November 18

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (November 18, 1773).

“[The Particulars we have not Time nor Room to insert.]”

Robert Gould, an auctioneer in Boston, planned to hold an auction of a “valuable Assortment of English Goods” on the morning of November 19, 1773.  Like many other auctioneers in the busy port, he attempted to drum up interest by placing advertisements in the local newspapers, including the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  His advertisement that appeared in that newspaper on the day before the sale, however, featured an unusual note from the printer or compositor.  Gould apparently submitted a lengthy list of items going up for bid, but someone in the printing office inserted this comment instead: “[The Particulars we have not Time nor Room to insert.]”  A truncated list that included several textiles and “Silver Watches” followed that note, concluding with “&c. &c. &c.”  Repeating the abbreviation for et cetera three times suggested how many other items Gould planned to auction that would not fit in that edition of the newspaper.

The auctioneer may have been a victim of his own negligence in submitting his advertising copy to the printing office too late to include all of it.  The November 18 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letteroverflowed with content, so much so that Richard Draper, the printer, distributed a two-page supplement for news and advertisements that did not otherwise fit.  Draper may have anticipated needing to publish a supplement and set about printing it even as he worked on the standard four-page issue.  Like other printers, he printed the first and fourth pages on one side of a broadsheet and, while they dried, set type for the second and third pages, reserving that space for the latest news as it arrived at the printing office and new advertisements.  Gould’s advertisement appeared on the third page, indicating it was among the last of the type set for that issue.  Printers sometimes inserted instructions for advertisers to submit their notices by a particular time if they wanted them to appear in the next edition of the newspaper.  Perhaps if Gould had budgeted more time in delivering his advertising copy to the printing office, Draper and the compositor would have had the time to accommodate him by making room to include it in its entirety.  If Gould habitually made late submissions, the unusual note in the middle of his advertisement may have been an attempt to modify that behavior.  Two weeks later, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter carried another advertisement from Gould, that one apparently received early enough to print in its entirety.