November 6

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (November 6, 1772).

“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.

October 30

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 30, 1772).

“Leather-Dressers, & Breeches-Makers, in Kingstreet, Portsmouth.”

James Haslett and Mathew Haslett placed an advertisement in the October 30, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform prospective customers that they made “Leather Breeches of all sorts” at their shop on King Street in Portsmouth.  They declared that they made breeches “as neat as cheap & as good as any in New-England,” incorporating appeals to fashion, price, and quality into their short advertisement.

The Hasletts occasionally ran newspaper advertisements in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  Sometimes they included other marketing strategies to generate interest in their business.  For instance, in previous advertisements they stated that “the Sign of the BUCK and GLOVE” marked the location of their shop.  They also listed items for sale other than breeches, such as “all sorts of Wash Leather, Deer, Sheep and Moose Skins for Breeches and Jackets, Sheep Skins for Aprons, [and] Buck and Sheepskin Gloves.”  They made bolder claims about the quality of their wares, proclaiming that “the above Articles is Warranted as good as any in Europe or America” rather than narrowing the comparison to their competitors in New England.

The woodcuts that adorned some of the Hasletts’ advertisements were the most distinctive aspect of their marketing efforts.  The leather dressers commissioned several variations, but each depicted the Sign of the Buck and Glove along with an image of leather breeches.  Some of them included their name within the sign.  All of them included “1766,” the year the Hasletts relocated from Boston and established their shop in Portsmouth.

Why did the Hasletts discontinue using woodcuts to draw attention to their advertisements?  Why did they run shorter advertisements that gave fewer details about their business?  Perhaps they considered advertising a necessity as they sought to build their reputation in a new town, but over time determined that they achieved sufficient name recognition that they did not need more elaborate advertising to earn their livelihood their local market.  As consumers became more familiar with the Hasletts and their wares, the “LEATHER DRESSERS from BOSTON” became “Leather-Dressers, & Breeches-Makers, in Kingstreet, Portsmouth,” who may have believed that relatively stark advertisements served their purpose now that they were no longer newcomers in their community.

October 23

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 23, 1772).

“He has been oblig’d to take away the upper Gallery intirely.”

As audiences in Philadelphia enjoyed “FEATS in HORSEMANSHIP” performed by Mr. Bates and illusions performed by Hyman Saunders and Abraham Benjamin in the fall of 1772, patrons in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, attended performances “at the ACADEMY ROOM in Pitt-Street.”  A brief advertisement in the October 16 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette reminded prospective members of the audience that the “Exhibitions will be perform’d as usual” that evening, though with some alterations or variation in the program.  A week later, a new advertisement provided a list of acts for an upcoming performance, demonstrating even to those who had recently attended that the theater offered something new for their amusement and entertainment.  The acts included “THE DEVIL and the DOCTOR, … A DRAMATIC SATIRE,” “A PANTOMINICAL ENTERTINMENT in Grotesque Characters, call’d WIN HER, and WEAR HER; or, HARLOQUIN SKELETON,” and an “Interlude of SINGING & DANCING, call’d NAVAL GLORY; or, the BRITISH TARS TRIUMPH.”

The advertisement advised that the doors would open at five o’clock and the performance would begin “Punctually” at six o’clock.  Patrons might wish to arrive early to claim their spots for viewing the various acts, especially following a reconfiguration of the Academy Room.  The notice acknowledged complaints “that the first Gallery was very In-commodious.”  To make the experience more comfortable and, in turn, more enjoyable for the audience, “Mr. MORGAN takes this opportunity of informing the TOWN, that has alter’d [the Academy Room}as much for the better as the House will allow.”  In order to do so, “he has been oblig’d to take away the upper Gallery intirely.”  That may explain why the advertisement gave the prices for tickets at “3, & 2 Pistereens each” compared to the “3, 2, and 1 Pistereen” in the previous notice.  Admission to the upper gallery, no longer available, had apparently cost one pistareen.  That portion of the advertisement demonstrates that performers promoted more than just the spectacles on the stage when they marketed their shows.  In this advertisement, the space in which the performances took place was just as important as the program of satires, pantomimes, and songs.  Those acts could have been performed in any tavern, but utilizing a space specifically adapted for the comfort and convenience of audiences enhanced the experience of attending the shows.

October 16

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 16, 1772).

“The Exhibitions will be perform’d as usual.”

In the summer of 1772, an advertiser who went by “the Exhibitor” and “the Projector” sought to establish a series of performances of “several serious and comic pieces of Oratory” in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The Exhibitor proposed a subscription series as a means of determining whether sufficient interest existed to make the project viable, encouraging “those Ladies and Gentlemen who are inclined to favour” the proposal to subscribe quickly because “the Season advance, and he is obliged to go to the Southward in October next.”  Those ladies and gentlemen could purchase subscriptions at the printing office.  In addition, tickets for performances were available “at the Printing Office at Mr. Appleton’s Book-Store, and at Mr. Stavers’s Tavern.”

