January 6

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Journal (January 6, 1773).

“RUN AWAY … an Irish servant man, named Michael Nugent.”

James Riddle’s advertisements concerning an indentured servant who had “RUN AWAY” shortly before the new year received a privileged place in January 6, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  It was the only advertisement on the first page of the newspaper.  As readers perused an “Extract of a letter from a Gentleman in London,” “Extracts from the Minutes of the House of Burgesses in Virginia,” and news from Warsaw, they encountered a notice that described Michael Nugent, “an Irish servant man, … by trade a taylor,” and offered a reward for capturing and imprisoning him or delivering him to Riddle on Shippen Street in Philadelphia.  The advertisement appeared at the bottom of the middle column of the first page.

That an advertisement appeared on the front page of a colonial newspaper was not uncommon.  Printers frequently ran paid notices on the first page, often as a practical matter.  Newspapers consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Some printers placed advertisement, which ran for multiple weeks, on the first and last pages, printed those first, and reserved the second and third pages for the most recent news that arrived in the printing office.  Even when they did not devote the entire first page to advertising, printers tended to cluster notices together in complete columns.  The front page of a newspaper, for instance, could feature two columns of news and one column of advertising or one column of news and two columns of advertising.

A single advertisement, especially one that did not promote some aspect of the printer’s own business, was unusual.  In this instance, the printers placed all other advertisements in the final column of the third page and filled the final page with notices, segregating news from advertising except for the lone notice about a runaway indentured servant on the front page.  Its placement may have also been a practical matter since it was just the right length to complete the column that included news from Virginia before starting a new column of news from Warsaw.  Riddle’s advertisement generated revenue for the printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, but it served another purpose as well.  It functioned as filler when laying out the first page of the newspaper.

December 28

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

Boston-Gazette (December 28, 1772).

“The only true and correct ALMANACKS from my Copy, are those printed by R. Draper, Edes & Gill, and T. & [J.] Fleet.”

As 1772 came to an end and the new year approached, Richard Draper, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, and Thomas Fleet and John Fleet continued their efforts to direct prospective customers to the edition of Nathaniel Ames’s almanac for 1773 that they collaboratively printed and sold.  The final issues of the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy for 1772 once again carried advertisements with a note from the almanac’s author that warned against counterfeit editions and proclaimed that the “only true and correct ALMANACKS from my Copy, are those printed by R. Draper, Edes & Gill, and T. & [J.] Fleet.”

None of those newspapers featured the extended version that ran in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on December 24.  The Fleets even ran a streamlined version in the Boston Evening-Post, eliminated the introductory lines that declared “THIS DAY IS PUBLISHED, And TO BE SOLD by R. DRAPER, T. & J. FLEET, and EDES & GILL” as well as the final lines that advised “Purchasers, especially by the Quantity, are requested to be particular in enquiring whether they are printed by the above Printers, of whom ALMANACKS may be had at the cheapest Rate.”

The version of the advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy remained unchanged, as did the version in the Boston-Gazette.  Edes and Gill did not include any fanfare about “JUST PUBLISHED” the first time they inserted the note from Ames in the Boston-Gazette.  They positioned that note just below local news, implying that it was just as much a piece of newsworthy information as an advertisement for an item they sold.  Those printers pursued a similar strategy the next time they ran the notice.  This time it did not serve as a transition from news to advertising.  Instead, it was the only advertisement that appeared on second page of the December 28 edition of the Boston-Gazette, running immediately below news from Warsaw.  That made it even more likely that anyone carefully perusing the news would encounter the notice from the printers.  Taking advantage of their access to the press to shape how information was disseminated to reader-consumers, Edes and Gill continued their practice of treating counterfeit almanacs that competed with their “true and correct” almanacs as news the community needed to know.  As part of their marketing efforts, they used the placement of the notice on the page to enhance their insinuation that consumers had a duty to choose the “true and correct” copies over any counterfeits.

December 25

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 25, 1772).

