November 11

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

Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer (November 11, 1773).

“Dr. OGDEN’S very successful Method of Cure, which the Printer inserted in the Almanack at the particular request of some of the Inhabitants.”

As the new year approached and printers throughout the colonies advertised almanacs for 1774, James Rivington of New York took to the pages of his own newspaper to advise prospective customers that the “very great Demand for Rivington’s Almanack … HAS occasioned him to print a new Edition.”  Like many other printers who marketed the almanacs they published, Rivington provided an extensive list of the contents as a means of generating interest.  He enumerated twenty items.  They included helpful reference information, such as “Courts in this and the neighbouring Provinces,” “Fairs,” “FRIENDS Meetings,” and “Roads.”  They also included six “Cures for Disorders in Horses” and five “Receipts [or cures] from some of the most eminent Physicians” for a variety of symptoms.  For entertainment, the almanac contained “Pleasant Jests.”  For the edification of readers, it included “A very important Lesson.”  Rivington emphasized that the contents of his almanac “vary in many particulars from others” sold by competitors.  The items he selected for inclusion “have been so well received by the Public, as to occasion a very large Quantity to be sold in a few Days.”  Existing demand served as a recommendation for the new edition.

Before commenting on the reception that the almanac already enjoyed or listing the contents, Rivington opened his advertisement with a note intended to resonate with prospective customers in nearby Connecticut.  “The following Almanack is particularly recommended to the Inhabitants of the Colony of Connecticut,” the printer asserted, “where the ulcerous and malignant Sore Throat, at this Time rages in a very high Degree.”  Rivington reported that he inserted “Dr, OGDEN’S very successful Method of Cure … at the particular Request of some of the Inhabitants.”  Among the contents enumerated in the advertisement, “Dr. JACOB OGDEN’S Method of treating the Malignant Sore Throat Distemper” appeared first.  That item alone, Rivington suggested, justified purchasing this particular almanac.  He implied that he provided an important service, though his altruism had limits.  After all, he could have published the “Method of Cure” in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser for the benefit of readers throughout the region he distributed his newspaper.  Still, Rivington framed his choice of contents for his almanac as an act of benevolence that took current events in account.  His awareness of the particular needs of prospective customers in Connecticut led him to respond in a manner that he intended would simultaneously contribute to public health and further his own commercial interests.

October 24

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

Rivington’s New-York Gazette (October 21, 1773).

“In a short time JAMES RIVINGTON will publish some other particulars of the efficacy of Dr. KEYSER’s PILLS.”

Like many other colonial printers, James Rivington supplemented revenues from the usual operations of his printing office by peddling patent medicines.  In particular, Rivington hawked Dr. Keyser’s Pills, one of the most popular treatments for venereal disease in eighteenth-century America.  This remedy was so popular that often name recognition alone marketed the pills to prospective customers.  For many weeks in the fall of 1773, Rivington ran a short advertisement that proclaimed, “EVERY ONE THEIR OWN PHYSICIAN, BY THE USE OF Dr, KEYSER’s PILLS.”  A border comprised of decorative type enclosed the bold headline and a promise that the medicine would “infallibly cure a DISEASE, not to be mentioned in a News-Paper, without the Knowledge of the most intimate Friends.”  For those still too embarrassed to purchase the pills, Rivington noted that they “are also wonderfully efficacious in curing the RHEUMATISM,” providing a cover story for prospective customers who wished to make use of it.

On occasion, Rivington enhanced that candid advertisement with descriptions of “CURES Performed by KEYSER’s PILLS,” giving examples to readers who still needed more convincing about whether they should invest in the medicine.  In the October 24 edition of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer, for instance, the printer included three stories of patients who had been cured of “a fashionable disease.”  The most remarkable concerned a pregnant woman whose child “was born with the distemper.”  When the mother’s symptoms “grew very alarming,” she took the pills and recovered.  The infant’s wet nurse also took the pills and “the child, from the effect of the pills taken by the nurse, was perfectly restored to health.”  According to this story, Dr. Keyser’s Pills were so effective that they even cured a baby breastfeeding from a woman directed to take them!  The other two stories told of patients who had long suffered “with the same disease” and the “severest courses prescribed” by physicians, yet “restored” or “relieved” when they resorted to Dr. Keyser’s Pills.  Once again, Rivington avoided associating the pills exclusively with venereal disease.  To that end, he inserted other examples: “In the RHEUMATISM,” “In APOPLEXIES,” “In the ASTHMA,” and “A WHITE SWELLING.”  That swelling almost resulted in “the amputation of an arm,” but the patient experienced “a radical cure” upon taking Dr. Keyser’s Pills.”

