January 1

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

Jan 1 - 1:1:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 1, 1768).

“Such as an Assortment of Goods, as will be most agreable to the People in general here.”

In 1768 Jonathan Moulton began the new year by announcing that he would soon make available “a new and Fresh Assortment of ENGLISH & WEST INDIA GOODS” for customers who visited his shop in Hampton, New Hampshire. Most eighteenth-century merchants and shopkeepers placed advertisements to promote merchandise they had commenced selling, but Moulton did not wait. Instead, he previewed his new inventory, pledging that consumers would be able to make purchases within ten days time. He incited anticipation as a means of cultivating demand in advance.

To whet consumers’ appetites, he also underscored his low prices. Moulton proclaimed that he would “sell as cheap as can be bought at any Shop in this Province, without Exception” or even in nearby Newbury, Massachusetts. To demonstrate the veracity of that claim, Moulton published prices for several popular items, including rum, molasses, sugar, and wool.

As a further means of convincing potential customers to purchase his wares, he cleverly introduced a resolution for them to achieve in the new year: supporting the local economy rather than doing business with merchants and shopkeepers in other colonies. He lamented that “for several Years past, a great part of our CASH has been carried into the other Province.” He attributed this to lower prices available at shops in Massachusetts, but Moulton’s low prices made it attractive for local customers to resolve to keep “the Money in the Province.” Furthermore, that achieved other practical advantages for his customers: purchasing from a local supplier “prevent[ed] the travelling of several Miles, and Cost of Ferriage” in addition to benefiting the local economy.

As colonists in New Hampshire acknowledged the passing of one year and the commencement of another, Moulton challenged them to think about the opportunities they would encounter as consumers in 1768 and how to respond responsibly. He previewed “such an Assortment of Goods, as will be most agreable to the People in general here.” Rather than focus solely on price and selection, he explained why purchasing from him benefited both customers and the general welfare of their local community and colony.

December 27

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

Dec 27 - 12:24:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 24, 1767).

“MEIN and FLEEMING’s Register for 1768.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, inserted a short advertisement for an almanac, “MEIN and FLEEMING’s Register for 1768,” in the final issue published in 1767. More than any other aspect, the typography of this notice distinguished it from news items and advertisements that appeared on the same page and throughout the rest of the newspaper. It appeared as a single line that ran across all three columns at the bottom of the second page. Another short advertisement, that one calling on the owner to retrieve a boat recently found adrift, mirrored the position of the Fowles’ advertisement on the facing page, running across all three columns at the bottom of the third page. Had they been set into columns, each advertisement would have consisted of three lines.

Why did the Fowles choose to deviate from the usual format in this issue of their newspaper? They may have wished to draw particular attention to the almanacs for 1768 as the first day of the new year approached. In that case, they might have inserted the notice concerning the boat on the opposite page in order to provide balance. Alternately, they may have received the notice about the boat too late to integrate it into columns that had already been set, but found a creative way to include it in the issue. In that case, the advertisement for the almanac provided balance (though they exercised their privilege as printers to place it first in the issue) and supplemented their lengthier advertisement for “AMES’s Almanack” and “Bickerstaff’s curious Almanack” on the final page.

Measuring the length of the columns on each page would aid in determining the viability of either of these options as explanations for what occurred. That, however, requires access to the original copies rather than digital surrogates. Digitized editions standardize the size of every page to the dimensions of the screen on which they appear. Although metadata, including measurements, could be included in the process of producing digital editions, that would significantly increase the time and cost, ultimately further limiting access to a format intended to broaden access for historians, other scholars, and the general public. Even as librarians and archivists and the communities they serve celebrate new opportunities presented by evolving technologies, they also acknowledge that digital surrogates supplement rather than replace original sources.

December 18

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

Dec 18 - 12:18:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 18, 1767).

“The above Advertisement coming late and being long must omit the Particulars till next Week.”

John Adams placed an advertisement in the December 18, 1767, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform readers that he sold “Philadelphia Flour and Bar Iron” and “a general Assortment of English Goods” at his shop on Queen Street in Portsmouth. An editorial note accompanied Adams’s notice: “The above Advertisement coming late and being long must omit the Particulars till next Week.” The shopkeeper’s much lengthier advertisement did appear in the next issue, but until then readers had to imagine what it might contain. Although they would not have been able to name all the “Particulars,” colonial consumers were so steeped in the print culture of marketing via newspaper advertisements that most would have accurately predicted that the complete notice included a lengthy list of merchandise that presented a multitude of choices. Adams did not benefit from sharing that list with potential customers in the December 18 issue, but when it did appear it concluded with a general description of “a variety of other Articles.” Even when allocated space for the entire advertisement, Adams chose to publish a partial list of his inventory and prompted consumers to imagine what other treasures they might discover if they visited his shop. The editorial note explaining that the advertisement had been abbreviated achieved the same purpose.

