What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Just Published … POOR RICHARD’S ALMANACK, for the YEAR 1772.”
It was a familiar sign of the changing seasons when advertisements for almanacs first appeared in colonial newspapers in the fall. Two such advertisements ran in the September 12, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. The printers of that newspaper, David Hall and William Sellers, hawked “POOR RICHARD’S ALMANACK, for the YEAR 1772,” the popular almanac they published. Isaac Collins advertised the “BURLINGTON ALMANACK” available at his printing office in Burlington, New Jersey.
Neither advertisement provided much additional information, the printers likely not considering it necessary at the time. After all, prospective customers had more than four months to purchase copies before the new year began. The brief advertisements drew attention to these almanacs before competitors began marketing their own publications. John Fleeming adopted a similar strategy for “Bickerstaff’s Almanack For the Year 1772” when he placed an advertisement in the August 15, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter to announce that the almanac “Will be published in September next.” As fall progressed, more advertisements for almanacs would appear in newspapers from New England to South Carolina. Each year, printers placed increasing elaborate advertisements in October, November, and December as competition for customers intensified.
For the moment, however, Hall and Sellers simply announced that they “Just published” Poor Richard’s Almanack “at theNew Printing-Office, in Market-street, Philadelphia.” Collins offered a little more information, stating that his almanac contained “besides the usual astronomical Calculations, a Variety of useful and entertaining Matter, both in Prose and Verse.” Collins also declared that he sold the Burlington Almanac “Wholesale and Retail,” encouraging booksellers, shopkeepers, and others to acquire copies to retail in their own shops. Although Hall and Sellers did not mention wholesale transactions, alerting customers that they could add Poor Richard’s Almanack to their inventory may have been one of the primary purposes of publishing the almanac and advertising its availability so early.
Daylight hours diminished in September compared to the summer months. Temperatures became colder. Yet the natural world did not offer the only evidence that fall would soon arrive. Readers of the Pennsylvania Gazette and other newspapers began encountering advertisements for almanacs for the coming year, another sure sign that summer was in its final days.