What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Gentlemen, in and near Boston, who have signified their Desire of becoming Subscribers.”
In 1771, printers in Boston published more newspapers than in any other town or city in the colonies. Mondays saw the distribution of three newspapers, the Boston Evening-Post printed by Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, the Boston-Gazette and Country Journal printed by Benjamin Edes and John Gill, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy printed by John Green and Joseph Russell. Two more newspapers came out on Thursdays, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter printed by Richard Draper and the Massachusetts Spy printed by Isaiah Thomas. Residents of Boston had many options for reading the news.
In Salem, Samuel Hall printed and distributed the Essex Gazette on Tuesdays. He often reprinted news that previously appeared in the Boston newspapers, though that was a reciprocal relationship. Boston printers apparently received copies of the Essex Gazette and reprinted items from its pages. On March 11, for instance, Edes and Gill devoted the entire front page of the Boston-Gazette to reprinting a memorial occasioned by the “Anniversary of Preston’s Massacre–in King-Street–Boston” nearly a week earlier. Printers participated in exchange networks that gave them access to newspapers from other cities, newspapers filled with content that they could choose to reprint in their own publications. What about readers? Did any residents of Boston subscribe to newspapers published elsewhere? Or did they depend on local publications to print and reprint, as so many mastheads proclaimed, “the freshest Advices, both foreign and domestic”?
Despite the crowded newspaper market in Boston, Hall indicated demand for the Essex Gazette existed among prospective subscribers in the bustling port city. He inserted a notice in the March 12 edition to inform “THOSE Gentlemen, in and near Boston, who have signified their Desire of becoming Subscribers for this Gazette … that Subscriptions are taken in at the Store of Mr. Thomas Walley, on Dock-Square, Boston.” That some residents of Boston wished to subscribe to the Essex Gazette suggests that dissemination of newspapers did not only flow out from the city to other parts of the colony but that some readers received newspapers published in other places. For some subscribers, the Essex Gazette may have been another “local” newspaper that happened to serve an entire region, not unlike those published in Boston. Titles that included Massachusetts (rather than Boston) or and Country Journal testified to the reach of those newspapers. According to Hall’s advertisement, the Essex Gazette had a similar reach that extended not only into Salem’s hinterlands but into Boston as well.