What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“If any wholesale dealers have any of the Universal or Poor Robin’s Almanacks for 1771 on hand … they shall have new ones.”
When it came to publishing and advertising almanacs for 1772, William Evitt was late to the game. He inserted an advertisement in the November 4, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet to inform readers that he had “Just Published … THE UNIVERSAL AMERICAN ALMANACK, OR YEARLY MAGAZINE, For the YEAR of our LORD, 1772” as well as “POOR ROBIN’S ALMANACK for 1772.” To entice prospective customers, he listed the various contents of each. In addition, he declared that the “Gentleman and Citizen’s POCKET ALMANACK for 1772, will be published soon.” He was still in the process of gathering “the many curious and useful lists, tables, &c. &c.”
Evitt offered an apology for his tardiness in taking these almanacs to press and advertising them for sale. He regretted that “he could not get them published as soon as some others, which was owing to several unexpected disappointments.” He hoped, however, that since they contained “what is really useful, instructing and entertaining” that it would “make amends for a few weeks delay in publication, which he could not possibly avoid.”
In addition to those apologies, Evitt offered a deal to retailers who took a chance on acquiring these almanacs for resale at such a late date. After all, many consumers, even those who favored the titles published by Evitt, likely already purchased other almanacs that had been on the market for weeks. Realizing that retailers did not want to get stuck with surplus inventory that would never sell, the printer instructed “Country store-keepers, and others who purchase these Almanacks from his office” that they could “have them exchanged, in case any should lay on hand till this time twelve-month.” In other words, Evitt offered a guarantee of sorts to retailers who took a chance on stocking his almanacs even though so much of the season for purchasing them already passed. If the almanacs did not sell by early November 1772, retailers could exchange them for new almanacs for 1773.
Evitt also informed “wholesale dealers” who had “any of the Universal or Poor Robin’s Almanacks for 1771 on hand” that they could exchange them for “new ones” for 1772. He retroactively applied the promise he made about almanacs for 1772 to those for 1771 that had not yet sold (and were extremely unlikely to sell with less than two months remaining in the year). Other printers may have made similar arrangements with “Country store-keepers” and other retailers, but they did not promote such exchanges in their advertisements. Alternately, Evitt may have improvised that deal out of necessity when “unexpected disappointments” prevented him from making his almanacs available in a busy marketplace at the same time as his competitors. In general, printers marketed their almanacs to both consumers and retailers. They depended on the latter purchasing in volume and distributing their product.