What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A few of the New-Hampshire Registers … may be had at the Printing-Office.”
The “Civil, Military & Ecclesiastical REGISTER of the Province of New-Hampshire, for the YEAR 1772” apparently did not sell as well as the printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, hoped. They first advertised the volume in their newspaper, the New-Hampshire Gazette, on December 13, 1771. That notice included a lengthy list of the contents. A week later, they supplemented the original copy with an explanation intended to convince colonizers to purchase a copy of their own. “Every Gentleman who holds an Office,” the Fowles declared, “and has the Honor of having it recorded in the above Register, undoubtedly ought and will furnish himself with one.” Furthermore, “other Persons should have them, in order rightly to know their Superiors.” From the “Governor, Council and House of Representatives” to “Justices of the Peace through the Province and for each County,” the Register listed officials throughout the colony.
Nearly three months after first advertising the Register, the Fowles inserted a shorter notice (but in much larger type) to alert prospective customers that “A few of the New-Hampshire Registers, very necessary for all sorts of People, may be had at the Printing-Office.” They continued to insist that they sold an invaluable resource for colonizers to consult in a variety of circumstances, but they no longer devoted as much space to making that assertion. Prospective customers likely needed more convincing. The Fowles did not publish an updated register in 1773 nor in any subsequent year. Other printers did so in 1779 and 1787, but the Fowles seemingly did not encounter enough success with the project in 1772 to justify making another attempt. Perhaps more extensive advertising might have helped to create a more robust market, but the Fowles may have determined that no amount of marketing would so significantly improve sales to make another edition worthy of the time and expense necessary to produce it. Even with their access to the press and ability to run as many advertisements as they wished, the Fowles had surplus copies of the register that cut into any profits they might have earned.