October 7

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

Oct 7 - 10:7:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 7, 1768).

“She now has full Liberty to contract any Debts on my Account.”

In the summer and fall of 1768, the Wiggin family of Stratham, New Hampshire, engaged in a domestic dispute that played itself out in the public prints. Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette had their first glimpse of the Wiggins’ trouble when Tuften placed an advertisement in the August 19 edition. He informed the public that his wife, Sarah, “refuses to live with me as an obedient Wife” and instructed others from “giving her Credit on my Account.” In a nota bene, Tuften addressed a short note directly to his wife: “If she returns, she will be kindly received upon reasonable terms.”

Apparently Sarah had no desire to reconcile with her husband at that time. The next issue included a brief notice from the printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, that her “APPEAL to the Public representing her Husband’s Advertising her in this Paper, came too late, but will be in our next.” The Fowles reinforced the discord, reporting that this appeal would demonstrate “how greatly [Sarah] has been injured and imposed upon by [Tuften].” In so doing, they signaled to readers that the pages of the next issue would contain gossip that they would not want to miss. A public argument between husband and wife certainly could not hurt circulation of their newspaper. The September 2 edition included Sarah’s advertisement, extending three-quarters of a column. The aggrieved wife delivered a detailed account of the many abuses she had suffered at the hands of her husband.

For three consecutive weeks readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette glimpsed a new scene of the Wiggins’ marital difficulties. Most eighteenth-century runaway wife advertisements did not garner responses in print, but occasionally a wife or one of her friends or relatives did attempt to present the story from her perspective. Even more rarely, a subsequent advertisement advised the public that a couple had resolved their altercation. Tuften Wiggin placed such an advertisement in the October 7, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. He advised “THE PUBLICK” that “the Breach between us is now made up; and I do hereby REVOKE that Advertisement in every Part.” Sarah now had “full Liberty to contract any Debts on my Account … if she should be so inclined.” The new notice did not mention how the Wiggins had arrived at their accord, only that they had made peace. Now that Sarah was back in Tuften’s good graces, the Fowles benefited from another windfall from the couple’s dispute: one more advertisement that generated revenues for the newspaper. The printers made money each time the Wiggins decided that they would continue to publish their saga in the public prints.

September 2

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

Sep 2 - 9:2:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 2, 1768).

“IT is with much Regret I find myself obliged to appear in Print against my Husband.”

A week ago the Adverts 250 Project featured a preview of “Mrs. Sarah Wiggenss APPEAL to the Public representing her Husband’s Advertising her in this Paper.” That preview took the form of a notice inserted by the printers in the final issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette published in August 1768. Upon learning that her husband, Tuften, had placed an advertisement in the previous issue to advise the public that he would no longer pay any debts contracted by her because she had “ELoped from me … and refuses to live with me as an obedient Wife,” Sarah submitted her own advertisement to tell her side of the story. It “came too late” to the printing office to appear in the August 26 edition, but the printers promoted it as a feature that readers should anticipate “in our next.” The printers did not merely acknowledge that they would publish Sarah’s response. Instead, they disclosed that “it will appear how greatly she has been injured and imposed upon” by Tuften. By inciting interest in this domestic dispute laid before the public, the printers likely hoped to increase readership of the New-Hampshire Gazette and reap the benefits of placing their newspaper before the eyes of greater numbers of colonists.

