What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Necessity of altering the Day of their weekly Publication.”
It last only two weeks. On July 15, 1772, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford shifted the publication day of their weekly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Journal, from Thursdays to Wednesdays. That meant they circulated the Pennsylvania Journal a day earlier than David Hall and William Sellers distributed the Pennsylvania Gazette. In a notice on the first page, they explained that “A Great number of our friends, thinking that the publication of two Papers on the same day was rather inconvenient to the public, have solicited us to alter ours from Thursday to Wednesday.” Whether or not any friends played a role in the decision, the Bradfords aimed to scoop their competitor among both subscribers and advertisers.
They managed to do so for two weeks. On July 29, Hall and Sellers altered their publication day, inserting a notice in their own newspaper to announce that the “Publishers of the PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, being under the Necessity of altering the Day of their weekly Publication from Thursday to Wednesday, think it their Duty, on the Occasion, to express their grateful Acknowledgments of the public Favour and Encouragement, continued to them for so long a Series of Years past.” The printers indicated that the Bradfords forced their hand, making it necessary to change “the Day of publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette to Wednesday, that they might have an equal Chance with the Printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, to avail themselves of the Intelligence by the Posts, and the other usual Channels of Conveyance.” That was the only way for Hall and Sellers to “exert their utmost Abilities to merit [the public’s] Approbation” and serve their readers.
Did this change come to the attention of the Bradfords before Hall and Sellers distributed a new issue on a Wednesday instead of a Thursday? Perhaps. On July 22, they moved their notice about shifting the publication day to the third page, interspersing it among other advertisements, but on July 29, the day Hall and Sellers altered the schedule for the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Bradfords moved their notice back to the top of the first column on the first page of the Pennsylvania Journal. If they had an inkling that the two newspapers once again appeared on the same day, they may have wished to underscore that their new publication day at least meant that they had not lost any ground to their competitor. A week later, the Bradfords dropped their notice after the public witnessed the other newspaper follow their lead by adjusting the publication schedule. Hall and Sellers continued publishing their announcement that the Pennsylvania Gazette matched the recent change by the Pennsylvania Journal.