January 15

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

Essex Gazette (January 15, 1771).

“A POEM on the Execution of William Shaw.”

True crime!  News of the murder of Edward East circulated widely in New England.  The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter was among the first publications that presented the news to the public.  A short article in its September 27, 1770, edition reported, “We hear from Springfield, that one Edward East, was murthered in the Gaol at that Place, by William Shaw and George French, who wounded him in several Parts, on the 17th of this [month], of which Wounds he died the next Day.”  As was common practice at the time, several newspapers reprinted this news over the course of several weeks.

On October 12, the Connecticut Journal provided updates in a longer story, reporting that a “jury by their verdict declared” Shaw “to be guilty” of murder, “whereupon the sentence of death was passed upon him.”  The execution was scheduled for November 8.  At the same time, the jury did not find enough evidence to convict French as an accomplice but instead “returned a verdict in his favour.”  On November 19, the Boston Evening-Post noted that Shaw’s execution was delayed until December 13, but did not provide an explanation.  The Connecticut Journal reported on Shaw’s execution in its December 18 edition.  “On which solemn occasion,” the editor declared, “an affecting sermon was delivered by the Rev. MOSES BALDWIN … to an audience of many thousands collected from all the adjacent towns as spectators of the awful scene.”  Newspapers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island all reported on the execution.

Advertisements for commemorative items soon appeared as well, including one for “A POEM on the Execution of William Shaw” in the January 7, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post.  On January 10, an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter promoted another commemorative item, “A SERMON intitled, The Ungodly condemned in Judgment; Preached at Springfield, December 13th 1770.  On Occasion of the Execution of WILLIAM SHAW, for Murder, By MOSES BALDWIN.”  Printers and booksellers in other places also advertised and sold the poem and the sermon.  Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette in Salem, for instance, advertised the poem on January 15.  These advertisements helped to deliver news of current events while offering consumers opportunities to learn more.  For those who were not among the “many thousands” who heard the sermon and witnessed the execution, the commemorative items served as a proxy in addition to as supplement for coverage in newspapers.

December 25

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

Essex Gazette (December 25, 1770).

The most judicious, sensible and learned Gentlemen … have already subscribed.”

Subscription notices were a common form of advertising in early American newspapers.  Printers managed the risk and expense associated with publishing books by first distributing subscription notices to incite demand and gauge interest in particular titles.  They announced their intention to print a book, but only if a sufficient number of subscribers indicated that they would purchase it.  Printers often asked subscribers to confirm their commitment by making a deposit, often half of the final price.  Those funds helped to defray expenses incurred in the production process.  If a proposed title achieved a sufficient number of subscribers, the printer took it to press.  If it did not, the printer abandoned the project before losing money on it.

Samuel Hall sought subscribers for “A Tract, wrote by the Rev’d Mr. JOHN NELSON, a Presbyterian Minister, late of Ballykelly in Ireland, in form of a Letter to his People” in 1770, aiming to reprint a book published in Belfast in 1766.  As the year drew to a close, Hall believed that he had almost enough subscribers “to commit this Piece to the Press.”  On December 25, he inserted an advertisement in the Essex Gazette to advise prospective subscribers that “[t]he greater Part of the most judicious, sensible and learned Gentlemen in Salem and Newbury-Port have already subscribed for reprinting this Book.”  That being the case Hall requested “that those who are desirous of becoming Subscribers, and have not yet had an Opportunity, would not be speedy in sending in their Names.”  He suspected that this would generate enough advance orders to justify printing the book during the first week of January 1771.  Hall inserted the advertisement once again on January 1.  He apparently attracted the necessary number of subscribers to publish his American edition in 1771.

In noting that “the most judicious, sensible and learned Gentleman” in Salem and nearby towns had already subscribed for a copy of the book, Hall hoped to play on prospective subscribers’ sense of community and anxieties about being excluded.  Subscription notices often specified that books would include a list of subscribers, a roll call of supporters who made the work possible.  Even if prospective subscribers had little or no interest in a book, they might have wanted to see their name listed among the ranks of prominent subscribers and other members of their community.  In this case, Hall made it clear that those who did not subscribe might not be considered judicious or sensible or learned.  He suggested that not subscribing could be harmful to one’s reputation.  To keep in good standing or to improve their status in the community, those who had not yet subscribed need to remedy that oversight.