Sarah detailed response to her husband’s short advertisement made for lively reading. First, she apologized for even having to place a notice in the public prints. “IT is with much Regret,” she lamented, “I find myself obliged to appear in Print against my Husband.” However, she was stunned that Tuften had even placed an advertisement and, in the process, implied that she had committed adultery. She had been betrayed by her husband, “one whose Duty it is to be my Virtue’s Guard and preserve it from every stain.” That was only one way in which Tuften had failed as a husband, but it was sufficient for Sarah to defend herself in view of the entire community. Given “how base I have been and still am treated by him,” Sarah proclaimed, “my Resentment rises at his Folly, and in justice to my injur’d Reputation, I am bound to vindicate it.” She then revealed that Tuften had courted her for some time. She initially refused his advances, but eventually consented to marry him in January 1767, “though greatly against the Advice of my Friends.” At that point Tuften apparently became more interested in the property Sarah brought into the marriage than in his bride herself. He stole her “Marriage Settlement” out of her chest, depriving her of the legal document that offered financial protection in the event that she became a widow. Having surrendered her “Right of Dower” to Tuften’s estate, Sarah now had “nothing left me.” This provoked a heated argument that culminated in her departure, but “with his consent.” According to Sarah, she took some clothing with her and Tuften “promised to send all my other Things by any Body I sent for them.” When she sent a man named Kenniston to collect her belongings, Tuften became enraged and refused to hand over anything. Instead, he placed the advertisement accusing Sarah of departing without his permission and refusing to heed his authority as head of the household. Most upsetting to Sarah, the advertisement implied she committed adultery. In the wake of Tuften demanding that others not to extend credit to his wife, she relied on sympathy to overcome those instructions. She bemoaned her current condition: “I have one small Child of six Months old at my Breast, and we are exposed to the wide World, having no prospect of a Reconciliation with my Husband.” She concluded with one more apology for making a private matter so public, asking “Pardon of the Public, for the Trouble I have given them to read the Circumstances of my Misfortunes.” That Sarah found herself in the position to make such an apology painted an even more unflattering portrait of perfidious husband.

Extending three-quarters of a column, Sarah Wiggin’s “APPEAL” rivaled news items printed elsewhere in the issue for length. If the printers charged to insert this response, they certainly increased their advertising revenue for the week. Even if they did not charge but instead treated her response as a letter intended to inform the public of interesting news, they still stood to generate additional revenue. Printing such a salacious story likely captivated readers, perhaps even drawing the attention of some who did not regularly peruse the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette but took a prurient interest in observing this drama unfold. More readers, for whatever reason, meant wider circulation and the potential to sell even more advertising space.

August 26

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

Aug 26 - 8:26:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 26, 1768).

“Mrs. Sarah Wiggenss APPEAL … will be in our next.”

The August 26, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included a notice from the printers concerning two advertisements, one that had been published and one that had not. “Mrs. Sarah Wiggenss APPEAL to the Public, representing her Husband’s Advertising her in this paper,” the printers explained, “came too late, but will be in our next.” The printers encouraged readers to acquire the next issue and peruse it carefully in order to learn how gros[s]ly she has been injured and imposed upon by him.” The Wiggins resided in Stratham, but their marital squabbles became common knowledge far beyond their own town.

Readers did not need to look any further than the next page to witness (once again, since it also appeared in the previous issue) the quarrelsome advertisement that had elicited Sarah Wiggin’s “APPEAL.” Her husband, Tuften, announced to the residents of Portsmouth and its hinterland that his wife had “ELoped from me … and refuses to live with me as an obedient Wife.” Given that turn of events, he resorted to the same measures as many other spurned husbands, stating that he placed his notice in the public prints in order “to forbid any Person, giving her Credit on my Account” because “I will not pay any Debt by her contracted from the ninth of August last, 1768.” In a nota bene he magnanimously, from his perspective at least, counseled that “If she returns, she will be kindly received upon reasonable terms.”

Sarah apparently had no intention of returning to Tuften. Instead, she submitted a detailed defense of her flight to the printers for presentation to the public, a defense so lengthy that the compositor did not have sufficient time or space to include it in the August 26 edition by the time it arrived in the printing office. When it did appear the following week it occupied three-quarters of a column (more on that in a subsequent entry). Public awareness of domestic strife in the Wiggin household expanded as husband and wife each placed advertisements and the printers inserted notices concerning those advertisements.

The printers did not merely note that a response from Sarah would soon appear in the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Instead, they offered colorful commentary about “how gros[s]ly she has been injured and imposed upon” by her husband. Perhaps they found her response convincing and felt sympathy for her, but their own notice that another chapter in the saga would soon become available had the added benefit of provoking additional interest among readers. The printers leveraged these advertisements about an unhappy marriage to bolster circulation of their newspaper. It was not the first time that they capitalized on disputes made public in this manner.