June 29

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

Essex Gazette (June 29, 1773).

“Our Customers are very willing their Papers should be read … by any Person who will be so kind as to forward them.”

Newspapers stolen before subscribers read them: the problem dates back to the eighteenth century … and probably even earlier.  It became such an issue in Massachusetts in the summer of 1773 that Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall, the printers of the Essex Gazette, inserted a notice addressing the situation.  The printers recognized that many subscribers who lived outside Salem “depend upon receiving their Papers by transient Conveyance” or by indirect means as postriders and others delivered bundles of letters and newspapers to designated locations, such as taverns or shops, with the expectation that members of those communities would then distribute the items to the intended recipients.

The Halls expressed their appreciation to “any Persons for their Favours in forwarding any Bundles to the respective Persons and Places that they are directed to.”  They also acknowledged that their “our Customers are very willing their Papers should be read, after the Bundles are opened, by any Person who will be so kind as to forward them to their Owners in due Season.”  However, all too often that did not happen.  Those who should have felt obliged to see that the newspapers reached the subscribers, especially after they read someone else’s newspaper for free, waited too long to do so or set them aside and forgot about them completely.  That being the case, the printers “earnestly” requested that “those who have heretofore taken up Paper only for their own Perusal, and afterwards thrown them by, or not taken any Care to send them to those who pay for them, would be so kind as not to take up any more.”  Instead, they should “leave them to the Care of those who are more kindly disposed” to see them delivered to the subscribers.

To make the point to those most in the need of reading it, the Halls declared that they “had the Names of some (living in Andover) … who, after having taken up and perused the Papers, and kept them several Days, were at last ashamed to deliver them to the Owners.”  The printers, as well the subscribers, considered this practice “very ungenerous.”  The Halls made a point of advising the culprits that they were aware of who read the newspapers without forwarding them to the subscribers.  They hoped that an intervention that did not involve naming names or directly contacting the perpetrators would be sufficient in altering such behavior.  They did not scold the offenders for reading the newspapers without subscribing.  Indeed, they framed that practice as something printers expected, but they did remind those readers that such generosity did not deserve the “very ungenerous” habit of hoarding and disposing of newspapers instead of forwarding them to the subscribers in a timely manner.  This was one of many challenges that colonial printers encountered in maintaining an infrastructure for disseminating information.

June 8

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 8, 1773).

“THE Printer of this Paper … will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, included a brief note in the June 8, 1773, to alert readers and, especially, advertisers that “Advertisements omitted this Week, for want of Room, shall be in our next.”  Despite that “want of Room,” Crouch found space to run six of his own notices.  Some of them concerned the business of running the newspaper, while others advertised goods and services available at the printing office.

In tending to the operations of the newspaper, Crouch requested that “ALL Persons who may favour the Printer of this Gazette with their Advertisements … send the CASH with them, except where he owes Money, or has a running Account.”  Crouch suggested that “will prevent disagreeable Circumstances, as well as Trouble.”  He also prepared to address some of those “disagreeable Circumstances” with recalcitrant subscribers.  In another notice, he informed “ALL Persons in Charles-Town, who are in Arrears for this GAZETTE, to the first of January last, HAVE THIS PUBLIC NOTICE given them, that in the Course of this Month, they will be waited upon by my Apprentice, for Payment.”  Printers throughout the colonies often ran notices calling on delinquent subscribers to settle accounts, sometimes threatening legal action.  Few mentioned having their apprentices attempt to collect payment, but many likely tried that strategy as well.

In other advertisements, Crouch attempted to generate business at the printing office.  He advised that the “Printer of this Paper, being supplied with plenty of Hands, will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work, let it be ever so large.”  Prospective customers could depend on job printing orders “be[ing] correctly and expeditiously executed, and on reasonable terms.”  In another advertisement, the printer hawked “Shop and Waste PAPER, to be sold at Crouch’s Printing-Office, in Elliott-street.”  He also tried to generate interest in surplus copies of “THOMAS MORE’s ALMANACK, for the Year 1773.”  Though nearly half the year had passed, Crouch emphasized contents that readers could reference throughout the year, including “a List of Public Officers in this Province; a List of Justices for Charles-Town District; excellent Notes of Husbandry and Gardening, for each Month in the Year; [and] Descriptions of Roads throughout the Continent.”  At the end of that advertisement, Crouch appended a note that he also stocked copies of “BUCHAN’s Family Physician.”  In a final advertisement, the printer tended to the health of readers with products unrelated to the printing trade.  He announced that he just imported a variety of popular patent medicines, including a “Fresh Parcel of Dr. KEYSER’s genuine Pills,” “Dr. RYAN’s Incomparable Worm Destroying Sugar Plumbs,” and “Dr. JAMES’s Fever Powders.”  Like many other printers, Crouch sold patent medicines as an additional revenue stream.