That did not exhaust the stories of successful treatments, just the amount of space that Rivington devoted to advertising the pills in that issue of his newspaper.  He concluded his advertisement with a note that “In a short time [he] will publish some other particulars of the efficacy of Dr. KEYSER’s PILLS,” though he did not indicate if he intended to do so with newspaper advertisements, handbills, broadsides, or pamphlets.  The media mattered less than alerting prospective customers that the printer had access to similar stories.  They could wait to examine those or consider that sufficient enough justification to acquire the pills to start down their own road to recovery.

September 16

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

Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer (September 16, 1773).


Dr. Keyser’s Pills may have been the most widely advertised patent medicine in colonial American newspapers.  Apothecaries included the remedy among the lists of patent medicines that they stocked, as did merchants and shopkeepers who did not specialize in drugs and medicines.  Printers also frequently advertised a variety of patent medicines, especially Dr. Keyser’s Pills, in their efforts to supplement revenues earned from job printing, newspaper subscriptions, advertising fees, and selling books and stationery.  In the summer of 1772, printers in Charleston, South Carolina, even engaged in a feud over which of them sold genuine Dr. Keyser’s Pills and accusing the other of peddling counterfeit medicines.

James Rivington, printer of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer, managed to avoid such controversy in the fall of 1773, though he competed with Hugh Gaine, printer of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, in selling Dr. Keyser’s Pills.  Neither of them placed the kind of extensive notice, complete with descriptions of the symptoms that the medicine alleviated and testimonials to the effectiveness of the pills, that sometimes appeared in colonial newspapers.  Gaine did briefly note that he “has now by him many Proofs of their Utility in curing Inflamations, Rheumatism, [and] White Swellings,” an invitation to readers to examine testimonials on hand in his printing office.  For his part, Rivington deployed a headline that proclaimed “EVERY ONE THEIR OWN PHYSICIAN” when they used Dr. Keyser’s Pills to treat a “DISEASE, not to be mentioned in a News-Paper.”  Consumers knew that patients afflicted with venereal disease commonly turned to Dr. Keyser’s Pills, not just those who suffered from rheumatism (though Rivington did join Gaine in stating the pills “are also wonderfully efficacious” in alleviating those symptoms).  For prospective customers seeking to protect their privacy and avoid embarrassment by acting as “THEIR OWN PHYSICIAN,” Rivington asserted that Dr. Keyser’s Pills “infallibly cure” the unnamed disease “without the Knowledge of the most intimate Friend” (or perhaps even spouses or other partners).  Like other purveyors, Rivington sold the pills in boxes of different quantities so customers could select how many pills they thought they needed to treat themselves.

In the eighteenth century, Dr. Keyser’s Pills were as widely known to consumers as many over-the-counter brands are to customers today.  Accordingly, advertisers did not always need to publish lengthy advertisements to market the pills.  Instead, Rivington and others believed that short notices with bold proclamations, like “EVERY ONE THEIR OWN PHYSICIAN” effectively marketed the popular patent medicine.

May 6

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer (May 6, 1773).

TO BE SOLD, A Very fine Negro Boy.”

Three issues.  That was how long it took James Rivington to become a broker in the slave trade when he launched Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River and Quebec Weekly Advertiser in the spring of 1773.  The Adverts 250 Project has examined some of the advertisements that appeared in the first and second issues of that newspaper.  With the third issue, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project begins chronicling advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children that appeared in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer.

Rivington, like other colonial printers, generated revenues by publishing and disseminating such advertisements, yet their complicity in perpetuating slavery and the slave trade did not end there.  When they published advertisements that provided descriptions of enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers and offered rewards for their capture and return, colonial printers encouraged and facilitated the widespread surveillance of Black men and women, including by colonizers who did not purport to own enslaved people themselves.  When colonial printers instructed readers to “Enquire of the Printer” for more information about enslaved people for sale, they became brokers in the transactions.

