What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A motive to Gentlemen in Business to give orders for the Papers.”
As he prepared to launch a new newspaper, “RIVINGTON’s NEW-YORK GAZETTEER; OR THE CONNECTICUT, NEW-JERSEY, HUDSON’s-RIVER, AND QUEBEC WEEKLY ADVERTISER,” James Rivington continued to expand his advertising campaign in newspapers in New York, New England, and Pennsylvania. He placed a notice in the Connecticut Courant on March 23, 1773, a full month after his first notices appeared in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 22. Except for the brief advertisement in the Newport Mercury, the much more extensive subscription proposals in the other newspapers all provided an overview about how Rivington envisioned that his newspaper would include content that distinguished it from others. In many ways, he proposed a hybrid of a newspaper and a magazine, a publication that “will communicate the most important Events, Foreign and Domestic” as well as the “State of Learning” with the “best modern Essays,” a “Review of New Books,” and coverage of “new Inventions in Arts and Sciences, Mechanics and Manufactories.”
For readers of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, Rivington also attempted to incite interest through noting that “the Merchants and Traders of New-York, have universally patronized this Design, and their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.” Given New Haven’s proximity to New York, Rivington apparently believed that consumers and retailers there would find such advertisements by merchants and shopkeepers in the bustling port as interesting and as useful as the rest of the content. He made a similar pitch to residents of Hartford in his notice in the Connecticut Courant. Following the paragraph describing the news and essays he planned to include in the newspaper, the printer expressed his hope that the “general support and promise of Mr. Rivington’s Friends, to Advertise in his Gazetteer … may be a motive to Gentlemen in Business to give orders for the Papers, which will be very regularly sent to the Subscribers.” Rivington envisioned that advertising, in addition to coverage of “the Mercantile Interest in America, Departures and Prices Current, at Home and Abroad,” would facilitate commerce between New York and smaller towns in neighboring Connecticut. He suggested to prospective subscribers in Hartford and New Haven that they consider advertisements placed by “Merchants and Traders” in New York as valuable sources of information, as newsworthy and practical in their own right as reports about current events.