As was often the case with itinerant performers who advertised that they intended to remain in town for only a limited time, the Exhibitor decided to remain in Portsmouth longer than he originally indicated.  In the middle of October, he placed an advertisement to announce that “This Evening … The Exhibitions will be performed as usual, with Alterations.”  In other words, the show continued, but the Exhibitor varied the content to offer something new to prospective patrons who had recently been in the audience.  Readers could procure tickets “at the Printing-Office and the other usual Places.”

The Exhibitor seemed to get assistance in marketing the performance from Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  In the October 16 edition, they concluded the news from Portsmouth with a short blurb that reported, “The Actors at the Academy-House in this Town, give general Satisfaction to large and polite Audiences.  The usual Evenings proposed for this Entertainment are Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday Evenings.”  The Exhibitor’s new notice appeared immediately below that review; news content selected by the editor flowed seamlessly into an advertisement.  The Fowles may have done so as a service to the community if they recognized the benefits of having local productions inspired by “the Entertainments at Sadler’s Well’s,” a renowned theater that had been operating in London since 1683.  In addition, they may have received commissions on the tickets they sold, making the success of the Exhibitor’s venture worth promoting with a short puff piece embedded in the news.

October 2

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 2, 1772).

“His customers may depend on having their ware packed in the best manner.”

Ebenezer Bridgham sold “Crockery Ware” and other goods at his “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House” on King Street in Boston in the early 1770s.  In an advertisement in the October 2, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he declared that he imported his merchandise “directly from the Pot-Houses in Staffordshire and Liverpool” rather than purchasing from English merchants.  Fewer links in the supply chain meant fewer markups for his inventory.  Bridgham passed along the savings to his customers, making bold claims about his prices.  He trumpeted that he sold his wares “as low as they can be bought in London,” adding that he was “determined not to be UNDERSOLD by any person in America.”

Bridgham made that assertion in the midst of his attempts to create a regional market for the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House.”  In a sense, every newspaper advertiser engaged a regional market since newspapers circulated far beyond the cities where they were published, usually serving entire colonies before the American Revolution.  Bridgham, however, intentionally placed advertisements in newspapers throughout New England.  In addition to Portsmouth’s New-Hampshire Gazette, he also advertised in Salem’s Essex Gazette, the Providence Gazette, Hartford’s Connecticut Courant, and the New-London Gazette.  Bridgham aimed to provide shopkeepers throughout the region with an assortment of merchandise for their own shops.  He expected that his “resolution” not to be “UNDERSOLD by any person in America” resonated with “his former good customers” who he hoped would “continue to favour him with their custom.”  In turn, invoking former customers signaled to new customers that Bridgham merited their orders since he already established and successfully served a clientele.

As evidence of his attention to the needs of his customers, he emphasized more than low prices for an incredible array of choiuces among the “full & complete assortment of Delph, Flint and Glass Ware” at the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House.”  In a nota bene, Bridgham announced that he “lately procur’d packers from England” so “his customers may depend on having their ware packed in the best manner.”  They did not need to worry about receiving broken goods shipped to their towns throughout New England.  Bridgham believed that this ancillary service aided his efforts to serve a regional market, one that extended beyond Boston and beyond Massachusetts.

September 18

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 18, 1772).

“A Considerable Quantity of Goods were stoped … upon Supposition of their being stolen.”

As they participated in a transatlantic consumer revolution, colonizers acquired goods in a variety of ways in the eighteenth century.  Colonial newspapers carried many advertisements for both new goods and secondhand goods for sale in shops and auction rooms and at estate sales.  In addition, some colonizers took advantage of what Serena Zabin has termed an “informal economy” that included purchasing stolen goods.  Buyers were not necessarily aware that they bought stolen goods, but a variety of circumstances, including the prices, should have at least made them suspicious that was the case.

Newspaper advertisements document some attempts to supply the informal economy with new wares, including notices about shops “broke open” during the night and others about goods “stopped” or seized when offered for sale.  An advertisement in the September 18, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, for instance, told one such story.  It announced that a “Considerable Quantity of Goods were stoped by Mr. John Prentice at Londonderry upon Supposition of their being stolen.”  Apparently, the prices seemed too good to be true.  Prentice explained that he became suspicious because the “Person on whom the Goods were found offered them for Sale at less than half their Value.”  That person may have stolen them himself or he may have acquired them from the person who had.