December 4

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

Essex Gazette (December 4, 1770).

“JUST PUBLISHED … Dr. Whitaker’s SERMON On the DEATH of the Reverend George Whitefield.”

George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  The next day, articles appeared in newspapers published in Boston and the news radiated to other towns throughout the colonies over several weeks.  In addition to news items, many newspapers printed and reprinted poems that eulogized the minister.  Almost immediately, some printers and booksellers advertised commemorative items that commodified Whitefield’s death.  Through concentrated primarily in New England, such advertisements also ran in newspapers in New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

As winter approached, printers and booksellers continued to produce and market new items related to Whitefield and his death.  On November 27, Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette in Salem, Massachusetts, advertised that “On Thursday or Friday next will be published … The Rev. Dr. Whitaker’s SERMON, on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD.”  In the next issue, Hall inserted an updated advertisement that announced he had indeed “JUST PUBLISHED” the sermon and offered it for sale at the printing office.  This advertisement, unlike most others, included thick black bands at the top and bottom, a widely recognized symbol of mourning in eighteenth-century America.  Usually, black bands or borders were reserved for news articles or they adorned an entire page or issue.  By incorporating them into this advertisement, Hall elevated Whitaker’s sermon on Whitefield’s death and, by extension, his marketing of that item, to news.  In addition, he placed the advertisement at the top of the first column devoted to advertisements in the December 4 edition of the Essex Gazette, making it a transition between news and advertising.

In the year that saw the Boston Massacre and the repeal of most of the Townshend duties on imported goods, the death of George Whitefield was one of the most significant stories that circulated in the colonial American newspapers.  Yet coverage of the minister’s death was not confined to news alone.  Printers and booksellers seized opportunities to produce commemorative items and offer them for sale, simultaneously consoling the general public and seeking to profit from their grief.

October 9

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

Essex Gazette (October 9, 1770).

“A Hymn composed by the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD, and intended to be sung over his Corps.”

George Whitefield, one of the most influential ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals known as the Great Awakening, was a celebrity known throughout the American colonies.  Following his death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, newspaper coverage radiated out from Boston.  The first reports appeared in the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy the following day.  The Massachusetts Spy, published in Boston, and the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, printed the news on October 2.  Two days later, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter reported Whitefield’s death and the Massachusetts Spy became the first newspaper to disseminate information about the event in more than one issue.  Coverage continued in other newspapers, many of them reprinting articles that first appeared in Boston’s newspapers.  On October 5, the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, the New-Hampshire Gazette, and the New-London Gazette all carried the news, as did the Providence Gazette on October 6.  All three Boston newspapers that broke the story on October 1 expanded their coverage on October 8.  The same day, the Newport Mercury reprinted news that ran in the Boston-Gazette a week earlier.  The news also appeared in newspaper published outside New England for the first time.  The New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy reprinted items from Boston’s newspapers.

On October 9, the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, carried news for the first time, while the Essex Gazetteand the Massachusetts Spy continued coverage.  In addition to news items about Whitefield’s death, the Essex Gazette ran an advertisement for “A Hymn composed by the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD, and intended to be sung over his Corps, if he had died in England, by a Number or Orphans.”  That hymn was collected together with “some Verses on the Death of that great Man,” perhaps gathered from the various newspapers that honored Whitefield with poetry in addition to news articles.  The advertisement informed readers that the hymn and verses “will be printed on a Half Sheet, and sold at the Printing-Office To-Morrow.”  Samuel Hall, the printer of the Essex Gazette, participated in the commodification of Whitefield’s death.  He simultaneously sought to honor the revered minister and profit from his demise.