“Those who neglect, & are Indebted, must expect … the Accounts will be lodged with such Gentlemen as will create Trouble.”

As 1772 drew to a close, Daniel Fowle and Robert L. Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, announced their intention to dissolve their partnership.  Robert planned to leave the colony “in a short Time.”  Daniel founded the New-Hampshire Gazette in October 1756.  Nearly eight years later, according to Clarence S. Brigham, “Daniel admitted his nephew … to a share in the management” in September 1764.[1]  The Fowles worked together for more than eight years, distributing their last issue as partners in April 1773.  Daniel then became sole proprietor of the newspaper once again.

As Robert prepared to set out on his own, he inserted a notice in the December 25 edition, the final issue of the year, to alert readers that he “earnestly desires all Persons who have Accounts open, in which he has any Connections,” including accounts with the New-Hampshire Gazette, “to settle the same, as soon as possible.”  As the Fowles often did when they placed notices calling on subscribers and others to pay their bills, Robert threatened legal action against those who ignored this notice.  “Those who neglect, & are Indebted,” he warned, “must expect, that without respect to Persons, the Accounts will be lodged with such Gentlemen as will create Trouble and needless Charges.”  In other words, it did not matter if those who owed the Fowles happened to be the most influential colonial officials and the most affluent merchants; Robert intended to hold them accountable no matter their status.  To that end, he would hire attorneys, those “Gentlemen as will create Trouble and needless Charges.”  He hoped to avoid that “very disagreeable” action if “all Persons who have Accounts open” settled them, but he did not consider it “ungenerous” to sue them “after the repeated Solicitations for a Settlement” published in the newspaper and likely communicated to them in other ways.

As many colonial printers did, the Fowles gave this notice a privileged place in their newspaper.  It appeared at the top of the first column on the first page, immediately below the masthead.  That made it difficult for readers, including those indebted to the Fowles, to overlook the notice.  Perhaps as a means of reminding some of those readers of his other contributions to the community and their mutual obligations to each other, another notice signed by Robert L. Fowle appeared immediately below the one calling on colonizers to settle accounts.  In his capacity as “Pro. Sec.” of the New Hampshire lodge of the “Brethren of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted MASONS,” Robert extended an invitation on behalf of the master of that lodge to gather “to celebrate the Festival of St. JOHN the Evangelist” on December 28.  Robert may have intended for that notice to alleviate some of the sting of the blunt language in the other notice, having the one follow after the other.

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[1] Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Massachusetts:  American Antiquarian Society, 1947), 471.

December 5

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

Providence Gazette (December 5, 1772).

“The PRINTING and POST-OFFICES are removed to Meeting-Street.”

John Carter’s printing office had a new location.  In early December 1772, the printer of the Providence Gazette moved from his location “in King-Street, opposite the Court-House” to a new location “in Meeting-Street, near the Court-House.”  The colophon in the November 28 edition listed the former address.  Carter updated the colophon in the December 5 edition.

That was not his only means for letting readers know that the printing office moved.  He also inserted a notice that stated, “The PRINTING and POST-OFFICES are removed to Meeting-Street, nearly opposite the Friends Meeting-House.”  To draw attention to it, Carter enclosed the notice within a border made of decorative type and gave it a prominent spot on the front page.  It was the first item in the first column, making it difficult for readers to miss it, even if they only skimmed other content in that issue.  That strategy was not new to Carter.  The printing office previously “removed to a new Building on the main Street” in October 1771.  At that time, Carter published an announcement enclosed within on a border as the first item on the first page of the October 12 edition.  He also revised the colophon to reflect the new location.

Other elements remained the same.  Carter continued to use a sign depicting “Shakespear’s Head” to identify the printing office.  Colonizers still encountered it as they traversed the streets of Providence, a familiar sight in the commercial landscape of the city.  The printer also continued to promote other services in the colophon, advising that “all Manner of Printing-Work is performed with Care and Expedition” at his office.  In particular, “Hand-Bills … done in a neat and correct Manner, at a very short Notice, and on reasonable Terms.”

