October 6

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

Providence Gazette (October 6, 1770).

“The regular and speedy Delivery of their Papers.”

In the 1770s, the Providence Gazette served as the local newspaper for many readers in the northeastern region of Connecticut as well as northern Rhode Island.  An advertisement that ran in the October 6, 1770, edition outlined the route that Joseph Rickard, a former postrider, took from Providence to several towns in Connecticut.  Joseph Jewet and Elijah Nichols intended to assume Rickard’s responsibilities, informing the public, “particularly the Customers to the PROVIDENCE GAZETTE,” that they now carried letters and newspapers to Killingly, Pomfret, Woodstock, and Ashford.

In their attempt to build their clientele, Jewet and Nichols offered improvements over the service that Rickard provided.  They pledged the “greatest Attention will be paid to the regular and speedy Delivery of the Papers” in order that “Customers may receive them earlier than usual.”  The masthead of the Providence Gazette proclaimed that it contained “the freshest ADVICES, Foreign and Domestic.”  That “speedy Delivery” enhanced the careful selection of contents and the speed that the printer took news to press, putting “the freshest Intelligence” in the hands of subscribers and other readers in northeastern Connecticut.  Jewet and Nichols also indicated that they would “extend their weekly Ride to other Towns” if they encountered sufficient demand.

John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, gave Jewet and Nichols’s advertisement a privileged place.  It was the first advertisement that appeared in the October 6 edition, running immediately below the list of prices current in Providence.  Readers more interested in news than advertising were more likely to peruse Jewet and Nichols’s notice as a result of where the printer chose to place it on the page.  Carter had his own interest in the success of the postriders’ endeavor.  Reliable and speedy delivery to northeastern Connecticut meant that he could maintain and possibly even expand the number of subscribers in that region.  Success for Jewet and Nichols meant better prospects for Carter and the Providence Gazette.

August 17

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

Aug 17 - 8:17:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 17, 1770).

“To Ride as Carrier … in order to carry News Papers.”

The first two advertisements in the August 17, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette concerned the operations of the newspaper.  Quite likely, the printers exercised their control of the press to give those notices a privileged place.  The first advertisement, repeated from the previous issue, acknowledged the upcoming fourteenth anniversary of the newspaper and contained Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle’s call on subscribers, advertisers, and others who owed debts to settle accounts or face legal action.

James Templeton addressed the residents of Amherst, Wilton, Temple, Petersborough, New Dublin, Marlborough, Keen, Walpole, Charlestown, Chesterfield, Westmoreland, Hinsdale, Winchester, Swansey, and other town in “the extreme Parts of the Province” to offer his services to “Ride as Carrier or Post … in order to carry News Papers.”  He promised to be “punctual and faithful” in his delivery even as he endeavored to get the newspapers to subscribers “as cheap as possible at that great Distance.”

While not overseen directly by the Fowles, Templeton’s enterprise stood to benefit them as proprietors of the New-Hampshire Gazette through maintaining or even increasing readership.  Templeton also revealed how quickly readers in “the extreme Parts of the Province” received their newspapers.  He proposed meeting the rider from Portsmouth who carried the newspapers as far as Amherst on Mondays.  The Fowles published the New-Hampshire Gazette on Fridays.  That meant that half a week elapsed before each new edition made it to the carrier who delivered the newspaper to the more remote towns in the colony.  Even more time passed as Templeton rode his circuit through the various towns.

Printers and their associates frequently commented on the production and distribution of the news in the advertisements they inserted in eighteenth-century newspapers.  It seems unlikely that it was a coincidence that Templeton’s advertisement immediately followed the Fowles’s advertisement.  The printers sought to facilitate distribution of their publication even as they also attempted to collect on debts owed to the printing office.

February 12

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

Feb 12 - 2:12:1770 Connecticut Currant
Connecticut Courant (February 12, 1770).

“The business of supplying them with papers.”

