November 14

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

Connecticut Courant (November 13, 1770).

We here offer them a Specimen.”

Subscribers and others who regularly read the Connecticut Courant immediately notices something different about the November 13, 1770, edition.  Thomas Green and Ebenezer Watson printed it on a larger sheet than usual.  They acknowledged that they had done so in a message from “The PRINTERS to the PUBLIC” that filled the entire first column on the first page, making it difficult for readers to overlook.  Published in Hartford since 1764, the Connecticut Courant had not been as extensive a newspaper as its counterparts published in bustling urban ports like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.  Many of those newspapers commenced publication decades earlier and evolved over time. Green and Watson desired for their newspaper to experience a similar evolution, acknowledging that they “have often been obliged, for Want of Room, either wholly to omit, or else give the Public but a very partial Account of many very interesting and important Articles of News which in larger Papers, are more fully and largely set forth.”

The printers intended to “remedy and redress” that “Inconvenience” by enlarging the Connecticut Courant.  In addition to the lengthy message from Green and Watson on the first page, the entire November 13 edition served as an advertisement of sorts, “a Specimen” printed on larger sheets for the public to examine.  The printers proclaimed that they were “determined to enlarge the Connecticut COURANT to a Size no less than that of the Boston or York Papers.”  Such an upgrade would aid them in their efforts “of furnishing out the Paper with such Collections of News as will render it as entertaining, useful and profitable as lies in our Power.”  Green and Watson further explained that the posts from Boston and New York both arrived in Hartford on Sundays, giving them sufficient time to review newspapers they received from those cities and reprint “the Whole of the most material and important Advices” in the Connecticut Courant on Tuesdays.

Access to more extensive coverage of news from other colonies and beyond came at a price.  The “Enlargement will necessarily subject us to an additional Expence,” the printers explained as they informed readers that subscription rates would increase only modestly by one shilling per year.  The new price, they assured the public, was no more expensive than printers of other newspapers of similar size charged their subscribers.  Those who already subscribed had five weeks to decide if they wished to continue their subscriptions before Green and Watson transitioned to larger sheets and increased the rates for the Connecticut Courant.  The printers also invited those who did not yet subscribe to consider doing so in order to receive the more extensive news coverage they would soon provide.  At the same time, they called on “our good Customers who are in Arrears for the Paper, Advertisements, or any other Account” to make payment before the enlargement took place.  Green and Watson needed the “Ready Cash” to purchase paper and pursue their goals for enhancing the newspaper.  Furthermore, they would not publish any new advertisements without receiving payment in advance.

Green and Watson devoted a significant portion of the November 13 edition of the Connecticut Courant to promoting the newspaper itself.  They outlined improvements in the works that would soon be implemented, while also demonstrating those enhancements to current and prospective subscribers.  The entire issue was “a Specimen” intended to showcase the features of the new Connecticut Courant and convince readers that an extra shilling each year for a subscription would be money well spent.

Connecticut Courant (November 13, 1770).

July 18

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

Jul 18 - 7:18:1768 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (July 18, 1768).

Those who have Advertisements to insert in this Paper, are desired to send them … to the Printers, by Saturday Noon.”

Most eighteenth-century newspapers did not regularly publish their advertising rates, though several included calls for advertisements (along with subscriptions and job printing) alongside information about the printer and place of publication in the colophon on the final page. For instance, throughout 1768 the colophon for the Georgia Gazette read: “SAVANNAH: Printed by JAMES JOHNSTON, at the Printing-Office in Broughton-Street, where Advertisements, Letters of Intelligence, and Subscriptions for this Paper, are taken in.—Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c. printed at the shortest Notice.” Johnston solicited advertisements for the Georgia Gazette, but did not reveal the costs for advertisers.

Among those who did use the colophon to promote the various services offered at the printing office, a few did indicate advertising rates. Green and Watson, printers of the Connecticut Courant, listed this pricing scheme in the summer of 1768: “ADVERTISEMENTS of not more than ten Lines, are taken in and inserted for Three Shillings, three Weeks, and Six Pence, for each Week after, and longer ones in Proportion.” Green and Watson gave prospective advertisers a sense of how much they could expect to pay to insert a notice in their newspaper.

Beyond the information provided in colophons and occasional notices calling on subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts, eighteenth-century printers rarely published other instructions that revealed the mechanics of advertising. Occasionally, however, some did insert additional guidance for advertisers. In the lower right corner of the first page of the July 18, 1768, edition of the Connecticut Courant, Green and Watson specified the deadline for submitting advertisements in order for them to appear in the next issue, published each week on Mondays. “Those who have Advertisements to insert in this Paper,” the printers advised, “are desired to send them (accompanied with the Pay) to the Printers, by Saturday Noon.” Green and Watson required two days notice to insert advertisements in their newspaper, allowing sufficient time for setting type and printing the next issue on a press operated by hand. Their notice indicated how quickly advertisements could be incorporated into their newspaper, yet also cautioned that advertisers needed to submit their copy in a timely fashion of they did not wish for it to be delayed by a week between issues.