August 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 14, 1772).

My purpose to Ride weekly, and carry the News Papers from Portsmouth … to Canterbury.”

Published in Portsmouth, the New-Hampshire Gazette served the entire colony as well as portions of Massachusetts (including the region that became Maine in 1820).  Daniel Fowle established the newspaper in October 1756.  In September 1764, he began a partnership with his nephew, Robert Fowle.  They faced little competition from other printers in the colony.  Thomas Furber and Ezekiel Russell briefly published the Portsmouth Mercury between 1765 and 1767 (with the last known issue dated September 29, 1766).  No other newspaper appeared in New Hampshire until after the American Revolution.  The short-lived Exeter Chronicle lasted about six months in 1784.  At about the same time it folded, Robert Gerrish commenced publishing the New-Hampshire Mercury in Portsmouth.  Other newspapers appeared in Exeter, Keene, and Portsmouth by the end of the decade.

Prior to the American Revolution, colonizers in New-Hampshire depended on the New-Hampshire Gazette for news and advertising.  Although the Fowles printed the newspaper, others assumed some of the responsibility for disseminating it to subscribers and other readers throughout the colony.  John Erving, for instance, rode a route that served ten towns between Portsmouth and Canterbury.  In the summer of 1772, he ran an advertisement to announce his plan “to Ride weekly, and carry the News Papers from Portsmouth through Greenland, Newmarket, Epping, Nottingham, Deerfield, Alenstown, Pembrook, Concord, Boscawen, and thence to Canterbury.”  He also offered to deliver the New-Hampshire Gazette to other towns along that route.

Riders like Erving helped make publishing the newspaper a viable venture for the Fowles.  Delivery services expanded the geographic reach of the newspaper as well as the number of prospective subscribers and advertisers.  That being the case, did the Fowles offer Erving any sort of discount on his advertisement or publish it free of charge?  They did not give it a privileged place in their newspaper.  In the August 14, 1772, edition, it appeared near the bottom of the last column on the third page.  In the same issue, the Fowles placed their own notice calling on “ALL Persons Indebted to the Printers of this Paper … to settle the same immediately” or face legal action at the top of the first column on the front page, making it the first item readers encountered under the masthead.  They could have chosen to place Erving’s advertisement immediately below their own notice on the front page or placed it at the beginning of the advertisements or at the top of a column on another page.  They could have incorporated larger font, as they did in advertisements that had “George Deblois,” “Forge Masters,” and “Mr. MORGAN” in significantly larger letters.  The placement and the format of Erving’s advertisement did little to distinguish it from other content in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Even if the Fowles did extend some sort of discount to Erving, they did not otherwise aid him in marketing the delivery of the newspaper they published.


The publication history of New Hampshire’s eighteenth-century newspapers comes from entries in Clarence S. Brigham’s History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 and Edward Connery Lathem’s Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820.

October 8

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

Oct 8 - 10:5:1769 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (October 5, 1769).

“Any Persons by sending, may be supplied with Victuals abroad.”

When she moved to a new location in the fall of 1769, Mrs. Brock ran an advertisement to inform prospective patrons that she now operated an inn and restaurant at “the commodious new Brick House, near the City-Hall” in New York. She promoted various amenities, indicating that the house “was lately improved by the Widow Graham.” In addition to the comfortable surroundings, she provided “the very best of neat Wines and other Liquors.” She also served “Dinners” between noon and three o’clock.

Yet readers did not have to stay at Brock’s inn or dine in her restaurant in order to enjoy the meals she provided. In a brief nota bene, she advised, “Any Persons by sending, may be supplied with Victuals abroad from 12 to 3 o’Clock.” In other words, Brock offered take out and perhaps even delivery. What could be more convenient for busy New Yorkers who did not have the time to prepare their own meals or dine at Brock’s “commodious new Brick House” in the middle of the day?

The advertisement does not specify the extent of Brock’s services. What did she mean with the phrase “by sending” in the nota bene? Did she mean sending a messenger with an order who would then carry the food back to the customer? That qualified as the eighteenth-century equivalent of take-out food. Or, did she mean sending an order in advance and depending on someone employed by Brock to deliver the “Victuals” later? Brock did not clearly indicate if the latter was an option, though she and her customers likely worked out the particulars as they began placing orders.

Even if Brock limited this service to take-out food, she still marketed convenience to eighteenth-century consumers. She identified an opportunity to augment the business she did in the dining room at her inn and restaurant by feeding patrons who did not visit in person. Take-out and delivery became centerpieces of business models and marketing campaigns for many in the restaurant industry in the twentieth century, but those conveniences were not inventions or innovations of that era. Such services were already in place in the colonies prior to the American Revolution.

October 9

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

Oct 9 - 10:6:1768 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 6, 1768).

“Strong and Small Malt Beer and Spruce, by the Barrel.”

In the fall of 1768 John Coleman advertised the several varieties of beer he sold at “his Brew House [at] the sign of the Green Dragon and Free Masons Arms, near the Mill Bridge” in Boston. He advised “Gentlem[e]n, Masters of Vessels, House keepers” and others that he brewed spruce beer and two sorts of malt beer, strong and small. His spruce beer may or may not have contained alcohol. Many consumers, including “Masters of Vessels,” purchased it as a means of warding off scurvy. His small beer contained less alcohol than strong beer. A safer alternative to water, some customers likely served small beer to children, servants, and other members of their households. Coleman marketed his beers in several quantities – “by the Barrel, half Barrel, Ten Gallons or Six” – and allowed his customers to choose according to their needs.

The brewer made many of the most common appeals that appeared in advertisements throughout the eighteenth century. He made an appeal to price, stating that he sold his beer “at the lowest Prices.” He also made an appeal to quality, stating that he brewed “as good Beer of both Kinds as the Country affords.” His beer was equal to any other produced in the colonies. In another regard, however, Coleman deviated from the marketing strategies deployed in most other advertisements of the era. For the convenience of his customers, he provided delivery service. He concluded with these instructions: “By leaving a Line mentioning the Kind, Quantity and where to be delivered” customers will have their beer “conveyed with the greatest Care and Speed.” Coleman provided an alternate address for placing such orders, “the sign of General Wolfe, the North Side of Faneuil Hall” rather than at “his Brew House.” Presumably customers could have also submitted orders at the latter as well; the additional location compounded the conveniences offered to them.

Coleman had previously advertised in the Boston Weekly News-Letter.   Just two months earlier he announced that his former partner, Benjamin Leigh, was so busy with his new enterprise running an “Intelligence Office” that Coleman now operated the brewery on his own. He called on prior customers to settle accounts and briefly mentioned the price of a barrel of beer. In this subsequent advertisement, however, he incorporated several new appeals intended to market his beer more effectively. Having assumed sole responsibility for the business, he may have determined that attracting customers demanded greater innovation.