May 27

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

May 27 - 5:24:1770 Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (May 24, 1770).

The other Advertisements must be deferred to next Week.”

John Crosby, who sold citrus fruits “at the Sign of the Basket of Lemmons,” and George Spriggs, “Gardner to JOHN HANCOCK,” were fortunate.  Their advertisements were the last two that appeared in the May 24, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  At the bottom of the third column on the final page, Richard Draper, the printer, inserted a brief notice that “The other Advertisements must be deferred to next Week.”  Unlike Crosby and Spriggs, some advertisers did not see their notices in print in that issue.

Draper had too much content to include in the standard four-page edition that week.  He may have considered producing a two-page supplement, as eighteenth-century printers often did in such situations, but perhaps he did not have sufficient advertisements to fill the space.  Alternately, lack of time or other resources may have prevented him from distributing a supplement that week.  Compared to other issues, the May 24 edition contained relatively few advertisements.  They comprised just over two columns, less than an entire page in a publication that often delivered just as much advertising as news.

Like other newspaper printers, Draper had to strike a balance between news and advertising.  Subscribers expected to receive the news, not just advertising, but advertisers contributed significant revenue to the operation of colonial newspapers.  Advertisers expected to put their notices before the eyes of readers.  They wished to reach as many readers as possible, which meant that printers could not alienate subscribers by skimping on the news or else risk their newspapers becoming less attractive venues for placing advertisements because subscription numbers decreased.  This was especially true in the larger port cities where printers published competing newspapers.  When it came to attracting both subscribers and advertisers, Draper contended with the Boston Chronicle, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy in 1770.  Delaying advertisements by a week on occasion was unlikely to convince his advertisers to post their notices in other newspapers, but it was not something that Draper could do on a regular basis and expect to maintain his clientele of advertisers and attract new ones.

March 31

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

Mar 31 - 3:31:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 31, 1770).

We have neither Time nor Room for any Extracts.”

Several advertisements ran at the bottom of the final column on the third page of the March 31, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette, concluding with a notice from the printer:  “A New-York Paper, which came to Hand before the Publication of this Day’s Gazette, contains addresses of both Houses of Parliament to the King, and some London Articles to the 13th of January; but we have neither Time nor Room for any Extracts.”  This notice reveals quite a bit about the production and dissemination of the news in eighteenth-century America.

First, it alludes to the widespread practice of reprinting articles, letters, and editorials from one newspaper to another.  John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, indicated that he planned to publish “Extracts” from the other newspaper, but often printers copied important or interesting items in their entirety.  Sometimes they credited their sources; other times they did not.  Either way, printers often tended to edit or compile news from other publications instead of producing new content.

Carter’s notice also testifies to the production of newspapers as material objects, not just amalgamations of ideas.  Each weekly edition of the Providence Gazette took the form of a four-page issue, the standard for colonial newspapers prior to the American Revolution.  Each copy consisted of a single broadsheet with two pages printed on each side and then folded in half to produce a four-page newspaper.  This usually meant that the first and last pages were printed first and then the second and third pages later.  The position of Carter’s notice as the last item in the last column on the third page suggests that it was the final item added by the compositor before taking the issue to press.  Carter asserted that he did not have “Room for any Extracts,” indicating that the front page had been printed and the type already set for the remaining pages.  In stating that he also did not have time to insert extracts, the printer explained why he could not make substitutions for some of the material on the second and third pages as well as why he did not produce a supplement to accompany the issue.

Finally, Carter’s notice served as an advertisement for the newspaper itself.  The printer previewed the contents for the following week, enticing readers to return to read extracts or possibly even the entire “addresses of both Houses of Parliament to the King” as well as articles drawn from the London press by way of a “New-York Paper.”  In general, Carter’s notice evokes images of a busy printing office at the Sign of Shakespeare’s Head in Providence.

March 24

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 24, 1770).

(23).”

A brief advertisement in the March 24, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette announced, “GARDEN PEASE.  The very best Early Garden Pease to be sold at the GOLDEN EAGLE. (23).”  Consisting primarily of information for consumers, this advertisement also featured a notation intended solely for the printer, compositor, and others who labored in John Carter’s “PRINTING-OFFICE, the Sign of Shakespeare’s Head.”  The “(23)” at the far right of the final line corresponded to the issue number in which the advertisement first ran, “NUMB. 323” on March 17.  Other advertisements included similar notations to the far right on the final line.  Robert Nesbitt’s advertisement for a variety of textiles ended with “(22).”  James Lovett’s advertisement for bread and flour concluded with “(20).”  Another advertisement offering a “Likely, healthy, smart NEGROE BOY” for sale also featured “(20)” on the final line.  The issue numbers presumably aided with bookkeeping and alerted compositors when to remove advertisements that had appeared for a specified number of weeks.

