What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Those Persons are desired to make some Agreement, otherways their Papers must cease.”
Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, frequently inserted notices calling on subscribers and others to settle accounts. They threatened to sue those who did not pay their bills. Such notices regularly appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies. Printers extended credit to subscribers, hoping to increase their circulation numbers in order to generate more revenue by attracting advertisers, and many of those subscribers notoriously became delinquent in paying for their newspapers.
Printers were not the only ones, however, who had a hard time collecting from newspaper subscribers. The post riders who delivered newspapers to subscribers in other towns also experienced difficulty getting subscribers to pay for their services. Printers, including the Fowles, sometimes ran notices on behalf of the post riders who facilitated the circulation of their newspapers to subscribers and other readers in towns near and far.
On November 6, 1772, the Fowles ran notices related to both situations. They advised that “Mr. MILK the Eastern-Post Having now Completed the Year, the Customers are desired to send pay for their Papers by him.” The printers did not suggest legal action as a consequence of ignoring their notice this time. Instead, they attempted to reason with subscribers, stating that having enjoyed their subscriptions throughout the year that Milk serviced the route they now had an obligation to pay. Similarly, the Fowles stated that “Mr. LARRABEE (the Post to Dartmouth College) … also Rode a Year” so “the Customers for this Gazette, on that Road, are desired to send pay and the Entrance for another Year if they expect the Papers sent any longer.” In this instance, the Fowles expected subscribers to settle accounts for the past year as well as pay in advance for the coming year if they wished to continue receiving the New-Hampshire Gazette. Perhaps they had an even more difficult time collecting from subscribers at Dartmouth College than those served by the Eastern Post.
The Fowles also instructed subscribers in Hampton and other towns along the route covered by “Mr. NOBLE [and] the Boston Post” that the rider would no longer deliver their newspapers “unless he can by some Means come at the Pay” for his services. Those subscribers needed “to make some Agreement” with Noble or else “their Papers must cease, or be sent by private Hands.” Noble apparently no longer found it financially feasible to deliver the New-Hampshire Gazettewithout being paid for his efforts. Enlisting the aid of the Fowles, he put subscribers on notice that they either had to pay what they owed him or he would discontinue delivery.
Both kinds of notices provide glimpses into the operations of eighteenth-century printing offices and their networks for circulating newspapers to subscribers and other readers. The Fowles did not directly receive revenues from running these notices, but indirectly such notices may have been as lucrative as paid advertisements if they managed to get some subscribers to settle accounts and kept circulation numbers strong enough to attract advertisers.