing their part to commemorate the Boston Massacre through purchasing Church’s Oration. They apparently sold the correct edition printed by Edes and Gill, declaring that “To-Morrow Morning will be published, and sold by the Printers hereof, An ORATION … to COMMEMORATE THE BLODDY TRAGEDY of the FIFTH of MARCH, 1770. By DR. BENJAMIN CHURCH.” The anonymous author from Marblehead gave an endorsement for Church’s Oration as well as the addresses delivered in 1771 and 1772 in the editorial. “The Gentlemen who exhibited on the two first of these anniversaries,” the author noted, “gave great satisfaction to their hearers, as was evident from the applause they received; and the last performance [by Church] expresses so much true sense, and this conceived in such a delicate stile, that no one can read it without respect for the celebrated author.” The editorialist from Marblehead likely had a copy of Church’s Oration printed by Greenleaf, allowing for extensive quotations and reflections on how they accurately described the crisis the colonies faced.
That editorial bolstered the advertisement for Church’s Oration that the Halls inserted in that issue and subsequent advertisements that appeared in the next three issues of the Essex Gazette. More than a month after the anniversary, the Halls continued to hawk the pamphlet, extending the commemoration and helping to keep the dangers of quartering soldiers in Boston visible to their readers who resided outside that city.