What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Purchasers, especially by the Quantity, … be particular in enquiring whether they are printed by the above Printers.”
All three newspapers published in Boston on December 21, 1772, carried a notice concerning Nathaniel Ames’s almanac for 1773. Two of them announced that the almanac was “JUST PUBLISHED” and “sold by R. Draper, Edes & Gill, and T. and J. Fleet.” All three contained a note from the author to advise consumers that the “only true and correct ALMANACKS from my Copy, are those printed by R. Draper, Edes & Gill, and T. & [J.] Fleet.” Either Ames or, more likely, the printers added an additional note suggesting that “Purchasers, especially by the Quantity, … be particular in enquiring whether they are printed by the above Printers; of whom ALMANACKS maybe had at the cheapest Rate.”
In addition to the almanacs printed by Draper, Edes and Gill, and the Fleets, Ezekiel Russell and John Hicks produced and sold An Astronomical Diary; or, An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord, 1773 attributed to Ames. They printed their edition in Boston. Printers in other towns in New England reprinted Ames’s almanac from Boston editions, including Ebenezer Watson in Hartford, Thomas Green and Samuel Green in New Haven, and Timothy Green in New London.
The printers who printed the “only true and correct” editions of Ames’s popular almanac each inserted the warning about counterfeit editions in their newspapers. The Fleets ran in the Boston Evening-Post on December 21, the same day that Edes and Gill published it in the Boston-Gazette. Richard Draper ran a more extensive version in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on December 24. To disseminate the message even more widely, the printers arranged to have the advertisement also appear in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy on December 21. Of the five newspapers published in Boston at the time, only Isaiah Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy did not carry the notice. Instead, it featured an advertisement for the version printed by Russell and Hicks on December 24.
The brief version of the advertisement devised by Draper, Edes and Gill, and the Fleets in the Boston-Gazette, the variation that did not announce the publication of the almanac, appeared immediately below news items and, unlike other advertisements, without a line to separate it from other content. In making those choices about placement and typography, Edes and Gill implied that information about pirated editions was newsworthy rather than solely a notice directed at consumers. Blending news and advertising, they sought to serve the best interests of prospective customers while simultaneously protecting their own interests.
It was an interesting turn of events considering that a few years earlier it had been Draper, Edes and Gill, and the Fleets who published a pirated edition of Ames’s almanac.