What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“MAKES and SELLS the best mould CANDLES.”
“WILL repair all sorts of CLOCKS and WATCHES.”
Once a week the Adverts 250 Project examines an advertisement originally published 250 years ago that week rather than 250 years ago that day. This is the result of the publication schedule of newspapers in colonial America. Printers published newspapers every day of the week except for Sunday, quite a difference from practices that developed in the twentieth century and still continue. Nowadays the Sunday edition is in many ways the most significant and usually the largest. It contains items and sections not issued throughout the rest of the week. It is a commodity associated with leisure, an edition that consumers take the time to savor. Readers luxuriate in its very size and variety of contents.
That differs so greatly from colonial newspapers. In 1770, the year currently under examination by the Adverts 250 Project, most were published only once a week. The Boston Chronicle was one of only a few that experimented with twice weekly publication by that time. Each issue usually consisted of only four pages, inclusive of all new items, editorials, advertisements, and other contents. A single broadsheet comprised the standard four-page edition, two pages printed on each side and then folded in half. Printers sometimes issued supplements, additions, and extraordinaries when the contents overflowed the standard issue, bringing the total length to six or eight pages, but rarely more than that. Often the supplements consisted entirely of advertising.
Most printers published their newspapers on Mondays or Thursdays. Smaller cohorts published on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Only the Providence Gazette distributed new issues on Saturdays, such timing likely chosen to allow the printer to receive newspapers printed in Boston earlier in the week in time to extract items for republication.
These practices allowed for advertisements to come off colonial presses and appear in the public prints every day of the week except Sundays. Although this prevents the Adverts 250 Project from examining advertisements published 250 years ago to the day once a week, it presents an opportunity to feature advertisements that otherwise would not have been included in the project by revisiting newspapers published on Mondays and Thursdays. Those newspapers included publications from the largest port cities, publications that tended to distribute the greatest number of advertisements. Due to the volume of advertising disseminated in those newspapers, they merit a second look. The absence of newspapers published on Sundays in the colonial era differs greatly from modern practices and disrupts the methodology of the Adverts 250 Project, but it also allows a second chance for examining advertisements that the methodology otherwise would have excluded.