April 9

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

Essex Gazette (April 9, 1771).

“It may be had also of Doctor Kast, or Miss Priscilla Manning, at SALEM, and of Mr. Dummer Jewett at IPSWICH.”

Daniel Scott operated “the Medicine-Store, at the Sign of the Leopard” in Boston.  In an advertisement in the January 21, 1771, edition of the Boston-Gazette, he promoted a “compleat Assortment” of imported “Drugs and Medicines, Chymical and Galenical” as well as patent medicines.  In the following months, he turned his attention to marketing “Dentium Conservator, Or the Grand Preserver of the Teeth and Gums,” a medicine that he prepared at his shop.  For several weeks he placed advertisements in the Boston Evening-Post, hawking the “excellent Powder” and asserting that it was “the best adapted for preserving the Teeth and Gums, and preventing them from aching, of any Preparation offered to the Publick.”  He also advertised artificial teeth and other dentistry services.  The apothecary concluded his advertisement with a reminder that he also carried a variety of medicines beyond the “Dentium Conservator.”

Scott did not confine his advertising to newspapers in Boston.  He also placed notices in the Essex Gazette, published in Salem.  For the most part, those advertisements replicated the copy that ran in the Boston Evening-Post, but the apothecary made one addition.  In a nota bene, he informed prospective customers of local agents who carried the “Dentium Conservator” and sold it on his behalf: “It may be had also of Doctor Kast, or Miss Priscilla Manning, at SALEM, and of Mr. Dummer Jewett at IPSWICH.”  Philip Godfrid Kast, another apothecary, operated a shop at the Sign of the Lion and Mortar.  Manning peddled a variety of wares, mostly textiles, but apparently supplemented those revenues through her association with Scott and his “Dentium Conservator.”  Both Kast and Manning previously advertised in the Essex Gazette.  Jewett was likely also a familiar figure to readers of that newspaper.  The following year the governor appointed him justice of the peace for Essex County.

Scott could have chosen to produce and sell his “Dentium Conservator” exclusively at his shop in Boston.  Instead, he recruited associates in other towns, distributed his product to them, and assumed responsibility for marketing in an effort to increase sales.  The patent medicines that Scott stocked at his shop bore names familiar to customers.  His “Dentium Conservator,” on the other hand, did not benefit from an established reputation.  Scott intended that the combination of advertising in newspapers published in Boston and Salem and designating local agents to sell his product in Ipswich and Salem would enhance both the visibility and the reputation of his “Dentium Conservator.”

March 31

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

Massachusetts Spy (March 28, 1771).

“SUBSCRIPTIONS for the SPY are also taken in by Mr. J. Larkin, chairmaker.”

Most newspapers published in Boston in the early 1770s did not have extensive colophons.  Consider, for example, those newspapers published at the time that Isaiah Thomas relaunched the Massachusetts Spy on March 7, 1771.  The colophon for the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter simply stated, “BOSTON: Printed by R. DRAPER.”  Similarly, the colophon for the Boston Evening-Post read, in its entirety, “BOSTON: Printed by T. and J. FLEET.”  The Boston-Gazette also had a short colophon, “Boston, Printed by EDES & GILL.”  Limited to “Printed by GREEN & RUSSELL,” the colophon for the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy did not even list the city.  All of those colophons appeared at the end of the final column on the last page.

In contrast, Thomas adopted a style much more often (but not universally) deployed in newspapers published in other cities and towns.  Extending across all four columns on the final page, it provided much more information about the Massachusetts Spy for readers, prospective subscribers and advertisers, and others who might have business with the printing office.  He included his location, “UNION-STREET, near the Market,” and listed the subscription price, “Six Shillings and Eight Pence” annually.  He also noted that he sought advertising, but did not specify the rates.  In addition, Thomas stated that “Articles of Intelligence … are thankfully received.”  In other words, he solicited contributions to print or reprint in the Spy.  Like other newspaper printers, he accepted job printing as a means of supplementing the revenues from subscriptions and advertising.  Thomas proclaimed that he could produce “Small Hand-Bills at an Hour’s Notice.”  He provided all of the services available in other printing offices.

