What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Just Arrived, The Cream of Goods.”
Gilbert DeBlois placed his advertisement for “The Cream of Goods” imported from England in several newspapers published in Boston in the spring of 1772, including the Censor. Ezekiel Russell commenced publication of the Censor, more “a political magazine rather than a newspaper,” in November 1771. He eventually supplemented it with a half sheet Postscript that looked more like a newspaper. Instead of carrying essays and editorials exclusively, it also featured news and advertising. Those efforts to diversify the publication, however, did not broaden its appeal to readers in Boston. As Isaiah Thomas, the ardent patriot who published the Massachusetts Spy and wrote The History of Printing in America (1810), noted, “the circulation of the paper was confined to a few of their own party,” Tories who sympathized with the British government. Given his politics, DeBlois numbered among that party. He eventually left Boston as part of the British evacuation in 1776. He was among the advertisers in the final issue of the Censordistributed by Russell.
Thomas made his contempt for the Censor clear, demeaning it for being “discontinued before the revolution of a year from its first publication.” In a footnote, Thomas also provided details about a notorious contributor to the Censor. “Dr. Benjamin Church, a reputed whig, who when the Revolutionary war commenced was appointed surgeon general of the American army, but was soon after arrested and confined, being detected in a traitorous correspondence with the British army in Boston, I have been informed by a very respectable person whom I have long known, was a writer for the Censor.” Thomas did not reveal his source, but he did state that “[t]his person, then an apprentice to Russell, was employed to convey, in a secret manner, the doctor’s manuscripts to the press, and proof sheets from the press to the doctor.” Thomas asserted that Church engaged in skullduggery long before his infamous letter to General Thomas Gage was intercepted and decoded in October 1775. Some historians have suggested that Church’s case was more nuanced than Thomas allowed, as did Church at the time. Thomas apparently had little use for Church’s rationalizations that he deliberately sent misinformation to the British to ward off attacks against patriots who lacked ammunition, just as he had little use for the Censor. For a few months, the Postscript to the Censor increased the number of publications that disseminated advertising in Boston, but Russell did not attract enough subscribers or advertisers to continue producing the weekly political magazine and its supplement.
 Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1947), 275.
 Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers and an Account of Newspapers (1810; New York: Weathervane Books, 1970), 285.