September 19

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

Sep 19 - 9:19:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 19, 1767).

“Every proper Measure has been concerted to render the PROVIDENCE GAZETTE as useful and entertaining as possible.”

In September 1767, Sarah Goddard and Company inserted an impassioned notice in the newspaper they published. They thanked subscribers of the Providence Gazette for their patronage, especially those who had already paid their bills, while also calling on others to settle accounts. They politely requested that “those who have not yet settled for the last Year’s Papers, will be so considerate as to follow the Example of those who have already paid.” Settling the “Company Accounts” would allow Goddard and Company to “carry on the useful and necessary Business of Printing in this Town.” They concluded their advertisement with an elaborate argument about the value derived from a local newspaper, portraying their work not only as a means of earning a living but, more importantly, as a service to the entire community.

The timing and urgency of that advertisement became even more apparent in a notice that appeared at the top of the first column on the first page of the September 19, 1767, issue of the Providence Gazette. In an address “To the PUBLIC,” they reported the dissolution of the “Partnership between SARAH GODDARD and COMPANY.” In his monumental History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, Clarence Brigham states that a history of the newspaper appeared in the March 6, 1779, edition.[1] This history identified Samuel Inslee as Goddard’s partner. The advertisements calling on subscribers to pay their bills had not merely been part of the regular business of operating a printing office. The publishers knew that one partnership was coming to an end and another on the verge of commencing. They wanted subscriber to settle accounts in order to facilitate the transition.

The advertisement in the September 19, 1767, issue indicated that Sarah Goddard and John Carter now operated the printing office and published the newspaper. The colophon also shifted to read: “Printed by SARAH GODDARD and JOHN CARTER.” This partnership lasted until Goddard’s retirement in November of the following year. In the meantime, Goddard and Carter assured readers that publication of the Providence Gazette would continue without disruption to the quality they had come to expect: “every proper Measure has been concerted to render the PROVIDENCE GAZETTE as useful and entertaining as possible.” Goddard and Carter promised that “Care and Diligence shall not be wanting” in the production of the newspaper as they invited the public to “continue to favour this Paper with their Subscriptions.”


[1] Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1947), 2: 1008.

September 12

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

Sep 12 - 9:12:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 12, 1767).

The useful and necessary Business of Printing in this Town.”

Throughout the eighteenth century, printers regularly turned to the pages of their own newspapers to insert notices calling on subscribers (and sometimes advertisers) to settle their accounts by paying their overdue bills. Printers often accompanied these reminders with threats to sue recalcitrant subscribers who did not respond.

Sarah Goddard and Company took a different approach when they called on “all those who have not yet settled for the last Year’s Papers.” First, they extended their “most sincere Thanks” to all subscribers, but then lauded the “Example of those who have already paid.” The printers pointed to them as role models to emulate; in so doing, they also implicitly shamed their counterparts who had not yet paid.

In addition, Goddard and Company suggested that the future of their printing business depended on settling accounts, yet it was not only their own livelihood at stake. Instead, the entire community benefitted from the “useful and necessary Business of Printing” undertaken by Goddard and Company. They positioned the Providence Gazette, revived thirteen months earlier after a hiatus that had lasted more than a year, as a public service, one that had met with great approval. More than just a service, the printers proclaimed that their newspaper was “absolutely necessary for many of the most useful Members of Society amongst us.”

Goddard and Company could have wheedled subscribers and threatened legal action. Instead, they asked readers to consider the benefits associated with the continuation of the Providence Gazette. They anticipated that such idealistic appeals would “enduce all our former Subscribers” to renew their commitment to the publication through a “Continuance of their past Favors.” They also expected this argument to convince others who had not previously subscribed to “encourage this Work.” Rather than inserting an ugly admonition, Goddard and Company challenged the community to provide “ready Assistance” and join in common cause in “promoting the Growth and extending the Progress of our Gazette” for the benefit of its printers and readers alike.

September 5

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

Sep 5 - 9:5:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 5, 1767).

“JUST PUBLISHED, And to be Sold by the Printers hereof …”

When Sarah Goddard and Company placed an advertisement for a recently published book, Letters of the Right Honorable Lady M–y W—–y M——e, in the Providence Gazette, they followed a course common among printers in early America. From New Hampshire to Georgia, printers who published both newspapers and books reserved space in the former for advertising the latter, one of the advantages of running the press. In some newspapers, notices placed by the printer disproportionately filled the advertising pages.

