November 6

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (November 6, 1772).

“Those Persons are desired to make some Agreement, otherways their Papers must cease.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, frequently inserted notices calling on subscribers and others to settle accounts.  They threatened to sue those who did not pay their bills.  Such notices regularly appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies.  Printers extended credit to subscribers, hoping to increase their circulation numbers in order to generate more revenue by attracting advertisers, and many of those subscribers notoriously became delinquent in paying for their newspapers.

Printers were not the only ones, however, who had a hard time collecting from newspaper subscribers.  The post riders who delivered newspapers to subscribers in other towns also experienced difficulty getting subscribers to pay for their services.  Printers, including the Fowles, sometimes ran notices on behalf of the post riders who facilitated the circulation of their newspapers to subscribers and other readers in towns near and far.

On November 6, 1772, the Fowles ran notices related to both situations.  They advised that “Mr. MILK the Eastern-Post Having now Completed the Year, the Customers are desired to send pay for their Papers by him.”  The printers did not suggest legal action as a consequence of ignoring their notice this time.  Instead, they attempted to reason with subscribers, stating that having enjoyed their subscriptions throughout the year that Milk serviced the route they now had an obligation to pay.  Similarly, the Fowles stated that “Mr. LARRABEE (the Post to Dartmouth College) … also Rode a Year” so “the Customers for this Gazette, on that Road, are desired to send pay and the Entrance for another Year if they expect the Papers sent any longer.”  In this instance, the Fowles expected subscribers to settle accounts for the past year as well as pay in advance for the coming year if they wished to continue receiving the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Perhaps they had an even more difficult time collecting from subscribers at Dartmouth College than those served by the Eastern Post.

The Fowles also instructed subscribers in Hampton and other towns along the route covered by “Mr. NOBLE [and] the Boston Post” that the rider would no longer deliver their newspapers “unless he can by some Means come at the Pay” for his services.  Those subscribers needed “to make some Agreement” with Noble or else “their Papers must cease, or be sent by private Hands.”  Noble apparently no longer found it financially feasible to deliver the New-Hampshire Gazettewithout being paid for his efforts.  Enlisting the aid of the Fowles, he put subscribers on notice that they either had to pay what they owed him or he would discontinue delivery.

Both kinds of notices provide glimpses into the operations of eighteenth-century printing offices and their networks for circulating newspapers to subscribers and other readers.  The Fowles did not directly receive revenues from running these notices, but indirectly such notices may have been as lucrative as paid advertisements if they managed to get some subscribers to settle accounts and kept circulation numbers strong enough to attract advertisers.

October 12

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

Boston-Gazette (October 12, 1772).

New Advertisements.”

Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, wanted to increase the chances that readers took notice of their call to settle accounts in the fall of 1772.  In the October 12 edition, they inserted an announcement that “ALL Persons indebted for this Paper, whose Accounts have been above 12 Months standing, are requested to make immediate Payment.”  The copy was standard for such notices, placed by printers throughout the colonies, but Edes and Gill deployed a format intended to increase the attention the notice received.  Decorative type enclosed the printers’ notice to delinquent subscribers within a border.  Edes and Gill did not however, devise that format for their own purposes.  Instead, they adopted a strategy already in use by some of their advertisers.  Herman Brimmer and Andrew Brimmer, for instance, enclosed “Variety of Goods,” the headline to their lengthy advertisement listing scores of items, within an ornate border.  Jonathan Williams, Jr., had a border around his entire advertisement.

Edes and Gill also selected an advantageous place on the page for their notice, inserting it at the top of the first column on the final page.  It appeared immediately below a headline for “New Advertisement,” another design element intended to direct attention to the printers’ call for subscribers to pay their bills.  That headline helped to distinguish advertisements on that page from others that ran on the second and third pages.  A brief note on the third page also aided Edes and Gill’s efforts to highlight their notice.  The advertisements on the third page commenced with instructions: “For New Advertisements, See last Page.”  The printers incorporated a variety of means of increasing the visibility of their notice. They exercised their prerogative in placing it first among the notices labeled “New Advertisements” and used notes elsewhere in the issue to direct readers to one of the only advertisements that featured a border composed of decorative type.  Edes and Gill used graphic design to demand attention for an otherwise mundane notice.

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.

February 1

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

Providence Gazette (February 1, 1772).

“He does not receive a Sufficiency from his Subscribers to defray even the Expence of Paper on which the Gazette is printed.”