Thomas included an additional enhancement in his colophon, one that not only did not appear in other newspapers published in Boston but also did not appear in other newspapers published throughout the colonies.  He listed local agents who accepted subscriptions for the Spy in towns beyond Boston: “Mr. J. Larkin, chairmaker, and Mr. W. Calder, painter, in Charlestown; Mr. J. Hillier, watch-maker, in Salem; Mr. B. Emerson, Bookseller, in Newbury-Port; and Mr. M. Belcher, in Bridgewater.”  That portion of the colophon reflected advertisements Thomas placed in other newspapers prior to relaunching the Spy.  It testified to a network the printer established for gathering sufficient subscribers to make his newspaper a viable enterprise.  The list also made it more convenient for prospective subscribers to order their copies of the Spy.  Those who lived in any of the towns listed in the colophon could deal directly with the local agents rather than dispatch letters to the printing office in Boston.

When it came to publishing a newspaper in Boston, Thomas was a newcomer in the early 1770s.  All of the other newspapers in circulation had been established for many years.  Perhaps the printers believed that their newspapers and their printing offices were so familiar to readers that they did not need extensive colophons providing a lot of information.  Thomas chose a different model, one much more common in newspapers published in other places.  In the process, he added his own innovation, listing local agents, in order to gain greater advantage of the portion of each issue that he surrendered to the colophon.

March 26

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (March 26, 1771).

“The Publisher will give two Copies gratis to such as shall collect One Dozen of Subscribers.”

When John Fleeming of Boston set about publishing what he billed as “The first Bible ever printed in America” he advertised widely in the colonial press.  He launched his marketing efforts in newspapers published in Boston and other towns in New England, but over time his subscription notices also ran in newspapers in far distant cities.  One version appeared in the March 26, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Though lengthy, it was not as extensive as some variants of the advertisement.  It did not include a testimonial from George Whitefield concerning an earlier English edition that incorporated “Annotations and Parallel Scriptures, By the late Rev. SAMUEL CLARKE.”  Fleeming intended to include the same supplementary material in his American edition.

In order to make this enterprise viable, Fleeming sought subscribers who reserved copies in advance.  To that end, he cultivated networks of local agents.  The publisher started with newspaper printers who ran his advertisement, but he also encouraged others to join his efforts.  He offered premiums to those who accepted his invitation.  “In order to encourage Booksellers, Country Traders, &c. to promote Subscriptions for this grand and useful Work,” Fleeming declared, “the Publisher will give two Copies gratis to such as shall collect One Dozen of Subscribers.”  Fleeming also expected these local agents to distribute copies to their subscribers and collect payment.

In addition to placing newspaper advertisements that laid out the terms of subscribing, he also printed separately subscription papers for local agents.  Those “Proposal” likely included the same conditions as appeared in newspaper advertisements and Whitefield’s endorsement as well as space for subscribers to add their names.  In turn, subscribers and prospective subscribers could examine the list to see the company they kept or could keep by supporting the project.  Some local agents may have posted subscription papers in their shops, putting them on display before the community.  The proposals also specified that “Subscribers Names will be printed.”  Fleeming asked booksellers, country traders, and others interested in becoming local agents to contact him for copies of the proposals.  In the version of the advertisement that ran in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, he named Robert Wells, printer of that newspaper, in Charleston and James Johnston, printer of the Georgia Gazette, in Savannah as local agents who collected subscriptions.

Fleeming promoted this annotated “FAMILY BIBLE” as a “laudable Undertaking.”  It was certainly an undertaking that required coordination with others before going to press.  The publisher advertised widely and established networks of local agents.  To increase the number of subscribers, he offered premiums to local agents who met the threshold of getting commitments from at least a dozen subscribers.  Fleeming did not envision this endeavor as a Boston edition for residents of Boston but instead as an American edition for readers and consumers throughout the colonies.

March 15

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

New-London Gazette (March 15, 1771).

“PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING.”

Thomas Green and Samuel Green, printers of the Connecticut Journal in New Haven, planned to publish “A careful and strict Examination of the external Covenant, and of the Principles by which it is supported.  A REPLY To the Rev. Mr. Moses Mather’s Piece, intitled, The Visible Church on Covenant with God, further illustrated” in the spring of 1771.  Before taking the book to press, however, they sought to gauge demand in order to determine how many copies to print.  To that end, they distributed subscription notices, including “PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING” in the March 15, 1771, edition of the New-London Gazette.  The Greens requested that those interested in reserving copies become “Subscribers” by submitting their names by May 1.  In turn, the Greens guaranteed the price of the book to those who ordered copies in advance.  Other customers who purchased surplus copies risked paying higher prices.