In such cases, the question of who wrote the copy – the printer or the advertiser – often becomes much more certain since they were often one and the same. There were some exceptions. Sometimes printers produced books on behalf of local authors, as was the situation with Lambertus de Ronde’s True Spiritual Religion printed by John Holt and advertised in his New-York Journal. The author, rather than the printer, generated the copy for the advertisement. In instances that printers also served as publishers, however, they assumed the responsibility for crafting the contents of the advertisements.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an English aristocrat who gained special prominence after the publication of letters she wrote while traveling to the Ottoman Empire with her husband, an ambassador, certainly was not a local author. Goddard and Company published their edition of the Letters of their own accord. This suggests that the partnership should have been responsible for composing the advertisement, yet the author (or perhaps the publisher of the first edition in England) exercised great influence. The second half of Goddard and Company’s advertisement repeats the book’s extended title nearly verbatim: “written, during her travels in Europe, Asia and Africa to persons of distinction, men of letters. &c. in different parts of Europe. Which contain, among other curious relations, accounts of the policy and manners of the Turks; drawn from sources that have been inaccessible to other travellers.”

Goddard and Company made their own contributions to promoting the book, asserting that Montagu’s Letters “will shew … the sprightliness of her WIT, the solidity of her JUDGMENT, the extent of her KNOWLEDGE, the elegance of her TASTE, and the excellence of her real CHARACTER.” Yet the firm did not find it necessary to generate additional copy when the title of the book itself provided a synopsis already designed to entice readers.

June 6

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

Jun 6 - 6:6:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (June 6, 1767).

Books, Pamphlets, and Blanks of all Sorts, &c. &c.”

For several weeks in the winter and early spring of 1767 advertising was sparse in the Providence Gazette. Many of the advertisements that did appear were placed by Sarah Goddard and Company, the printers of the newspaper, for goods and services they sold. Others came from associates in the printing trades, including extensive proposals for the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a new publication that William Goddard, Sarah’s son, launched in Philadelphia in January 1767. It seemed as though Goddard and Company struggled to fill the pages of the Providence Gazette, sometimes inserting many of their own advertisements as means of generating sufficient content to fill the pages of each weekly issue.

That changed as summer approached. New advertisers placed commercial notices. Previous advertisers returned to the pages of the Providence Gazette. Advertising comprised about one-third of the contents of the June 6 edition, just as it had the previous week and would again the following week. Goddard and Company did not place any advertisements among those that appeared in the June 6 issue, yet the partnership still managed to inform readers about the services they offered.[1] Indeed, Goddard and Company’s promotional efforts accounted for the first and last items printed in that issue.

On the first page, below a masthead that proclaimed the newspaper carried “the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic,” an announcement from the printers appeared at the top of the first column, preceding foreign “advices” from London. In addition to informing readers that the printing office had moved to a new location, the announcement concluded with a list of printed materials Goddard and Company offered for sale: “where may be had Books, Pamphlets, and Blanks of all Sorts, &c. &c.” On the final page, the colophon appeared across the bottom as usual. In addition to providing publication information, it also solicited business for the printers. Goddard and Company accepted subscriptions and advertisements directly associated with the Providence Gazette, but they also did job printing (“all Manner of PRINTING WORK”) to the specifications of clients.

Even as the Providence Gazette gained advertisers in the spring of 1767, the printers controlled the layout of the newspaper. More advertising meant less space for their own notices, which may have been a welcome relief if advertisers paid in a timely manner, yet Goddard and Company continued to devise ways to promote their own goods and services. Their privileged position as operators of the press allowed them to begin and end the June 6 edition with brief marketing messages.


[1] The masthead lists “SATURDAY, JUNE 7, 1767” as the date for the issue, but that was not possible. In 1767, it could have been published on Saturday, June 6 or Sunday, June 7. Considering that the Providence Gazette was published on Saturdays throughout the rest of the year (and that no newspapers were printed on Sundays anywhere in the colonies), I consider it more likely that June 6 was the correct date. In addition, the printers did not offer any sort of apology for the late appearance of the issue. Goddard and Company regularly inserted notes explaining that the late arrival of the post affected which news appeared, making it likely that they would have also acknowledged publishing an issue a day later than usual. That being said, moving the printing office could have caused a one-day delay in publication, but most of the circumstances suggest that this edition appeared on Saturday, June 6, 1767.

February 1

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

“TO BE SOLD, at the POST-OFFICE … A Collection of valuable and useful BOOKS.”

Providence Gazette (January 31, 1767).

The methodology that guides the Adverts 250 Project sometimes makes it difficult to choose which advertisement to feature on certain days. Each advertisement must have been published 250 years ago that day. If no newspapers were printed in colonial America on any particular date, then the advertisement should come from the most recently published newspaper available anywhere in the colonies. This means that there are days – Thursdays in 2017 (Mondays in 1767) and Sundays in 2017 (Thursdays in 1767) – for choosing among multiple newspapers from colonial America’s largest urban ports, many overflowing with advertisements to the point that they sometimes issued supplements to contain then all.