Even though Hall was the first to publish an advertisement, he was not the first to introduce the commodification of Whitefield’s death to the public.  Coverage in the October 4, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter included a short note about a similar (or perhaps the same) broadside:  “A FUNERAL HYMN, wrote by the Rev’d Mr. Whitefield:  Said to be designed to have been sung over his Corpse by the Orphans belonging to his Tabernacle in London, had he died there.  Sold at Green & Russell’s.”  This announcement appeared as part of an original news item about Whitefield’s death dated October 4, following a reprinted news item about his death dated October 1, and immediately before verses honoring the minister.  It was not separated from the coverage of Whitefield’s death as a distinct item, nor did it appear among the advertisements that ran elsewhere in that issue.  It was fully integrated into the reporting about Whitefield.  Just four days after the minister’s death, printers were already hawking memorabilia.  Not long after that, notices about commemorative items began appearing as advertisements rather than as part of the news coverage, underscoring the possibilities for generating revenue inherent in the commodification of Whitefield’s death.  Hall may have sold a broadside he printed or the one printed by Green and Russell, but either way he aimed to profit by leveraging the Whitefield’s celebrity and death.  Hall and other printers used current events to promote sales of commemorative items.

October 2

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

Essex Gazette (October 2, 1770).

Ranaway … a Negro Man, named Jack.”

“Elizabeth, my Wife, hath left my Bed and Board.”

Interspersed among the advertisements for consumer goods and services that ran in the October 2, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette, another kind of advertisement documented disruptions to the social order.  Two versions of “runaway” notices appeared in that issue, one concerning an enslaved man who liberated himself and the other concerning a woman who left her husband.  In both instances, the advertisers attempted to use the power of the press to assert their authority and return to good order (as they understood it).

Joseph Homan reported that “a Negro Man, named Jack” made his escape from bondage sometime during the night of September 17.  He offered a reward to readers and other members of the community who captured and returned Jack.  To help others recognize the fugitive, Homan noted that Jack was “near 50 Years of Age” and “speaks bad English.”  He also provided descriptions of the clothes Jack wore when he departed, but also noted that he may have changed.  Given the uncertainty of what Jack might have been wearing, any Black man over the age of forty became a suspect worthy of scrutiny and surveillance.

James Messer stated that his wife, Elizabeth, “hath left my Bed and Board.”  He feared that “she may run me in Debt,” so placed his advertisement as a warning for others “not to trust her on my Account.”  He resolutely declared that he would “not pay one Farthing of Debt that she shall contract.”  All in all, Messer’s advertisement followed a standard format for such notices.

Jack the formerly enslaved man and Elizabeth the absent wife certainly had different experiences and endured different challenges, yet their stories had similarities as well.  Neither of them inhabited a position of authority, yet they exercised power when they chose to depart.  Neither Jack nor Elizabeth published their own version of events in the Essex Gazette.  Instead, an enslaver and an aggrieved husband placed advertisements meant to vilify Jack and Elizabeth, providing incomplete narratives.  Neither advertiser could be taken at their word to tell the entire story, then or now.  Contrary to the purposes for which they were placed, their newspaper notices provided evidence that people who were supposed to be subordinate and submissive did not simply accept those roles.  Jack liberated himself, the abuses and hardships he had endured untold by Homan.  Elizabeth removed herself from her husband’s household, that act only hinting at greater domestic discord that motivated her to take action.  Cast as the offenders by Homan and Messer, Jack and Elizabeth demonstrated courage and conviction when they asserted their autonomy and sought to transform their lives for the better.

September 4

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

Sep 4 - 9:4:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (September 4, 1770).

“A Person acting in direct Opposition to the general Sense of the Town.”

When Parliament repealed the duties on most imported goods that had been imposed in the Townshend Acts, New York quickly abandoned its nonimportation agreement and resumed trade with British merchants.  Boston and Philadelphia, however, maintained their nonimportation pacts for several month because duties on tea yet remained.  Merchants and traders had specified that they would not import goods from Britain until Parliament eliminated all of the duties.  All the repeal of most of the duties was a victory, it was a partial victory.  For months, colonists in Boston and Philadelphia debated whether they should relent.

