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.