October 15

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 15, 1770).

Hutchin’s Improved:  BEING AN ALMANACK … For the Year of our LORD 1771.”

By the middle of October 1770, advertisements for almanacs for 1771 began appearing in newspapers throughout the colonies.  Such notices were a familiar sight to readers of the public prints who encountered them every fall.  Just like the changing of the seasons, the appearance of advertisements for almanacs followed a similar pattern from year to year.  In the late summer and early fall printers first announced that they would soon publish almanacs for the coming year.  Those were usually short notices that listed little more than the titles that would soon become available.  As fall continues, the number and frequency of advertisements for almanacs increased, as did the length of advertisements for particular titles.  This continued into the new year before the advertisements tapered off in late January and early February.

Hugh Gaine’s advertisement for Hutchin’s Improved Almanack in the October 15, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury was one of the first of the lengthy notices in the fall of 1770.  It extended more than half a column, making it the longest advertisement in that issue.  In promoting the almanac, Gaine proclaimed that the “usual Astronomical Calculations” had been “laid down with as great Accuracy as in any Almanack in America.”  In addition, Hutchin’s Improved Almanack contained a variety of other useful items, including a calendar of “Court Terms,” a guide to “Post Roads and Stages through every Settled Part of the Continent,” and instructions for remedies “to preserve Health” and “to cure Disorders incident to the Human Body.”  Gaine devoted most of the advertisement to short descriptions of twenty “select Pieces, instructing and entertaining” that ranged from “Moral Reflections” to “Historical Remarks” to “entertaining Anecdotes, Similies, Aphorisms, [and] Epitaphs.”  Among the “Moral Reflections,” readers would find “Rules for preserving HEALTH in eating and drinking.”  Gaine opined that “An Observance of these Rules will bring us to Temperance.”  The “Historical Remarks” included “An Extract from Mr. Anderson’s History of the Rise and Progress of Commerce,” while the “entertaining Anecdotes” featured “A diverting Tale” of “The Sausage Maker raised to a Prime Minister” and “the Pastor and his Flock; a droll, but True Story.”

Almanacs accounted for a significant portion of popular print culture in eighteenth-century America.  Consumers from the most humble households to the most grand acquired almanacs each year.  Printers competed with each other for their share of the market, aggressively advertising their titles in newspapers.  In doing so, they sought to distinguish their almanacs from others and convince prospective customers that their version included the most extensive, most useful, and most entertaining contents.

January 6

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

Jan 6 1770 - 1:6:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (January 6, 1769).

NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK … 1770.”

In the first issue of the Providence Gazette published in the new year, John Carter continued promoting “THE NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, OR, Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our Lord CHRIST 1770.” He once again ran an advertisement that had been continuously appearing in the pages of the Providence Gazette for the past two months. Such was the lot for printers throughout the colonies. Most who published almanacs began each new year with surplus copies that became less useful with each passing week. Many attempted for weeks or even months to rid themselves of those extras rather than have them count against potential profits.

To that end, lengthy advertisements listing the various contents of almanacs served Carter and other printers well. Printers emphasized that these reference volumes contained not just the astronomical calculations for each day but also reference items, informative essays, and entertaining anecdotes that readers could enjoy throughout the year. Carter, for instance, attempted to entice customers with a list of contents that included “Courts in the New-England Governments, digested in a new and familiar Method,” “a curious Essay on Comets, with some Remarks on the extraordinary one that appeared in August and September last,” and “a beautiful Poem on Creation.” Even though the dates would pass for predictions about the weather and calculations for high tide, the other contents of the almanac retained their value and justified purchasing a copy days, weeks, or even months after the first of the year.

Carter’s first advertisement for 1770 included a modification that he made to the notice after it ran for a month. On December 2, 1769, he added a note at the end: “A considerable Allowance is made to those who take a Quantity.” In other words, the printer offered a discount for buying in volume to booksellers, shopkeepers, and others. He continued to offer this bargain in early January. Because such an investment became increasingly risky for retailers with each passing week, it became all the more imperative to underscore the many and varied features of the New-England Almanack. Carter aimed his advertisement at both consumers and retailers, perhaps even more eager to sell to “those who take a Quantity” than to customers who wished to acquire only a single copy.

December 10

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

Dec 10 - 12:10:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (December 10, 1767).

“One of the most useful and entertaining Almanacks in America.”

The new year was fast approaching. Just three weeks remained in 1767 when this advertisement for “FREEMAN’s New-York ALMANACK For the Year 1768” appeared in John Holt’s New-York Journal. Over the past month advertisements for almanacs had proliferated in New York’s newspapers and their counterparts printed throughout the colonies. Some merely encouraged customers to acquire their almanacs, but others, like this one, provided much more detail about the contents as a means of inciting demand and convincing consumers to select this particular almanac over any of the alternatives.

Freeman’s New-York Almanack included the usual calendars and calculations, including “Hour and Minute of the Sun’s Rising and Setting” and the “Moon’s Age, Quartering, Full and Change, Rising, Setting,” but these were “intermixed with Proverbs or moral Sentiments.” It also contained a combination of astronomical and astrological material inserted in most almanacs, especially “The 12 signs, with an Account of the several Parts of the Body they are supposed to govern” and “a Table of the Planets’ Motions.” The almanac also featured other valuable reference information, such as a “Table of Interest at 7 per Cent,” a “List of the Council Assembly, and Officers in New-York,” and a “Table of the Value of Coins in England, New-York, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Quebec.” The author also incorporated a variety of items to entertain and instruct readers, including “The Rose, a Fable” and “Verses on New-Year and Winter.”

Many printers relied on the contents of their almanacs to do most of the work in marketing them, but Holt added a nota bene proclaiming that Freeman’s New-York Almanack “contains more in Quantity than any other Almanack publish’d in America, and is at least as useful and entertaining as any other.” Just in case potential customers had not been duly impressed with the extensive contents listed in the advertisement, Holt underscored that this almanac overflowed with useful and entertaining material. Still, sensible that the astronomical calculations remained the foremost reason many colonists purchased almanacs, he also promised that they had been “made with the greatest Care and Accuracy.” He also placed special emphasis on the treatment of an impending eclipse on January 19, a “great Eclipse” that merited additional attention.

Holt concluded the advertisement by announcing that he also sold “DUTCH ALMANACKS,” pocket almanacs, and sheet almanacs, though he provided no other information except the prices. At his “PRINTING-OFFICE, at the EXCHANGE,” customers could select from a variety of titles and an assortment of sizes and formats. They also enjoyed a similar range of choices at other printing offices and bookseller shops throughout the city. Realizing the fierce competition to sell publications that could not be held in reserve and sold at a latter date, Holt invested significant effort in marketing the one he had published.