In addition to seeking subscribers in New Haven, the Greens attempted to incite demand in other towns.  Timothy Green, printer of the New-London Gazette, not only inserted the “PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING” in his newspaper but likely also served as a local agent who collected subscriptions and sent the list to the printing office in New Haven.  The Greens devoted most of subscription notice to the lengthy title of the book and a list of its contents, demonstrating to prospective subscribers the various theological arguments presented by Joseph Bellamy.  They also listed the price, one shilling and four pence, contingent on how many pages were in the book.  They anticipated printing on twelve sheets, but would adjust the price higher or lower if they used more or less paper.  The Greens also established a timeline for receiving subscriptions and printing the book, stating that subscribers and local agents should contact them by May 1 so “it may be known how many Books shall be ready for the Subscribers at the next Commencement in New-Haven.”  The Greens planned to distribute the book at the same time as graduates of Yale College gathered.

Colonial printers often relied on networks of booksellers, local agents, and fellow printers in the marketing and distribution of books they printed.  Two other notices in the same edition of the New-London Gazette concluded with such lists.  One, another subscription notice, listed seven local agents in seven towns in Connecticut.  The other, an advertisement for a book already published, named eleven local agents in seven towns as well as a postrider who served several of those places.  Subscription notices and local agents played a vital role in determining the viability of proposed books in eighteenth-century America.

January 11

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

New-London Gazette (January 11, 1771).

To be Sold by Garret Noel, at New-York … and at the Printing-Office in N. London.”

Timothy Green, printer of the New-London Gazette, augmented revenues by selling books, pamphlets, and almanacs in addition to newspaper subscriptions and advertising.  Two advertisements in the January 11, 1771, edition of the New-London Gazette promoted items available at his printing office, “Ames’s Almanack” and “A Review Of the Military Operations in NORT[H]-AMERICA.”  Much of the advertisement for the latter consisted of the extensive subtitle that summarized the contents of the book.  It covered a portion of the conflict now known by several names, including the French and Indian War, the Seven Years War, and the Great War for Empire, “From the Commencement of the FrenchHostilities on the Frontiers of Virginia, in 1753, to the Surrender of Oswego, on the 14th of August 1756.”  That narrative was “Interspersed with various Observations, Characters, and Anecdotes, necessary to give Light into the Conduct of American Transactions in general; and more especially into the political Management of Affairs in New-York.”

First published in London in 1757, the Review of the Military Operations in North America was reprinted in New England in 1758 and, again, in New York in 1770.  Alexander Robertson and James Robertson printed the more recent edition that Green sold.  The advertisement in the New-London Gazette provided an overview of the network of printers and booksellers throughout the colonies who cooperated in distributing the book to consumers, listing eight individuals or partnerships in eight towns from Boston to Charleston.  Other advertisements for books printed in the colonies sometimes included similar lists, creating the impression of a community of readers that extended far beyond the local market.  Residents of New London who obtained copies at Green’s printing office joined readers who acquired theirs from Garret Noel’s bookshop in New York or from “Mr. Stephens, at the Coffee-House” in Charleston.  Printers and publishers often could not generate sufficient demand to justify producing American editions for local markets, so they strove to create regional or continental markets via networks of agents and associates as well as subscription notices and newspaper advertisements disseminated widely.

January 17

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

Jan 17 - 1:17:1770 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (January 17, 1770).

“PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING BY SUBSCRIPTION.”

A subscription notice for “ESSAYS on … the Indians of the Continent of North America, especially the several Nations or Tribes of the Catawbas, Cherokees, Creeks, Chicksaws, and Choctaws, inhabiting the Western Parts of the Colonies of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia” once again ran in the January 17, 1770, edition of the Georgia Gazette. The advertisement made its first appearance of the new year, not having been among the various notices disseminated in that newspaper since November 22, 1769. Previously, it ran on the front page of the November 1 edition.

These “PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING BY SUBSCRIPTION” appeared sporadically, separated by three weeks and then by eight. That deviated from standard practices for advertisements promoting consumer goods and services in the Georgia Gazette. They usually ran in consecutive issues for a limited time, often three or four weeks. James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, devised a different publication schedule for this particular advertisement.

Johnston served as a local agent for either James Adair, the author of the proposed book, or an unnamed printer in London or a combination of the two. Local agents were responsible for distributing subscription notices, collecting the names of subscribers, and transmitting the list to the author or printer. Local agents also collected payment and delivered books to the subscribers.