Prentice offered a means for the owner to recover the goods, instructing that the “Owner may have them [by] telling the Marks and paying Charges.”  In other words, anyone claiming to be the legitimate owner needed to describe the items, including distinguishing features intended for easy identification, and pay for the advertisement and other expenses incurred in recovering and publicizing the goods.  Unfortunately for the victim of the theft, the person who offered them for sale “made his Escape from the Officer” after being apprehended.  He could not be prosecuted or further questioned about how those goods came into his possession or other stolen merchandise.  Other colonizers did not have the same scruples as Prentice.  Many goods circulated as the result of buyers and sellers alike not asking too many questions or reaching uncomfortable conclusions about the origins of those goods.

September 4

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 4, 1772).

“A Considerable variety of GOODS.”

Thomas Martin made an investment in informing the public of the “considerable variety of GOODS” he imported “in the last Ships from England” and added to his “former Assortment” of merchandise at his shop in Portsmouth in the summer of 1772.  To demonstrate the choices he offered consumers, he listed scores of items in an advertisement in the September 4 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  He stocked everything from “silk, kid, and lamb gloves & mitts” and “mantua silks” to “ivory handle and common knives & forks” and “brass furniture for desks and chests of drawers” to “brass and iron chimney hooks” and “mouse & rat traps.”  Two strings of “&c. &c. &c.” suggested an even greater array of goods than Martin could catalog in his newspaper advertisement.

That advertisement accounted for a considerable portion of the content of that issue of the New-Hampshire Gazettedelivered to subscribers and other readers.  Like most American newspapers published prior to the Revolution, a standard issue of the weekly New-Hampshire Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half.  The New-Hampshire Gazette featured three columns per page, for a total of twelve columns of news, editorial, advertisements, and other content in each issue.  Martin’s advertisement extended an entire column, occupying one-twelfth of the space in the September 4 edition.  The printers did use smaller type for news from Rome, London, Williamsburg, Philadelphia, Newport, Boston, Salem, and Portsmouth than for advertisements, delivering as much news as possible to subscribers while still generating revenues from advertisers.

The size of the font, however, did not matter to Martin when it came to the cost of advertising in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Colonial printers did not charge by the word but instead by the amount of space required to publish advertisements.  That meant a substantial investment for Martin when he ran a notice that filled an entire column, not the first time he ran an extensive advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Even with the larger font compared to news items, the amount of space likely helped to communicate the shopkeeper’s message about consumer choice to prospective customers.

August 28

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 28, 1772).


Fashion was not solely the domain of elites who resided in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire, or the gentry in urban ports like New York and Philadelphia.  Instead, colonizers in places like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, also styled themselves according to the newest trends.  To do so, they often relied on the advice and guidance of the purveyors of goods and services, including shopkeepers, milliners, tailors, and hairdressers.

In an advertisement in the August 28 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, James Deacon and Robert Hughes described themselves as “HAIR DRESSERS FROM LONDON.”  They did not indicate how recently they settled in Portsmouth, though many readers would have known if Deacon and Hughes were new arrivals or had been in town for some time.  Asserting a connection to London bestowed some cachet on the hairdressers.  It implied experience serving clients who set the latest styles or adopted them quickly as they emerged.  It simultaneously intimated exposure to the newest trends, knowledge that gave hairdressers and others “FROM LONDON” an advantage over competitors who labored solely in the colonies.  When Deacon and Hughes declared that they made “Gentlemen’s Perriwigs … in the genteelest Taste,” they suggested that they could advise clients what constituted that standard in London.  When they stated that they made “Ladie’s Curls & Toupees … on a new Construction,” they hinted that they used methods not previously known in Portsmouth.  Prospective clients, Deacon and Hughes insinuated, benefited from hiring hairdressers with connections to London.

Deacon and Hughes hoped such appeals would convince clients to commit to longer terms of service than a single visit to their shop.  They offered “to dress Ladies and Gentlemen by the Month Quarter or Year,” cultivating and strengthening relationships.  Dressing hair over several months provided many opportunities to advise clients on the newest fashions, convincing them of the value of consulting with Deacon and Hughes.  The hairdressers marketed knowledge as well as skill in their efforts to attract clients.

August 21

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 21, 1772).


In the summer of 1772, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, distributed a proposal for printing “A rational Interpretation of the prophetic Visions of St. John … By SAMUEL LANGDON, D.D. Pastor of the first Church in Portsmouth.”  Before taking the work to press, they first sought subscribers who pledged in advance that they would purchase it.  Printing by subscription was a common business model in eighteenth-century America. Subscription proposals allowed printers to encourage interest in their projects and assess demand before investing time, materials, and other resources in ventures unlikely to succeed.  The Fowles claimed that they considered publishing Langdon’s “Series of expository Discourses … at the earnest Request of many Gentlemen acquainted with it,” suggesting that some demand already existed.  Savvy consumers, however, may have suspected that claim was merely a ploy to get them to jump on the bandwagon.  Regardless of how many “Gentlemen” already subscribed, the Fowles declared that they would not move forward with the project unless “proper Encouragement is given by a full Subscription.”  Furthermore, “No more will be printed than what are engaged by Subscribers.”  The printers attempted to create a sense of urgency around subscribing to what they portrayed as a popular project as soon as possible or miss out on having their names printed among the list of subscribers.