On other days, however, only one newspaper was published anywhere in the colonies. For Fridays (Mondays in 1767) the project draws from South-Carolina and American General Gazette, on Saturdays (Tuesdays in 1767) from the Georgia Gazette, and on Tuesdays (Saturdays in 1767) from the Providence Gazette.

Note that the Providence Gazette was the only colonial American newspaper published on Saturdays in 1767. Recall that no newspapers were printed on Sundays. That means that on Wednesdays in 2017 (Sundays in 1767), featured advertisements must come from the Providence Gazette. As a result, this methodology privileges the Providence Gazette, a newspaper from a smaller port, over its counterparts in larger and busier cities. The Providence Gazette did not include nearly as many advertisements as the four newspapers printed in Boston, four others in New York, three in Philadelphia, and three in Charleston. This greatly constrains the choices when selecting which advertisements to feature on the Adverts 250 Project.

It does not help that the methodology also asserts that advertisements should not be featured twice, though exceptions can be made to demonstrate significant aspects of marketing practices in eighteenth-century America. Such is the case today. The featured advertisement previously appeared in the Providence Gazette on multiple occasions, sometimes as a single advertisement and other times divided into two parts. The few advertisements in the January 31 issue all appeared in earlier editions.

Examining those advertisements to make that determination yields an interesting revelation: the printers of the Providence Gazette occupied most of the advertising space on the final page. This includes William Goddard. After all, the colophon indicates that the newspaper was “Printed (in the Absence of WILLIAM GODDARD) by SARAH GODDARD, and COMPANY.”

Advertisements inserted by the printers on the final page of the Providence Gazette (January 31, 1767).

This gives that impression that the Providence Gazette may have been struggling to attract advertisers in 1767, unlike its counterparts in other larger port cities. Even the new Pennsylvania Chronicle, promoted in one of the advertisements inserted by the printers of the Providence Gazette in their own publication, ran copious advertisements within its first month. Sarah Goddard and Company made an editorial decision to fill the final page of their newspaper with advertisements, even if they were their own notices. In comparison, other printers in smaller towns opted to print news items almost exclusively and forego similar amounts of advertising. Such decisions merit additional investigation as the Adverts 250 Project continues.

January 25

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

Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

Subscriptions for the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, and UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER, will be taken in by the Printer.”

Throughout January 1767, William Goddard inserted his “PROPOSALS for printing by Subscription … The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, And UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER” in newspapers printed in Philadelphia. Although he focused most of his efforts on luring subscribers from that city and its hinterland, he also welcomed subscribers from faraway places who already had access to local newspapers published where they lived.

For instance, his lengthy proposal appeared in the Providence Gazette two days before Goddard published the first issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. He recognized three categories of customers and pledged that each would receive their subscriptions in a timely manner: “ladies and gentlemen … shall, in the city, receive [the newspaper] at their respective houses; or, if in the country, forwarded to them by the first opportunity; nor shall any care or industry be wanting to transmit it to the most distant customers with all expedition possible.” To serve that final category, Goddard had appointed agents in “the other colonies on the continent” who collected names of subscribers on his behalf.

Why would residents of other cities and colonies be interested in Goddard’s Pennsylvania Chronicle? After all, even as he pledged “to form his paper on as extensive and universal principles as any other on the continent” he stated that he was not “intending to derogate, in the least, from the merit of any.” Goddard acknowledged that his competitors and counterparts already published fine newspapers.

However, he also underscored that he had “established an extensive correspondence in Europe, and the several Colonies in America” that would allow him to collect in one publication all sorts of items that would “tend to the improvement, instruction, and entertainments of the PUBLIC.” Other newspapers might (and certainly did) print some of the same material that appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but Goddard cultivated a network of “learned and ingenious” correspondents who not only forwarded accounts of “the most remarkable and important occurrences foreign and domestic” but also submitted original “judicious remarks, pieces of wit and humor, essays moral, political, geographical, historical, and poetical.” Considering the editorial care that Goddard devoted to the Pennsylvania Chronicle, subscribers could expect a publication “as complete as possible,” one that provided both news items printed and reprinted throughout the colonies and original features for their edification and amusement.

