What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Desires that all Persons, who have any Accounts open with him, will settle them.”
This is the last advertisement from the Boston Chronicle that will be featured by the Adverts 250 Project. Regular readers may remember that last month the project noted its final advertisement from the Georgia Gazette, a publication no longer included because copies of that newspaper printed after May 1770 have not survived. In contrast, the Boston Chronicle, the first newspaper published twice a week in New England, will no longer be featured because it ceased publication on Monday, June 25, 1770. The America’s Historical Newspapers database does not include that final edition. Instead, it ends with the penultimate issue from Thursday, June 21.
John Mein and John Fleeming (as their names appeared in the colophon) commenced publication of the Boston Chronicle in December 1767. In his monumental History of Printing in America (1810), Isaiah Thomas remarks that during the newspaper’s first year of publication it “grew daily into reputation, and had a handsome list of subscribers.” Thomas also described the decline and demise of the Boston Chronicle:
“Before the close of the second year of publication, its publisher, Mein, engaged in a political warfare with those who were in opposition to the measures of the British administration. In the Chronicle he abused numbers of the most respectable whigs in Boston; and he was charged with insulting the populace. To avoid the effects of popular resentment, it became necessary for him to leave the country. Fleming continued the Chronicle during the absence of Mein, in the name of the firm; but it had fallen into disrepute, and its subscribers in rapid succession withdrew their names. Many supposed that Mein was privately assisted by the agents of government, and several circumstances rendered this opinion probable. But when the paper lost its subscribers it could neither be profitable to its publishers, nor answer the design of its supporters.”
In addition to noting that subscribers “withdrew their names,” Thomas could have also reported that advertisers did not place notices in the publication. The Boston Chronicle competed with four other newspapers published in the city at the time; all of those ran significant advertising content, sometimes so much that they distributed supplements devoted entirely to paid notices. Many advertisers inserted notices in two, three, or four newspapers simultaneously, usually excluding the Boston Chronicle. In comparison to its rivals, the Boston Chronicle ran relatively few advertisements. Notices placed by its printers accounted for a disproportionate number of those that did appear within its pages. The dearth of advertising in a newspaper published in a bustling port city suggested that prospective advertisers did not consider placing their own advertisements in the Boston Chronicle a sound investment. They may have worried about how many readers would encounter their notice or they may not have desired to have their names and businesses associated with the Boston Chronicle and its reputation.
Only two advertisements appeared in the penultimate issue. John Bernard placed a notice calling on “all Persons, who have any Accounts open with him” to settle before he departed for England in the fall. The other announced an auction of “Sundry unserviceable Ordnance Stores” along with timber and stones to be auctioned in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, in August. Compared to other newspapers printed in the city, the Boston Chronicle has received less notice from the Adverts 250 Project. That reflects attitudes toward the newspaper in its final years of publication. Advertisers certainly did not publish notices in the Boston Chronicle to the same extent they did in its competitors.
 Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers and an Account of Newspapers (1810; New York: Weathervane Books, 1970), 264.
 Thomas, History of Printing, 264.