Yet this discourse was not confined to the largest port cities.  Similar discussions took place in other towns as well.  In Salem, Massachusetts, for instance, the Committee of Inspection determined in late August 1770 that John Hendy was “a Person acting in direct Opposition to the general Sense of the Town” because he “persist[ed] in his Refusal to sign the Agreement against selling Tea.”  Even worse, he also continued to sell tea.  In an advertisement that ran in the September 3 edition of the Essex Gazette, the Committee of Inspection instructed the public “to withdraw their Connections from the said Hendy” for refusing to support the patriotic principles put into action in the “Agreement against selling Tea.”  The committee further described Hendy as “preferring a little private Interest to the public Good, and thus favouring the Designs of the Enemies to American Liberty.”  Other merchants and shopkeepers made sacrifices to support and maintain the nonimportation agreement, understanding that the stakes were much larger than their own businesses.  By selling tea, the committee argued, Hendy became a collaborator and thus should suffer the consequences.  The advertisement was a public shaming intended meant to have an impact on both Hendy’s business and his reputation.  It also served as an additional mechanism for possibly bringing Hendy into line with “the general Sense of the Town” if enough readers did indeed cease doing business of any sort with him or refused to socialize with him.  Hendy had not been swayed so far, but the Committee of Inspection hoped that the advertisement might help turn the tide and bring him into compliance.  At a time when some entrepreneurs used advertisements to proclaim their patriotic principles as part of their marketing strategies, newspaper notices also informed the public about violators to avoid.

August 28

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

Aug 28 - 8:28:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 28, 1770).

“Still believing the former Piece to be more agreeable to Truth than the latter.”

When Joseph Symonds, Joseph Hobbs, and Joseph Hobbs, Jr., placed an advertisement in the August 28, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette, they depended on readers being familiar with a series of advertisements that previously appeared in that newspaper.  In the first, Addison Richardson accused “an Apprentice Lad, named Samuel Hobbs” of running away and taking a box “containing sundry Articles of Cloathing.”  Richardson had already recovered the box.  He warned others “to be very cautious in having any Concern” with the apprentice.

In an unusual turn of events, Hobbs placed his own advertisement to respond.  Usually runaways either did not have the resources to respond in print or chose not to draw additional attention to themselves by doing so.  Hobbs, however, sought to set the record straight, declaring that he “was not bound” to Richardson or “under any Obligation to live with him any longer than we could agree,” that the box and most of its contents did not belong to Richardson, and that his purported master had not treated him well during “almost five Years Service.”  Symonds, Hobbs, and Hobbs, all relations of the alleged runaway, signed a short addendum stating that they believed the young man’s account to be “real Truth” and encouraged that “the Publick will take no Notice.”

In turn, Richardson published yet another advertisement, this time masquerading as “SA——EL H—BBS.”  That notice paralleled the format of the one placed by Hobbs, offering an alternate version of events that corrected what Richardson considered inaccuracies in the clarifications that Hobbs offered the public.  Richardson-as-H—BBS also pointed out that “two Uncles and a Brother” of the apprentice might not be the most reliable witnesses in the dispute.  In order to continue the parallel format, he concluded the advertisement with a short declaration about having “Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth” and signed it “A. RICHARDSON.”

Two weeks later, Symonds, Hobbs, and Hobbs placed an advertisement of their own accord.  Just in case any readers were confused about whether Samuel Hobbs was responsible for the notice signed by SA——EL H—BBS, they proclaimed that it “was not put in by him, for he did not know any Thing of it.”  They also reported that some accommodation had been reached:  Mr. Richardson hath returned the Box, with what was in it, and offered to cloath [Hobbs] honorably if he will come and live with him again.”  Seeing this as a satisfactory outcome, the uncles and brother decided to “forbear, and say no more,” though they opined that Richardson would “be very cautious how he advertises Runaways for the future.”  As a parting shot, they stated that the advertisement by the real Hobbs was “more agreeable to Truth” than the one by Richardson-as-H—BBS, “and not merely because the Boy told us so neither.”  Even after accommodation had been reached, these three men sought to clarify which version of events was more accurate.

Buying space in the local newspaper gave Richardson, Hobbs, and Hobbs’s relations opportunities to shape the narrative of what transpired between master and apprentice in the summer of 1770.  Rather than working out their disagreements among themselves, they put their dispute on display before the general public, each attempting to convince the community that they were in the right and someone else behaved poorly.  These advertisements amplified gossip and word-of-mouth reports of the discord between Hobbs and Richardson.

August 14

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

Aug 14 - 8:14:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 14, 1770).

“WHEREAS Addison Richardson has advertised me as a Runaway.”