An item that could be considered a seventh advertisement from the printer even found its way into the local news.  Immediately above the entries of vessels arriving and departing the busy port provided by the customs house, a short note stated, “Those GENTLEMEN who subscribed with the Printer hereof, for the AMERICAN EDITION of BLACKSTONE’s COMMENTARIES on the LAWS of ENGLAND, are requested to apply for the Fourth Volume, and the Appendix.”  Crouch served as a local agent on behalf of the publisher, Robert Bell in Philadelphia.

Crouch claimed that a “want of Room” prevented him from publishing all of the advertisements received in his printing office, yet he managed to include many of his own notices in the June 8, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  He exercised his prerogative as printer in shaping the contents of that issue, an act that potentially frustrated some advertisers who expected to see their notices in the public prints.  Given that just a few months earlier Crouch emphasized his “REAL Want of his Money,” he may have considered that a necessary gamble in his efforts to continue operations at his printing office on Elliott Street in Charleston.

June 1

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 1, 1773).

“ALL Persons who may favour the Printer of this Gazette with their Advertisements, are requested to send the CASH with them.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, seemed to do good business when it came to advertising.  Dozens of advertisements, including sixteen about enslaved people, filled seven of the twelve columns in the June 1, 1773, edition of his newspaper.  Yet the advertising revenues may not have been as robust as they appeared from merely looking at the contents on the page.

The printer commenced the portion of the issue devoted to advertising with his own notice.  “ALL Persons who may favour the Printer of this Gazette with their Advertisements,” he declared, “are requested to send the CASH with them, except where he owes Money, or has a running Account.”  Crouch suggested that this arrangement “will prevent disagreeable Circumstances, as well as Trouble.”  He apparently experienced some “disagreeable Circumstances” a few months earlier when he ran a notice that called on “ALL Persons indebted to the Printer hereof, for News-Papers, Advertisements, &c. … to make immediate Payment, as he is in REAL Want of his Money.”

Historians have often asserted that colonial printers maintained a balance in their accounts by extending credit to subscribers while requiring advertisers to pay in advance.  Accordingly, advertising became the more important revenue stream.  Notices like those placed by Crouch, however, suggest more complex arrangements, at least in some printing offices.  Both of the notices that Crouch placed in 1773 indicate that he sometimes published advertisements submitted to his office without payment, though he revised that practice as a result of some advertisers becoming as notoriously delinquent in settling accounts as many subscribers.

Crouch and other printers sometimes described such situations in the notices they placed in their own newspapers, though not as frequently as printers placed notices calling on subscribers to make payments.  These instances refine our understanding of the significance of advertising revenue to colonial printers without upending the common narrative.  It appears that some printers exercised a degree of flexibility, even if they eventually adjusted their practices, when it came to submitting the fees along with the advertising copy.

May 20

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

Maryland Gazette (May 20, 1773).

“Seasonable notice will be given in this gazette, to give gentlemen an opportunity to advertise in the first number.”

William Goddard, the printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle in Philadelphia, continued his efforts to establish a new operation in Baltimore.  In the early 1770s, Maryland had only one newspaper, the Maryland Gazette, published by Anne Catherine Green and Son in Annapolis.  In late October 1772, Goddard placed an advertisement in that newspaper to announce his intention to publish the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser “as soon … as I shall obtain a sufficient Number of Subscribers barely to defray the Expence of the Work.”  He also solicited advertisements, stating that they “shall likewise be accurately published, in a conspicuous Manner, with great Punctuality, at the customary Prices.”

Nearly seven months later, Goddard inserted an update in the May 20, 1773, edition of the Maryland Gazette.   He had opened a printing office “in Baltimore-town,” where “PRINTING in all it’s various branches, [was] performed in a neat,correct, and expeditious manner, on the most reasonable terms.”  The printer also informed readers that he would begin publishing the Maryland Journal “As soon as proper posts or carriers are established.”  They could expect at least one more update in the Maryland Gazette before that happened because Goddard wished “to give gentlemen an opportunity to advertise in the first number.”  While advertising could aid merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others in capturing the markets served by Baltimore’s first newspaper, Goddard also knew from experience that advertisements accounted for an important revenue stream.