Production of the book, on the other hand, would take quite a bit of time.  Rather than take the entire volume to press, the Fowles proposed a serial publication that would “come out in month Numbers, containing about 32 Octavo Pages, on good Paper and a new Type.”  Subscribers paid only when they received new installments of the series.  The Fowles estimated that it would take about two years to publish the entire work, “each Year making a Volume of about 380 Pages.”  They promised that the “Numbers will be duely sent, free of Charge, to all the principal Towns where Subscriptions are taken in.”  They listed nearly a dozen local agents in towns in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Philadelphia, stating that they sent subscription papers to them.  In addition, the Fowles explained that each number would be “advertised in the publick Prints as soon as publish’d.”  Those who resided “at too great a distance to receive the Numbers seasonably” could instead choose “to subscribe for the whole in Volumes, stitched or bound,” as long as they “specify their Desire, in the Subscription.”  The Fowles asserted that they would send each annual volume “as soon as published.”  They did not, however, indicate how often such subscribers were expected to submit payment.  Overall, they outlined a complicated system of distributing and collecting subscription proposals as well as distributing serialized “numbers” and collecting payments each month.  The logistics may have been too complicated.  It does not appear that they printed and distributed the first “number” in November 1772 as intended.  They did publish a pamphlet by Langdon, “A Rational Explication of St. John’s Vision of the Two Beasts,” thirty-two pages on octavo paper, in 1774.  They may have published other essays by Langdon separately as well, but not the entire project as originally envisioned and presented to prospective subscribers.  If few subscribers responded to their proposals, that likely played a significant role in their decision not to pursue the project.

August 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 14, 1772).

My purpose to Ride weekly, and carry the News Papers from Portsmouth … to Canterbury.”

Published in Portsmouth, the New-Hampshire Gazette served the entire colony as well as portions of Massachusetts (including the region that became Maine in 1820).  Daniel Fowle established the newspaper in October 1756.  In September 1764, he began a partnership with his nephew, Robert Fowle.  They faced little competition from other printers in the colony.  Thomas Furber and Ezekiel Russell briefly published the Portsmouth Mercury between 1765 and 1767 (with the last known issue dated September 29, 1766).  No other newspaper appeared in New Hampshire until after the American Revolution.  The short-lived Exeter Chronicle lasted about six months in 1784.  At about the same time it folded, Robert Gerrish commenced publishing the New-Hampshire Mercury in Portsmouth.  Other newspapers appeared in Exeter, Keene, and Portsmouth by the end of the decade.

Prior to the American Revolution, colonizers in New-Hampshire depended on the New-Hampshire Gazette for news and advertising.  Although the Fowles printed the newspaper, others assumed some of the responsibility for disseminating it to subscribers and other readers throughout the colony.  John Erving, for instance, rode a route that served ten towns between Portsmouth and Canterbury.  In the summer of 1772, he ran an advertisement to announce his plan “to Ride weekly, and carry the News Papers from Portsmouth through Greenland, Newmarket, Epping, Nottingham, Deerfield, Alenstown, Pembrook, Concord, Boscawen, and thence to Canterbury.”  He also offered to deliver the New-Hampshire Gazette to other towns along that route.

Riders like Erving helped make publishing the newspaper a viable venture for the Fowles.  Delivery services expanded the geographic reach of the newspaper as well as the number of prospective subscribers and advertisers.  That being the case, did the Fowles offer Erving any sort of discount on his advertisement or publish it free of charge?  They did not give it a privileged place in their newspaper.  In the August 14, 1772, edition, it appeared near the bottom of the last column on the third page.  In the same issue, the Fowles placed their own notice calling on “ALL Persons Indebted to the Printers of this Paper … to settle the same immediately” or face legal action at the top of the first column on the front page, making it the first item readers encountered under the masthead.  They could have chosen to place Erving’s advertisement immediately below their own notice on the front page or placed it at the beginning of the advertisements or at the top of a column on another page.  They could have incorporated larger font, as they did in advertisements that had “George Deblois,” “Forge Masters,” and “Mr. MORGAN” in significantly larger letters.  The placement and the format of Erving’s advertisement did little to distinguish it from other content in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Even if the Fowles did extend some sort of discount to Erving, they did not otherwise aid him in marketing the delivery of the newspaper they published.


The publication history of New Hampshire’s eighteenth-century newspapers comes from entries in Clarence S. Brigham’s History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 and Edward Connery Lathem’s Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820.