It was a familiar refrain.  John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, called on subscribers to pay their bills, echoing notices that printers throughout the colonies regularly inserted in their own newspapers.  He appealed to reason, but also threatened legal action.  In the process, he provided an overview of his persistent attempts to convince subscribers to settle their accounts.

Carter reported that the “Ninth of November closed the Year with most of the Subscribers to this Gazette.”  That milestone made it a good time to make payments, but nearly three months later “Numbers of them are now greatly in Arrear.”  Carter had already attempted to collect, noting that he “repeatedly called on” subscribers “by Advertisements,” but they “still neglect settling their Accounts, to the great Disadvantage of the Printer.”  He suggested that continuing to publish the Providence Gazette depended on subscribers paying what they owed.  So many of them were so delinquent that Carter claimed that he “does not receive a Sufficiency from his Subscribers to defray even the Expence of Paper on which the Gazette is printed.”  Subscriptions, however, were not the only source of revenue for Carter or any other printer.  Advertising also generated revenues, often making newspapers profitable (or at least viable) ventures.

The printer hoped that subscribers would feel some sympathy about the costs he incurred, but he also determined, “reluctantly … and with the utmost Pain,” to sue those who still refused to pay.  Carter lamented that “he finds himself compelled to acquaint ALL such, that their Accounts must and will be put in Suit, if not very speedily discharged.” Despite his exasperation and emphasizing that he felt “compelled” to pursue such a course, Carter likely never initiated any suits.  Printers frequently made such threats, but rarely alienated subscribers by following through on them.  After all, selling advertising depended in part on circulation numbers.  Printers realized they had the potential to come out ahead on advertisements even if they took a loss on subscriptions.

October 23

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 22, 1771).

“ALL Persons indebted to the Printer of this Paper …”

The masthead for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal proclaimed that its pages “Contain[ed] the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic.”  The newspaper also disseminated a lot of advertisements, on some occasions more advertising than other content.  The October 22, 1771, edition, for instance, consisted primarily of advertisements.  They filled the entire front and back pages.  News appeared on the second page and overflowed into the first column on the third, but “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” comprised the remainder of that page.  Charles Crouch received so many advertisements at his printing office that he published a two-page supplement devoted entirely to advertising.

Those advertisements represented significant revenue for Crouch, but only if advertisers actually paid for the time and labor required to set the type and for the space that their notices occupied when they ran week after week.  Many advertisers, as well as subscribers, were slow to pay, prompting Crouch to insert his own notice that “ALL Persons indebted to the Printer of this Paper, whose Accounts are not discharged by the first Day of January next … may rely on having them put into the Hands of an Attorney at Law, or Magistrate, as the Case may require.”  He made an exception for “those of his good Customers who have been punctual in their Payments,” but otherwise extended “no Indulgence” to others.

Colonists who pursued all sorts of occupations frequently placed similar advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers throughout the colonies, but Crouch had an advantage when it came to placing his notice in front of the eyes of the customers that he wanted to see it.  As printer, he determined the order of the contents in his newspaper.  He strategically placed his notice as the first item in the first column on the first page, immediately below the masthead, making it more likely that readers would notice it even if they merely skimmed other advertisements or looked for the news.  Other advertisers usually did not choose where their notices appeared in relation to other content.  As part of the business of operating printing offices and publishing newspapers, Crouch and other printers often made the placement of their own notices a priority.  After all, the financial health of their newspapers served not only themselves but also subscribers who kept informed about current events, advertisers who wished to share their messages with the public, and entire communities that benefited from the circulation of information.

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.

August 17

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

Providence Gazette (August 17, 1771).

ALL Persons indebted for this Gazette one Year, or more, are desired to make immediate Payment.”

Colonial printers often inserted advertisements in their own newspapers, taking advantage of their access to the press to promote various aspects of their businesses.  John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, for instance, regularly ran advertisements for “BLANKS of various Kinds” or printed forms for legal and commercial transactions available for sale at his printing office.  He placed other notices concerning the operations of the newspaper, including an advertisement in the August 17, 1771, edition indicating that “ALL Persons indebted for this Gazette one Year, or more, are desired to make immediate Payment.”  Colonial printers regularly advanced credit to subscribers and periodically called on them to settle accounts.

To increase the likelihood that subscribers would take note of this advertisement, Carter placed it immediately after the news.  Some readers likely perused advertisements more quickly than they examined news items, so positioning this notice first among the advertisements made it more likely that those readers would see it as they transitioned between different kinds of content in that issue of the Providence Gazette.  In addition, Carter placed a lively letter from “AFRIEND to the PUBLIC” above his notice about making payments for the newspaper.  The “FRIEND” told a tale of “Fraud and Villainy” involving insurance and the “many Contradictions contained in the Papers” related to the loss of the sloop Betsy.  The “FRIEND” acknowledged that Robert Stewart, the alleged perpetrator, might have been innocent, but still declared that “the whole appears to be a designed Fraud.”