Given his familiarity with local markets, Johnston likely determined that a series of advertisements concentrated in a short period would not incite as much interest as introducing potential subscribers to the proposed work on multiple occasions over several months. Considerations of space may have also influenced his decisions about when he published the subscription notice. It received a privileged place the first time it ran in the Georgia Gazette, but for each of the subsequent iterations it appeared as the last item at the bottom of a column. That suggests the compositor held the advertisement in reserve, inserting it only once news and other advertisements were allocated space in an issue. As a local agent, Johnston had been entrusted with some latitude in making decisions about distributing subscription notices for a book that would be published on the other side of the Atlantic. Both his understanding of local markets and his own business interests likely had an impact on his methods of marketing the proposed book.

October 13

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

Oct 13 - 11:13:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 13, 1769).

Subscribers are desired to send for their Books.”

Subscription notices for books regularly appeared in colonial newspapers, but not all proposed publications eventually went to press. Printers used subscription notices to gauge the market for books they considered printing. Only when sufficient numbers of customers “subscribed” – reserved a copy in advance and, in some cases, made a deposit – did printers produce books advertised in subscription notices. In some cases, they also specified that they would not print surplus copies but instead limit publication to copies for subscribers exclusively. This mediated risk for printers, publishers, and booksellers in eighteenth-century America.

An advertisement in the October 13, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette provided an update for “subscribers” who had responded to a subscription notice that appeared in the same newspaper several months earlier. That notice, dated “Boston, July 2d, 1769,” presented “PROPOSALS for Printing by Subscription, A Volume of curious Papers, to serve as an Appendix to Lieutenant-Governor HUTCHINGSON’S History of Massachusetts-Bay.” The new advertisement indicated that the proposed work indeed went to press. “JUST PUBLISHED,” it proclaimed.

The original notice called on subscribers to submit their names to “T. & J. FLEET, Printers in Boston, D. & R. FOWLE at Portsmouth, & Bulkeley Emerson, at Newbury-Port.” The printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette collaborated with other printers in encouraging the project. The subsequent advertisement, however, suggested the limits of their responsibilities as local agents for a project that originated in Boston. T. & J. Fleet printed the octavo tome there. They also assumed the lead in distributing it to subscribers. The notice in the New-Hampshire Gazette stated, “Subscribers are desired to send for their Books to T. and J. FLEET, at the Heart and Crown, in Cornhill, Boston.” The Fleets apparently did not send copies to Portsmouth for local distribution by the Fowles. Instead, the Fowles fulfilled their obligations to the project by running an advertisement in their newspaper. The participation required of local agents when printing books by subscription varied from publication to publication.

July 24

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

Jul 24 - 7:24:1769 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (July 24, 1769).

“This valuable tincture … sold … at Mrs. CROSSWALL’S in Thames-street[,] Newport.”

In the summer of 1769, Mr. Hamilton, a “Surgeon Dentist and Operator for the teeth, from LONDON,” offered his services to residents of New York. He also advertised a tincture for curing toothaches that he made available beyond New York and its hinterlands. In marketing that remedy, Hamilton placed advertisements in multiple newspapers in New York as well as newspapers published in other cities. In those other locations, the advertisements specified local agents who distributed the tincture on Hamilton’s behalf. The Pennsylvania Gazette, for instance, ran an advertisement identical to those that appeared in newspapers in New York except for the addition of local agents in Lancaster and Philadelphia. It made sense for Hamilton to commence his attempt to enlarge his market with the Pennsylvania Gazette. Printed in Philadelphia, the largest city in the colonies, the Pennsylvania Gazette had an extensive circulation as a regional newspaper whose “local” readers included colonists throughout Pennsylvania as well as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and beyond.

Hamilton, however, did not confine his efforts to newspapers published in New York and Pennsylvania. He also inserted his advertisement in the Newport Mercury, hoping to attract customers in Rhode Island and other parts of New England. That advertisement featured identical copy except for the inclusion of a local agent who sold Hamilton’s tincture for curing toothaches. Hamilton instructed interested parties to acquire it “at Mrs. CROSSWALL’S in Thames-street[,] Newport.” The advertisement did not specify whether Crosswall or one of her boarders served as Hamilton’s local agent, nor did the advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette specify whether it named local agents in Lancaster and Philadelphia or their landlords.

