What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“The Co-partnership of Stanton and Ten Brook, is by mutual Consent dissolved.”
Hugh Gaine, the printer of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, had too much news and advertising to fit in a standard issue of his newspaper on November 5, 1770, so he resorted to a solution common among printers throughout the colonies. He published a two-page supplement to accompany the standard issue. In this case, he used a smaller sheet with only three columns per page (instead of four), filling both sides with advertisements.
Some of the advertisements in the supplement also appeared in the standard issue, including a notice about the partnership of Stanton and Ten Brook dissolving “by mutual Consent” and calling on associates to settle accounts, a notice seeking Elizabeth Hancock and informing her that “she will be inform’d of something greatly to her advantage” is she contacted Jacob Le Roy, and a list of books that Gaine himself offered for sale. Like many other printers, Gaine was also a bookseller.
Why did these advertisements run twice on the same day, first in the standard issue and again in the supplement? This suggests that the two placed by Le Roy and the partnership of Stanton and Ten Brook may not have generated additional revenue for the printer. Instead, he may very well have used them as filler to complete the page. All three appeared at the bottom of the third column, suggesting they were the last notices incorporated into the supplement. Gaine probably hoped that running his own advertisement a second time would yield greater sales for the bookselling segment of his enterprise, but it does not seem likely that he would have charged the others for an additional insertion of their advertisements.
Were any of the other advertisements in the supplement included to complete the page rather than because the advertisers instructed Gaine to run them again and agreed to pay for the service? Advertisements crowding the pages of colonial newspapers and overflowing into supplements usually represented significant revenues for printers, but this example suggests that was not always the case for every advertisement. Although including an advertisement twice on a single day was relatively rare, Gaine and other printers did run some notices sporadically and for far longer than advertisers may have requested. In some cases, it seems that printers valued advertisements as filler just as much as they valued them for the fees they earned.