Such was the case with an advertisement in the May 6, 1773, edition of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer.  In just five short lines, Rivington implicated himself in perpetuating slavery and the slave trade: “TO BE SOLD, A Very fine Negro Boy, about seventeen years old, capable of waiting on a gentleman, and in a family extremly useful, he is strong, well built, and remarkably sober, and well worth £. 100.  Enquire of the Printer.”  In his examination of “Enquire of the Printer” advertisements, Jordan E. Taylor notes, “Printers had several reasons to traffic enslaved people.  Many probably viewed this work as a way of encouraging advertisers.  To refuse to perform this service may have led an advertiser to taker his or her business to competitors.”[1]

Rivington’s competitors certainly did not refuse such business.  On the same day that Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer ran its first “Enquire of the Printer” advertisement, an advertisement describing and offering a reward for Cush, an enslaved man who liberated himself from John Foster of Southampton on Long Island, ran in John Holt’s New-York Journal.  Earlier in the week, Hugh Gaine published three advertisements concerning enslaved people in his New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, one seeking a “NEGROE man-servant,” another offering an enslaved woman for sale, and the third describing and offering a reward for Sam, an enslaved man who could speak English and Dutch.  Gaine acted as the broker in the first advertisement, instructing anyone willing to hire out an enslaved “NEGROE man-servant” to learn more “by applying to the printer.”

Still, Rivington made a choice about whether to participate in this aspect of the printing business, just as Nathaniel Mills and John Hicks did when they became proprietors of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  Three days before Rivington published his first advertisement concerning an enslaved person, Mills and Hicks published theirs, joining with other printers in Boston who carried the same notice in their newspapers.  The following week, the fourth issue of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer carried its first advertisement about an enslaved man, Pompey, who liberated himself.  Rivington had made his editorial decision about what he was willing to publish among the advertisements in his newspaper.  He did not seem to hesitate in doing so.


[1] Jordan E. Taylor, “Enquire of the Printer: Newspaper Advertising and the Moral Economy of the North American Slave Trade, 1704-1807,” Early American Studies 18, no. 3 (Summer 2020): 296.

April 22

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

Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer (April 22, 1773).

“He will endeavour, to discharge himself in his Function, with Faithfulness to all Mankind.”

After several months of promoting the endeavor, including placing subscription proposals in newspapers in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, James Rivington published the first issue of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser on April 22, 1773.  In addition to subscribers, the printer sought advertisers for his newspaper … and promised “Gentlemen in Business” in neighboring Connecticut that they would have access to advertisements placed by the “Merchants and Traders of New-York” if they subscribed.

Rivington delivered on that promise, filling five of the twelve columns in the first issue with advertisements.  The revenue from those notices complemented what subscribers paid for their newspapers, an important alternate stream of revenue for the printer.  In the colophon at the bottom of the final page, he solicited more advertisements as well as job printing of blanks, broadsides, handbills, and other items.  Rivington’s roster of advertisers included many entrepreneurs who already placed notices in other newspapers.  They hoped to maintain or increase their share of the market by disseminating advertisements via New York’s newest newspaper.  Among those advertisers who supplemented their marketing efforts in other newspapers, Maxwell and Williams, tobacconists from Bristol, advertised a variety of snuff, John Simnet (in an uncharacteristically subdued notice) informed readers that he repaired watches “VERY cheap and VERY well,” John C. Knapp offered his services as an attorney, broker, and conveyancer at his “Scrivener’s Office,” and William Bayley hawked a “neat and general assortment” of merchandise he recently imported.  Bayley even pledged to insert a more extensive advertisement, encouraging prospective customers to look for it.  He planned to catalog his inventory of hardware, “a full Advertisement of which will be published in a future Paper.”   Nesbitt Deane, the hatmaker, retrieved the woodcut that depicted a tricorne hat with his name in a banner beneath it, from another printing office in order to include it in his advertisement in the first issue of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer.

Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer (April 22, 1773).

