June 9

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

Essex Gazette (June 9, 1772).

“He is determined to be undersold by none.”

Philip Godfrid Kast, an apothecary in Salem, regularly placed advertisements in the Essex Gazette in the early 1770s.  He also distributed an engraved trade card that included a depiction of the “Sign of the Lyon & Mortar” that marked his location.  Kast resorted to a variety of marketing appeals in his efforts to convince consumers to give him their business rather than acquire medicines from his competitors.

In an advertisement that ran on June 9, 1772, Kast declared that he “is determined to be undersold by none.”  Purveyors of all sorts of goods frequently promised low prices for their wares, some making similar claims that prospective customers would not find better bargains than they offered.  Kast explained why he was so confident that he could match and beat the prices charged by other apothecaries as well as merchants and shopkeepers who imported and sold various patent medicines.  He stated that he “has a Brother who resides in London, and purchases his Drugs at the cheapest Rate for Cash.”  His competitors may have acquired their medicines through middlemen and marked up their prices accordingly, but Kast had a direct connection that allowed him to set the best rates.  The apothecary presented this as a benefit to all of his customers, but he made a special appeal to “Gentlemen Practitioners in Physick” who were most likely to buy in volume.  That meant greater savings for them as well as greater revenues for Kast.

Yet he did not expect low prices alone would bring customers to his shop.  He also testified to the quality of his medicines and provided a guarantee, proclaiming that they were “warranted to be genuine, and the best of their Kinds.” Furthermore, his new inventory was “fresh,” having been imported from London” via a vessel that “arrived at Boston last Week.”  Kast assured prospective customers that he did not peddle remedies that had lingered on the shelves for months.  He anticipated that a combination of low prices and promises about quality would convince consumers to visit the Lion and Mortar when they needed medicines.

May 26

GUEST CURATOR:  Kelsey Savoy

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

Essex Gazette (May 26, 1772).

“Every Article in the Apothecary Way.”

Nathaniel Dabney owned a shop called “Head of HIPPOCRATES” in Salem, Massachusetts. In an advertisement from the Essex Gazette on May 25, 1772, Dabney announced he had a “fresh and full Assortment of Drugs, Medicines, Groceries, Instruments,” and more, indicating that he ran an apothecary shop. An apothecary shop in 1772 and modern pharmacies are very similar.  That inspired me to find out more about medicine in the colonies during the eighteenth century.

Individuals who ran apothecary shops, who sold or administered medicines, did not require any education or licensure, nor did physicians. In “Medical Practice in Colonial America,” Whitefield J. Bell, Jr., notes that “only one in nine Virginia physicians of the eighteenth century had attended a medical school.”[1] Physicians and apothecaries often learned from experience instead of formal training.  This began to change in the colonies in 1772, the year Dabney posted this advertisement. Bell details the Medical Society of New Jersey dedicated to getting legislation passed that required physicians to obtain licensure by the courts to practice “after examination by a board of medical men.” The society’s goal was “to discourage and discountenance all quacks, mountebanks, imposters, or other ignorant pretenders to medicine, and not to associate professionally with any except those who had been regularly initiated into medicine.”[2] Requiring training for physicians was an improvement that colonists enacted during the era of the American Revolution.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Kelsey astutely observes that many eighteenth-century apothecary shops and twenty-first century retail pharmacies have much in common.  Neither of them exclusively carried drugs and medicines, though selling remedies of all sorts gave those establishments their primary identity.  Nathaniel Dabney (or Nathanael Dabney in other advertisements) made that clear when he selected Hippocrates, a physician from ancient Greece widely considered the “Father of Medicine,” to identify his shop.

In his newspaper notice, Dabney commenced the list of merchandise available at “the Head of HIPPOCRATES” with a “fresh and full Assortment of Drugs, [and] Medicines” and cataloged several familiar patent medicines from his “Assortment” of goods.  He sold “Turlington’s original Balsam of Life,” “Bateman’s Pectoral Drops,” “Dr. Walker’s Jesuits Drops,” “Anderson’s and Locker’s Pills,” and “Hooper’s Female [Pills],” as well as other patent medicines less commonly mentioned in newspaper advertisements.  Those nostrums were the over-the-counter medications of the day.  Customers could consult with the apothecary of they wished, just like customers ask pharmacists in retail stores for advice today, but many also selected patent medicines based on their reputation and common knowledge about the maladies they supposedly relieved.

