What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An Advertisement to be inserted three Weeks successively in the Providence Gazette, in the Newport Mercury, in one of the Boston, and in one of the New-York News-Papers.”
The misfortune of others generated advertising revenue for John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, and other newspaper printers in the 1770s. Consider the September 8, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette. It featured six advertisements concerning insolvent debtors placed by Henry Ward, secretary of Rhode Island’s General Assembly.
Those notices reiterated formulaic language. Each named a colonist and his place of residence, stating that he “preferred a Petition unto the General Assembly … representing that he is an insolvent Debtor, and praying that he may the receive the Benefit of an Act passed in June, 1756, intituled, ‘An Act for the Relief of insolvent Debtors.’” According to the notice, the General Assembly deferred consideration of the petition until the next session, but also specified that “his creditors should be notified” via newspaper advertisements. On behalf of the General Assembly, Ward invited those creditors to attend the next session and “there to shew Cause, if any they have, why the said Petition should not be granted.”
Four of these notices called for such advertisements to appear in the Providence Gazette and the Newport Mercury, the two newspapers published in Rhode Island in 1770. The two other notices each cast a wider net. One added “one of the New-York News-Papers” and the other added “one of the Boston, and … one of the New-York News-Papers.” All six called for the advertisements to run “three Weeks successively” in each newspaper.
Carter solicited advertisements for the Providence Gazette in the colophon at the bottom of the final page of every issue. He may have been especially grateful for these notices in early September since he had few others to insert and he continued to run his own notice calling on “ALL Persons indebted to the Printer” to settle accounts or face legal action. Assuming that he could depend on the General Assembly to pay for these advertisements in a timely manner, they might have been a windfall for Carter.