What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“English and Dutch Almanacks may be had at the same Place.”
Among the many advertisements in the November 26, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal and its supplement, printer John Holt’s advertisement for almanacs appeared first. Like many other newspaper publishers, Holt carried a variety of almanacs to suit the needs and preferences of potential customers. When it came to selecting this annual reference volume, many colonists had likely developed some sort of nascent brand loyalty to particular versions and looked for their favorite publications with familiar features. Name recognition helped to move “FREEMAN’s New-York Royal Sheet Almanack” and the “New-York Pocket Almanack” out of the printing shop and into homes throughout the port city and beyond.
In promoting an array of almanacs with various features and formats, Holt acknowledged the ethnic and religious diversity of colonial New York. In addition to the particular titles mentioned first in his advertisement, Holt also proclaimed that “English and Dutch Almanacks may be had at the same place.” The English conquest of New Netherland (now New York) had occurred a century earlier. Descendants of the original Dutch settlers resided throughout the colony, comprising a potential market for almanacs in the language they passed down from one generation to the next.
In printing, marketing, and selling almanacs, Holt also catered to another constituency, one that was much smaller than the Dutch population. Still, a sufficient number of Jewish colonists resided in New York to justify the expense of printing a “Kalender of the Sabbaths, Months, and other Holy-days, which the Jews observe and keep.” This was not a separate publication but was instead added to some copies of the English almanacs, transforming them into distinctive editions intended for specific readers. Holt did not indicate whether the “Kalender of Sabbaths” had been added as a supplement or if other content had been removed in order to make room for it. Either way, almanacs for Jewish colonists were simultaneously part of and separate from the assortment of almanacs marketed and sold in the colonies, reflecting other aspects of Jewish experiences in eighteenth-century America.
Advertisements for almanacs appeared with increasing frequency in newspapers throughout the colonies during the final months of the year in the 1760s. Printers and booksellers resorted to a variety of marketing strategies to convince consumers to purchase their almanacs. In New York, a busy port with residents from many backgrounds, John Holt advertised titles that reflected some of the ethnic and religious diversity of his potential customers.