August 21

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 21, 1772).

“PROPOSED to Print by SUBSCRIPTION.”

In the summer of 1772, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, distributed a proposal for printing “A rational Interpretation of the prophetic Visions of St. John … By SAMUEL LANGDON, D.D. Pastor of the first Church in Portsmouth.”  Before taking the work to press, they first sought subscribers who pledged in advance that they would purchase it.  Printing by subscription was a common business model in eighteenth-century America. Subscription proposals allowed printers to encourage interest in their projects and assess demand before investing time, materials, and other resources in ventures unlikely to succeed.  The Fowles claimed that they considered publishing Langdon’s “Series of expository Discourses … at the earnest Request of many Gentlemen acquainted with it,” suggesting that some demand already existed.  Savvy consumers, however, may have suspected that claim was merely a ploy to get them to jump on the bandwagon.  Regardless of how many “Gentlemen” already subscribed, the Fowles declared that they would not move forward with the project unless “proper Encouragement is given by a full Subscription.”  Furthermore, “No more will be printed than what are engaged by Subscribers.”  The printers attempted to create a sense of urgency around subscribing to what they portrayed as a popular project as soon as possible or miss out on having their names printed among the list of subscribers.

Production of the book, on the other hand, would take quite a bit of time.  Rather than take the entire volume to press, the Fowles proposed a serial publication that would “come out in month Numbers, containing about 32 Octavo Pages, on good Paper and a new Type.”  Subscribers paid only when they received new installments of the series.  The Fowles estimated that it would take about two years to publish the entire work, “each Year making a Volume of about 380 Pages.”  They promised that the “Numbers will be duely sent, free of Charge, to all the principal Towns where Subscriptions are taken in.”  They listed nearly a dozen local agents in towns in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Philadelphia, stating that they sent subscription papers to them.  In addition, the Fowles explained that each number would be “advertised in the publick Prints as soon as publish’d.”  Those who resided “at too great a distance to receive the Numbers seasonably” could instead choose “to subscribe for the whole in Volumes, stitched or bound,” as long as they “specify their Desire, in the Subscription.”  The Fowles asserted that they would send each annual volume “as soon as published.”  They did not, however, indicate how often such subscribers were expected to submit payment.  Overall, they outlined a complicated system of distributing and collecting subscription proposals as well as distributing serialized “numbers” and collecting payments each month.  The logistics may have been too complicated.  It does not appear that they printed and distributed the first “number” in November 1772 as intended.  They did publish a pamphlet by Langdon, “A Rational Explication of St. John’s Vision of the Two Beasts,” thirty-two pages on octavo paper, in 1774.  They may have published other essays by Langdon separately as well, but not the entire project as originally envisioned and presented to prospective subscribers.  If few subscribers responded to their proposals, that likely played a significant role in their decision not to pursue the project.

July 24

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 24, 1772).

“Those Persons who are Indebted for this PAPER, are desired to settle within the Month.”

Throughout the colonies, printers regularly placed notices in their newspapers calling on subscribers and other customers to settler accounts.  Thomas Green and Samuel Green, printers of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, ran such a notice on July 24, 1772.  The use of italics set their notice apart from others in the same issue drawing attention to their declaration that “The Subscribers to this paper, who are one year or more in arrear, and those who are in any other manner indebted to the printers, are requested to discharge their accounts immediately.”  Newspaper subscribers notoriously neglected to make payments.  Printers often threatened legal action, but usually did not follow through on those threats, perhaps because maintaining robust circulation, even among subscribers who did not pay, helped attract advertisements.  Advertising represented a significant revenue stream for many colonial printers.