In his notice, Goddard attended to both advertisers and subscribers.  He requested that the “gentlemen” who served as local agents “who have been so obliging as to take in subscriptions … transmit the subscription lists (or the subscribers names and places of abode) as speedily as possible” so he “may be enable to ascertain the number necessary to be printed” as well as make arrangements for delivering the newspapers “to every subscriber.”  Goddard was still three months away from publishing “the first number” of the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, but his notice in the Maryland Gazette kept the public, including prospective subscribers and advertisers, apprised of his progress.  In the coming months, the Adverts 250 Project will examine Goddard’s success in attracting advertisers for “the first number” and subsequent editions of Baltimore’s first newspaper.

April 26

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (April 26, 1773).

“Hope the Customers to the Paper will continue to encourage it by advertising.”

The first advertisement in the April 26, 1773, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy concerned the operation of the newspaper.  For nearly sixteen years, since August 1757, John Green and Joseph Russell printed the newspaper, but starting on that day “the Printing and Publishing of this PAPER will, in future be carried on by NATHANIEL MILLS and JOHN HICKS.”  Neither the printers nor readers knew it at the time, but the newspaper would not continue for nearly as long under Mills and Hicks.  They published the last known issue on April 17, 1775, two days before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord that marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

At the time that ownership of the newspaper changed hands, Green and Russell expressed “their respectful Thanks for the Favours they have received.”  Furthermore, they expressed their “hope the Customers to the Paper will continue to encourage it by advertising, &c.”  That “&c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera) included subscribing to the newspapers and providing content, such as editorials and “Letters of Intelligence.”  The printers realized that the continued viability and success of the newspapers depended most immediately on maintaining advertising revenue since readers but subscribed for a year while most advertisements ran for only three or four weeks.

Readers likely noticed a new feature in the first issue published by Mills and Hicks, a colophon that ran across the bottom of the final page.  Green and Russell did not always include a colophon, perhaps because they considered the newspaper so well established that they did not consider it necessary to devote space to it in each issue.  Their final issue, the April 19 edition, for instance, did not feature a colophon.  On April 12, the colophon at the bottom of the last column on the final page simply stated, “Printed by Green and Russell.”  Mills and Hicks, on the other hand, opted for a more elaborate colophon that served as a perpetual advertisement for the newspaper and other services available in their printing office, a practice adopted by some, but not all, colonial printers.  Distributed over three lines, it read, “BOSTON: Printed by MILLS and HICKS, at their PRINTING-OFFICE in School-street, next Door to CROMWELL’S HEAD TAVERN, where Subscriptions, Advertisements, and Letters of Intelligence for this Paper are taken in; and the Printing Business carried on, in its different Branches, with the greatest Care.”

Mills and Hicks could not depend on their reputations to market the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy in the same way that Green and Russell did after more than a decade of publishing the newspaper.  In their first issue, they placed greater emphasis on soliciting advertisements to help support their enterprise.  Subsequent issues included the colophon, a regular feature that encouraged colonizers to advertise as well as purchase subscriptions and submit orders for job printing.

Colophon from Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (April 26, 1773).

April 2

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

Connecticut Journal (April 2, 1773).

They shall be under the necessity of reducing it to its original size and price, unless the Subscribers for it, are more punctual in their payments.”

On April 17, 1772, Thomas Green and Samuel Green began printing the Connecticut Journal on larger sheets.  That allowed them to deliver more content to their subscribers, meeting the demand of “many of our Customers, and others, … desirous of having [the newspaper] enlarged.”  When they did so, they also noted that the previous edition “completed Four Years and an Half since the first Publication” of the newspaper, yet many of the subscribers “paid not a single Farthing” during that time and others were “indebted for Two or Three Year’s Papers.”  The printers called on anyone who owed for newspapers, advertisements, printed blanks, or anything else “to make speedy Payment.”

Almost a year later, the Greens made similar pleas.  On April 2, 1773, they declared, “The Printers are sorry, they can with truth inform the Public, That they have not for this year past, received from all the Customers for this Journal, so much money as they have expended for the blank paper, on which it has been printed.”  Colonial printers often lamented that subscribers and others did not pay their bills, but few did so in such stark terms.  The Greens noted that the “next week’s paper … completes one year since its enlargement,” a benefit to subscribers that accrued even greater expenses for the printers.  That benefit would not continue, the Greens warned, if subscribers did not settle accounts.  They proclaimed that “they shall be under the necessity of reducing it to its original size and price, unless the Subscribers for it, are more punctual in their payments.”  Other printers often threatened to take legal action against recalcitrant subscribers to force them to pay what they owed.  The Greens, on the other hand, threatened other consequences that would have an impact on all readers, not just those taken to court.