When Addison Richardson advertised Samuel Hobbs as a runaway apprentice in the Essex Gazette in the summer of 1770, Hobbs took the extraordinary step of placing his own advertisement in response.  In most similar situations, “runaways,” whether apprentices, indentured servants, enslaved people, or wives, did not possess the resources to publish their own advertisements or did not wish to call attention to themselves by doing so.  As a result, masters, enslavers, and husbands controlled the narrative in the public prints.  Yet Hobbs did manage to insert an advertisement that contested Richardson’s version of events in the August 7, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette.  His brother and two of his uncles attested to the “real Truth” of Hobbs’s depiction of what transpired with Richardson.

The aggrieved master was not amused by his apprentice’s advertisement.  In the next issue, he ran a new advertisement in which he masqueraded as “SA——EL H—BBS.”  He began by stating that “Addison Richardson has advertised me as a Runaway” and “I have told the Public one Story very contrary to Truth,” but “I now tell them another Story that is very agreeable to Truth.”  Richardson as H—BBS then repeated each detail from Hobbs’s advertisement along with a clarification he considered the actual truth.  For instance, “I told [the public] that I was not bound to him, but I was by the Rules of Justice, which the Public always looks upon as the strongest Obligation whatever.”  In the original advertisement, Richardson accused Hobbs of stealing a box “containing sundry Articles of Cloathing,” but noted that he had recovered it.  In his response, Hobbs stated that the box did not belong to Richardson, that the contents belonged to Hobbs except for “one Pair of Stockings full of Holes, and a Pair of Shirts which [Richardson] gave me,” and that Richardson did not provide him with adequate clothing during “almost five Years Service.”  Richardson as H—BBS contested that narrative, offering this alternative:  “I told the Public, that he had found me but one Shirt, which was very false, for I am very conscious he has found me five new Shirts since I lived with him, and a sufficient Quantity of all other Cloathing.”  Richardson provided for H—BBS even though “I served him but very poorly for almost five Years.”

Richardson was equally unimpressed with the character witnesses who had testified to the “real Truth” of Hobbs’s advertisement.  “As to the Conduct of the three that signed at the Bottom of my Piece,” Richardson as H—BBS opined, “ they say ‘We the Subsribers have Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth:’—What Reason? says the By-Stander: Why, say they, the Boy that run away from his Master told us so, and so it must be true; and that is all the Evidence they had.”  To cast further doubt on the motives of these witnesses, Richardson as H—BBS requested that “the Public judge for themselves” if that was “sufficient Reason for two Uncles and a Brother to sign such a story.”

This new advertisement ended with a short statement of support by “A. RICHARDSON” for the version of events presented by “SA——EL H—BBS,” replicating the structure of Hobbs’s advertisement and deploying some of the same language.  “I the Subscriber have Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth,” A. RICHARDSON declared before admonishing that he “still hope[s] the Public will hold Runaways in Contempt, and all their Abettors.”

The dispute between Richardson and his (alleged) apprentice played out in the public prints beyond a standard runaway advertisement.  Both parties placed lengthy notices that impugned the honesty and character of the other in their efforts to convince others in their community which of them had indeed been wronged by the other.  Most runaway apprentice advertisements went unanswered, but in this case both apprentice and master made further use of the press to present their version of events to the public.

August 7

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

Aug 7 - 8:7:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 7, 1770).

“Addison Richardson hath advertised me as a Runaway.”

Eighteenth-century newspapers carried advertisements for all sorts of “runaways.”  Those runaways included enslaved people who liberated themselves from enslavers who held them in bondage, wives who “eloped” from their husbands to remove themselves from patriarchal authority (and often mistreatment) in the household, and apprentices and indentured servants who broke the terms of their contracts.  Few of these advertisements garnered responses in the public prints.  Even if they possessed the resources to place advertisements, enslaved people who liberated themselves had no reason to call additional attention to themselves.  Aggrieved husbands usually declared that they would pay no debts on behalf of their absent wives, eliminating their ability to publish notices in response.  Occasionally, some wives did find the means to run their own advertisements.  Apprentices and indentured servants, like enslaved people who escaped, also avoided publishing responses to the advertisements that declared them runaways and requested aid in locating and returning them.