Not all advertisements, however, included issue numbers, suggesting that the system was more complicated than simply signaling whether a notice should continue publication.  Carter’s own advertisement for printed blanks did not feature an issue number, but that was because the printer could insert notices promoting various aspects of his business at his own discretion.  In another notice that lacked an issue number, Stephen Hopkins, John Brown, and John Jenckes called on local “Gentlemen … to become Benefactors” of the college being built in the town.  Perhaps it did not carry an issue number because Carter was not concerned about when it commenced or how many times it appeared in the Providence Gazette.  Perhaps his contribution consisted of running the fundraising advertisement gratis in his newspaper for as long as the committee desired.  Other advertisements, including two for real estate and one about runaway indentured servants, also did not have issue numbers on the final line.  The advertisers may not have contracted for a certain number of weeks but instead determined for them to run until they achieved their purpose.

The issue numbers that appeared in some, but not all, advertisements in the Providence Gazette (and other eighteenth-century newspapers) hint at the day-to-day operations in colonial printing offices, but they raise as many questions as they answer.  They suggest that printers, compositors, and others followed a system for organizing and keeping track of advertisements, but they do not reveal all of the particulars.

July 15

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

Jul 15 - 7:15:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 15, 1769).

“All Manner of PRINTING-WORK is performed on reasonable Terms.”

The colophons that appeared on the final pages of colonial newspapers ranged from simple to elaborate. Consider the colophons for newspapers published in July 1769. The colophon for the New-London Gazette, for instance, briefly stated, “Printed by TIMOTHY GREEN.” Similarly, the colophon for the Boston Evening-Post succinctly informed readers of the printers and place of publication: “BOSTON: Printed by T. and J. FLEET.” Yet the colophons for other newspapers filled several lines and provided much more information about the business of printing in early America, as seen in these examples:

Boston Chronicle:BOSTON: PRINTED every MONDAY and THURSDAY, (Price only SIX SHILLINGS and EIGHT PENCE Lawful, per Annum) by MEIN and FLEEMING, at their PRINTING-OFFICE in Newbury-Street, where, and at the LONDON BOOK-STORE North-side of King-Street, Subscriptions[,] ADVERTISEMENTS, ARTICLES and LETTERS OF INTELLIGENCE, are gratefully received.—All Manner PRINTING Work performed at the most reasonable Rates.”

Essex Gazette:SALEM: Printed by Samuel Hall, at his Printing-Office a few Doors above the Town-House; where Subscriptions for this GAZETTE, at Six Shillings and Eight Pence per Annum, are taken in;–3s. 4d. to be paid at Entrance.”

Georgia Gazette: “SAVANNAH: Printed by JAMES JOHNSTON, at the Printing-Office in Broughton-Street, where Advertisements, Letters of Intelligence and Subscriptions for this Paper, are taken in.—Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c. printed at the shortest Notice.”

Newport Mercury: “NEWPORT, RHODE-ISLAND: Printed by SOLOMON SOUTHWICK, in Marlborough-Street, at the Third House below the Gaol: Where may be had all Kinds of BLANKS commonly used in this Colony.”

New-York Chronicle: “NEW-YORK: Printed by ALEXANDER and JAMES ROBERTSON, at the Corner of Beaver-Street, nearly opposite General GAGE’S, where all Sorts of Printing Work is done in the neatest Manner, with Care and Expedition. Advertisements of no more Length and breadth are inserted for Five Shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after, and larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.”

New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy:NEW-YORK: Printed by JAMES PARKER, at the NEW PRINTING-OFFICE in Beaver-Street, where Subscriptions, and Advertisements, &c. for this Paper are Taken in.”

New-York Journal: “NEW-YORK: Printed by JOHN HOLT, at the Printing-Office near the Exchange, in Broad-Street, where all Sorts of Printing Work is done in the neatest Manner, with Care and Expedition. Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth are inserted for Five Shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after, and larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.”

Pennsylvania Chronicle:PHILADELPHIA: Printed by WILLIAM GODDARD, at the NEW PRINTING-OFFICE in Market-Street, near the Post-Office, and opposite Mr. John Wister’s, where Subscriptions, (at TEN SHILLINGS per Annum)[,] Advertisements, Articles and Letters of Intelligence are gratefully received for this Paper, and where all Manner of Printing Work is performed with Care, Fidelity and Expedition.—Blanks and Hand-Bills in particular are done on the shortest Notice, in a neat, correct and conspicuous Manner.”

Providence Gazette:PROVIDENCE, in New-England: Printed by JOHN CARTER, at his PRINTING-OFFICE, the Sign of Shakespear’s Head; where Subscriptions, Advertisements, Articles and Letters of Intelligence, &c. are received for this Paper, and where all Manner of PRINTING-WORK is performed on reasonable Terms, in a neat and correct Manner with Fidelity and Expedition.”