Whether it involved suing subscribers or publishing the names of those who refused to pay, printers usually did not follow through on their threats.  Whether or not the Greens’ notice prompted some subscribers to submit payment, the printers did not opt to revert to the original size of the newspaper.  Through experience, many readers likely believed that they could ignore such notices from the printers without suffering any consequences.  Printers wished to maintain robust circulations so they could sell advertising, a factor that played a role in their decisions about how to handle difficult subscribers.

February 12

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (February 12, 1773).

“This LAST Notice is given to the delinquents for this Gazette or Advertisements.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among the colonial newspaper printers who most frequently ran notices calling on subscribers and others to settle accounts.  On one occasion, they threatened to publish a list of delinquent subscribers, though nothing ever came of that.  More often, they pledged to place the matter into the hands of an attorney.  In most instances, they likely did not follow through on that.

In February 1773, however, circumstances prompted Robert Fowle to take action.  He inserted a notice in the February 12 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform readers that he “lodged a large Number of Accounts in the Hands of OLIVER WHIPPLE, Attorney at Law.”  Those who owed “for this Gazette or Advertisements” had one last chance to make payment.  Robert instructed them to do so at Whipple’s office rather than visit the printing office.  Fowle had warned them seven weeks earlier in an advertisement that announced “the Co-partnership of Daniel and Robert Fowle, will be dissolved.”  That being the case, the printers needed to settle accounts, so Fowle requested that “all Persons who have Accounts open” make payment “as soon as possible.”  He cautioned that those “who neglect, & are Indebted, must expect … the Accounts will be lodged with such Gentlemen as will create Trouble and needless Charges.”  Fowle’s plans to “leave this Province” apparently prompted him to get an attorney involved when “delinquents” ignored that notice.

Robert alone signed both advertisements, perhaps because Daniel intended to remain in Portsmouth and continue publishing the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Robert resorting to legal action allowed Daniel to remain neutral in his dealings with subscribers, advertisers, and others with overdue accounts, frustrated as he may have been with them.  The printer also advised that customers who “owe for less than a Year … are desired to take no Notice of this Advertisement” because their accounts would be settled at the printing office in the usual manner.  He apparently did not see a need to create trouble with customers who kept relatively current with their accounts.  Similarly, he aimed to avoid trouble with associates who “have any Thing due to them from the Printers,” inviting them to visit the printing office for payment rather than get an attorney involved.

Colonial newspaper printers often vowed to take legal action against subscribers who did not take their bills, but those were often empty threats.  However, when Robert Fowle ended his partnership with his uncle and prepared to leave the colony, those circumstances made it necessary to enlist the aid of an attorney.  Some of the “delinquents” who had ignored similar notices for years may have been quite surprised by that turn of events.

February 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 9, 1773).

“ALL Persons indebted … for News-Papers, Advertisements, &c. are requested to make immediate Payment.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, inserted a notice in the February 9, 1773, edition that called on his customers to pay their bills.  “ALL Persons indebted to the Printer hereof,” Crouch stated, “for News-Papers, Advertisements, &c. are requested to make immediate Payment, as he is in REAL Want of his Money.”  Throughout the colonies, printers frequently ran similar advertisements in their newspapers, often going into much greater detail.  Some printers invoked significant dates when they asked subscribers and others to settle accounts, especially the anniversary of the founding of their publication.  When they commenced a new year of printing and distributing their newspapers, they considered it a good time for customers to catch up on their payments.  Many threatened to sue, giving recalcitrant customers a deadline for paying their bills before handing the matter over to an attorney.  Some outlined the significant expenses they incurred in publishing newspapers.  Others underscored the value that the entire community derived from access to the news, those “freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic” promoted in so many mastheads.

Crouch was not nearly as elaborate as other printers. Beyond stating that he “is in REAL Want of his Money,” he did not offer other details.  His notice differed from many, but not all, others in another significant way.  He called on those who owed money “for News-Papers, Advertisements, &c.” rather than addressing subscribers.  Historians have often asserted that eighteenth-century printers extended generous credit to subscribers (which explains the frequency that similar notices appeared) while requiring advertisers to pay in advance.  Advertising thus represented an important revenue stream that allowed printers to continue publication, even when they did not follow through on threats of legal action against subscribers who neglected to pay.  As I have examined newspapers from the late 1760s and early 1770s for daily entries for the Adverts 250 Project, however, I have encountered notices in which various printers have named advertisers alongside subscribers when they called on customers to pay what they owed.  In some similar instances, they seemed to establish new policies, indicating that they previously allowed credit for advertising but planned to discontinue doing so.  Advertisers needed to submit payment along with their advertising copy.