Yet Dabney, like other apothecaries, hawked other goods.  His apothecary shop, like modern retail pharmacies, doubled as a convenience store where customers could acquire groceries, home health care equipment and supplies, and a variety of other items.  In his advertisement, Dabney promoted “Groceries,” including cinnamon, cloves, raisins, and “Flour of Mustard, by the Dozen or single Bottle.”  He also had supplies for the “Clothiers Business” and the “Painters Business,” mostly items for producing colors.  In addition, Dabney sold medical instruments to physicians, a practice not followed by most modern retail pharmacies that focus on providing care to consumers.  All the same, a visit to the Head of Hippocrates in 1772 likely would not have been that much different from a visit to CVS, Rite Aid, or other retail pharmacy today.

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[1] Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., “Medical Practice in Colonial America,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 31, no. 5 (September-October 1957): 444.

[2] Bell, “Medical Practice in Colonial America,” 453.

May 12

GUEST CURATOR:  Thomas Ross

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

Essex Gazette (May 12, 1772).

“The handsomest Horse in America.”

This advertisement describes “The famous Bellsize Arabian,” a horse considered “the handsomest Horse in America.” During the eighteenth century, horse racing was a popular sport throughout the colonies. According to Mehmet Samuk, “horse racing was separated by strong lines of class and race.”  In 1674, a court in Virginia fined a tailor who planned a race because horse racing was supposed to be “exclusive to only rich gentlemen.”  Even though that was the official position of the court, horse racing became popular among the general public in almost every colony by the time of the American Revolution.

Rich gentlemen were not the only people who participated in the races. It was not uncommon for the owners of the horses to employ enslaved people, free black people, and poor white people as jockeys. Samuk states that “African Americans eventually emerged as some of the most talented and experienced trainers of racing horses,” another contribution to American commerce and culture beyond working on plantations.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

In addition to the prestige associated with racing horses, some colonizers also sought to earn money by breeding horses with notable pedigrees.  They placed newspaper advertisements offering stallions to “cover” mares.  Such was the case with Amos Mansfield of Danvers, Massachusetts, and an Arabian horse named Bellsize Arabian (or Belsize Arabian, according to the list of “Historic Sires” compiled by Thoroughbred Heritage).  Mansfield placed an advertisement in the May 12, 1772, edition of the Essex Gazette to inform readers that the horse “will cover this Season.”

To incite interest, Mansfield detailed Belsize Arabian’s pedigree.  “He is a Son of the famous Horse called Moresah,” Mansfield declared, “and his Mother is of the best Race that the great Sultan or Emperor Muley Abalah ever had.”  He further explained that Belsize Arabian was “both by Sire and Mother of the best Blood and true Araback Race in all Barbary.”  By 1772, the horse already had a reputation for “covering” mares, first in England and then in New England.  Even if prospective clients were not familiar with all the details in the horse’s pedigree, Mansfield likely expected that the connection to the Sultan of Morocco would resonate with them.  For just “a Guinea a Colt,” colonizers could have Belsize Arabian “cover” their mares.

Mansfield attempted to increase the chances that readers would take note of his advertisement by including an image of a horse.  The woodcut did not depict Belsize Arabian in particular.  Instead, the printer provided a generic image that could have adorned any advertisement about horses.  Nonetheless, it was the only image that accompanied an advertisement in that issue of the Essex Gazette, almost certainly drawing eyes to the pedigree that Mansfield considered so important.  Some customers who engaged the services of Belsize Arabian might have been interested in racing horses, but other may have been content with displaying the offspring of “the handsomest Horse in America.”

May 5

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

Essex Gazette (May 5, 1772).

“MULBERRY TREES.”

Loammi Baldwin did much more than advertise mulberry trees for sale in Woburn, Massachusetts, in a notice that ran in the May 5, 1772, edition of the Essex Gazette.  He advocated for colonizers in New England to more firmly establish a silk industry and, to that end, offered advice for cultivating mulberry trees.

What was the connection between mulberry trees and silk?  As Bob Wyss explains, the silkworm, a type of caterpillar, “prefers a diet of mulberry leaves.  It produces a cocoon which, when unraveled, can be spun into silk thread.”  Colonizers experimented with silk production in Virginia as early as 1613, “but efforts to build businesses around [silkworms] in American colonies such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania were only marginally successful.”  Efforts expanded into New England when the Connecticut Colonial Assembly “passed legislation offering financial incentives for silk growers” in 1734.  Bolstered by those incentives and newspaper advertisements promoting mulberry trees and silk production, some colonizers in Connecticut met with success in their silk ventures in the second half of the eighteenth century.  In the early nineteenth century, “Connecticut was a national leader in silk production and by 1840 was producing three times as much silk as any other state.”

