What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Whoever shall take up the said Mare and return her … shall have One Dollar Reward.”
William Hickcok’s advertisement about a bay mare “STRAYED or Stolen” from a local stable must have arrived in the printing office of the Connecticut Journal just before the December 4, 1772, edition went to press. That would explain its unusual placement on the third page of that issue. The notice ran across the bottom of the page, divided into three columns of four lines each. A line ran above Hickcok’s advertisement, making clear where other content ended and his notice began.
Thomas Green and Samuel Green, the printers of the Connecticut Journal, or a compositor who worked in their printing office made room for the advertisement rather than forcing Hickcok to wait an entire week for the next issue. Like other colonial American newspapers, a standard issue of the Connecticut Journal consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadside and then folding it in half. Printers typically produced the front and final pages first, reserving the second and third pages for the most current news and advertising. That seems to have been the case for the December 4 edition. Advertisements that previously ran in the newspaper, including one dated November 13 and another dated November 16, appeared on the front page, along with news from London that continued on the second page. The third page featured recent news from Boston and New York and shipping news from the customs house as well as some advertisements from previous issues and two new advertisements dated December 4 (in addition to Hickcok’s advertisement with that date). Hickcok’s advertisement ran in what otherwise would have been the margin at the bottom of the page.
A week later, Hickcok’s notice ran once again, this time in a single column on the first page. Whoever set the type anticipated a means of saving time and labor. By setting the type in columns, even though the advertisement initially ran across the bottom of the entire page, the compositor eliminated the necessity of breaking down the type and setting it again for the next issue. In this way, the printing office managed to accommodate Hickcok’s desire to run his advertisement as soon as possible while minimizing the amount of additional time and labor required to do so.