William Stanton placed an advertisement in the February 12, 1770, edition of the Connecticut Courant to follow up on a “former Advertisement” that most recently appeared on January 22. In that previous notice, Stanton noted that he had “rode post for almost four years” and in that time many newspaper subscribers fell behind on paying him for his services. He requested that his clients settle accounts, but also expressed his interest in continuing in the business with some alterations to the current method of delivering their newspapers. Having devised a new plan, he placed a second advertisement to “further inform them of the method, proposed for the future.”

Stanton proposed riding from Litchfield to Hartford every week. The printers distributed new issues of the Connecticut Courant on Mondays. Stanton planned to collect them as soon as they were available and set off as quickly as possible, returning to Litchfield “on Tuesday of each week.” The masthead proclaimed that the Connecticut Courant contained “the freshest Advices Both Foreign and Domestick.” Stanton aimed to make those “freshest Advices” available to readers without delay. Rather than deliver the newspapers to subscribers, Stanton would deposit them in a shop near the courthouse for “gentlemen … from the several towns round the country” to collect at their convenience. “[C]onstant attendance will be given” at the shop, Stanton promised, for customers to retrieve their newspapers. For subscribers unable to make their way to Litchfield, Stanton proposed delivering the Connecticut Courant “by a special post … once a fortnight.”

For these services, Stanton charged eight shillings per year, “which is but two shillings more than the printers have of their customers in Hartford.” He considered this a bargain “so very favourable to the customers” that it “cannot fail of being agreeable.” In deploying such language, he encouraged readers to adopt his perspective that they did indeed get a good deal for the package of newspaper and delivery. He also revealed information that the printers did not publish in the Connecticut Courant, the cost of an annual subscription. Stanton’s advertisement provides noteworthy details about the mechanics of disseminating information in rural Connecticut on the eve of the American Revolution.

March 25

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

Mar 25 - 3:25:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 25, 1768).

“May be supplied with the NEW HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE &c. &c. for NINE SHILLINGS Lawful Money per Annum, Carriage included.”

Today’s advertisement provides a relatively rare glimpse of the subscription rates for an eighteenth-century newspaper. While a few printers inserted both subscription and advertising rates in the colophon on the final page, transforming the publication information into a final advertisement that appeared in each issue, most did not. Printers rarely mentioned the subscription rates in the pages of their newspapers, even as they frequently published notices calling on subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts.

An advertisement in the March 25, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included the subscription and delivery costs for residents of “the Towns of Kittery, Berwick, Somersworth, Rochester, Dover, Durhan, Newmarkett, and … Stratham.” In it, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the newspaper, informed readers that “a Carrier or Post Rider” would begin delivering newspapers in those towns the following week. Those who wished to subscribe would be charged “NINE SHILLINGS Lawful Money per Annum, Carriage included.” They were expected to pay “at Entrance” rather than later become the subjects of subsequent notices calling on subscribers to pay their overdue accounts. While this notice indicated the total fees charged to subscribers serviced by the carrier who covered this route, it still obscured the base rate for subscriptions. The Fowles listed a fee with “Carriage included.” Was it the same rate as residents of Portsmouth paid for their annual subscriptions? Or had it been topped off to cover delivery expenses? Either way, the notice revealed the price of a subscription for residents of towns in Portsmouth’s hinterland, information that did not frequently appear in the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette.

This notice also testified to the current and continuing dissemination of the newspaper beyond Portsmouth. Dated March 25, a Friday, and appearing in an issue of the same date, it advised that “FRIDAY next” the carrier would begin making deliveries along the proposed route. The Fowles invited “Those who incline to encourage so useful and advantagious a Person as a Carrier” to submit their names for a list “at the Printing Office in Portsmouth.” The printers expected that readers in those towns already had sufficient access to the New-Hampshire Gazette that they would see this notice and respond in less than a week. Even before the Fowles employed “a Carrier or Post Rider” for this particular route the news and advertising contained in the pages of their newspaper had wide distribution beyond Portsmouth. Establishing this new route only extended their efficiency and reach in disseminating information in the era of the American Revolution.

