January 15

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

Jan 15 - 1:15:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 15, 1768).

“Mein and Fleeming’s REGISTER … With all the BRITISH LISTS.”

John Mein and John Fleeming marketed “Mein and Fleeming’s REGISTER FOR NEW ENGLALD [sic] AND NOVA SCOTIA, With all the BRITISH LISTS, AND AN Almanack for 1768” in several newspapers in New England in late 1767 and early 1768. Their advertisement in the January 15, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette indicated that readers could purchase copies directly from Mein at his “London Book Store, in Kingstreet Boston” or from local vendors, either William Appleton, a bookseller, or Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the colony’s only newspaper.

Their advertisement, which extended an entire column, also elaborated on the contents. Despite the length, the advertisement placed relatively little emphasis on many of the standard items included in almanacs, such as “Sun’s rising and setting” and other astronomical details. Instead, Mein and Fleeming devoted much more space to the various “BRITISH LISTS” in their Register, including “Marriages and Issues of the Royal Family,” “Summary of the house of Commons,” and “Officers of His Majesty’s houshold.” The Register also contained lists of colonial officials in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Nova Scotia.

Both the contents and the advertisement distinguished “Mein & Fleeming’s REGISTER” from all other almanacs for 1768 advertised anywhere in the colonies. Though useful, the astronomical calculations seemed secondary to content that positioned the American colonies within an expansive and powerful British empire. Mein and Fleeming, both Tories, began publishing the Boston Chronicle, near the end of December 1767. Although that publication only ran until 1770, it qualifies as a Loyalist newspaper based on the editorial position of the printers. Mein and Fleeming pursued a single purpose in simultaneously publishing the Boston Chronicle and their Register: deploying print culture to celebrate their identity as Britons at a time that the imperial crisis intensified as a result of an ongoing trade imbalance between colonies and mother country, the imposition of new duties when the Townshend Act went into effect in November 1767, and renewed nonimportation agreements that commenced at the beginning of 1768.

Even if readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette and other newspapers that carried Mein and Fleeming’s advertisements did not purchase or peruse the Register, the extensive notice reminded them that they shared a common culture with king, nobles, and commoners on the other side of the Atlantic. Lengthy lists of officials that served the empire and colonies on both sides of the Atlantic suggested good order and the benefits of being British, a system that many colonists did not wish to disrupt unnecessarily in the process of seeking redress of grievances from Parliamentary overreach. Mein and Fleeming may not have been able to make such arguments explicitly among the news items in newspapers published by others, but they could advance that perspective implicitly in the advertisements they paid to place in those publications.

October 22

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

Oct 22 - 10:22:1767 Page 1 Boston Chronicle
Subscription Notice for the Boston Chronicle (October 22, 1767).

“PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING a NEW WEEKLY PAPER.”

Two months before it commenced publication, John Mein and John Fleeming distributed a subscription notice for “PRINTING a NEW WEEKLY PAPER, called The Boston Chronicle.” Their proposals advertised the newspaper in advance in an effort to gain as many subscribers as possible before the first issue even went to press. Although they did not say so explicitly in their subscription notice, they stood to sell more advertising if they could demonstrate that they attracted sufficient subscribers.

Mein and Fleeming’s broadsheet subscription notice had three parts. One side outlined the “CONDITIONS” of publication, a standard aspect of any eighteenth-century subscription notice, whether it appeared as a newspaper advertisement, on a magazine wrapper, or as a separate broadside. The other side enumerated the types of news items to be included in the new publication and described the networks the printers had established for acquiring that content.

The “CONDITIONS” provided a general overview of the newspaper. Mein and Fleeming promoted the material aspects, including the paper and type, and asserted that the subscription notice itself was a “SPECIMEN” of the newspapers prospective subscribers could expect to receive. Rather than the standard four pages, the Boston Chronicle would be eight pages, yet Mein and Fleeming specified a low price. Although it was an “EXTRAORDINARY SIZE,” it was still affordable. The weekly paper would be distributed on Mondays, like most of its competitors in Boston, and the publishers welcomed “Subscriptions from the Country,” promising to deliver the newspaper to subscribers outside the city “with the utmost regularity.”