Rivington also published notices from advertisers in other towns.  Rensselaer Williams inserted an advertisement for the Royal Oak Inn adjacent to the Trenton Ferry similar to the one he previously published in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  Given the anticipated circulation of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer, that certainly made sense, a savvy investment by an innkeeper hoping to serve travelers from many colonies as they passed through New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Edward Pole, who frequently advertised in newspapers printed in Philadelphia, placed a lengthy notice that listed “Fishing Tackle of all sorts.”  In a note at the end, he declared that “All Orders from Town and Country will be thankfully received, duly attended to, and carefully executed as though the Persons were themselves personally present.”  That signaled his eagerness to serve prospective customers in New York who wished to send orders, yet Pole likely believed that prospective customers in Philadelphia and nearby towns would encounter his advertisement in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer.  After all, the printer ran subscription notices in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Pennsylvania Journal, and the Pennsylvania Packet.  Pole apparently believed that the newspaper achieved sufficient circulation in his area to make it worth placing an advertisement to supplement those that ran in newspapers printed in his own city.

Advertising accounted for a significant portion of the content of the first issue of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer … and likely accounted for a significant amount of revenue that helped to defray the costs of printing the newspaper. Although Rivington had presented the presence of advertisements as beneficial to some prospective subscribers, especially merchants in Connecticut, his marketing campaign much more extensively highlighted the news, essays, and speeches that he intended to print.  Still, when he published the first issue, advertising comprised nearly half of the content that subscribers received in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer … and Weekly Advertiser.

April 12

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

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (April 12, 1773).

“He intreats those who are so obliging as to intend advertising in the first Number of the New-York Gazetteer, to favour him with their Advertisements as soon as convenient.”

As he prepared to launch his New-York Gazetteer, James Rivington placed a notice in the April 12, 1773, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury to announce that he published and distributed “AN ADDRESS TO THE SUBSCRIBERS” for his newspaper.  He worried, however, that not every subscriber actually received their copy.  He arranged for each of them to “have the Address left at their Houses,” but discovered that “thro’ Inadvertency, [some] may have been hitherto neglected.”  To remedy the situation, he offered that they “may be furnished sans Expence with as many Copies of it as may be required for themselves or for their Friends” upon sending a request to the printing office.

Why might subscribers have been interested in obtaining multiple free copies of this address and sharing them with others?  It was not an extended subscription proposal.  Instead, Rivington explained that it “contains the Speeches in Parliament, subsequent to that from the Throne at the opening of the present Session,” made by nearly twenty politicians and other dignitaries, including “the truly eloquent Mr. Edmund Burke, Agent for our Colony.”  Those speeches elaborated on “the most important Subjects, in which the Inhabitants of this Continent are very materially interested.”  Rivington devised a premium or gift that he gave to subscribers before the first issue of his newspaper went to press.  He likely hoped that any of the additional copies that subscribers ordered to share with their friends might also induce others to subscribe as well.

The printer had another purpose, however, in placing this notice in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Between his offer to distribute additional copies of the “ADDRESS TO THE SUBSCRIBERS” and his explanation of the contents, he made a pitch to prospective advertisers.  Rivington “intreats those who are so obliging as to intend advertising in the first Number of the New-York Gazetteer, to favour him with their Advertisements as soon as convenient.”  He explained that advertisements “will be inserted on the usual terms,” though he did not specify the rates, and promised that the newspaper “will have a very extensive Circulation.”  Colonizers familiar with the full name of the newspaper, Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, already anticipated that would be the case.  Furthermore, Rivington previously disseminated subscription proposals in New York, Pennsylvania, and New England.  Merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others could depend on prospective customers near and far glimpsing their advertisements as they perused Rivington’s newspaper.

This notice appeared in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury ten days before Rivington published the first issue of his new newspaper on April 22, 1773.  He presented a gift to his subscribers and offered additional free copies of speeches delivered in Parliament in hopes of inciting more interest among prospective subscribers.  At the same time, he positioned a call for advertisers in the middle of his description of the premium his subscribers and their friends received.  When the first issue went to press, advertising filled five of the twelve columns.  Through his various efforts, Rivington convinced advertisers to take a chance on placing notices in his new publication.

March 23

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

Connecticut Courant (March 23, 1773).

“A motive to Gentlemen in Business to give orders for the Papers.”