Goddard’s lengthy proposal, which filled almost an entire column, did not appear alongside other advertisements in the Providence Gazette. There certainly would have been space for it on the final page, had the printer chosen to place a poem submitted by a reader earlier in the issue. Instead, Goddard’s proposal appeared in the final column on the third page, to the left of news items from Williamsburg, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Boston, and Newport. As a result, Goddard’s proposal took on the appearance of a news item as opposed to the commercial notices for consumer goods and services clustered on the following page.

Given its placement within the Providence Gazette, Goddard’s proposal was an advertisement that was not an advertisement, a puff piece that seemed to deliver news but also promoted a product. That Goddard’s proposal received this sort of preferential treatment hardly comes as a surprise when we remember that he formerly published the Providence Gazette before the Stamp Act and when the newspaper once again began publication it did so under the stewardship of his mother, Sarah Goddard.

January 24

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

Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

“JUST PUBLISHED …. The true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack.”

Despite the proclamation in the first line of this advertisement, the “true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack” had not been “JUST PUBLISHED” by Sarah Goddard and Company. Even if readers of the Providence Gazette had not seen the original advertisement, published seven weeks earlier, that announced the almanac was slated for publication just a few days later, they would have realized that no printers waited more than three weeks into the new year to print almanacs. Goddard and Company ran this advertisement – yet again – in an attempt to move surplus inventory that was quickly becoming outdated. With every day that passed, this almanac, like the “NEW-YORK Pocket Almanacks” advertised on the previous page, had less value to potential customers.

Printing and selling almanacs could be a lucrative business for members of the book trades in early America, but it could also be a tricky business. Starting as early as September, printers and booksellers advertised almanacs for the coming year, seeking to incite demand among potential customers. They aimed to print or stock just enough to meet that demand, not wishing to turn away customers (especially given that disappointed prospective customers might then patronize competitors who still had almanacs available), but also not producing so many that leftover copies diminished profits.

Goddard and Company apparently overestimated how many almanacs they needed to print for 1767. Perhaps their earlier complaints about dishonorable dealings by competitors in nearby Boston and corresponding appeals to customers’ sense of justice and fairness to convince them to purchase the “true and original” version of Benjamin West’s New-England Almanack had not gone over as successfully as they had anticipated or hoped. As a result, they found themselves in a position of devoting space in the Providence Gazette to advertisements intended to clear out their inventory, even as Joseph and William Russell continued to note, in their advertisement on the same page, that their assortment of imported goods was “too large” to print the sort of enumerated list that had been part of their marketing strategy over the past several months. Having too many almanacs on hand as the end of January approached may have prompted Goddard and Company to forego potential advertising revenue that they would have obtained from selling more space to the Russells.

January 3

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

Providence Gazette (January 3, 1767).

“TO BE SOLD BY JAMES GREEN, At his Shop at the Sign of the Elephant.”

In the first issue of the Providence Gazette published in 1767, James Green became the third retailer over the course of two months, joining Joseph and William Russell and Thompson and Arnold. Such advertisements required collaboration between printers and advertisers. They also likely derived from competition and imitation among shopkeepers. In recent weeks I have questioned who was responsible for these advertisements and what motivated them to experiment with such an innovative (and presumably expensive) format. After all, at least one other advertiser complained about the high cost of the lengthy list advertisements that were standard parts of eighteenth-century newspaper advertising.

The January 3, 1767, issue of the Providence Gazette provides another clue about what might have contributed to the appearance of some, but perhaps not all, of the recently published full-page advertisements. The fourth page of the issue was given over to Green’s (nearly) full-page advertisement and the colophon immediately beneath it. The third page concluded with this announcement:

“Our Readers are desired to excuse the late Publication of our Paper, for this Fortnight past, which has been entirely owing to the Western Post not being arrived; for whom we have waited, expecting that we should be able to oblige them with something more Material, than we are at Present able to furnish them with.”

The past fortnight encompassed the issues that included full-page advertisements by Thompson and Arnold and, now, James Green. If necessity was the mother of invention, then perhaps Sarah Goddard and Company, the printers of the Providence Gazette, played the lead role in devising full-page advertisements for Thompson and Arnold and James Green as a means of producing sufficient content to fill recent issues. Both advertisements adapted previous advertisements. The printers already had relationships with these retailers. Eager to fill the pages of their publication, they may even have offered reduced rates for these advertisements. Goddard and Company may have regretted the dearth of new news items to insert in recent issues, but they offset that shortcoming with the visual sensation of full-page advertising that likely attracted readers and additional advertisers.

Even if this accounts for the full-page advertisements published by Thompson and Arnold and James Green, it does not explain the initial and three subsequent appearances of full-page advertisements by Joseph and William Russell. The string of full-page advertisements that appeared in the Providence Gazette in the 1760s did not arise from a single cause.