In terms of content, they promised “All the current news, foreign and domestic, ecclesiastical or military.” Of particular interest, they would publish “debates in the great assemblies,” “Remakrkable and interesting cases, civil or criminal,” and “Whatever may contribute to promote agriculture, population, trade and manufactures in America.” Not surprisingly, given that Mein and Fleeming were both booksellers, the Boston Chronicle would include “An account of the new books” to guide readers in making their own purchases.

To obtain the necessary content, the publishers reported that “A correspondence has been established, in several parts of Great-Britain, but particularly in LONDON, by which we will receive, by every vessel, all the news-papers of any note, and every Magazine, Review, and political pamphlet without exception.” In addition, their “friends have also promised to send private anecdotes” that might not appear in newspapers printed in England. To collect as much news as possible, Mein and Fleeming had also cultivated correspondents “along the whole continent and West Indies.” They were indeed committed to receiving “All the current news, foreign and domestic” so they could pass it along to their subscribers.

Mein and Fleeming distributed the first issue of the Boston Chronicle on December 21, 1767. They continued publication for two and half years, releasing the final issue in June 1770. Their subscription notice almost certainly helped them initially as they sought sufficient subscribers, but the Boston Chronicle, like many other eighteenth-century newspapers, had a short run in the face of competition and political turmoil.

Oct 22 - 10:22:1767 Page 2 Boston Chronicle
Subscription Notice for the Boston Chronicle (October 22, 1767).

October 16

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

Oct 16 - 10:16:1767 Page 1 New-London Gazette
First Page of the New-London Gazette (October 16, 1767).

“MEIN, At the LONDON BOOK-STORE, North Side of KING-STREET, BOSTON.”

The Adverts 250 Project previously featured an extraordinary advertisement that John Mein placed in the New-London Gazette in the fall of 1767. Not only did Mein, a Boston bookseller, advertise in a distant newspaper, his advertisement occupied nearly two entire pages. That was a bold and innovative marketing strategy.

It was not a one-time gimmick. Mein placed a similar advertisement in the October 16, 1767, edition of the New-London Gazette, an advertisement that was even more elaborate than the previous one. The new version extended over six columns, two entire pages (with the exception of the masthead on the first page). Mein’s advertisement accounted for half of that issue of the newspaper, limiting the amount of space for news items and prompting the printer to insert a notice that “Advertisements omitted will be in our next.”

This new advertisement had another feature that distinguished it from the previous version. It appeared on the first and fourth pages of the four-page newspaper (rather than the final two pages). This meant that it was both the first and last item readers encountered when they read that issue of the New-London Gazette. In addition, if a reader held the open newspaper aloft to read the second and third pages, observers would glimpse only the first and last pages. From their perspective it would appear that the New-London Gazette contained nothing except Mein’s advertisement. Similarly, a closed copy of the newspaper sitting on a desk or table assumed the appearance of a broadsheet book catalogue since no other advertisements or news items would have been visible.

Theses visual aspects that depend on the material qualities of the newspaper might be overlooked when working with a copy bound into a volume with other issues of the New-London Gazette, a common practice for preserving and archiving eighteenth-century newspapers. Deprived of the ability to exist as a separate issue but instead reduced to four consecutive pages in a larger book, the transformed newspaper does not immediately suggest all of the visual characteristics that early American readers would have experienced. The same could also be said of digitized versions of the advertisement, each page completely disembodied from the others. The greater significance of Mein’s advertisement becomes apparent only upon contemplating how the form in which the New-London Gazette was originally delivered to readers, not just the format the issue happens to occupy in the twenty-first century.

Oct 16 - 10:16:1767 Page 4 New-London Gazette
Final Page of New-London Gazette (October 16, 1767).

 

October 8

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

Oct 8 - 10:8:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (October 8, 1767).