In this instance, Crouch apparently allowed credit for newspapers, advertisements, and goods and services available at his printing office.  The “&c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera) likely included “all Manner of Printing Work” mentioned in the newspaper’s colophon.  That could range from handbills and broadsides to printed blanks and circular letters to other sorts of job printing.  It may have also included books, prints, and patent medicines since printers often created supplement revenue streams by peddling those items.  According to Crouch’s notice, he did not make some sort of exception when it came to advertisements and credit.  Instead, he allowed advertisers access to the public prints with promises to pay later.

August 15

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

Providence Gazette (August 15, 1772).

“Such as are indebted to the Printer for advertising … are requested to discharge their Accounts.”

In the colophon that appeared at the bottom of the final page of each issue of the Providence Gazette, John Carter offered a variety of services, asserting that “all Manner of Printing-Work is performed with Care and Expedition” in his printing office and “Hand-Bills in particular done in a neat and correct Manner, at a very short Notice, and on reasonable Terms.”  Even as he attempted to generate new business, he inserted notices calling on customers to pay their bills.  Throughout the colonies, newspaper printers regularly placed such notices after extending credit to subscribers and other customers.  Some subscribers fell years behind on settling accounts, but they were not alone in failing to make payment to printers.

In a notice in the August 15, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette, Carter declared that “THE Subscribers to this Gazette, who are one or more Years in Arrear, likewise such as are indebted to the Printer for advertising, or in any other Manner (particularly those who have been repeatedly called on) are requested to discharge their Accounts, that he may be enabled to pay his own Debts.”  This notice merits particular attention because Carter included advertising among the unpaid bills.  Similar notices usually addressed subscribers as well as customers who engaged other services, but they did not identify advertising as one of those services.  That suggests that printers did not allow credit for advertising, choosing instead to build their subscription lists via extensive credit while generating significant revenue from advertisers who paid in advance.  That was indeed the practice adopted by some colonial printers.  It was even Carter’s policy at one point.  In February 1771, the colophon for the Providence Gazette advised readers that “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length (accompanied with the Pay) are inserted in this Paper three Weeks for Four Shillings.”  That line subsequently disappeared from the colophon and Carter apparently accepted advertisements without “the Pay.”  Other printers experienced similar difficulties with overdue payments for advertising, including the printers of the Connecticut Courant, the Connecticut Journal, and the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Even if most printers did demand payment for advertisements before running them in their newspapers, that does not seem to have been a practice adopted universally in colonial America.

July 29

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (July 29, 1772).

“The Necessity of altering the Day of their weekly Publication.”

It last only two weeks.  On July 15, 1772, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford shifted the publication day of their weekly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Journal, from Thursdays to Wednesdays.  That meant they circulated the Pennsylvania Journal a day earlier than David Hall and William Sellers distributed the Pennsylvania Gazette.  In a notice on the first page, they explained that “A Great number of our friends, thinking that the publication of two Papers on the same day was rather inconvenient to the public, have solicited us to alter ours from Thursday to Wednesday.”  Whether or not any friends played a role in the decision, the Bradfords aimed to scoop their competitor among both subscribers and advertisers.

They managed to do so for two weeks.  On July 29, Hall and Sellers altered their publication day, inserting a notice in their own newspaper to announce that the “Publishers of the PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, being under the Necessity of altering the Day of their weekly Publication from Thursday to Wednesday, think it their Duty, on the Occasion, to express their grateful Acknowledgments of the public Favour and Encouragement, continued to them for so long a Series of Years past.”  The printers indicated that the Bradfords forced their hand, making it necessary to change “the Day of publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette to Wednesday, that they might have an equal Chance with the Printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, to avail themselves of the Intelligence by the Posts, and the other usual Channels of Conveyance.”  That was the only way for Hall and Sellers to “exert their utmost Abilities to merit [the public’s] Approbation” and serve their readers.

Did this change come to the attention of the Bradfords before Hall and Sellers distributed a new issue on a Wednesday instead of a Thursday?  Perhaps.  On July 22, they moved their notice about shifting the publication day to the third page, interspersing it among other advertisements, but on July 29, the day Hall and Sellers altered the schedule for the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Bradfords moved their notice back to the top of the first column on the first page of the Pennsylvania Journal.  If they had an inkling that the two newspapers once again appeared on the same day, they may have wished to underscore that their new publication day at least meant that they had not lost any ground to their competitor.  A week later, the Bradfords dropped their notice after the public witnessed the other newspaper follow their lead by adjusting the publication schedule.  Hall and Sellers continued publishing their announcement that the Pennsylvania Gazette matched the recent change by the Pennsylvania Journal.