On the same day that the Greens ran their notice, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, placed a similar announcement in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  They advised that “Those Persons who are Indebted for this PAPER, are desired to settle within the Month of August next,—and as many pay off as can.—They who cannot pay the whole, may give their Notes for the Remainder, as there is a Necessity for a Settlement as soon as possible.”  The Fowles did not elaborate on what constituted a “Necessity,” nor did they make any threats against those who ignored their notice.  On other occasions, they warned that they would sue recalcitrant subscribers or even publish their names to shame them in front of the rest of the community.  No list of delinquent subscribers appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Like the Greens who placed their notes in italics, the Fowles devised a means of calling attention to their notice.  They enclosed it in a border composed of printing ornaments, the only item in that issue to receive such treatment.

Printers and subscribers engaged in an ongoing battle of wills in colonial America.  Subscribers did not pay for their newspapers, prompting printers to suggest that they would sue their customers.  They sometimes implied that they could not continue publication if they did not receive payments, which may have been what the Fowles intended when they referred to the “Necessity” of subscribers settling accounts.  Printers cajoled subscribers in a variety ways, their notices frequently receiving privileged treatment in the newspapers they published.

July 3

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 3, 1772).

The Printers will not Promise to exchange after the first of August next.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, gave one of their advertisements a privileged place in the July 3, 1772, edition of their newspaper.  They positioned their notice about “Compleat Sets of the new and correct Law-Book, for the Province of New-Hampshire” at the top of the first full column of advertising, increasing the likelihood that readers would take note of it as they finished the news items even if they only quickly glanced at the advertisements.

To encourage sales of the new edition, the Fowles offered a deal to customers who owned copies of the previous edition.  They stated that they “will take the old ones of such Persons, as were subscribers for that Edition, and allow them one Dollar for the same.”  In other words, those customers received a discount when they traded in the outdated edition.  To convince customers that this was a good deal, the Fowles proclaimed that the previous edition was “not worth a Farthing” now that they published a “new and correct” edition, so customers might as well take advantage of their generosity in allowing “one Dollar” for it.

The Fowles also attempted to create a sense of urgency by making clear that this was a limited time offer.  They asserted that customers who wished to return the previous edition must “purchase a new Book now.”  They warned that “the Printers will not Promise to exchange after the first of August next.”  Customers had only four weeks to contemplate this offer before the Fowles potentially rescinded it.  In addition, the printers had “but few to dispose of in this Way,” or so they claimed.  That meant that interested readers needed to make the exchange while supplies lasted.

The Fowles deployed several savvy marketing strategies when they published a new and updated edition of the laws of the colony.  They offered discounts to former customers who traded in the old edition, simultaneously pressuring them to purchase the new volume soon by cautioning that they had limited supply and the offer expired soon.  Prospective customers needed to act quickly or risk missing out!

March 6

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 6, 1772).

“A few of the New-Hampshire Registers … may be had at the Printing-Office.”

The “Civil, Military & Ecclesiastical REGISTER of the Province of New-Hampshire, for the YEAR 1772” apparently did not sell as well as the printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, hoped.   They first advertised the volume in their newspaper, the New-Hampshire Gazette, on December 13, 1771.  That notice included a lengthy list of the contents.  A week later, they supplemented the original copy with an explanation intended to convince colonizers to purchase a copy of their own.  “Every Gentleman who holds an Office,” the Fowles declared, “and has the Honor of having it recorded in the above Register, undoubtedly ought and will furnish himself with one.”  Furthermore, “other Persons should have them, in order rightly to know their Superiors.”  From the “Governor, Council and House of Representatives” to “Justices of the Peace through the Province and for each County,” the Register listed officials throughout the colony.

Nearly three months after first advertising the Register, the Fowles inserted a shorter notice (but in much larger type) to alert prospective customers that “A few of the New-Hampshire Registers, very necessary for all sorts of People, may be had at the Printing-Office.”  They continued to insist that they sold an invaluable resource for colonizers to consult in a variety of circumstances, but they no longer devoted as much space to making that assertion.  Prospective customers likely needed more convincing.  The Fowles did not publish an updated register in 1773 nor in any subsequent year.  Other printers did so in 1779 and 1787, but the Fowles seemingly did not encounter enough success with the project in 1772 to justify making another attempt.  Perhaps more extensive advertising might have helped to create a more robust market, but the Fowles may have determined that no amount of marketing would so significantly improve sales to make another edition worthy of the time and expense necessary to produce it.  Even with their access to the press and ability to run as many advertisements as they wished, the Fowles had surplus copies of the register that cut into any profits they might have earned.