That note had at least three audiences. The first consisted of residents of Portsmouth who could easily visit Adams’s shop as part of their usual routines at some point in the coming week. The entire advertisement notified them that Adams carried an array of goods – so many that they could not all be listed in the current edition – that he sold “cheap for Cash.” Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette who resided in Portsmouth’s hinterland comprised the second audience. They might visit town only occasionally, limiting their access to any of the shops there. The editorial note alerted them that Adams would soon publish more “Particulars” about his inventory, information that they could eventually take into account when planning their excursions into Portsmouth or sending their orders to the shopkeeper. Adams himself was the third audience for the editorial note. It may not have been apparent at the time he submitted his advertisement that it would not appear in its entirety. Even if Adams had been aware in advance, the note provided an acknowledgment and assurances that the printers would allocate sufficient space for his advertisement the following week. It simultaneously informed readers that the shopkeeper had intended to share much more with them. While not the copy Adams intended to publish, the editorial note served to incite interest in his merchandise and anticipation for the complete advertisement.

November 27

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

Nov 27 - 11:27:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 27, 1767).

At his Shop … in the Street leading from Liberty Bridge to the Mill Dam.”

Like their counterparts in other colonial cities and towns, advertisers in Portsmouth used a variety of landmarks to identify the locations of their shops in the November 27, 1767, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. James McDonogh peddled his wares “At his Store on Spring Hill.” Jonathan and Samuel Sparhawk stocked a variety of goods “At the Sign of the State House, near the Parade.” Edmund Davis ran a shop “next Door to the Sign of the Goldsmiths Arms in Queen Street.”

Pierse Long included the most elaborate directions in his advertisement: “At his Shop near the Reverend Mr. Haven’s Meeting House, in the Street leading from Liberty Bridge to the Mill Dam.” These directions referenced an important landmark with renewed significance: the Liberty Bridge. The Townshend Act went into effect a week earlier, spurring heightened anxieties and contemplation about the meaning of political and economic liberty among American colonists. Elsewhere in the November 27 issue, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette inserted updates about the actions taken by the Boston town meeting “to discourage the use of foreign Superfluities as the only means of saving the Country from impending ruin.” The first page featured an extensive item reprinted from the Boston Post-Boy. In it, an anonymous author addressed “My Dear Countrymen” and recommended “the disuse of the most luxurious and enervating article of BOHEA TEA” in favor of Labrador tea cultivated in North America. In summation, that author argued, “Thus my countrymen, by consuming less of what we are not really in want of, and by industriously cultivating and improving the natural advantages of our own country, we might save our substance, even our lands, from becoming the property of others, and we might effectually preserve our virtue and our liberty, to the latest posterity.” The Fowles also reprinted a poem “ADRESSED TO THE LADIES” from the Massachusetts Gazette that encouraged wearing homespun instead of imported textiles and instructed female consumers to “Throw aside your Bohea, and your Green Hyson Tea.” Both news and entertainment items addressed the imbalance of trade between Britain and the colonies, a situation that became even more troubling with the imposition of new duties on certain imported goods.

Long found himself in a difficult position. He sold a variety of imported goods, including “BOHEA TEA.” He almost certainly wished to move his merchandise as quickly as possible before local consumers signed on to non-importation agreements. He may have believed that making a nod toward the concerns expressed by so many concerned colonists could help in that endeavor, so even though he continued to sell “BOHEA TEA” and other imported goods he also connected his business to the nearby Liberty Bridge. On occasion, advertisers previously invoked the Liberty Bridge when explaining to potential customers how to find their shops, but doing so had mostly disappeared from advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette since the repeal of the Stamp Act. It had been the period that the Stamp Act was still in effect that advertisers in Portsmouth most actively incorporated the Liberty Bridge into their commercial notices. It hardly seems a coincidence that Long revived that method at a time of renewed unrest at the end of November 1767. Doing so may have better positioned his business in the minds of potential customers, perhaps even helping them to justify one last purchase of problematic commodities as long as they did so from a shopkeeper who shared their worries about attempts to curtail their liberty.

November 22

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

Nov 22 - 11:20:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 20, 1767).

“Prevent the Money’s going out of the Province to the Detriment of every Individual.”

Advertisements for almanacs usually began appearing, sporadically, in colonial newspapers in September, allowing readers plenty of time to acquire their own copy before the new year commenced. As January approached, the variety of titles and the number of advertisements increased. By the end of November, just about every newspaper throughout the colonies included at least one advertisement for almanacs each week. Many printers testified to the accuracy of the calculations in the almanacs they published and sold. Some promoted them by listing an extensive table of contents, informing prospective customers of the entertaining anecdotes and valuable reference material.

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, took a rather unique approach when they marketed “AMES’s Almanack For the Year 1768.” They did acknowledge that “particular Care will be taken to have it correct,” but most of their advertisement focused on the advantages of purchasing their imprint rather than the same title printed in Boston. They first asserted that they provided an important public service that merited reciprocation from readers (not all of whom would have been subscribers) of the New-Hampshire Gazette. The Fowles took on “very great Expence” in publishing the colony’s only newspaper and informing “their Customers [of] every Occurrence Foreign and Domestick, that they thought worthy of public Notice.” They suggested that this should predispose readers to purchase their almanacs rather than any printed by their competitors.

