What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Landing of – Troops in the Year 1768.”
At the time of the Boston Massacre, more newspapers were published in that city than any other in the colonies. The Boston Chronicle, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy all came out on Mondays. Later in the week, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and another edition of the Boston Chronicle both came out on Thursdays. The Boston Massacre occurred on a Monday evening, by which time the newspapers usually published on that day had already been distributed to subscribers. That meant that the News-Letter and the Chronicle were the first newspapers to appear after the “BLOODY MASSACRE perpetrated in King-Street, BOSTON on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th REG[IMEN]T” (as Paul Revere described the event).
Both carried limited coverage of the Boston Massacre. The Chronicle, notorious for its pro-British sympathies, stated, “We decline at present, giving a particular account of this unhappy affair, as we hear the trial of the unfortunate prisoners [Captain Thomas Preston and eight soldiers] is to come on next week.” The News-Letter issued a Postscript supplement that acknowledged the event but provided only a brief overview. Its publisher, Richard Draper, also tended to support the British perspective, though usually not as vociferously as the publishers of the Chronicle. Draper indicated that “A Number of Gentlemen are collecting Evidences of the whole Transactions, as soon as these are done, an Account will be drawn up and Published in the Papers.” Four days later, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, vocal patriots, published an account of the Boston Massacre and the funeral procession for its victims in the Boston-Gazette, complete with a woodcut depicting the coffins and heavy black borders to denote mourning.
In the aftermath of the Boston Massacre, Edes and Gill ran an advertisement for their “North-American ALMANACK, AND Massachusetts REGISTER” in the March 8, 1770, edition of the News-Letter. The list of contents made it clear that the publishers placed far more emphasis on the patriotic propaganda in the register than the astronomical calculations in the almanack, especially more than two months into the new year. Edes and Gill had previously placed the same advertisement for their almanac and register in the News-Letter, but it did not run in the issue of that newspaper that came out immediately before the Boston Massacre. It did reappear in the first edition published after the “tragical Affair,” as Draper described it. Edes and Gill led the list of contents with a description of an illustration of “a Prospective View of the Town of Boston … and the Landing of – Troops in the Year 1768.” Those troops eventually fired on the residents of Boston, killing and wounding many of them in the “Bloody Massacre.” Although coverage of the “Proceedings of that Evening” was tentative and abbreviated in the first issue of the News-Letter after the Boston Massacre, the patriotic tenor of the advertisements for Edes and Gill’s almanack and register took on new urgency in the wake of recent events on King Street.