As he prepared to launch a new newspaper, “RIVINGTON’s NEW-YORK GAZETTEER; OR THE CONNECTICUT, NEW-JERSEY, HUDSON’s-RIVER, AND QUEBEC WEEKLY ADVERTISER,” James Rivington continued to expand his advertising campaign in newspapers in New York, New England, and Pennsylvania.  He placed a notice in the Connecticut Courant on March 23, 1773, a full month after his first notices appeared in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 22.  Except for the brief advertisement in the Newport Mercury, the much more extensive subscription proposals in the other newspapers all provided an overview about how Rivington envisioned that his newspaper would include content that distinguished it from others.  In many ways, he proposed a hybrid of a newspaper and a magazine, a publication that “will communicate the most important Events, Foreign and Domestic” as well as the “State of Learning” with the “best modern Essays,” a “Review of New Books,” and coverage of “new Inventions in Arts and Sciences, Mechanics and Manufactories.”

For readers of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, Rivington also attempted to incite interest through noting that “the Merchants and Traders of New-York, have universally patronized this Design, and their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.”  Given New Haven’s proximity to New York, Rivington apparently believed that consumers and retailers there would find such advertisements by merchants and shopkeepers in the bustling port as interesting and as useful as the rest of the content.  He made a similar pitch to residents of Hartford in his notice in the Connecticut Courant.  Following the paragraph describing the news and essays he planned to include in the newspaper, the printer expressed his hope that the “general support and promise of Mr. Rivington’s Friends, to Advertise in his Gazetteer … may be a motive to Gentlemen in Business to give orders for the Papers, which will be very regularly sent to the Subscribers.”  Rivington envisioned that advertising, in addition to coverage of “the Mercantile Interest in America, Departures and Prices Current, at Home and Abroad,” would facilitate commerce between New York and smaller towns in neighboring Connecticut.  He suggested to prospective subscribers in Hartford and New Haven that they consider advertisements placed by “Merchants and Traders” in New York as valuable sources of information, as newsworthy and practical in their own right as reports about current events.

March 21

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (March 18, 1773).

“PROPOSES to publish a Weekly NEWS-PAPER.”

James Rivington continued to expand his marketing campaign to gain subscribers for his new newspaper, “RIVINGTON’s NEW-YORK GAZETTEER; OR THE CONNECTICUT, NEW-JERSEY, HUDSON’s-RIVER, AND QUEBEC WEEKLY ADVERTISER,” with an advertisement in the March 18, 1773, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly Mercury.  Nearly a month earlier, he commenced advertising in newspapers with a brief notice in the Newport Mercury on February 22.  That same day, he placed a longer notice in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  That version became the standard that Rivington published, with minor variations, in other newspapers, including the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal on February 24, the Connecticut Journal on February 26, and the Pennsylvania Packet on March 1.  On March 8, he informed readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that the “first Number” of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer “shall make its Appearance in the month of April” and requested that “Gentlemen who may be inclined to promote the Establishment of this Undertaking” send their names “as soon as convenient, which will determine the Number he shall print of the first Paper.”

For prospective subscribers in Massachusetts, Rivington provided directions for contacting local agents.  “Subscriptions taken,” he declared, “by Messrs. Cox and Berry and Dr. M.B. Goldthwait, at Boston.”  Otherwise, the proposal in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly Mercury replicated those that ran in the newspapers published in Philadelphia.  For some reason, that initial notice in the Newport Mercury differed significantly from those that ran in half a dozen other newspapers in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.  The overall consistency of those subscription proposals amounted to a regional advertising campaign that delivered the same content to prospective subscribers in several colonies.  Members of the book trade – printers, booksellers, and publishers – devised the vast majority of advertising campaigns that extended beyond a single town in the eighteenth century.  Merchants and shopkeepers frequently placed advertisements in multiple newspapers published in their town; the purveyors of goods, rather than the products they sold, defined the geographic scope of their markets since most producers did not advertise the items they made.  Even when merchants and shopkeepers in several towns sold the same items, such as patent medicines, they did not participate in centralized advertising campaigns coordinated by the producers of those items.  Markets confined to colonial cities and their hinterlands, however, often could not support printed items, such as books and pamphlets, so printers, booksellers, and publishers developed advertising campaigns that placed the same notices in newspapers throughout a region or even throughout the colonies.  Rivington adopted that model in marketing a newspaper that he also intended would serve readers far beyond his printing office in New York.

March 1

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

Pennsylvania Packet (March 1, 1773).

