November 8

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

Maryland Gazette (November 5, 1772).

“Intend shortly to exhibit Proposals for publishing a NEWS-PAPER.”

Robert Hodge and Frederick Shober took to the pages of the Maryland Gazette, published in Annapolis, in the fall of 1772 to advise prospective customers that they did “PRINTING In all it’s DIFFERENT BRANCHES … with the greatest neatness, accuracy and dispatch” at their “NEW PRINTING-OFFICE” in Baltimore.  At the time, the Maryland Gazette was the only newspaper published in the colony, so it served Baltimore as well as Annapolis.

Hodge and Shober, however, had plans for establishing their own newspaper in Baltimore.  They declared that they “intend shortly to exhibit Proposals for publishing a NEWS-PAPER, which shall be justly entitled to the Attention and Encouragement of this FLOURISHING TOWN and PROVINCE, both for ENTERTAINMENT and ELEGANCE.”  They were not the only entrepreneurs to decide that Baltimore seemed ready for its first newspaper.  A week earlier, the Maryland Gazette carried an extensive subscription proposal in which William Goddard announced his plans to publish “THE MARYLAND JOURNAL, AND BALTIMORE ADVERTISER … as soon therefore as I shall obtain a sufficient Number of Subscribers barely to defray the Expence of the Work.”  In a market that did not yet have one newspaper, Hodge and Shober competed with Goddard in their efforts to launch two newspapers simultaneously.

Neither met with immediate success.  Goddard, who was already printing the Pennsylvania Chronicle at the time he published his subscription proposal, did not manage to take the Maryland Journal to press until August 20, 1773, ten months after he announced his plans for the newspaper.  Hodge and Shober never published a newspaper.  In his monumental History of Printing in America (1810), Isaiah Thomas notes that the partners purchased “printing materials” in 1772 and “began business in Baltimore, where they intended to have published a newspaper; but, not meeting with the encouragement they expected, before the end of the year they left Baltimore, and settled in New York.”[1]  A variety of factors likely contributed to their decision to relocate.  Competing with Goddard for subscribers to Baltimore’s first newspaper probably did not help their prospects in the city.

After Goddard commenced publication of the Maryland Journal, Baltimore did gain a second newspaper less than two years later.  John Dunlap, printer of the Pennsylvania Packet, established Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette; or the Baltimore General Advertiser on May 2, 1775.  James Hayes, Jr., seems to have operated the publication on Dunlap’s behalf for three years before acquiring it for himself and changing the name to the Maryland Gazette, and Baltimore General Advertiser on September 15, 1778.  Hodge and Shober were just a few years too early in their efforts, though the war almost certainly played a role in inciting interest to establish more than one newspaper in Baltimore.  Under those difficult circumstances, however, Hayes removed to Annapolis just four months later.  Baltimore did not have a second newspaper of any longevity until after the war.[2]

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[1] Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers & an Account of Newspapers (1810; New York: Weathervane Books, 1970), 480.

[2] See entries in Clarence Brigham S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1947) and Edward Connery Lathem, Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Barre, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society and Barre Publishers, 1972).