March 22

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

Boston-Gazette (March 22, 1773).


Within a week of Benjamin Edes and John Gill announcing that “Dr. CHURCH’S ORATION will be Published by the Printers hereof as soon as possible,” advertisements for that pamphlet appeared in three of Boston’s newspapers.  Edes and Gill referred to the address that Dr. Benjamin Church delivered “At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of BOSTON” on the third anniversary of the Boston Massacre “to COMMEMORATE the BLOODY TRAGEDY.”  Edes and Gill reported on the commemorations in their newspaper, the Boston-Gazette, on March 8, 1773, reporting that Church spoke about “the dangerous Tendency of Standing Armies” to the “universal Applause of his Audience.”  Furthermore, “his Fellow Citizens voted him their Thanks, and unanimously requested a Copy of his Oration for the Press.”  In the next weekly issue of the Boston-Gazette, Edes and Gill advised the public that they would soon publish Church’s Oration.

Boston Evening-Post (March 22, 1773).

Three days later, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter carried a notice that the “THIRD EDITION, corrected by the AUTHOR” was “Just Publish’d” and sold by Edes and Gill as well as Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, the printers of the Boston Evening-Post.  Apparently, Joseph Greenleaf was the first printer to take Church’s Oration to press, but Edes and Gill produced a superior edition.  In promoting the third edition, the printers gave their advertisement a privileged place in the Boston-Gazette.  It appeared as the first item in the first column on the first page of the March 22 issue, making it difficult for readers to overlook.  The same day, the Fleets ran the same notice in the Boston Evening-Post.  Although not as prominently displayed as in the Boston-Gazette, the placement likely received special attention.  Rather than nestled among the dozens of advertisements on the third and fourth pages, it ran as the sole advertisement on the second page.  As readers moved from “Proceedings of the Town of Westminster” to news from London that arrived in the colonies via New York, they encountered the advertisement for Church’s Oration.  In its own way, that notice served as news, continuing the coverage of current events and shaping how colonizers viewed their place within the empire.

January 30

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

Providence Gazette (January 30, 1773).

“The NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our Lord 1773.”

By the end of January 1773, it was a familiar advertisement to readers who regularly perused the Providence Gazette.  John Carter once again promoted the “NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, Or Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our Lord 1773,” though it was not “Just PUBLISHED” as the advertisement purported.  Instead, Carter, the printer of both the newspaper and the almanac, sought to sell surplus copies and achieve a better return on his investment.  With each passing day, portions of the almanac, especially the “astronomical Calculations,” became obsolete.

Carter announced the imminent publication of the almanac in the October 24, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette, treating it as a news item, following immediately after an update about the Gaspee incident, rather than an advertisement.  A week later, the advertisement that ran in late January appeared for the first time (with a brief note about the price staying the same as the previous year despite “valuable Improvements” that made the almanac “a Quarter Part larger than usual”).  Carter gave it a privileged place, first among the advertisements.  A week later, he gave it even more prominence, the first item in the first column on the first page of the November 7 edition.  That made it difficult for readers to miss it.

In subsequent weeks, the advertisement moved around among the paid notices that ran in the Providence Gazette.  When it appeared in the January 30, 1773, edition, Carter once again attempted to direct attention to it via its placement in the first column on the first page.  Only one item appeared before it, a public service announcement about an upcoming meeting “to consider of some Method for erecting and building a Bridge from the Town of Providence (across the Lower Ferry) to the Town of Rehoboth.”  In this instance, Carter did not place his own interest in selling the remaining copies of the almanac ahead of all other items in his newspaper, but he did give it priority by having the announcement about an important public works project flow into his advertisement for the New-England Almanack.

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.


[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).


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).


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.