Carter placed a subscription proposal for an edition of “ENGLISH LIBERTIES, OR The free-born Subject’s INHERITANCE” below the notice about the new location.  In the previous issue, that subscription proposal and an advertisement for the “NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK” that Carter published and sold appeared on the front page.  As usual, all other advertisements ran on the final pages.  Carter exercised his prerogative as printer to give his own notices prime spots in the newspaper.

November 27

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

New-London Gazette (November 27, 1772).

Just Published, and to be Sold by TIMOTHY GREEN, Freebetter’s New-England ALMANACK.”

The “POETS CORNER,” a regular feature, appeared in the upper left corner of the final page of the New-London Gazetteon November 27, 1772.  Except for the colophon, advertising filled the remainder of the page.  Although some colonial printers interspersed news and advertising throughout their newspapers, Timothy Green, the printer of the New-London Gazette, tended to segregate advertisements from the news, running articles and editorials on the first several pages and then reserving the remainder for paid notices.  Such was the case in the November 27 edition.  Advertising began in the final column of the third page and filled the rest of the issue, except for the poem and colophon.

That description, however, does not take into account an advertisement for “Freebetter’s New-England ALMANACK, For the Year of Our Lord CHRIST 1773” that ran just below the masthead as the first item in the first column on the first page.  The news, starting with “An Act for preventing and punishing he stealing of Horses,” followed that advertisement.  Like many other advertisements for almanacs, it promoted a variety of “useful, entertaining, and instructive” contents “beside the usual astronomical Calculations,” including “a Table of the Weight and Value of Coins, as they pass in England, New-England, and New York,” an essay on “the mental and personal Qualifications of a Husband,” and a guide to “an infallible Method to preserve our Health, to secure and improve our Estates, to quiet our Minds, and to advance our Esteem and Reputation.”

Why did that advertisement merit such a privileged place in the newspaper?  It happened to be “Just Published, … and Sold by TIMOTHY GREEN.”  The printer took advantage of his access to the press to give his own advertisement a prime spot that increased the likelihood that prospective customers would see it.  Given that printers exchanged newspapers in order to reprint content for their own subscribers, Green may have seen John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, recently deploy the same strategy to hawk “The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY.”  On the other hand, Green did not need to see that example to take the initiative in placing an advertisement for the almanac he printed on the front page of his newspaper.  Colonial printers frequently gave their own notices priority over news, editorials, and paid advertisements.

November 25

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 25, 1772).

“A LARGE and neat ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS.”

Most of the advertisements in the November 25, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal ran on the third and fourth pages.  News occupied the first two pages and a portion of the third.  Then the remainder of the issue featured paid notices, including an advertisement for a “Hearty, Strong NEGRO LAD” for sale, notices from ships seeking passengers and freight, and advertisements for consumer goods and services.  William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, the printers, did not intersperse news and advertising … with one exception.  Andrew Bunner’s brief advertisement advising that he “Just imported … A LARGE and neat ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS, suitable for the SEASON” appeared on the front page.

Consisting of only six lines, that advertisement ran at the bottom of the first column.  The printers generated revenue by publishing Bunner’s notice, but they also treated it as filler that conveniently completed a column otherwise devoted to an essay about raising cattle submitted by a reader, “A RURAL RESIDENT.”  The remainder of the column had enough space for the byline and a few lines of the news item that ran at the top of the second column, but the printers likely decided that readers would find that format confusing or less attractive than starting the news at the head of the column.

Did that work to Bunner’s advantage?  He may have benefited from the unusual placement of his advertisement.  Readers interested only in news and editorials may have only quickly glanced at the final pages of the newspaper, but when they reached the end of the letter about raising cattle on the first page they may have read through Bunner’s advertisement in expectation of more news rather than paid notices.  Whether or not the placement enhanced the visibility of the notice, it certainly aided the printers in achieving even columns and a flow of news items easy for readers to navigate.

