January 27

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

Jan 27 - 1:27:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (January 27, 1770).

JUST PUBLISHED … A SERMON … by the Rev. MORGAN EDWARDS.”

John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, continued to advertise “WEST’S ALMANACKS, For the present Year” and “his ACCOUNT of the TRANSIT of VENUS” in the January 27, 1770, edition of his newspaper. Both were written by Benjamin West, an astronomer, mathematician, and one of the first professors at Rhode Island College (now Brown University), and printed by Carter. The printer also advertised another book for sale at his printing office at the Sign of Shakespeare’s Head, though he had not published “A SERMON delivered January 1, 1770, by the Rev. MORGAN EDWARDS, A.M. one of the Fellows of Rhode-Island COLLEGE, and Pastor of the Baptist Church in Philadelphia.” The advertisement announced that the sermon was “JUST PUBLISHED at NEWPORT,” though Carter had acquired copies to sell in Providence.

This advertisement referred to A New-Years-Gift: Being a Sermon, Delivered at Philadelphia, on January 1, 1770, and Published for Rectifying Some Wrong Reports, and Preventing Others of the Like Sort, but Chiefly for Giving It Another Chance of Doing Good to Them Who Heard It. Solomon Southwick, printer of the Newport Mercury, reprinted the sermon after Joseph Crukshank first printed an edition in Philadelphia. Southwick presumably believed that the sermon would find a market in Newport because of Edwards’s affiliation with the college and his role as a “prime mover” in its founding. Similarly, Carter likely hoped to capitalize on the college’s imminent move to its permanent home in Providence in 1770 when he advertised the sermon.

Both printers may have also expected a particular passage in the sermon, one not mentioned in its long and ponderous title, would attract the attention of prospective customers. Carter’s advertisement stated that it had been “occasioned by his having been strongly impressed for a Number of Years past, that he should die on the 9th Day of March next.” According to Martha Mitchell in the Encyclopedia Brunonia, Edwards’s wife, who died in 1769, “had somehow foreseen the time of her death. Edwards now recalled a dream he had fifteen years earlier and became convinced he would die the next year.” Edwards survived the year, but his credibility did not. Another minister suggested “that the year was not to be that of Edwards’s death but of the death of his ministry,” which turned out to be the case. He resigned as pastor and did not preach again. Preaching the sermon damaged his reputation; that it circulated in print in several colonies compounded the problem, even as it provided an opportunity for printers and booksellers to augment their revenues.

September 24

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

sep-24-9241766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 24, 1766).

“May be had at the Printing-Office … A SERMON.”

James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, advertised the second edition of “A SERMON Preached in the Meeting at Savannah in Georgia, June 25th, 1766.” Although he did not specify the topic of this sermon, the four lines from Galatians that concluded the advertisement suggested that it addressed the uneasy relationship between the colonies and Great Britain that had been occasioned by Parliament’s attempts to regulate commerce within the empire, especially within its North American colonies. “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty,” the biblical verses began, but concluded with a warning to “take heed that ye not be consumed one of another.” Johnston apparently presumed that potential customers/readers were so familiar recent political events, in general, and this sermon, in particular, that he did not need to state explicitly that it addressed the Stamp Act.

Johnston was certainly advertising John Joachim Zubly’s “The Stamp Act Repealed: A Sermon.” The title page of the second edition of that thirty-page duodecimo pamphlet included the same verses and other information that also appeared in the advertisement, including the assertion that it had been “First published at the Request and Expence of the Hearers.” The second edition was simultaneously published in Charleston by Peter Timothy and in Philadelphia by Heinrich Miller.

sep-24-pamphlet-cover
John Joachim Zubly, The Stamp-Act Repealed:  A Sermon (Savannah, GA:  James Johnston, 1766).  American Antiquarian Society.

In an introduction to the “Sermon,” Randall M. Miller notes that Zubly “captured the feelings of other prominent Georgians in 1766 who had recoiled from the strong words and threats of the Stamp Act crisis but also who had resented Parliament’s encroachment on American rights.” The sermon “stressed obedience to law and the reciprocal obligations of both Christian rulers and subjects to honor law and order.”[1]

By the time the second edition was published, colonists had known for several months that the Stamp Act had been repealed (which had led to Zubly preaching this sermon for a day of thanksgiving). One crisis had been averted, but colonists continued to grapple with their relationship to Britain, especially in the wake of the Declaratory Act. Still, few colonists were prepared at that time to sever ties with Britain. Johnston marketed a sermon that might assist readers in maintaining their identity as Britons while acknowledging that they had been slighted by Parliament. “We seemed like people that had been apprehensive of being shipwrecked and happily made a harbour,” Zubly proclaimed.[2] In publishing, marketing, and selling a second edition of the sermon, Johnston and his counterparts in Charleston and Philadelphia amplified that message to greater numbers of colonists.

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[1] Randall M. Miller, “A Warm & Zealous Spirit”: John J. Zubly and the American Revolution, A Selection of His Writings (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1982), 31.

[2] John Joachim Zubly, The Stamp-Act Repealed: A Sermon (Savannah, GA: James Jonhnson, 1766), 28.