March 22

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Mar 22 - 3:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 20, 1766).

“JAMES ASKEW, Post-Rider … desires the Favour of his Customer that have not paid … to pay him … before the 30th of March.”

James Askew placed this advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette to notify his customers of an impending stoppage of service. As the local post rider he delivered newspapers once a week along with any mail for that area. His route included the towns of Lancaster, Carlisle, and Shippensburg, founded in 1709, 1751, and 1730, respectively, some of the oldest inland settlements in colonial Pennsylvania. Askew seems to have covered the southwestern area of colonial Pennsylvania to the boundary of established counties.

Pennsylvania Counties 1752
Pennsylvania Counties as of 1752 (Ber = Berks; Buc = Bucks; Ch = Chester; Cu = Cumberland; Lan = Lancaster; Nhn = Northampton; Ph = Philadelphia; Yo = York).

He most likely delivered the Pennsylvania Gazette with his own advertisement in it for his own customers to see. Askew used very polite and proper language, such as “desires the favour of his customers that have not paid” and “their compliance will oblige their humble servant,” to get his customers to pay their outstanding bill with him. He then reminds them of their yearly “Entrance Money” for his services, which is common even today for some services. With this advertisement being placed in the March 20 paper he gave customers until March 30 to pay their bills. This would be one more week of newspapers to be dropped off, the Thursday, March 27 issue. Since it was already March that meant that some of these bills were very old because the language that he used made it seems like some of them came from before the new year. Even the “Entrance Money” that was due on March 30 was three months late! Askew gave clear instructions that the money should be left were he delivered his customers’ papers or to pay him in person.

However, a second look at the advertisement that goes beyond the pleasant wording reveals an interesting underlying tone. When I read it I sensed a slightly aggressive or threatening tone by the end. When someone says to “expect further trouble” I do no think of good things. Although each colony had its own laws regarding what would happen to debtors, none of the punishments sound good. As I was doing research for this advertisement I discovered Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey (edited by William Nelson and published in 1903). It included an excerpt from the Pennsylvania Gazette‘s April 10, 1766, issue: an advertisement calling debtors and their creditors into court to figure out what to do.

Mar 22 - 4:10:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 10, 1766).

Often the offender would be sent to debtors’ prison or would have to sell off his belongings to pay his creditors. In colonial America, even worse then being sent to debtors’ prison was the public shame and embarrassment, often including publishing offenders’ names in the newspaper for everyone to see. Many colonial Americans were not very forgiving of those who fell from grace this way.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

James Askew was anxious for his customers to pay him for the newspapers he delivered from Philadelphia. As Elizabeth explains, some owed arrears from the previous year, while others had not yet paid for the current year. Askew gave plenty of notice that his patrons needed to pay or else face legal consequences. Today’s advertisement also appeared in two previous issues: on March 6 and 13. The post rider gave delinquents fair warning that he would no longer tolerate their refusal to pay for the services he provided.

Advertisements like this one suggest that printers were not the only ones who took a financial risk when extending credit while selling and distributing newspapers. (Recall a recently featured advertisement in which the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette called on subscribers and advertisers to pay their bills.) John Bolton, another post rider who had patrons from Chester to West Nottingham, placed a similar advertisement in the same issue as this notice from Askew. He also threatened that those who refused to pay “may depend on being dealt with as the Law directs, without respect of Persons, or further Notice.” Bolton stated that he did not care if his (former) customers were the most humble or the most prominent residents in the towns he served. Anyone who contracted a debt with him was expected to pay up.

Mar 22 - Post Rider 3:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 20, 1766).

Most of the advertisements featured here highlight attempts to sell goods and services to colonial consumers. Elizabeth has chosen an advertisement that demonstrates another aspect of doing business: some colonists eagerly obtained certain goods and services yet neglected to pay for them, at least not in a timely fashion. As a result, some advertisements encouraged payments from those whose demand had so far outstripped their willingness to pay.