What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“He rides POST from the town of Baltimore to the town of Frederick (once a week).”
The inaugural issue of the Maryland Journal carried twenty advertisements in addition to an address from William Goddard, the printer, news from London, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, an essay “On the SIMPLICITY OF DRESS,” a letter responding to an editorial in the Maryland Gazette, prices current for commodities in Baltimore, a list of letters arrived “by the Frederick-Town POST,” and a poem. Like other colonial newspapers, the Maryland Journal featured a variety of content. As Goddard explained in his address, the publication “shall contain not only the Public News, which I shall collect and compile with the greatest Care, but … I will supply the Room with such moral Pieces, from the best Writers, as will conduce most to inculcate good Principles and humane Behaviour, and now and then with Pieces of Wit and Humour, that tend both to amuse and instruct.”
The advertisements included one from the post rider who had delivered the letters from Frederick, a town about forty-five miles west of Baltimore. Absalom Bonham informed the public that he made the journey between Baltimore and Frederick once a week. In addition, he continued from Frederick on to Winchester, Virginia, delivering messages, carrying letters, and distributing newspapers. The post rider also served as a subscription agent for the Maryland Journaland the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the newspaper that Goddard had published in Philadelphia for the past several years. Bonham set off “from Mr. WILLIAM ADAMS’s, at the sign of the Race Horses, in Baltimore,” every Saturday afternoon, the day after the weekly edition of the Maryland Journal went to press. He apparently figured that residents of Frederick, Winchester, and other towns along the way were already familiar enough with his comings and goings that he did not need to provide additional information about his route and schedule.
In another notice in the inaugural issue, Goddard offered employment to an “active faithful Man, who can write a tolerable Hand, and keep a fair Account, and is otherwise well qualified to ride as a private POST or CARRIER between this Town and Philadelphia, once a Week.” The printer needed a trustworthy assistant bow that he oversaw publication of newspapers in two towns. Both of these advertisements testified to the infrastructure for producing and, especially, disseminating newspapers in eighteenth-century America. Goddard had already undertaken a campaign for attracting subscribers for the Maryland Journal. Bonham, the post rider, continued those efforts as part of his duties in the towns he visited each week.