November 7

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

Providence Gazette (November 7, 1772).

“Just PUBLISHED … The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK.”

The advertising campaign for the 1773 edition of the “NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY” continued in the November 7, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette.  The author, Benjamin West, and the printer, John Carter, both sold copies, as did Thurber and Cahoon at the Bunch of Grapes on Constitution Street.

Marketing efforts in the public prints began two weeks earlier.  Carter, who also happened to be the printer of the Providence Gazette, included an announcement among the news to inform prospective customers that “WEST’s ALMANACK … is now in the Press, and will be speedily published by the Printer hereof.”  He nestled it between an update about the Gaspee incident, the burning of a British customs schooner near Warwick, Rhode Island, in June, and shipping news from the customs house.  Exercising his discretion as printer, Carter treated the impending publication of the almanac as news.  The following week, he placed an advertisement for the almanac first among the advertisements, increasing the chances that readers interested only in news would at least glimpse it even if they did not peruse other advertising.

Carter increased the likelihood that readers would see the advertisement when he moved it to the front page on November 7.  It appeared as the first item in the first column, immediately below the masthead.  Readers could not help but notice it.  Carter usually reserved advertising for the final pages of the Providence Gazette.  Except for his own notice about the almanac, he did so again.  All of the other advertisements in that issue ran on the last two pages.

Printing almanacs was often a very lucrative venture for colonial American printers.  Carter sought to generate as much revenue as possible for the New-England Almanack by placing advertisements in prime places in his newspaper.  The imprint on the title page indicated that Carter sold the almanac “wholesale and retail.”  He intended for his message to reach shopkeepers as well as consumers.  His newspaper notices facilitated distribution to retailers in Providence and the surrounding area as well as individual sales.  Thurber and Cahoon already included “WEST’s ALMANACK” in the list of merchandise available at their store.  Carter likely desired that others would acquire copies to sell at their own locations.

November 4

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 4, 1772).

“MARGARET DUNCAN … has for sale, A LARGE assortment of MERCHANDIZE.”

Newspapers published in urban ports carried advertisements placed by female shopkeepers hawking their wares, though women were generally less likely to resort to the public prints to promote their businesses than their male counterparts.  Those female shopkeepers and “she merchants” who did advertise demonstrate that women participated in the marketplace in a variety of ways, not solely as shopkeepers.

Margaret Duncan was one of those women who ran newspaper advertisements.  On November 4, 1772, her notice appeared in both the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal.  She advised current and prospective customers that she moved to a new location on Second Street, “three doors below the corner of Arch-street” and “four doors above where she formerly dwelt.”  Duncan stocked a “LARGE assortment of MERCHANDIZE, suitable to the season, imported in the last vessels from Europe.”  She declared that she sold her wares “on the lowest terms for cash or the usual credit.” In terms of substance and style, Duncan’s advertisement did not differ from those placed by other retailers.  She did not address women in particular as prospective customers, nor did she make any feminized appeals to consumers.  Duncan apparently understood that men were consumers as well as producers and retailers, just as women inhabited multiple roles in consumer society.

The shopkeeper did benefit from enhanced visibility the first time her advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal.  It ran in the middle of the second column on the front page, immediately below news items that began in the first column and overflowed into the next.  She was almost as fortunate with the placement of her notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  In that publication, it also appeared in the middle of the second column on the first page, though in that instance it was the second advertisement.

Duncan was the only female shopkeeper to run an advertisement in either of those newspapers that week, but she was not the only woman in Philadelphia who was selling goods to consumers.  Despite their relative absence in the public prints, women running businesses were much more visible to colonizers as they traversed the streets of the busy port and went about their daily activities.  The prominence of Duncan’s advertisement on the front page of two newspapers only hinted at the visibility of women in the marketplace.

October 31

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

Providence Gazette (October 31, 1772).

“Just PUBLISHED … The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK.”