December 20

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 20, 1771).

Every Gentleman who holds and Office … ought and will furnish himself with one.”

A week after first advertising “A Civil, Military & Ecclesiastical REGISTER of the Province of New-Hampshire, for the YEAR 1772” in the New-Hampshire Gazette, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle updated their advertisement.  The original version announced publication of the pamphlet and listed its contents, but did not make any direct appeals to prospective customers.  The Fowles remedied that in the subsequent iteration by adding six new lines following the contents.  On one line, they advised readers, “Price half a Pistereen only,” letting them know that acquiring a copy was indeed affordable.

The other appeal addressed the many officeholders whose names appeared in the Register, everyone from “Judges and Officers of the Superior Court, and Courts of Admiralty” and “Justices of the Peace through the Province and for each County” to “Custom House Officers and Notaries Public” and “Sheriffs, Judges and Registers of Probate, Recorders of Deeds and Treasurers of each County” to “Field Officers of the several Regiments in each County” and “Ministers … of the several Denominations in each County.”  The Fowles decreed that “Every Gentleman who holds and Office, and has the Honor of having it recorded in the above Register, undoubtedly ought and will furnish himself with one.”  For local officials, this was an opportunity to see their names listed alongside those of “the Governor, Council and House of Representatives.”  The Fowles saw the various officeholders as a likely customer base for the publication, but they also encouraged others to purchase a copy “in order rightly to know their Superiors.”  The Fowles probably did not mean, at least not exclusively, that colonists needed to recognize the officeholders among them in order to show proper deference; instead, “rightly [knowing] their Superiors” may have also referred to knowing who to contact with concerns and requests in order to maintain good government throughout the colony.

Apparently, neither those who held office nor “other Persons” heeded the call to buy their own copies in sufficient numbers to convince the Fowles to publish a Register for 1773 or any subsequent year.  The disruptions of the imperial crisis and the American Revolution may have also played a role in such decisions.  They experimented with offering a product to consumers, but even after tinkering with their advertising did not manage to generate a robust market for it.

December 13

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 13, 1771).

“A Civil, Military & Ecclesiastical REGISTER of the Province of New-Hampshire, for the YEAR 1772.”

Each year as fall turned to winter, readers regularly encountered advertisements for almanacs in colonial American newspapers.  Printers often listed the contents as a means of enticing prospective customers to purchase particular titles, emphasizing the range of useful or entertaining items included in one publication or another.  In 1771, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette gathered together a variety of useful information that might otherwise have appeared in an almanac in a separate pamphlet.  They advertised their “Civil, Military & Ecclesiastical REGISTER of the Province of New-Hampshire, for the YEAR 1772” in their newspaper.

The bulk of their advertisement consisted of an enumeration of the contents, everything from a “List of the Governor, Council and House of Representatives” and “Judges and Officers of the Superiour Court, and Court of Admiralty” to “Barristers of Law and Practising Attornies with their respective Places of Residence” and “Custom House Officers and Notaries Public” to “Trustees and Officers of Dartmouth-College” and “Ministers, Churches and religious Assemblies of the several Denominations in each County.”  The pamphlet also included directions along several roads “with the most noted Houses of Entertainment” for those who needed to travel within the colony for one reason or another.

The Civil, Military and Ecclesiastical Register apparently did not meet with as much success as the Fowles hoped.  They did not update it and publish a new edition for 1773 nor for any subsequent year.  Thomas Fleet and John Fleet printed and sold a register for New Hampshire in 1779, folding it into A Pocket Almanack for the Year of our Lord 1780 … Calculated for the use of the State of Massachusetts Bay in New-England.  Following the American Revolution, George Jerry Osborne published Osborne’s New-Hampshire Register with an Almanack, for the Year 1787, yet another pamphlet that merged the elements of an almanac with those of a register.  Osborne published registers with almanacs for 1788 and 1789.  Others also appeared on the market before the end of the century.  Perhaps the Fowles would have attempted to revive their register if it had not been for the disruptions of the American Revolution.  The register for 1772 testified to their interest in such a project, provided that it found enough buyers willing to purchase it.