If that were not enough to convince readers, the Fowles made another practical argument, one founded on the collective economic welfare of the colony’s inhabitants. When readers purchased almanacs from printers in Boston, they did so “to the Detriment of every Individual at this scarce Season for Cash.” The Fowles cautioned against “the Money’s going out of the Province” that way, warning that readers could prevent that situation. The printers balanced their civic service in publishing the newspaper with the civic duty of readers to also act on behalf of their community’s shared interests. The Fowles assumed that readers planned to purchase almanacs; they developed marketing aimed to funnel existing demand to their product.

November 6

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

Nov 6 - 11:6:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 6, 1767).

“Care will be taken to have all the English and American News Papers, Magazines, and political Pamphlets.”

In the fall of 1767 Robert Calder informed residents of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and its environs that “he has open’d a COFFEE HOUSE, opposite the South Side of the Reverend Mr. HAVEN’s Meeting House.” He catered to his clients, promising that he served the most popular beverages – coffee, tea, and chocolate – “in the best and most agreeable Manner.” Calder, “LATE FROM LONDON,” paid special attention to cultivating an ambiance of sophistication for his patrons. In his other line of work as a hairdresser for both ladies and gentlemen, he adhered to the “genteelest Fashions.” Those who visited his coffeehouse could expect the same atmosphere as they sipped their drinks and conversed with friends and acquaintances. After all, the proprietor promised that “every other Means [would be] assiduously pursued to give Satisfaction.”

Yet Calder’s coffeehouse was more than just a place to gather for pleasant conversation over a pot of a hot beverage on a brisk fall day. It was also a place where the public could keep themselves informed about events taking place in the colony and, especially, other colonies and other places throughout the Atlantic world and beyond. Calder announced, “Care will be taken to have all the English and American News Papers, Magazines, and political Pamphlets, as early as possible.” Even though the issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette that carried this advertisement included news from Boston, Newport, New York, London, and Algiers, publishers Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle did not have sufficient space to reprint all the news from faraway places. The variety of newspapers available at Calder’s coffeehouse would allow colonists to keep up to date on current events, a prospect that likely loomed large considering that the Townshend Act was scheduled to go into effect in just two weeks. Realizing that prospective patrons wanted to keep informed, Calder provided magazines and political pamphlets as well. At his coffeehouse the public had access to printed materials that many colonists might not otherwise have had the means or the money to procure on their own.

In eighteenth-century America, coffeehouses were an important counterpart to printing shops that doubled as post offices. Both were places for disseminating and obtaining information via multiple media. Printers published and distributed the news, but coffeehouse proprietors facilitated delivering the news to even broader audiences. They offered an important service that benefited the civic life of their communities.

October 23

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

Oct 23 - 10:23:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 23, 1767).

Superfine, scarlet, blue, green, light colour’d and pompadour Broad Cloths …”

In the fall of 1767, Moses Wingate imported and sold a vast assortment of goods “At his Store on Spring Hill” in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In a newspaper advertisement intended to entice potential customers, he adopted one of the most common marketing strategies of the eighteenth century: listing his merchandise. Very few entrepreneurs, mostly booksellers, distributed catalogs in eighteenth-century America; however, many treated newspaper advertisements as surrogates for publishing separate catalogs. Wingate’s advertisement filled half a column, with most of the space devoted to enumerating his inventory. Other merchants and shopkeepers sometimes published advertisements that occupied an entire column and, on occasion, spilled over into the next. List style advertisements for consumer goods filled the pages of American newspapers in the eighteenth century. These lists implicitly communicated an appeal to consumer choice. Wingate and others informed readers that they did not have to accept whatever happened to be on their shelves. Instead, merchants and shopkeepers stocked such varieties of goods that customers could exercise their own taste and judgment – assert their own independence – by choosing the goods that most appealed to them.

To that end, Wingate named more than seventy-five distinct items readers could expect to find among his inventory. In some cases, these were categories of goods, such as buttons or penknives, suggesting even variety. In one instance, he specified further choices: “A variety of Ribbons.” Like many of his competitors and counterparts, he also deployed “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera), inserting it once in the middle of the advertisement to indicate he sold an even broader array of imported textiles than listed there. He also concluded his advertisement with “&c. &c. &c. &c.” to underscore to potential customers that they would find much, much more when they visited his store. Wingate provided an extensive list of imported goods to encourage potential customers to imagine his inventory, to imagine touching, sorting through, comparing, and selecting from among his wares. He indicated readers could find even more imported goods at his store as a means of further inflaming their curiosity. Wingate could have placed a much shorter advertisement that simply announced that he sold a variety of goods imported from London, but he made an investment in a lengthier list style advertisement because he believed that perusing its contents would incite consumer demand.