The Advertisements taking up so much Room, the several Articles intended for this Page are thrown into a SUPPLEMENT.”

This notice appeared at the bottom of the first column on the second page of the October 8, 1767, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette. Richard Draper followed a standard procedure among eighteenth-century printers: when faced with too much content to fit into the allotted space he opted to distribute a two-page supplement along with the regular issue. This happened fairly frequently, especially in major port cities. Higher concentrations of residents meant greater numbers of advertisements to squeeze into each week’s four-page issue, sometimes yielding supplements devoted almost exclusively to advertising. The October 8 supplement, however, consisted primarily of news items as a result of “The Advertisements taking up so much Room” in the regular issue.

Draper and the Massachusetts Gazette did not have a higher number of advertisers than usual. Instead, advertisements placed by two local shopkeepers occupied significant amounts of space. Shopkeeper Jolley Allen continued publication of his lengthy list-style advertisement that filled two entire columns on the final page. Not to be outdone, bookseller John Mein commenced a new full-page advertisement for his “grand Assortment of the most MODERN BOOKS In every Branch of Polite Literature Arts and Sciences,” the one that he intended to launch in the Boston-Gazette three days earlier. That advertisement combined a previous advertisement for “A NEW EDITION of Dilworth’s Spelling Book” (set apart almost as a distinct advertisement in the lower right corner) and descriptions of two other books followed by a list of other books and stationery supplies in stock. The compositor created four narrow columns instead of the usual three slightly wider ones, resulting in a new look for that particular page compared to the rest of the newspaper.

Overall, just two advertisements accounted for nearly half of the October 8 issue of the Massachusetts Gazette, making the supplement practically a necessity. This happened as a result of both the printer and the advertisers experimenting with the format for newspaper notices. Although colonial newspapers published full-page advertisements sporadically in the 1760s, having an issue dominated by only two advertisements would have been an extraordinary event for readers, one that would have garnered even more notice among potential customers for John Mein and Jolley Allen.

October 5

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

Oct 5 - 10:5:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (October 5, 1767).

As the Articles in this Advertisement were very numerous, we are obliged to omit them till the next Week for want of Room.”

Bookseller John Mein frequently placed advertisements in Boston’s newspapers (and sometimes publications in other towns) in the 1760s. Even if they had never visited the “LONDON BOOK-STORE North Side of King-Street,” regular readers of the Boston-Gazette would have been familiar with Mein’s marketing efforts. On occasion his advertisements occupied even more space than those inserted by shopkeepers with the most extensive lists of imported merchandise, extending anywhere from an entire column to an entire page. Mein intended to publish another lengthy advertisement in the Boston-Gazette on the first Monday in October 1767, but had to settle for a shorter notice.

Actually, Mein placed two advertisements in the October 5 issue. One appeared at the top of the third column on the second page, to the right of an open letter “To The People of Boston and all other English Americans,” a letter that argued Parliament had renewed its attempts to reduce the colonies to “perfect slavery.” This relatively short advertisement amounted to a single square, the standard length for most paid notices in that issue. The second advertisement, approximately two squares, appeared in the middle of the third column on the third page, less easy to distinguish among the other notices on the page.

Both advertisements announced that Mein stocked “A Grand Assortment Of the most modern BOOKS, In every Branch of polite Literature, Arts and Sciences” (though the typography differed significantly). The shorter notice also indicated that since “the Articles in this Advertisement were very numerous, we are obliged to omit them till the next Week for want of Room.” The second notice focused primarily on a single volume, a new edition of “Dilworth’s Spelling Book” just published on “fine Paper” with new type. It concluded with a brief note that “Printed Catalogues may be had Gratis at the Store” on King Street. Surely Mein’s catalog included many of the books he meant to advertise in the Boston-Gazette that week had space permitted.