Virginia Gazette: “WILLIAMSBURG: Printed by WILLIAM RIND, at the NEW PRINTING-OFFICE on the Main-Street. All Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE at 12s 6 per Year. ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length are inserted for 3s. the First Week, and 2s. each Time after: And long ones in Proportion.”

These ten colophons did more than record the printer and place of publication for their respective newspapers. Some of them specified subscription rates while others set advertising rates. Some called on readers to become subscribers or submit items for publication. Some promoted goods and services available at the printing office, including printing advertisements in other formats (like handbills and broadsides). In each case, the colophon appeared on the final page of their newspaper, running across all the columns, just as a masthead appeared on the first page and ran across all the columns. Each of these colophons served as an advertisement for the printer and the newspaper at the end of an edition. No matter how many advertisements an issue of any of these newspapers carried, it concluded with the printer promoting his own business to subscribers and other readers.

February 18

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

Providence Gazette (February 18, 1769).

“He wants good Hoops, Boards and Staves, some very good Horses, and a new Milch Cow. (51)”

Readers of the Providence Gazette may have noticed that some, but not all, of the advertisements concluded with a number in parentheses. In the February 18, 1769, edition, Samuel Chace’s advertisement for a “NEW and general Assortment of English and India GOODS,” for instance, ended with “(51)” on the final line. Thomas Greene’s advertisement for a “fresh Assortment of DRY-GOODS” immediately above it featured “(64).” Elsewhere in the issue, other advertisements included “(55)” and “(62).” The first three advertisements all had “(67)” on the final line. What purpose did these numbers serve?

They were not part of the copy submitted by advertisers. Instead, the compositor inserted these numbers to record the first issue in which an advertisement appeared. According to the masthead, the February 18 edition was “NUMB. 267.” The “(67)” indicated three of the advertisements made their inaugural appearance in that issue. Similarly, “(51)” was associated with issue number 251 and “(64)” first ran in issue number 264. The printer and compositor made use of these numbers for bookkeeping and other aspects of producing the Providence Gazette. They made it much easier to determine when it was time to remove an advertisement from subsequent issues.

That the advertisements in the February 18 edition did not appear in numerical or chronological order also demonstrates another aspect of newspaper production. Compositors set the type for each advertisement only once. Once the type had been set, however, compositors moved advertisements around to fit them on the page. In general, no advertisements received privileged placement based on how many weeks they ran in the newspaper, nor did the compositor attempt to organize them according to any principles other than the most efficient use of space. Advertisements making their inaugural appearance, however, were an exception to that rule. In the February 18 issue, all of the advertisements marked “(67)” appeared before any other advertisements. Printers and compositors did give new advertisements a place of prominence, knowing that readers sometimes looked for those in particular. Although the Providence Gazette did not do so, some newspapers even ran special headings for “New Advertisements” to distinguish them from others that already ran in previous issues.

Printers and compositors intended for subscribers and other readers to ignore the numbers they inserted on the final line of many advertisements. Those numbers made important information readily accessible to those who worked in printing offices, but it was not information intended to shape public reaction to the contents of the paid notices.

January 24

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

jan-24-1241767-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

“JUST PUBLISHED …. The true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack.”

Despite the proclamation in the first line of this advertisement, the “true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack” had not been “JUST PUBLISHED” by Sarah Goddard and Company. Even if readers of the Providence Gazette had not seen the original advertisement, published seven weeks earlier, that announced the almanac was slated for publication just a few days later, they would have realized that no printers waited more than three weeks into the new year to print almanacs. Goddard and Company ran this advertisement – yet again – in an attempt to move surplus inventory that was quickly becoming outdated. With every day that passed, this almanac, like the “NEW-YORK Pocket Almanacks” advertised on the previous page, had less value to potential customers.

Printing and selling almanacs could be a lucrative business for members of the book trades in early America, but it could also be a tricky business. Starting as early as September, printers and booksellers advertised almanacs for the coming year, seeking to incite demand among potential customers. They aimed to print or stock just enough to meet that demand, not wishing to turn away customers (especially given that disappointed prospective customers might then patronize competitors who still had almanacs available), but also not producing so many that leftover copies diminished profits.

Goddard and Company apparently overestimated how many almanacs they needed to print for 1767. Perhaps their earlier complaints about dishonorable dealings by competitors in nearby Boston and corresponding appeals to customers’ sense of justice and fairness to convince them to purchase the “true and original” version of Benjamin West’s New-England Almanack had not gone over as successfully as they had anticipated or hoped. As a result, they found themselves in a position of devoting space in the Providence Gazette to advertisements intended to clear out their inventory, even as Joseph and William Russell continued to note, in their advertisement on the same page, that their assortment of imported goods was “too large” to print the sort of enumerated list that had been part of their marketing strategy over the past several months. Having too many almanacs on hand as the end of January approached may have prompted Goddard and Company to forego potential advertising revenue that they would have obtained from selling more space to the Russells.