August 30

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 30, 1771).

“[*Immediate Settlement*]”

Like many other printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, publishers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, periodically placed notices calling on subscribers, advertisers, and others to settle accounts.  Some printers tied such notices to important milestones in the publication of their newspapers.  Most often they announced that a newspaper completed another full year of publication and simultaneously asked readers to mark the occasion by paying any debts that had been on the books for more than a year.  Doing so allowed them to underscore the longevity of the newspaper while also collecting revenues necessary for continued operations.  Rarely did they ask subscribers, advertisers, and others to bring their accounts completely up to date; instead, most printers continued to allow credit for more recent transactions.

On occasion, however, some printers did request an “[*Immediate Settlement*]” in the notices they placed in their newspapers.  Such was the case in August 1771 when the Fowles asked “THOSE of our Eastern Customers, from Kittery to Falmouth, &c. who received the New Hampshire Gazette, of Mr. James Libbey, late Post Rider, deceased … to settle immediately with the Printers.”  They did not ask that all customers settle accounts, only those served by the former post rider.  Libbey’s death may have disrupted distribution of the New-Hampshire Gazette in eastern towns located in the portion of Massachusetts that eventually became Maine.  If they were uncertain when another reliable post rider would cover the route, the Fowles may have considered the time right to get accounts in order with subscribers in that region.

To lend their request some urgency, the printers designed a headline intended to attract attention.  The Fowles sometimes enclosed headlines for advertisements, especially legal notices, within brackets, a practice peculiar to their newspaper.  In this instance, they supplemented brackets with asterisks to make clear that they desired an “[*Immediate Settlement*]” without delays.  They deployed graphic design to distinguish their notice from others as they grappled with a transition within the operations of their printing office and the distribution of their newspapers.

March 1

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 1, 1771).

“Some of our Advertising Customers are intreated to send their Advertisements more correct.”

On March 1, 1771, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, once again informed delinquent subscribers that if they did not settle accounts they would find themselves facing legal action.  Newspaper printers regularly made such threats, but the Fowles did so more often than most.  Were they more aggressive in addressing overdue accounts?  Were their customers more recalcitrant than others?  Either way, they proclaimed that “Customers for this Paper, whose Accounts are of so long standing, but not sufficient for Court Writs, may depend on being sued before some Justice in Portsmouth, unless immediately paid.”  The Fowles seemed especially exasperated with “those at the Eastward indebted for many Years Papers,” vowing to bring them “to a proper Sense of their Duty” when the court at York met in April “unless this last Hint Rouses them.”

In the same issue, the Fowles also inserted a brief note to current and prospective advertisers.  “Some of our Advertising Customers,” the printers declared, “are intreated to send their Advertisements more correct, or an Interpreter with them.”  Once again, the Fowles took an exasperated tone.  That they published the only newspaper in New Hampshire may have afforded them greater latitude in doing so than their counterparts in places with multiple newspapers.  They did not reveal what they found lacking in the copy advertisers submitted, only that they experienced difficulty in making sense of some of the notices they received from those who sent them by post or messenger rather than visiting the printing office to make arrangements for their publication.  On occasion, newspaper printers advised prospective advertisers that they would assist with writing copy.  Many other printers also may have lent an editorial eye to copy they received, helping to explain the standardized language in many advertisements.  Doing so required understanding the purpose of an advertisement and clarifying the details.  The Fowles suggested that some copy they received lacked a clear purpose, unambiguous details, or both.