Given the placement of Mein’s advertisements within the newspaper, he may not have submitted two separate notices for publication. Instead, the printers may have created the shorter advertisement, with its announcement anticipating a lengthier list of Mein’s titles in the next issue, and given it a prominent place to compensate for not publishing all of the copy Mein submitted. When the advertisement did appear the following week, it filled an entire page. Given the expense that Mein incurred, the printers may have considered a second advertisement promising more information about Mein’s “Grand Assortment Of the most modern BOOKS” the least they could do when they ran out of space to publish the list in its entirety. After all, they wanted to encourage the bookseller to continue (to pay) to insert lengthy advertisements in their newspaper.

Mein intended to attract attention through the volume of his advertising, yet circumstances prompted the printers to deliver an alternate marketing strategy. They incited interest by temporarily withholding the complete advertisement while simultaneously giving the announcement a prominent place in the publication to increase the number of potential customers who would read it.

September 25

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

Sep 25 - 9:15:1767 Page 3 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (September 25, 1767).

“London BOOK-STORE, North Side of KING-STREET, BOSTON.”

John Mein, prominent bookseller in Boston, placed an extraordinary advertisement in the September 25, 1767, edition of the New-London Gazette. A regular advertiser in Boston’s newspapers, Mein previously experimented with a full-page advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette two months earlier. The length of his advertisement in the New-London Gazette, however, far exceeded that previous notice: it extended nearly two full pages and amounted to almost half of the entire issue. Mein’s advertisement for “A very GRAND ASSORTMENT of the most modern BOOKS, in every Branch of polite Literature, Arts and Sciences” filled the entire third page and all but the second half of the final column on the fourth page. It took up so much space that Timothy Green, the printer, inserted a notice at the bottom of the second page to assure readers (and advertisers whose notices had been squeezed out to make room for Mein) that “Advertisements omitted will be in our next.” Although not unknown, full-page newspaper advertisements were not common in the 1760s. When they did appear they merited special notice, yet they seemed restrained compared to Mein’s nearly-two-page advertisement.

Mein’s extensive advertisement qualified as exceptional for another reason: he operated the “LONDON BOOK-STORE” on King Street in Boston, yet he supplemented his marketing efforts in local newspapers with a newspaper notice in faraway New London, Connecticut. Retailers frequently acknowledged that they served customers in the hinterlands that surrounded their own cities and towns, but they rarely placed advertisements in newspapers published in other colonies if they had local alternatives. Retailers in Boston, for instance, expected that when they advertised in any of the city’s four newspapers that they would attract customers from other parts of Massachusetts beyond the busy port. They typically did not, however, insert advertisements in newspapers printed in other towns, each with their own hinterlands in other colonies. Mein deviated from standard practices related to newspaper advertising, apparently considering the opportunity to enter new markets worth the investment. He had previously published book catalogs that may have been distributed far beyond Boston. Any customers they generated may have encouraged him to consider advertising in newspapers in distant cities. He acknowledged customers who resided outside Boston in the final paragraph of his advertisement: “Gentlemen, Traders, &c. who send Orders, may depend on being served with the utmost Fidelity and Dispatch, and as cheap as if present.” In his efforts to gain customers from markets beyond Boston, Mein anticipated and addressed potential obstacles that might prevent them from patronizing his business.

Sep 25 - 9:15:1767 Page 4 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (September 25, 1767).

July 16

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

Jul 16 - 7:16:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (July 16, 1767).

“Just imported and to be Sold by John Mein At the LONDON BOOK-STORE.”

John Mein regularly advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette in 1767. He also advertised in the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy. With so many local publications carrying news and advertising to local consumers, he increased the likelihood that potential customers would be exposed to his advertisements.

The length of Mein’s advertisements may have also drawn attention. Shopkeepers frequently placed advertisements that extended half a column or more, but rarely did they exceed a single column. Mein, however, inserted advertisements that overflowed into second and sometimes even third columns. The variable length of his advertisements suggests that he may have submitted extensive sample advertisements to newspaper offices with an understanding that they would include as much as possible but truncate them to fit the space available. In such cases, printers and compositors would have played a role in editing advertising copy even though they were not responsible for generating it.