In advance of having copies of the “The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our Lord 1773” available for sale, John Carter, the printer of both the almanac and the Providence Gazette, inserted an announcement among the local news to inform prospective customers that the almanac “is now in the Press, and will be speedily published.”  The following week, he once again exercised his power as printer to give an advertisement for the almanac a privileged place in the newspaper.  It ran first among the advertisements in the October 31, 1772, edition.  Even if readers did not peruse all of the advertisements, they likely noticed the one about the almanac that immediately followed the news.  In subsequent issues, Carter placed the advertisement among the paid notices, but the first time it appeared it occupied a prime place on the page.

Prospective customers would have been familiar with the New-England Almanack, written by West.  The astronomer and mathematician had a decade of experience authoring the almanac and collaborating with the printers of the Providence Gazette in marketing and selling it.  As the newspaper changed hands over the years, the new printers continued publishing both the Providence Gazette and the New-England Almanack, augmenting their revenue by doing so.  For the 1773 edition of the almanac, Carter and West declared that it included “Some valuable Improvements” and “is a Quarter Part larger than usual, but the Price is not advanced.”  For the same price they paid the previous year, customers could acquire an almanac that contained thirty-two pages rather than twenty-four, certainly a bargain.

Providence Gazette (October 31, 1772).

In addition to the notice placed “by the Printer hereof, and by the Author,” the New-England Almanack received attention in another advertisement the first week it was available for sale.  Thurber and Cahoon ran a lengthy advertisement that listed scores of items available at their shop at the Sign of the Bunch of Grapes.  They included “WEST’s ALMANACKS” among the books in the final paragraph.  That item appeared in all capitals, distinguishing it from the rest of the merchandise mentioned in the advertisement.  Did Thurber and Cahoon arrange to have the almanac highlighted in their advertisement in hopes of benefitting from retail sales?  Or did Carter make the intervention in their advertisement, recognizing any sales of the almanac as beneficial to his bottom line?  Either way, the advertisement suggests that Carter and West quickly distributed the almanac to retailers to increase sales.  As soon as it came off the press, consumers could purchase the almanac at several locations in Providence.

October 24

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

Providence Gazette (October 24, 1772).

“WEST’s ALMANACK … is now in the Press.”

Where advertisements appeared in colonial newspapers varied from publication.  Some printers reserved advertising for the final pages, placing news items on the front and interior pages.  Others placed advertisements on the first and last pages since those were the first pages printed when producing a standard four-page edition.  Advertisements, which often repeated for multiple weeks, could be set in type and printed first, saving the second and third pages for the latest news that arrived in the printing office.  In some instances, printers distributed advertising throughout the newspaper, placing paid notices in the rightmost column on each page.

John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, consistently placed advertising at the end of the newspaper.  Paid notices usually filled the final page, though sometimes news items ran in the upper left corner.  The third page often had advertising that appeared to the right of the news.  In general, Carter printed news and editorials in the first two pages.

That made the placement of an announcement about “WEST’s ALMANACK, for the Year of our Lord 1773, with some valuable Improvements and Additions” all the more noteworthy for its placement in the October 24, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette.  Rather than appearing among the advertisements or even as the first of the advertisements, the notice ran on the third page, immediately below local news from Providence and above shipping news from the customs house, a regular news feature.  The first advertisements in the issue appeared lower in the column.  The notice about the almanac, authored by Benjamin West in an annual collaboration with the printer of the Providence Gazette, declared that it was “now in the Press, and will be speedily published by the Printer hereof.”  The notice appeared in larger type than the news above and below it, helping to draw attention to it.

Given his interest in the success of the almanac, Carter treated the notice about its publication as a news item.  In so doing, he exercised his prerogative as the printer of the newspaper to give the notice a privileged place, separate from other advertisements.  The following week, Carter inserted an advertisement to inform prospective customers that he “Just PUBLISHED” the almanac, placing it first among the advertisement in that issue.  In both his initial effort to incite interest and his subsequent attempt to market the almanac, Carter took advantage of his access to the press to increase the likelihood that consumers saw his notices.