Although printers sometimes offered assistance, advertisers possessed primary responsibility for generating copy for paid notices in eighteenth-century newspapers.  The Fowles apparently expected their advertisers to refer to notices that ran in the New-Hampshire Gazette as models when composing their own advertisements.  They may have performed some editorial work upon receiving copy, but the Fowles expected that advertisers would submit notices that needed little revision before publication.

February 1

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (February 1, 1771).

“If they will now Subscribe and pay Twelve Shillings, they shall have a Book at the same price of the Government.”

Advertisements helped to incite demand, but in the case of subscription notices they also helped to gauge demand.  Before taking books to press, printers distributed subscription notices in which they asked customers (or subscribers) to indicate the number of copies they wished to purchase and make a deposit in advance.  That allowed printers to estimate the total number to print, allowing for some surplus to sell to meet further demand among those who neglected to subscribe, but not so much as to cut into revenues too dramatically.  The deposits also helped to defray the costs of printing, thus making ventures less risky for printers.

Such was the case when Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle inserted a subscription notice for “a NEW EDITION of the PROVINCE LAWS” in the February 1, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  The Fowles proclaimed that the books “have been ordered by the Government to be publish’d; and a certain Number to be printed.”  While that order was secure, the Fowles anticipated additional demand for this publication, stating that they believed those ordered “by the Government” likely “will not be sufficient for supplying every particular Person, who may be desirous of having a LAW BOOK.”  In their subscription notice, they called on other prospective customers to “now Subscribe and pay Twelve Shillings” in order to have a Book at the same price of the Government.”

The Fowles also issued a warning to interested parties who did not act quickly.  “Those who neglect giving in their Names and paying their Part at the Time of Subscribing,” the printers cautioned, “will not only run the risqué of not having a set, as very few will be printed, exclusive of what the Court and others take off, but also have a quarter part more to pay for those few, than Subscribers.”  In other words, the Fowles planned to print only a limited number of additional copies, creating a scarcity in the market after fulfilling the orders received in advance.  They also planned to charge a higher price, fifteen shillings instead of twelve, for those surplus copies.  Subscribers received a discount by ordering in advance so the Fowles would know how many copies to print.

The Fowles sought to achieve two goals simultaneously.  They hoped to incite demand in the book they would soon publish while also estimating demand in order to make informed decisions about how many copies to print.  Subscription notices allowed printers to conduct a rudimentary form of market research in the eighteenth century.

October 26

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 26, 1770).

“A Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper.”

In the eighteenth century, newspaper printers often inserted notices into their own publications to call on subscribers, advertisers, and others to pay their bills.  They were not alone in resorting to such measures.  Entrepreneurs of all sorts as well as executors of estates enlisted the aid of the public prints in instructing customers and associates to settle accounts.  Given their access to the press, however, some printers more regularly ran such notices than other colonists.  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among the printers who most frequently made the collection of debts in the interests of continuing publication a feature of their newspaper.

The Fowles found it necessary to do so on October 26, 1770, expressing some exasperation.  “THOSE Persons who are still delinquent in discharging their Arrears for this Paper, and for Advertisements,” the printers declared, “and have been repeatedly call’d upon from Time to Time, are desir’d to comply with so reasonable a Request.”  Others who placed such notices usually threatened legal action against those who did not heed their warning.  The Fowles had done so in the past.  On one occasion they also threatened to publish a list of subscribers, advertisers, and others who did not pay their bills, though they did not follow through on that ultimatum.  In this instance, they did not deliver any threats against those in arrears but instead explained the effect that such delinquency would have on their business and, by extension, their ability to serve the community by disseminating news and other information.  The Fowles insisted that they needed to collect on debts owed to them because “a Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper, to carry on the Business.”  Without paper, they could not continue to print and distribute the New-Hampshire Gazette.

Although the Fowles regularly inserted notices to encourage subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts, they did not merely adopt the formulaic language that often appeared in such advertisements.  Over the years, they experimented with a variety of messages and tones, sometimes threatening and sometimes cajoling, in their efforts to attract the attention of clients in arrears and convince them to pay their debts.