January 23

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

Boston-Gazette (January 23, 1769).

“John Nazro, At his Shop in Cornhill, BOSTON.”

To increase the chances that prospective customers would see his advertisement for a “Fresh Assortment of English and India GOODS,” John Nazro inserted it in more than one newspaper during the week of January 23, 1769. His options included the Boston Chronicle, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, the Boston Post-Boy (co-published with Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette) and the Boston Weekly News-Letter (co-published with Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette). Occasionally advertisers sought to maximize the exposure for their advertisements by placing them in all or nearly all of the newspapers printed in Boston in the late 1760s, but Nazro was more modest in his approach. He selected only two, the Boston-Gazette and the Boston Post-Boy.

Finances may have played a role in his decision. Once he determined to limit the number of publications he likely took into account his impression of the circulation of each newspaper as well as the day of the week they were published. The Evening-Post, the Gazette, and the Post-Boy were all published on Mondays. The Weekly News-Letter was published on Thursdays. Earlier the month the Chronicle had moved to semi-weekly publication, expanding from Mondays to both Mondays and Thursdays. Nazro did not spread his advertisements throughout the week by choosing one newspaper published on Monday and another on Thursday. Perhaps he considered Monday the best day to introduce consumers to his merchandise. Alternately, he may have considered the circulation of the Gazette and the Post-Boy so superior to any of the newspapers published on Thursday that he would receive a better return on his investment by advertising in them.

Due to the culture of reprinting in eighteenth-century America, many newspapers often featured the same content when it came to news items. For instance, on January 23, the Evening-Post, the Gazette, and Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette (co-published with the Post-Boy) all included “The Humble Address of the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled” from November 8, 1768, as well as “The Humble ADDRESS of the HOUSE of COMMONS to the KING.” By then, those items had already appeared in the January 19 edition of Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette (co-published with the Weekly News-Letter). Only the Chronicle did not run them.

As these news items and Nazro’s advertisement demonstrate, colonial readers often encountered the same content in multiple newspapers, though for different reasons. Printers reproduced news items that appeared in other newspapers or arrived by ship, but advertisers paid to have their notices populate the pages of colonial newspapers.