November 2

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

Boston-Gazette (November 2, 1772).

“The Sale of this Book has been so surprizingly rapid, as to demand Three Editions in New-York and Philadelphia.”

Two advertisements for “A DISSERTATION on the GOUT, and all CHRONIC DISEASES” by William Cadogan, “Fellow of the College of Physicians,” ran in the November 2, 1772, edition of the Boston-Gazette, one right above the other.  Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of that newspaper and printers of a Boston edition of Cadogan’s book, inserted the first advertisement.  Joseph Edwards, a bookseller, placed the other notice.

Both advertisements attempted to leverage the popularity of the book in other markets to generate sale in Boston.  Edes and Gill confided that the “above Pamphlet had Nine Editions in England in the short Space of Five Months.”  Edwards provided a similar figure, stating that the “Book is so much esteemed in England, that it has already past through Eight Editions.”  It had also gained following in the colonies.  “The Sale of this Book has been so surprizingly rapid, as to demand Three Editions in New-York and Philadelphia.”  Several months earlier, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford deployed a similar strategy in marketing their Philadelphia editions.  Given that so many other readers already purchased the book, the printers and the bookseller in Boston suggested that prospective customers should not miss out on acquiring copies of this bestseller.

Such demand suggested that the “rational and natural Method of CURE” for gout and other chronic illnesses that Cadogan proposed in the book was indeed effective.  Indeed, Edes and Gill even made a joke at the expense of colonizers in New York.  They observed that the book “has had such an Effect on the veteran Bacchanalians of New-York, that Madeira is no longer a fashionable Prescription for the Cure of this Disease.”  The printers included a short blurb from the book, explaining how “strong Wines” like Madeira actually made gout worse rather than better.  Cadogan was so convincing and his cure so effective that even New Yorkers who previously imbibed too much Madeira in their quest to quell the symptoms of gout had given up that remedy in favor of a more “judicious” approach.

Edwards did not resort to such levity.  Instead, he emphasized the accessibility of Cadogan’s writing.  A wide array of readers, not just physicians, could understand the discourse and recommendations in the book.  “The Doctrines advanced in it,” Edwards declared, “are rational and philosophical, and are delivered in a familiar style, which renders them intelligible to Gentlemen of all professions, as well as to Physicians.”  The bookseller sought to avoid the impression of a niche market for the medical text.

In their newspaper notices, the printers and the bookseller promoted the popularity of Cadogan’s Dissertation on the Gout, the effectiveness of the “Method of “CURE” outlined in it, and the accessible style.  Running simultaneous advertisements also testified to the popularity of the book.  Edes and Gill as well as Edwards aimed to encourage sales by creating a wide market that extended beyond physicians.

October 25

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 25, 1770).

“A Sermon occasion’d by the sudden and much lamented Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

In the wake of George Whitefield’s death on September 30, 1770, printers, booksellers, and others quickly sought to capitalize on the event by publishing and selling commemorative items dedicated to the memory of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  This commodification included producing new broadsides with images, poems, and hymns as well as marketing books originally published years earlier that were already in stock but gained new resonance.  Throughout the past month, the Adverts 250 Project has been tracking many of those publications to demonstrate the extent of the simultaneous commemoration and commodification that took place in the weeks after colonists learned of Whitefield’s death.  Advertisements hawking Whitefield memorabilia ran in newspapers published in Boston, New York, Portsmouth, and Salem almost as soon as the news appeared in the public prints.

A notice for yet another item, Heaven the Residence of the Saints, ran in the October 25, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  The advertisement, reiterating the lengthy title, explained that this pamphlet was a “Sermon occasion’d by the sudden and much lamented Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”  Ebenezer Pemberton, “Pastor of a Church in Boston,” delivered the sermon on October 11.  Just two weeks later, Joseph Edwards informed consumers that they could purchase copies of the sermon from him.  Daniel Kneeland printed that first edition for Edwards, but other printers recognized the prospective market for the pamphlet.  It did not take long for Hugh Gaine to reprint his own edition in New York or for E. and C. Dilly to commission a London edition, that one also featuring the “Elegiac Poem” composed by Phillis Wheatley, the enslaved poet, and frequently advertised and sold separately in the colonies.

New coverage of Whitefield’s death continued in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter with a short article about Whitefield’s “PATRIOTISM” taken from the October 19, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Such articles, however, were not the sole extent of news about the minister.  Advertisements for commemorative items served as an alternative means of marking current events … and purchasing memorabilia gave consumers an opportunity to be part of those events as they joined others in mourning the death of Whitefield and celebrating his life.