What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Rider from Boston to Northampton, Deerfield, &c.”
Silent Wilde’s advertisement in the April 8, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post testified to the dissemination of that newspaper to subscribers who lived far from its place of publication. Wilde described himself as a “Rider from Boston to Northampton, Deerfield, &c.” He served towns in the western part of the colony, one hundred miles and more from the bustling port city. Only six newspapers were printed in the colony at the time, five of them in Boston and one in Salem. For residents of Northampton, Deerfield, and other towns, the Boston Evening-Post was a local newspaper.
The printing office of the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, was closer than Boston, but that newspaper did not carry nearly as much news about Massachusetts matters, including coverage of the governor and the colonial assembly, as the Evening-Post and other newspapers from Boston. The issue of the Evening-Post that carried Wilde’s advertisement, for instance, devoted two out of three columns on the front page to news with a “BOSTON, APRIL 4” dateline. The printers evenly divided the second page between news from London and news from Boston, including exchanges between the governor and the assembly. The Connecticut Courant reprinted news from Boston publications, but that newspaper’s coverage of Massachusetts politics and current events was not nearly as extensive as what appeared in the newspapers published in that colony. As was the case in most colonies, newspapers printed in the largest city served as both local and regional publications, disseminating news to the far reaches of the colony.
Wilde ran his advertisement in the Evening-Post, but he indicated that he “carried the Boston News-Papers.” His “Engagement with the Printers” to serve subscribers in western towns likely included Boston-Gazette, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, and the Massachusetts Spy. The names of those publications suggested both local and regional coverage of news and dissemination of newspapers. It took some time for those publications to reach residents of Northampton, Deerfield, and other towns, but they eventually read the same news and advertising, as packaged by the printers, as residents of Boston.