“Every particular that may contribute to the improvement, information, and entertainment of the public, shall be constantly conveyed through the channel of the NEW-YORK GAZETTEER.”

A week after James Rivington’s proposal for publishing a newspaper, Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, first appeared in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle, it ran in the Pennsylvania Packet.  During that week, Rivington also inserted the proposal, with variations, in the Connecticut Journal, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal.  In advance of publishing a newspaper intended to serve an expansive region, the bookseller, printer, and stationer launched an advertising campaign in multiple newspapers throughout that region.  Once his notice appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet on March 1, 1773, all four English-language newspapers in Philadelphia carried it to readers dispersed far beyond that busy urban port.

These advertisements likely helped Rivington attract subscribers.  In his History of Printing in America (1810), Isaiah Thomas notes that Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer “was patronized in all the principal towns by the advocates of the British administration who approved the measures adopted toward the colonies” and “obtained an extensive circulation.”  Furthermore, the newspaper “undoubtedly had some support from ‘his Majesty’s government.’”  Patriots found Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer “obnoxious.”  On November 27, 1775, “a number of armed men from Connecticut entered the city, on horseback, and beset his habitation, broke into his printing house, destroyed his press, threw his types into heaps, and carried away a large quantity of them, which they melted and formed into bullets.”  Rivington departed for England soon after that encounter, but he returned to New York once the British occupied the city.  In October 1777, he began publishing Rivington’s New-York Gazette; or the Connecticut, Hudson’s River, New-Jersey, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser once again.  That title lasted for two issues before he changed it to Rivington’s New-York Loyal Gazette and, not long after that, the Royal Gazette.[1]

Although Thomas did not care for Rivington’s politics, he did give him credit for his skills as an editor, a printer, and an entrepreneur who disseminated his newspaper widely.  Thomas acknowledged that “for some time Rivington conducted his paper with as much impartiality as most of the editors of that period; and it may be added, that no newspaper in the colonies was better printed, or was more copiously furnished with foreign intelligence.”  In addition, Thomas reported that Rivington claimed that “each impression of his week Gazetteer, amounted to 3,600 copies” in October 1773.[2]  For the period, that was an extensive circulation indeed.


[1] Isaiah Thomas, History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers and an Account of Newspapers (1810; New York: Weathervane Books, 1970), 508-9.

[2] Thomas, History of Printing, 511.

February 26

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

Connecticut Journal (February 26, 1773).

“Their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.”

Four days after James Rivington first published advertisements promoting a new newspaper, Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, a new notice appeared in yet another newspaper.  The bookseller, printer, and stationer commenced advertising in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 22, 1773.  Two days later, he inserted advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal.  His next notice ran in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy on February 26.

That advertisement replicated, for the most part, the notices that ran in the Philadelphia newspapers.  Rivington included lengthy copy explaining how his newspaper differed “in its Plan from most others now extant,” describing how the “State of Learning shall be constantly reported” in addition to “the most important Events, Foreign and Domestic, the Mercantile Interest in Arrivals, Departures and Prices Current, at Home and Abroad.”  He also included a list of three local agents who accepted subscriptions in New Haven.  As he had in most other notices, Rivington stated that the “first Number shall make its Appearance when the Season will permit the several Post-Riders to perform their Stages regularly.”  The printer wanted subscribers to know when they could expect to receive the first issue.

Rivington added one short paragraph to his advertisement in the Connecticut Journal that did not appear in any of the other newspapers.  “The Gentlemen, the Merchants and Traders of New-York,” he asserted, “have universally patronized this Design, and their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.”  That reiterated what he said elsewhere in the advertisement about receiving “Encouragement from the first Personages in this Country” to publish the newspaper, but it also added a detail about the advertisements the newspaper would carry.  Rivington expected that readers in New Haven and nearby towns would be interested in advertisements for consumer goods as well as legal notices concerning New York, more interested than readers in Newport and Philadelphia.  That made sense since New Haven was much more within the commercial orbit of New York than the other two towns where he previously promoted his newspaper.  After all, Newport and Philadelphia were both thriving ports.  Residents of New Haven, on the other hand, had closer connections to New York, especially given the proximity.  Advertisements relevant to New York and nearby towns may not have been of much interest to most prospective subscribers in Newport and Philadelphia, but Rivington considered them a selling point when marketing his newspaper to readers in New Haven.