What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Weatherwise’s ALMANACK, For the Year 1769, To be Sold by the Printers hereof.”
During the fall of 1768 printers throughout the colonies participated in an annual ritual: advertising new almanacs for the coming year. Sarah Goddard and John Carter, the printers of the Providence Gazette, got an early start that year. They first advertised Abraham Weatherwise’s “N. England Town and Country Almanack” at the end of August. That advertisement extended nearly three-quarters of a column and advanced several appeals to prospective customers.
It ran for just two weeks before Goddard and Carter replaced it with a different advertisement of a similar length. This one focused on various aspects of the contents, including “a beautiful poetical Essay on Public Spirit, wrote by an American Patriot,” “a Table of Roads,” and “Bearings of different Places from the Rhode-Island Light-House, with Directions for entering the Port of New-London, very serviceable to Navigators, more particularly to those unacquainted with the Coast.” The notice concluded with some comments on its brisk sales so far: “The first Impression of Weaterwise’s Almanack, through the Encouragement of the Public, having met with a Sale far exceeding the Printers most sanguine Expectations, they were nearly all disposed of before several large Orders from our Country Friends came to Hand; but as another Edition will be published on Monday, they may depend on having their Orders immediately completed.” The following week Goddard and Carter updated that advertisement, eliminating the final paragraph and adding a bold new headline proclaiming that they had “Just PUBLISHED” a “SECOND EDITION.” Weatherwise’s almanac was popular, or so the printers wanted it to seem.
Over the next several weeks Goddard and Carter irregularly inserted that advertisement. It appeared in some issues, but not in others. Perhaps other content sometimes crowded out the lengthy notice. At the end of October, the printers shifted to yet another advertisement, this time resorting to a notice of only three lines: “Weatherwise’s ALMANACK, / For the Year 1769, / To be Sold by the Printers hereof.” Like other short advertisements place by printers, this one likely served two purposes. It complete a column that otherwise did not have sufficient content while also promoting a product that generated revenues beyond the newspaper’s subscription and advertising fees. Goddard and Carter had already committed significant space to marketing the almanac to readers of the Providence Gazette. This brief advertisement reminded prospective customers who had not yet purchased copies of their availability without occupying as much space as other notices had in previous issues.