If these advertisements did name the local agents, Hamilton worked with women in Newport and Philadelphia. Although lacking titles like “Surgeon Dentists and Operator for the teeth,” these women exercised medical authority as they consulted with clients in the process of distributing the tincture and, especially, in making determinations about the “No CURE No PAY” guarantee that Hamilton included in every advertisement. He did not limit that guarantee to customers in New York who purchased the tincture directly from him. Instead, he extended it to customers who acquired the tincture in Lancaster, Newport, and Philadelphia, transferring responsibility to local agents for making assessments about the veracity of claims made by anyone who claimed that the tincture had not alleviated their pain.

Hamilton’s endeavor to enlarge the market for his tincture demanded attention to detail in distributing the product and “particular directions for using it.” He also had to cultivate relationships of trust with his local agents who represented him to distant customers. This was especially important since he depended on them exercising medical authority in their interactions with local clients. Hamilton sought to create a widely recognized brand, not unlike many patent medicines familiar to consumers throughout the British Atlantic world, but doing so required cooperation with associates and agents in faraway places.

July 13

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

Jul 13 - 7:13:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (July 13, 1769).

“At Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’S … in Lancaster, by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON, Surgeon Dentist.”

At the same time that advertisements for Mr. Hamilton’s amazing tincture for curing toothaches and other maladies ran in multiple newspapers in New York in July 1769, it also appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper published in Philadelphia with circulation far beyond that city. The copy in the Pennsylvania Gazette matched the New York advertisements almost exactly – including the guarantee of “No CURE No PAY” – except for instructions about where customers could acquire the tincture for themselves. Readers of newspapers printed in New York were directed to “Mrs. Buskirk’s, the corner of Wall-Street, near the Coffe-house,” where they could consult directly with Mr. Hamilton, “Surgeon Dentists and Operator for the Teeth from LONDON.” The variant in the Pennsylvania Gazette, on the other hand, gave directions to local agents in Pennsylvania. Readers could purchase the tincture “at Mrs. [illegible], next door to the Indian Queen, in Fourth-street, Philadelphia; and, at Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’s, in King-street, near the Court-house, in Lancaster.” Purveyors of the tincture in Pennsylvania stocked and sold it “by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON.”

Inserting advertisements in all of the newspapers published in New York was ambitious on its own, but designating local agents and branching out to yet another newspaper in another colony was even more innovative. In eighteenth-century America, most providers of goods and services confined their marketing efforts to newspapers that served their own city or town. Printers and publishers were an important exception; they frequently placed subscription notices in newspapers throughout the colonies to gauge the market and generate sufficient interest to move forward with printing a book, magazine, or other publication. This involved designating local agents to receive subscriptions, collect payment, and distribute publications after they went to press, but those agents were usually fellow printers who already participated in networks for exchanging newspapers and information. Still, this was a model that need not work for printers exclusively. Hamilton experimented with designating local agents in Philadelphia and Lancaster as a means of enlarging the market for his tincture.

Doing so required prospective customers to place trust in the local agents in addition to Hamilton, especially when it came to the “No CURE No PAY” guarantee. Clients in New York used the tincture under the direction of Hamilton and could appeal to him directly if the medicine did not produce the desired effect. Clients in Philadelphia and Lancaster, in contrast, had to depend on fair dealing by local agents who may not have possessed Hamilton’s experience or expertise. After all, the advertisement described Hamilton as a “Surgeon Dentist,” but did not indicate the occupations of his local agents in Pennsylvania. Other portions of the advertisement may have alleviated some concerns by presenting a portrait of Hamilton’s character. In addition to describing Hamilton’s tincture, the advertisement provided an overview of the services he provided in New York. Hamilton “cleans and beautifies teeth” and “makes and sets in artificial teeth.” He served his clients “with dispatch and secrecy.” The advertisement concluded with a nota bene that depicted Hamilton as a humanitarian: “the poor, afflicted with the tooth-ach, cured gratis, every morning, from 8 to 10 o clock.” Was such information about Hamilton’s practice in New York superfluous in an advertisement placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette? Readers in Philadelphia and, especially, Lancaster were unlikely to travel to New York to have Hamilton clean their teeth or fit them with artificial teeth. The poor were even less likely to make such a journey. Hamilton could have reduced the costs of advertising in the Pennsylvania Gazette if he had eliminated that portion of the advertisement, yet that information was not superfluous. It testified to Hamilton’s competence and professional demeanor, allowing him to cultivate a reputation that might have made faraway readers more inclined to trust his description of his toothache tincture and, in turn, deal with local agents who sold it on his behalf.