September 20

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (September 20, 1773).

When there will be added to his other Performances.

Mr. Bates continued exhibiting feats of horsemanship for audiences in Boston in late September 1773, advertising once again in the September 20 editions of the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  He planned his next performance for Tuesday, September 21, weather permitting.  He placed shorter notices in the first two newspapers, but in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy reverted to some of the material from the lengthier version that he initially published to introduce himself when he arrived in town.

The copy of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy digitized in America’s Historical Newspapers features manuscript additions, likely notes generated in the printing office when producing a handbill for Bates’s performance a week later on September 28.  For instance, the date has been crossed out and “28” written above it.  Similarly, “at the Bottom of the MALL in Boston” has a line through it after a description of the act with the location added in manuscript to the portion giving the date.  Manuscript additions for “A Variety of Manly Exercises never se[en here]” and the word “with” to introduce “a Burlesque on Horsemanship” appear on that copy of the newspaper, later integrated into the handbill, along with a line through “The Seats are made proper Ladies and Gentlemen,” which did not appear on the handbill.  The newspaper advertisement also features manuscript lines under each of the European courts where Bates previously performed.  Perhaps the compositor or an assistant underlined each when added to the handbill, ensuring none were overlooked or inadvertently omitted.  Large crosshatching at the bottom of the advertisement may have been added once all the material had been set in type and transferred to the handbill.

Handbill: Mr. Bates, “Horsemanship,” (Boston: [likely Nathaniel Mills and John Hicks], 1773). Courtesy American Antiquarian Society.

The manuscript additions do not capture all of the additions made to the handbill.  For instance, the handbill included an appeal intended to incite a sense of urgency to see the show: “AS Mr. BATES’s Stay in Town will be but short, he will go thro’ all his Performances at the above Time.”  In other words, audiences would see all of the acts in his repertoire during a single performance, but only if they acquired tickets quickly before Bates departed from Boston.  He previously used a similar marketing strategy in New York.  Even though the manuscript notes do not document every revision made for the handbill, they do suggest that Bates turned to the printing office of Nathaniel Mills and John Hicks, the printers of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, to produce the handbill.  The colophon for their newspaper solicited advertisements, presumably both newspaper notices and other formats, and stated that they pursued the printing business “in its different branches.”  This copy of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy digitized for broader access to the newspaper likely reveals some of the consultation between the printing office and the advertiser that went into producing a handbill that circulated in Boston.

April 26

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (April 26, 1773).

“Hope the Customers to the Paper will continue to encourage it by advertising.”

The first advertisement in the April 26, 1773, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy concerned the operation of the newspaper.  For nearly sixteen years, since August 1757, John Green and Joseph Russell printed the newspaper, but starting on that day “the Printing and Publishing of this PAPER will, in future be carried on by NATHANIEL MILLS and JOHN HICKS.”  Neither the printers nor readers knew it at the time, but the newspaper would not continue for nearly as long under Mills and Hicks.  They published the last known issue on April 17, 1775, two days before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord that marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

At the time that ownership of the newspaper changed hands, Green and Russell expressed “their respectful Thanks for the Favours they have received.”  Furthermore, they expressed their “hope the Customers to the Paper will continue to encourage it by advertising, &c.”  That “&c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera) included subscribing to the newspapers and providing content, such as editorials and “Letters of Intelligence.”  The printers realized that the continued viability and success of the newspapers depended most immediately on maintaining advertising revenue since readers but subscribed for a year while most advertisements ran for only three or four weeks.

Readers likely noticed a new feature in the first issue published by Mills and Hicks, a colophon that ran across the bottom of the final page.  Green and Russell did not always include a colophon, perhaps because they considered the newspaper so well established that they did not consider it necessary to devote space to it in each issue.  Their final issue, the April 19 edition, for instance, did not feature a colophon.  On April 12, the colophon at the bottom of the last column on the final page simply stated, “Printed by Green and Russell.”  Mills and Hicks, on the other hand, opted for a more elaborate colophon that served as a perpetual advertisement for the newspaper and other services available in their printing office, a practice adopted by some, but not all, colonial printers.  Distributed over three lines, it read, “BOSTON: Printed by MILLS and HICKS, at their PRINTING-OFFICE in School-street, next Door to CROMWELL’S HEAD TAVERN, where Subscriptions, Advertisements, and Letters of Intelligence for this Paper are taken in; and the Printing Business carried on, in its different Branches, with the greatest Care.”

Mills and Hicks could not depend on their reputations to market the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy in the same way that Green and Russell did after more than a decade of publishing the newspaper.  In their first issue, they placed greater emphasis on soliciting advertisements to help support their enterprise.  Subsequent issues included the colophon, a regular feature that encouraged colonizers to advertise as well as purchase subscriptions and submit orders for job printing.

Colophon from Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (April 26, 1773).