This particular advertisement may have also drawn attention because it covered almost the entire front page of the July 16 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette, almost squeezing out a notice for a “Variety of Millenary Goods” at the lower right. Its placement may seem strange considering the importance associated with front-page news in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but it also demonstrates the evolution in journalism practices and consumption practices. Neither publishers nor readers engaged with newspapers and their content in quite the same way in the eighteenth century that they have in time since then.

Early Americans expected (or at least would not have been surprised) to encounter major news stories nestled within the inner pages of any given issue. Taking into consideration the production of the July 16 edition helps to demonstrate what that was the case. A four-page issue, it resulted from printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. The first and fourth pages, comprised entirely of the masthead and advertisements the printer received well in advance (and most of them already set in type for previous issues), were printed first. Only after they dried were the second and third pages printed on the other side. In this case, those pages included the news content for the issue, including items dated the date before and the day of publication.

To modern eyes, John Mein’s (nearly) full-page advertisement on the front page of a newspaper may seem extraordinary. Its lengthy certainly merited notice in the eighteenth-century, but contemporary readers may not have been especially surprised by its placement. That it appeared on the front page just would not have resonated as being all that significant for readers accustomed to seeing advertising, rather than news, immediately under the masthead.

July 6

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

Jul 6 - 7:6:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (July 6, 1767).

“At the London BOOK-STORE.”

Bookseller John Mein regularly advertised in Boston’s newspapers in the 1760s, often inserting lengthy advertisements that extended over multiple columns or even filled an entire page. Yet newspaper notices were not the only marketing media utilized by Mein and other eighteenth-century booksellers. They also used broadsides and catalogs to inform potential customers of the titles they sold.

To promote the “Grand Assortment of the most MODERN BOOKS, In every Branch of Polite LITERATURE, ARTS, and SCIENCES” at his “LONDON BOOK-STORE,” Mein distributed a small broadside in 1766. Measuring 20 x 13 cm (8 x 5 in), it could have been posted around town or passed out as a handbill. Unlike his newspapers advertisements, the broadside did not include titles of many books. Instead, Mein listed more than two dozen genres that might interest readers, from Divinity and Philosophy to Travels and Voyages to Anatomy and Midwifery. Potential customers need to visit his shop to discover which titles he stocked.

Jul 6 - Mein Broadside
John Mein’s broadside advertisement (Boston: 1766). Courtesy American Antiquarian Society.

Mein adopted the opposite strategy in the fifty-two-page “CATALOGUE OF CURIOUS and VALUABLE BOOKS” he distributed the same year, listing (and numbering) 1741 different titles. For some, particularly bibles and prayer books, he also described the material aspects of the books, such as “Baskerville’s large Octavo Prayer-Book, bound in red Morocco, gilded” (#1734) and “Tate and Brady’s Psalms, fine Paper, bound in Morocco and Calf, gilded” (#1739). Mein used two different methods in categorizing his books. The first 367 were organized by size: octavo or folio. The remainder, however, fell under subject headings similar to those listed on the broadside. Under certain headings, some books were further demarcated by size. The bookseller aimed to help readers find books that corresponded to their interests, their budgets, their preferences for storing them, and their tastes for displaying them.

Mein’s newspaper advertisement melded aspects of his broadside and catalog, listing multiple titles under several categories. He also added a blurb to promote one book, Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield. Lest potential customers not see any books that interested them, Mein concluded by stating that he “has for Sale a grand Assortment of the best AUTHORS in evry Art and Science, and in every Branch of polite Literature.” Like other eighteenth-century booksellers, he experimented with media and organization in his efforts to market his wares. His advertising may have helped to fuel a reading revolution as colonists’ habits veered from intensive reading of devotional literature to extensive reading of many genres, including novels.

May 1

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

May 1 - 5:1:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 1, 1767).

“MEIN and FLEMING’S MASSACHUSETTS REGISTER, with an Almanack for 1767.”

Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette knew that John Mein had not “JUST PUBLISH’D” the “MASSACHUSETTS REGISTER, with an Almanack for 1767.” Printers throughout the colonies produced almanacs for the next year during the final months of the previous year. Some began advertising almanacs for 1767 as early as September 1766. Advertising continued throughout January and even into the first works of February, with every newspapers inserting notices about at least one and often several competing almanacs, but such advertising tapered off as the year progressed. By the time that May arrived, one-third of the year had passed and a good portion of the contents of any almanac became obsolete. Compared to the fall and early winter, it was probably particularly difficult to sell almanacs in the middle of spring.

This advertisement, however, cleverly emphasized the continuing usefulness of this volume. The Massachusetts Register just happened to include an almanac, but it also contained all sorts of other valuable reference information that residents of Portsmouth and other parts of New Hampshire might need to consult. For instance, readers knew more about the operations of local government and the legal system because the Massachusetts Register listed “the sitting of the superior and inferior Courts in the Four Provinces of New England.” In addition, its contents facilitated commerce and communication, especially the lists of the “Names of the Packet Boats and times of sailing” and the “Roads along the Continent.” To that end, “a Table of the different Currencies in North America” and a “Table of Interest at 6 per Cent” would have been useful throughout the colonies, not just in Massachusetts and other parts of New England.

Daniel and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, indicated “a Few of the above Registers to be sold by the Printers hereof.” John Mein may have had nothing to do with inserting this advertisement so late in the year, though he likely composed the copy for its initial publication, realizing that much of the contents would appeal to potential customers in the neighboring province. The Fowles likely had surplus copies, space to fill in their weekly newspaper, and type previously set for this advertisement (hence “JUST PUBLISH’D” as the headline), making it worth an attempt to move this inventory before it became any more outdated.

January 8

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

jan-8-181767-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (January 8, 1767).

“Books for Children, very proper for Christmas and New Year’s Gifts.”

John Mein made a fairly unique appeal to potential customers when he advertised “A Large Assortment of entertaining and instructive Books for Children, very proper for Christmas and New Year’s Gifts.” The bookseller tied consumerism to the holidays in a way that few other advertisers did in late 1766 and early 1767, which differs significantly from marketing practices in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Very few advertisers acknowledged Christmas as a holiday, much less used it to promote purchases from their shops. Recognition of the new year manifested itself in advertising mostly through calls for those who previously bought on credit to settle accounts. Indeed, only a handful of advertisers linked the holidays to making purchases and giving gifts.

As with many other aspects of marketing, members of the book trade seemed to be at the forefront of this innovation. Throughout all of the advertisements placed in newspapers during December 1766 and early January 1767, booksellers alone encouraged customers to think of their wares as gifts for others. In an advertisement in the January 8, 1767, issue of the New-York Journal bookseller Garrat Noel listed “A very large Parcel of Mr. Newberry’s beautiful gilt Picture Books, for the Entertainment of his old Friends the pretty Masters and Misses of New-York, at Christmas and New-York.” The appropriately named Noel was a veteran of promoting holiday gifts, having noted in his advertisements a year earlier that it was “his annual Custom … to offer to the Public, the following List of Books, as proper for Christmas Presents and New-Year’s Gifts.”

John Mein further advanced this innovation, anticipating marketing strategies of the late nineteenth century and beyond. He announced that potential customers could pick up free “Printed Catalogues” listing the books he considered especially suited to be given as gifts. Retailers of all sorts eventually resorted to catalogs, especially Christmas catalogs, to drive sales during a season increasingly associated with consumerism.

In the 1760s, however, the media – both printers and advertisers – took little notice of the Christmas season. On the same day that Mein’s advertisement appeared in Boston and Noel’s in New York, the first page of the Virginia Gazette featured “An ODE upon CHRISTMAS” on the front page. It was dated December 4, 1766, but the printers did not consider it pressing enough to make room for it in their newspaper until five weeks later. The Christmas holiday did not dominate December in the 1760s to the extent it does in modern America.