What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A weekly NEWS-PAPER … differing materially in its plan from most others now extant.”
James Rivington’s efforts to launch a new newspaper, Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or, the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, continued in the February 24, 1773, editions of the Pennsylvania Gazetteand the Pennsylvania Journal. Although published in New York, Rivington intended circulation far beyond the city and sought subscribers in distant towns. His first efforts to promote the proposed newspaper in the public prints appeared as advertisements in the Newport Mercury, a shorter notice, and the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a much more extensive notice, on February 22.
Despite its length, the advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle did not give any particulars about how readers could subscribe to Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer. The advertisement in the Newport Mercury concluded with a note that “Subscriptions are taken in by MOSES M. HAYS, of Newport, and the printer hereof,” but readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle did not have access to similar information. The advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal remedied that, advising that “Subscriptions are received by Mr. Nicholas Brooks, near the Coffee-House in Philadelphia.” Given how often printers served as brokers of information that did not appear in their newspapers, prospective subscribers could have also enquired at any of the printing offices of the newspapers that carried Rivington’s advertisements.
In addition to naming a local agent, the advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journalincluded the same appeals that Rivington made in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Although readers in Philadelphia and its hinterlands already had access to four newspapers in English and two in German, Rivington asserted that he would supply something different when he entered “this Periodical Business.” He planned to publish the usual sorts of news about current events, politics, and commerce, yet he also aimed to supplement that material with items often associated with magazines imported from London. That meant his readers would encounter the “best modern essays,” a “review of new-books … with extracts,” and “new inventions in arts and sciences, mechanics and manufactures, [and] agriculture and natural history.” Rivington, known for his Loyalist sympathies, offered a selection of reading material that he may have believed emphasized cultural connections within the empire as a means of counteracting what he saw as an American press that too often stoked tensions during the imperial crisis of the 1760s and 1770s.