Baldwin believed that silk production had a lot of potential in neighboring Massachusetts.  “I would spare no reasonable pains,” he declared, to encourage and bring to perfection, the production of so valuable an article as silk.”  He explained that he had already raised silkworms for a few years and “made a machine to winde the silk.”  He found the entire process “less difficult than I imagined.”  Yet readers did not need to take his word for it.  “Some of the raw silk,” Baldwin confided, “I sent to the society for encouraging arts, sciences and commerce in Great-Britain, where it was examined, and found equal to the Italian silk.”  As a result, he had a vision that depended on colonizers purchasing the mulberry trees he advertised.  “I am fully of the opinion,” Baldwin asserted, “that the culture of silk may be effected and brought to at least the state of raw silk, which we may export to great advantage.”  Yet he did not confine that vision merely to producing raw materials.  Instead, he believed that colonizers could “then procure Weavers, and other tradesmen, and carry on the whole manufacture amongst ourselves.”

Both politics and commerce likely influenced Baldwin’s vision.  Within the past several years, colonizers objected to new imperial regulations, including the Stamp Act and duties on imported goods imposed in the Townshend Acts.  In response, they adopted nonimportation agreements and encouraged the production and consumption of “domestic manufactures,” goods made in the colonies, as alternatives to imports from Britain.  In an age of homespun cloth signaling resistance to abuses perpetrated by Parliament, cultivating mulberry trees for the purpose of producing silk had the potential to further safeguard both the political and commercial interests of the colonies.

April 21

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

Essex Gazette (April 21, 1772).

“It would be expensive to the Advertiser, and troublesome to the Reader, to mention every Article.”

In the spring of 1772, John Appleton took to the pages of the Essex Gazette to advertise a “full Assortment of English and India GOODS” in stock at his store in Salem.  Like many other advertisers who promoted their wares in newspapers throughout the colonies, Appleton sought to demonstrate to prospective customers that he offered them many choices by listing dozens of items.  His inventory included many varieties of textiles as well as “ivory and horn Combs,” “a fine assortment of blonde and bone Laces,” “Knee-Garters,” “white and cloth colour’d silk Mitts,” and “linen, silk and cotton Handkerchiefs of all sorts.”  He even concluded the catalog of his merchandise with “&c. &c.”  In repeating the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera, he suggested that consumers encountered an even greater array of choices at his shop.

Nathaniel Sparhawk, Jr., apparently intended to publish a similar list in his advertisement in the April 21 edition of the Essex Gazette, but something prevented him from going into detail about the “great Variety and elegant Assortment of English and India GOODS” he “IMPORTED in the last Ships from LONDON.”  A note at the end of his advertisement stated that “Particular mist be deferred till next Week.”  Sparhawk may have acquired his good so recently that he did not have an opportunity to make a full accounting in time for his advertisement to appear in the Essex Gazette that week.  Alternately, the printers ran out of space.  A week later, his advertisement filled the first half of the first column on the first page, perhaps a consolation from the printers for not including it in its entirety on April 21.

In contrast to Appleton and Sparhawk, George Deblois chose not to incorporate a catalog of his “English & Hard-ware GOODS” into his advertisement.  Even attempting to provide such a list, he asserted, would not do justice to the choices he made available to consumers.  “As his Assortment consists of a great Variety of Articles,” Deblois declared, “it would be too tedious to enumerate them in an Advertisement.”  John Cabot and Andrew Cabot were even more blunt and probably more honest about their decision to forego a list of merchandise in their advertisement.  They carried a “compleat and elegant Assortment of English and India GOODS … consisting of almost every Article that is necessary for the Consumption of the Country.”  However, they believed it “would be expensive to the Advertiser” as well as “troublesome to the Reader, to mention every Article.”  Instead, they promised that shoppers would not be disappointed at their store.  “Let is suffice to say,” the Cabots confided, “that there is a little of every Thing.”

Merchants and shopkeepers frequently made appeals to consumer choice in their newspaper advertisements, but they adopted different strategies for doing so.  Many resorted to lengthy lists of goods, but others considered such methods “too tedious” and “troublesome” for readers.  In even more rare instances, some even confessed that cataloging their wares in the public prints “would be expensive.”  They found other means of suggesting that they offered plenty of choices for consumers.