That made a pair of advertisements that ran in the Essex Gazette in the summer of 1770 especially notable.  Addison Richardson first advertised Samuel Hobbs as a runaway on July 24.  He claimed that the “Apprentice Lad” ran away and recommended that others “be very cautious in having any Concern with him.”  Richardson also noted that Hobbs had “carried off a Box, containing sundry Articles of Cloathing,” but Richardson had since recovered the box and the stolen items.  Richardson’s advertisement ran again on July 31.  When it appeared for a third time on August 7, a response from Hobbs accompanied it.  The compositor placed one notice after the other, making it easier for readers to follow the saga as it unfolded.

In an advertisement twice the length of the one that named him a runaway apprentice, Hobbs asserted that he “was not bound” to Richardson not was he “under any Obligation to live with him any longer than we could agree.”  Hobbs suggested that Richardson had not lived up to whatever terms they had set, but if he had “fulfilled his Promise” then Hobbs “should not have left.”  In response to the accusation of theft, Hobbs stated that neither the box nor the contents belonged to Richardson, except for “one Pair of Stockings full of Holes, and a Pair of Shirts, which he gave me.”  Everything else in the box belonged to Hobbs, yet Richardson refused to return any of it.  Hobbs also lamented that in “almost five Years Service” Richardson had not provided adequate clothing as was his responsibility.  In response to Richardson’s advice that others be cautious in their dealings with Hobbs, he turned the tables by warning others to “be very cautious where they put out Children, especially poor fatherless ones, such as I am.”

To strengthen his credibility, Hobbs also included a short note from three men who endorsed his version of events.  Joseph Symonds, Joseph Hobbs, and Joseph Hobbs, Jr., some or all of them probably relations to the alleged runaway apprentice, stated that they “have Reason to believe the Piece above to be the real Truth.”  They asked that “the Publick … take no Notice of the Advertisement.”  Quite possibly these supporters paid to insert Hobbs’s advertisement in the Essex Gazette.

Runaway apprentice advertisements rarely generated responses in print in eighteenth-century America, making this an extraordinary case of an alleged runaway defending his reputation, revealing mistreatment by his master, and marshalling the support of others who advocated on his behalf.  Yet this was not the end of the exchange in the Essex Gazette.  The following week Richardson published a response to Hobbs’s response.  That will be the featured advertisement on August 14.

July 24

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

Jul 24 - 7:24:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (July 24, 1770).

“An Exhibition of modern Books, by AUCTION.”

Robert Bell, one of the most influential booksellers and auctioneers in eighteenth-century America, toured New England in the summer of 1770.  Bell is widely recognized among historians of the book for his innovative marketing practices.  The tone and language in his advertisement in the July 7, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette, however, seems rather bland compared to the flashy approach that eventually became the hallmark of Bell’s efforts to promote his books and auctions.  On the other hand, another advertisement in the Essex Gazette just a few weeks later hinted at the showmanship that Bell was in the process of developing and refining.

In announcing auctions that would take place at a tavern in Salem on three consecutive nights, Bell addressed prospective bidders as “the Lovers of literary Instruction, Entertainment, and Amusement.”  Deploying such salutations eventually became a trademark of his newspaper advertisements, broadsides, and book catalogs.  The advertisement in the Essex Gazette gave customers a glimpse of the personality they would encounter at the auction.  Bell described each auction as “an Exhibition of modern Books” and proclaimed that one each evening “there will really exist an Opportunity of purchasing Books cheap.”  He seemed to take readers into his confidence, offering assurances that the prospect of inexpensive books was more than just bluster to lure them to the auction.

In the same advertisement, Bell sought to incite interest in another trilogy of auctions.  “An Opportunity similar to the above,” he declared, “will revolve at the Town of NEWBURY-PORT.”  Readers of the Essex Gazette who could not attend any of the book auctions in Salem had another chance to get good bargains while mingling with other “Lovers of literary Instruction, Entertainment, and Amusement.”  Like other itinerants who announced their visits in the public prints, whether peddlers or performers, Bell made clear that he would be in town for a limited time only.  He advised that “the Public may be certain that the Auctionier’s Stay in those Towns will not exceed the Time limited as above.”  Bell would be in Salem for just three nights and then in Newburyport for three more nights before moving along to his next destination.

Compared to his recent notice in the Providence Gazette, the advertisement Bell placed in the Essex Gazette much more resembled the style of promotion that made him famous in the eighteenth century and infamous in the history of the book.  His lively language suggested that his auctions would be more than the usual sort of sale.  They would be events that readers would not want to miss.