September 20

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 20, 1771).

“Sold (by appointment of Mr. Hemet) … at William Scott’s Irish Linnen Store … in New England.”

Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette learned that Jacob Hemet, “DENTIST to her Majesty, and the Princess Amelia,” compounded an “Essence of Pearl, and Pearl Dentrifice,” a paste or powder for cleaning teeth, “which he has found to be so greatly superior not only in elegance, but also in efficacy, to any thing hitherto made use of for complaints of the Teeth and Gums” when they perused the September 20, 1771, edition.  That information appeared in an advertisement that provided additional details about how Hemet’s products contributed to both health and beauty.

At a glance, it may have appeared that Hemet placed the advertisement.  His name served as the headline, a common practice among purveyors of goods and services when they placed notices in eighteenth-century newspapers.  A short paragraph at the end of the advertisement, however, revealed that Hemet designated local agents to hawk his products on his behalf.  Interested parties could purchase Hemet’s Essence of Pearl and Pearl Dentrifice “wholesale and retail” from “W. Bayley, in Cockspur street, near the bottom of the Hay market, London” as well as “at William Scott’s Irish Linnen Store, near the Draw Bridge, Boston, in New England.”  Hemet may have written the copy for the advertisement and transmitted it to Bayley and Scott, but he probably did not arrange for running the advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette.

Instead, he likely left those details to Scott following his “appointment” as an agent in the colonies.  Scott placed the advertisement in the Boston-Gazette on September 16.  Taking advantage of his exclusive access to Hemet’s products, he aimed to expand the market by advertising in nearby New Hampshire as well.  Yet the advertisement did not suggest a local or regional market but instead encouraged consumers to think of themselves as participating in a transatlantic market that connected them to the heart of the empire.  Scott made available to them products that residents of London presumably purchased, products that Hemet supplied to members of the royal family.  Prospective customers skeptical of the efficacy of Hemet’s Essence of Pearl and Pearl Dentrifice may have been more willing to take a chance on products supposedly distributed to consumers in London, grateful that the dentist opted to select an agent in the colonies who could provide them with the same products used by Hemet’s most elite clients.

September 2

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 2, 1771).

“Those who have taken subscriptions of others, [send] their lists … to the Publisher.”

In the course of just a few days late in the summer of 1771, readers in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina encountered the same advertisement in their local newspapers.  John Dunlap, a printer in Philadelphia, distributed subscription notices for his current project, “ALL THE POETICAL WRITINGS, AND SOME OTHER PIECES, of the Rev. NATHANIEL EVANS,” in order to entice customers in distant places to reserve copies of the forthcoming work.  On September 2, Dunlap’s advertisement ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Four days earlier, the same advertisement ran in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Pennsylvania Journal.

With one exception, the advertisements featured identical copy with minor variations in format, the copy being the domain of the advertiser and decisions about design at the discretion of the compositor.  The exception concerned the directions issued to prospective subscribers for submitting their names.  In the newspapers published in Philadelphia, Dunlap requested “that all who are desirous of encouraging this publication, and who may not yet have subscribed, will send their names” to him directly.  In addition, he asked that “those who have taken subscriptions of others,” acting as agents on Dunlap’s behalf, dispatch “their lists without loss of time to the Publisher.”  In the advertisements in the other newspapers, however, he instructed subscribers to submit their names “to the Printer hereof.”  Newspaper printers in other cities served as his local agents, including Richard Draper in Boston and Hugh Gaine in New York.  Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, underscored that he was Dunlap’s local agents, revising the copy in his newspaper to instruct subscribers to “send in their Names, without Loss of Time, to ROBERT WELLS.”

Dunlap did not rely merely on generating demand among local customers when he published “THE POETICAL WRITINGS … of the Rev. NATHANIEL EVANS.”  Instead, he inserted subscription notices in newspapers published in the largest cities in the colonies, hoping to incite greater interest in the project and attract additional buyers.  In the process, he recruited other printers to act as local agents who collected subscriptions on his behalf.  He created a network of associates that extended from New England to South Carolina as part of his marketing campaign.

July 8

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

Jul 8 - 7:8:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 8, 1769).

Subscriptions for the American Magazine, published in Philadelphia.”

On behalf of Lewis Nicola, the editor of the American Magazine, John Carter inserted a brief advertisement in the July 8, 1769, edition of the Providence Gazette. In just four lines, it advised readers in Rhode Island that “Subscriptions for the American Magazine, published in Philadelphia by the Editor Lewis Nicola, are received by the Printer hereof, at 13 s. Pennsylvania Currency per Annum, to be paid on subscribing.” This notice was much less extensive than some that appeared in other newspapers. An advertisement that ran in the New-York Journal almost two months earlier informed prospective subscribers of the length of each issue and promised a title page and index with the final edition for the year. Another much more extensive advertisement appeared in Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette at the end of May. It described magazines as “the Taste of the Age” and provided an overview of the publication’s purpose and contents. The editor aimed “To instruct, and innocently amuse” readers. The magazine served as “a Repository for the many small, tho’ valuable Pieces that would otherwise be lost to the World.”

Though vastly different in length and content, these advertisements provide an example of the networks that members of the book trades established in eighteenth-century America. Realizing that local markets alone would not sustain some of their enterprises, printers and publishers banded together, sometimes formally but often informally, to assist each other. This included exchanging newspapers and then liberally reprinting content from one to another, but disseminating information was not the extent of the work accomplished by these networks. Note that Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, served as a local agent for Nicola in Providence, as did Draper, the printer of the Massachusetts Gazette, in Boston, and John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal, in New York. These printers did not merely publish Nicola’s advertisement; they also informed him of the subscribers in their cities, collected subscription fees, and likely aided in the distribution of the American Magazine.

Publishing books, magazines, and other printed materials in eighteenth-century America often depended on these networks of cooperation among members of the book trades, especially printers and publishers. Sometimes such networks played a significant role in the success of an endeavor; other times, they were not enough to overcome other factors that ultimately led to the failure of publications. Nicola’s American Magazine ceased publication within three months of the advertisement in the Providence Gazette. Yet his efforts provided an important marketing model that other magazine publishers successfully deployed after the American Revolution.