March 31

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

Essex Gazette (March 31, 1772).

“An interesting Anecdote of Sheehen’s Life, not before published.”

In addition to publishing the Essex Gazette, printers Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall devised others means of making money from covering current events.  For example, in the spring of 1772 their newspaper carried an advertisement for “A SERMON, preached at Salem, January 16, 1772, being the Day on which Bryan Sheehen was EXECUTED, for committing a RAPE, on the Body of ABIAL HOLLOWELL, the Wife of Benjamin Hollowell, of Marblehead.”  Most readers were probably already aware of the basic outline of the case.  As Margaret Kellow, explains, “The case attracted enormous attention.  Rape was a capital crime and no one had been executed in Salem” since the infamous witch trials in 1692.[1]  “Sheehan admitted that he was guilty of adultery,” Kellow notes, “but claimed that Mrs. Hollowell had consented to have intercourse with him, and thus he was innocent of rape.”  The judges believed Hallowell and several witnesses who testified against Sheehan.  They convicted him and sentenced him to hang in December 1771.  Still, some colonizers “clearly had doubts about Abiel Hollowell’s story.”  They questioned whether Hollowell rejected Sheehan’s advances.  The authorities delayed his execution twice, perhaps to give him a chance to finally confess, but he maintained his innocence “even on the scaffold” on the day of his execution.

James Diman, minister of the Second Church in Salem, delivered a sermon to the crowd that gathered to witness the hanging.  When he published the sermon, he appended “An interesting Anecdote of Sheehen’s Life, not before published, which, with some other Particulars and Observations, may account for his denying to the last, that he committed the Crime for which he was hanged.”  The Halls printed and sold Diman’s sermon.  According to Kellow, they also produced their own broadside.  “Eager to thrill their readers with details about the monster who lived among them,” the Halls “included explicit details of Mrs. Hollowell’s testimony in their broadside accompanied by a vivid sketch of Sheehan’s depraved career.”[2]  Printers in Boston and Portsmouth also published broadsides.  In addition, the Halls printed a short pamphlet, “The Life of Bryan Sheehen, Executed in Salem, in the 16th Day of January 1772, as Written by Himself.”  The lengthy title asserted that Sheehan gave a copy “in his own hand-writing … to one of the ministers of Salem, on the day of his execution, with a desire that it might not be made public until after his death.”  Even for colonizers familiar with the case, these publications offered new tidbits while also extending access to the trial and execution beyond attending them in person.  The Halls could have chosen to insert more coverage of Sheehan into the Essex Gazette.  They stood to generate greater revenue, however, by producing and marketing items related solely to the accusation, trial, and execution.

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[1] Margaret Kellow, “Bryan Sheehan: Servant, Soldier, Fisherman,” in The Human Tradition in Colonial America, eds. Ian Kenneth Steele and Nancy Lee Rhoden (Rowman and Littlefield, 1999), 288.

[2] Kellow, “Bryan Sheehan,” 289.

March 24

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

Essex Gazette (March 24, 1772).

“Yesterday was published in Boston … An ORATION … to commemorate the BLOODY TRAGEDY.”

As soon as Benjamin Edes and John Gill informed readers of the Boston-Gazette that they published an oration that Joseph Warren delivered to commemorate the second anniversary of the “BLOODY TRAGEDY Of the FIFTH of March, 1770,” the printers of the Essex Gazette ran their own advertisement.  “Yesterday was published in Boston, and now to be sold by Samuel Hall, in Salem,” the notice announced, “An ORATION, delivered March 5th, 1772, at the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, to commemorate the BLOODY TRAGEDY of the Fifth of March, 1770.  By Dr. JOSEPH WARREN.”  That advertisement did not include the lengthy excerpt from the address that Edes and Gill included in their notice, but it did encourage consumers to participate in commemorating the Boston Massacre by purchasing their own copy of Warren’s remarks.

