February 1

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

Georgia Gazette (February 1, 1769).

“TOBLER’s ALMANACKS, for 1769.”

Even as February 1769 arrived, James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, and Messrs. Clay and Habersham, shopkeepers, continued to advertise “TOBLER’s ALMANACKS” for sale. In so doing, they participated in the final stage of advertising almanacs for the new year, a process that would soon cease for several months until it was time to market new almanacs for 1770.

Although some printers announced their plans to publish almanacs as early as July or August, most usually waited until September to place their initial notifications about the titles they intended to print. The earliest advertisements frequently noted that almanacs would soon be going to press, within weeks or a month. Advertisements that ran in November and December, on the other hand, most often reported that almanacs had been printed and were available to purchase from printers, booksellers, and shopkeepers. Those advertisements continued into January, but tapered off as the weeks passed. Relatively few advertisements for almanacs appeared in newspapers in February and March, though some printers did continue their attempts to rid themselves of surplus copies. As time passed, some of the contents became obsolete. By the time Johnston’s advertisement ran in early February, the astronomic calculations for January were outdated.

That being the case, printers and others who advertised almanacs curiously did not pursue marketing innovations that could have aided in selling remaining copies. Unlike modern calendar merchandisers who slash prices, advertisers who continued to sell almanacs in February and March did not offer discounts. Nor did they promote other contents, such as entertaining essays or useful lists of government officials, in an effort to demonstrate that their almanacs contained plenty of valuable information. Many printers and booksellers deployed such strategies earlier in the year, offering reduced rates to customers who bought in bulk and publishing extensive descriptions of the contents, but they did not choose to replicate those methods in the final stage of advertising leftover copies. For whatever reasons, they unevenly applied the strategies they sometimes used to convince customers to purchase their almanacs.

December 16

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

Dec 16 - 12:16:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 16, 1767).

“The SOUTH-CAROLINA & GEORGIA ALMANACK, FOR THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1768.”

During the final months of the year colonial newspapers published advertisements for almanacs with increasing frequency. Throughout the fall and into the winter they became a standard feature in newspapers as printers and booksellers first encouraged colonists to acquire their almanacs before the new year commenced and later attempted to sell surplus copies before too much of the new year passed.

In Savannah, James Johnston, Messrs. Clay and Habersham, and Mr. Zubly advertised the “SOUTH-CAROLINA & GEORGIA ALMANACK, FOR THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1768” in the Georgia Gazette. Like their counterparts who sold almanacs in other colonies, they provided readers with a volume specifically intended for the local market. The calculations were “Fitted for the Latitude of 33 Degrees North,” but that was not the only reference material unique to local conditions. The contents also included “a Tide Table for the Bar and Harbour of Charlestown” as well as “Tables of Roads” to facilitate travel and commerce in the region.

Just as John Holt had done in promoting Freeman’s New-York Almanack in the New-York Journal earlier in the same week, the booksellers in Savannah enticed customers with a preview of the contents, concluding with a poem that introduced readers to the verses they would find in the South-Carolina and Georgia Almanack. Also like Holt, they informed prospective customers that the almanac contained a mixture of useful (“an Interest Table at Eight per cent”) and entertaining (“Remarkable Sayings”) entries, though they did not provide such elaborate detail as their counterpart in New York. A relative lack of competition may have explained the difference: readers in New York could choose among many almanacs printed and advertised there, but colonists in Georgia had far fewer options. Still, the local booksellers apprised customers that the South-Carolina and Georgia Almanack was well worth nine pence because it included so much valuable content “besides what is common in Almanacks,” including “a curious Preface, containing Nostradamus’s Prophecy.” For colonists who had not yet obtained almanacs for the coming year, such hints were intended to pique their interest and convince them to make their purchases. This was an early modern version of the current practice of giving consumers access to the table of contents when advertising books online.