What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Just PUBLISHED … The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK.”
The advertising campaign for the 1773 edition of the “NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY” continued in the November 7, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette. The author, Benjamin West, and the printer, John Carter, both sold copies, as did Thurber and Cahoon at the Bunch of Grapes on Constitution Street.
Marketing efforts in the public prints began two weeks earlier. Carter, who also happened to be the printer of the Providence Gazette, included an announcement among the news to inform prospective customers that “WEST’s ALMANACK … is now in the Press, and will be speedily published by the Printer hereof.” He nestled it between an update about the Gaspee incident, the burning of a British customs schooner near Warwick, Rhode Island, in June, and shipping news from the customs house. Exercising his discretion as printer, Carter treated the impending publication of the almanac as news. The following week, he placed an advertisement for the almanac first among the advertisements, increasing the chances that readers interested only in news would at least glimpse it even if they did not peruse other advertising.
Carter increased the likelihood that readers would see the advertisement when he moved it to the front page on November 7. It appeared as the first item in the first column, immediately below the masthead. Readers could not help but notice it. Carter usually reserved advertising for the final pages of the Providence Gazette. Except for his own notice about the almanac, he did so again. All of the other advertisements in that issue ran on the last two pages.
Printing almanacs was often a very lucrative venture for colonial American printers. Carter sought to generate as much revenue as possible for the New-England Almanack by placing advertisements in prime places in his newspaper. The imprint on the title page indicated that Carter sold the almanac “wholesale and retail.” He intended for his message to reach shopkeepers as well as consumers. His newspaper notices facilitated distribution to retailers in Providence and the surrounding area as well as individual sales. Thurber and Cahoon already included “WEST’s ALMANACK” in the list of merchandise available at their store. Carter likely desired that others would acquire copies to sell at their own locations.