Not surprisingly, given its location, the Essex Gazette engaged in the most extensive remembrances of “Preston’s Massacre–in King-Street … In which Five Persons were killed, and Six wounded” of any newspaper published outside of Boston.  On the occasion of the second anniversary, the Halls devoted the entire first page of their newspaper to a memorial that honored the patriots who gave their lives and listed grievances against the “British Ministry” that “contrived and effected the Establishment of the late Standing Army” in Massachusetts.  In addition to such memorials, the Essex Gazette carried advertisements for commemorative items connected to the Boston Massacre.  Nearly a year before promoting Warren’s address, the Essex Gazette carried an advertisement for “A few of Mr. Lovell’s ORATIONS on the Massacre in Boston, to be sold by the Printer hereof.”  Residents of Salem and surrounding towns had an opportunity to purchase the same commemorative pamphlet printed and sold in Boston.  The commodification and marketing of the Boston Massacre helped to create a culture of commemoration of the Boston Massacre throughout the colony.  Colonizers who did not live in the busy port and could not witness Warren’s oration themselves read the Essex Gazette and the various newspapers printed in Boston.  When they did so, they read coverage of the commemorative events and encountered invitations to purchase their own copies of orations and other items related to the Boston Massacre, opportunities to partake in civic participation through consumption even if they could not attend in person.

March 17

GUEST CURATOR:  Matthew Holbrook

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

Essex Gazette (March 17, 1772).

“A large ASSORTMENT of Hard-Ware GOODS.”

I found that this advertisement interesting because Jacob Ashton owned a shop in Salem, Massachusetts, about 50 miles from my hometown. I connected with this advertisement because my grandfather was a carpenter who owned a small shop and sold similar materials. Jacob Ashton sold a wide variety of hardware and other goods, including nails, case knives, hammers, teaspoons and tablespoons, frying pans, knitting needles, gun powder, cinnamon, brass clocks, and just about anything in between.

In the “Meet the Carpenter” podcast from Colonial Williamsburg, master carpenter Garlin Wood explains what it was like to be a carpenter during the era of the American Revolution. In particular, he describes the differences between different woodworkers. A carpenter focused on the construction of the timber frame. A joiner used similar tools as a carpenter but focused on the finishing of the house, such as panel doors and paneling. A cabinetmaker focused on constructing furniture that belonged inside the house. Garlin describes the importance that carpenters and other woodworkers had in early America. In Colonial Williamsburg, then and now, carpenters built everything by hand and used tools such as chisels and mallets. According to Garlin, many carpenters in early America were savvy businessmen who used their trade to move into the gentry. When it comes to his work as a carpenter, he likes the idea of putting a roof over other people’s heads.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

When I invite students enrolled in my classes to serve as guest curators for the Adverts 250 Project, I am always interested in which advertisements they choose to feature and which aspects of those advertisements they choose to examine in greater detail.  I appreciate that they select advertisements that I might have otherwise overlooked, that they investigate aspects that did not initially resonate for me and, in the process, demonstrate the significance of something that I might have otherwise dismissed, and that they identify a range of sources about early American history.  As guest curators, my students are junior colleagues who help me to continue learning and asking new questions about familiar sources even as I engage in mentoring and teaching them.

That was the case when working with Matt on this entry.  In his absence, I would have chosen a different advertisement in the Essex Gazette, one in which Abraham Cornish offered a guarantee on the fishhooks he made in Boston and pledged to provide two new hooks for each one found defective.  In his role as guest curator, however, Matt determined which advertisement he wanted to examine … and then demonstrated why his choice was just as sound as the one I would have made.  If I had chosen to analyze Ashton’s advertisement for “Hard-Ware GOODS,” I would have focused primarily on the range of choices he offered to consumers and the low prices that he promised.  Matt, inspired by his grandfather, instead opted to examine the kinds of work undertaken by the customers who purchased many of the items listed in Ashton’s advertisement.  He identified the various roles of woodworkers in early America, outlining the contributions of carpenters, joiners, and cabinetmakers.  To do so, he sought information from a public historian who interprets the past through re-creating the experiences of eighteenth-century carpenters at Colonial Williamsburg.  In working on a digital humanities project for his college course about the era of the American Revolution, Matt consulted the expertise of a public historian, demonstrating that no one kind of historian has a monopoly on knowledge about the past.  Matt’s experience as a guest curator, the many ways in which his contribution enhances the Adverts 250 Project, underscores why I believe it is so important to incorporate my own research and digital humanities projects into the classes I teach.

March 10

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

Essex Gazette (March 10, 1772).

“The Preservation of these Papers for the Benefit of Posterity.”

A subscription notice for a “second Volume of Collection of Papers relative to the History of Massachusetts-Bay” ran in several newspapers in New England in 1772.  The version that appeared in the March 10 edition of the Essex Gazette carried a familiar appeal, asserting that “most of these Papers will, probably, be irrevocably lost in a few Years, unless preserved by Printing” so many copies that “the Public” would always have access to important documents about the history of the colony.  Prospective subscribers, the advertisement argued, had a duty to assist in “the Preservation of these Papers for the Benefit of Posterity.”

