What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our Lord 1773.”
By the end of January 1773, it was a familiar advertisement to readers who regularly perused the Providence Gazette. John Carter once again promoted the “NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our Lord 1773,” though it was not “Just PUBLISHED” as the advertisement purported. Instead, Carter, the printer of both the newspaper and the almanac, sought to sell surplus copies and achieve a better return on his investment. With each passing day, portions of the almanac, especially the “astronomical Calculations,” became obsolete.
Carter announced the imminent publication of the almanac in the October 24, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette, treating it as a news item, following immediately after an update about the Gaspee incident, rather than an advertisement. A week later, the advertisement that ran in late January appeared for the first time (with a brief note about the price staying the same as the previous year despite “valuable Improvements” that made the almanac “a Quarter Part larger than usual”). Carter gave it a privileged place, first among the advertisements. A week later, he gave it even more prominence, the first item in the first column on the first page of the November 7 edition. That made it difficult for readers to miss it.
In subsequent weeks, the advertisement moved around among the paid notices that ran in the Providence Gazette. When it appeared in the January 30, 1773, edition, Carter once again attempted to direct attention to it via its placement in the first column on the first page. Only one item appeared before it, a public service announcement about an upcoming meeting “to consider of some Method for erecting and building a Bridge from the Town of Providence (across the Lower Ferry) to the Town of Rehoboth.” In this instance, Carter did not place his own interest in selling the remaining copies of the almanac ahead of all other items in his newspaper, but he did give it priority by having the announcement about an important public works project flow into his advertisement for the New-England Almanack.