Readers of the Essex Gazette encountered this subscription notice in the context of commemorating recent history, “Preston’s Massacre–in King-Street–Boston” on March 5, 1770.  Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall, printers of the Essex Gazette, devoted the entire first page of the March 10 edition to commemorations marking the second anniversary of the Boston Massacre.  They enclosed a lengthy memorial within thick mourning borders, a convention usually reserved for death notices but frequently deployed for political purposes during the imperial crisis that culminated in the American Revolution.

In the memorial, the Halls called on the public to seek “the Restoration and Preservation of AMERICAN LIBERTY,” advocating that “the destructive Consequences of Tyranny in general may be properly and truly realized” and that “the Memory of the fatal Effects of the late military Tyranny in this Province, in Particular, may never be obliterated.”  They invoked “that invincible Fortitude and Intrepidity which so eminently distinguished the venerable Founders of this Colony” as they encouraged “every American SON OF LIBERTY … to defend, with the last Drop of Blood, any future Attempts to subjugate this people to the despotic Controul of Military Murderers.”  As they commemorated the second anniversary of the Boston Massacre, the Halls encouraged colonizers to consider 150 years of history and their role in shaping events.  They rehearsed recent events in a list of grievances against “Servants of the King,” the “British Ministry,” and the “Soldiery … taught to look upon themselves as Masters of the People.”  Those grievances had greater impact when considered in relation to the founding of the colony and subsequent events chronicled in the proposed volume of “Papers relative to the History of Massachusetts-Bay” advertised on another page.  The advertisement listed the Halls as local agents who accepted subscriptions for the project.  Between the memorial on the first page and the subscription notice on the final page, they tended to the recent and distant past by presenting readers with opportunities to prevent “the Memory” of significant events from being “obliterated” but instead “transmitted to Posterity.”

Essex Gazette (March 10, 1772).

February 18

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

Essex Gazette (February 18, 1772).

“ADVERTISEMENTS not exceeding eight or ten Lines are inserted for Three Shillings.”

How much did advertising cost?  How much did advertising cost compared to subscriptions?  These are some of the most common questions I encounter when discussing eighteenth-century advertising at conferences and public presentations.  The answer is complicated, in part because most eighteenth-century printers did not list advertising rates or subscription fees in their newspapers.  A significant minority, however, did regularly publish that information in the colophon that ran at the bottom of the final page.

Such was the case with Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall, printers of the Essex Gazette in Salem, Massachusetts, in the early 1770s.  Over the course of two lines, the colophon in their newspaper announced, “THIS GAZETTE may be had for Six Shillings and Eight Pence per Annum (exclusive of Postage) 3s. 4d. (or 4s. 6d. if sent by the Post) to be paid at Entrance.  ADVERTISEMENTS not exceeding eight or ten Lines are inserted for Three Shillings.”  The colophon revealed how much the Halls charged for subscriptions and advertising as well as other business practices.

Subscribers paid six shillings and eight pence per year, but that did not include postage for delivering the newspapers.  The printers expected subscribers to pay half, three shillings and four pence, in advance.  Like many other eighteenth-century entrepreneurs, the Halls extended credit to their customers.  Newspaper subscribers were notorious for not paying for their subscriptions, as demonstrated in the frequent notices calling on subscribers to settle accounts placed in newspapers throughout the colonies, prompting the Halls to require half from the start.  They asked for even more, four shillings and six pence, from subscribers who lived far enough away that they received their newspapers via the post, though the colophon does make clear if the additional shilling covered postage.  The Halls may have charged a higher deposit because they considered it more difficult to collect from subscribers at a distance.

Short advertisements, those “not exceeding eight or ten Lines,” cost three shillings or nearly half what an annual subscription cost.  Other printers specified that they adjusted advertising rates “in proportion” to length.  The Halls likely did so as well, making the cost of an advertisement that extended twenty lines about the same as a subscription.  They did not specify in the colophon that they required payment before running advertisements.  Some printers made that their policy but apparently made exceptions.  When they inserted notices calling on subscribers to send payment, they sometimes addressed advertisers.  For many eighteenth-century printers, advertising generated significant revenue. Considering that a single advertisement could cost as much or more as an annual subscription in the Essex Gazette, the Halls had good reason to cultivate advertisers as well as subscribers.