Carter had choices about where to place his notice requesting payment.  He ran another brief notice concerning blanks in the same issue, a notice that he could have inserted after the letter about insurance fraud instead of giving that spot to his advertisement directed to subscribers.  Indeed, he could have placed any of the advertisements in that issue immediately after the news, but he reserved that space for his attempt to collect on overdue subscription fees.  As printer, he exercised his prerogative when it came to the order of advertisements as well as the order of the news.

December 19

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 19, 1770).

“ALL Persons indebted to CARNE & WILSON, are requested to discharge their respective Debts.”

Apothecaries Carne and Wilson advertised widely when they dissolved their partnership in the fall of 1770, calling on clients to “discharge their respective Debts” or else face the consequences.  They threatened that those who disregarded their notices would “have to settle with a Gentleman of the Law.”  They also expressed some exasperation, stating that they had inserted advertisement “in the several Gazettes” published in Charleston so none of their customers “may plead ignorance.”  Such notices were common in South Carolina and throughout the colonies.

Neither Carne nor Wilson retired, moved to another town, or ceased working as apothecaries when their partnership came to an end.  Instead, they each pursued other opportunities.  Wilson ran his own shop, while Carne embarked on a new partnership.  Both ran advertisements for their new endeavors, notices that overlapped with their advertisements instructing former customers to settle accounts.  In the December 19, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, for instance, a single column on the front page included advertisements representing all three enterprises.  Wilson’s advertisement for a “LARGE and compleat ASSORTMENT of DRUGS, CHEMICAL, GALENICAL, and FAMILY MEDICINES” appeared at the top of the column, followed immediately by Carne and Poinsett’s advertisement for a “Large Parcel of DRUGS and MEDICINES.”  Even though they were now competitors rather than partners, the proximity of their advertisements kept their names associated with each other.  Several other advertisements appeared in that column, with Carne and Wilson’s notice for customers to discharge their debts at the bottom.
The public prints featured reverberations of Carne and Wilson’s former partnership even as they launched and promoted new ventures.  The success of those new ventures may have depended in part on closing the books on the partnership, hence their stern warning that recalcitrant customers might have to deal with an attorney “as no longer indulgence can possibly be given, there being an absolute necessity for having every thing relative to that concern closed.”  Colonial entrepreneurs placed advertisements throughout the various stages of operating their businesses, announcing that they would soon open, promoting goods and services available at their shops, and informing the public when they closed.  The three advertisements that Carne and Wilson placed simultaneously in the South-Carolina and American General Gazetteencapsulated this cycle, telling a more complete story about their commercial activities.

November 26

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

Boston Evening-Post (November 26, 1770).

“Those Customers who live in the Country are more particularly desired to pay some Attention to the above reasonable Request.”

Extensive credit played an important role in fueling the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century.  Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans all extended credit to their customers.  Printers did the same, often for periods of years rather than merely weeks or months.  Newspaper printers regularly inserted notices into their publications to call on subscribers, advertisers, and others to pay their debts.  In some instances, they stated that their ability to continue disseminating the news depended on customers paying their overdue bills.  More often, they threatened legal action against those who did not settle accounts by a specified date.

On November 26, 1770, Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, printers of the Boston Evening-Post, once again joined the chorus of printers who inserted such notices in their newspapers.  They requested that “All Persons indebted for this Paper, whose Accounts have been 12 Months standing … to make immediate Payment.”  Although they did not suggest taking anyone to court, they did express some exasperation with those who had not heeded previous notices.  “Those Customers who live in the Country,” the Fleets implored, “are more particularly desired to pay some Attention to the above reasonable Request.”

To increase the likelihood that those customers at least saw the notice, the Fleets deployed a couple of strategies.  First, they made it the first item in the first column on the first page.  It appeared immediately below the masthead and immediately above news items rather than interspersed among other advertisements.  Even if they only skimmed the contents to find items of interest, readers who perused that issue of the Boston Evening-Post were likely to spot the Fleets’ notice.  To help call attention to it and underscore its importance, the Fleets included several manicules.  A manicule on the first line directed attention to the notice.  A line composed of seventeen manicules beneath the advertisement seemed to insist that readers take note of what appeared above them.  Although the Fleets did not threaten to sue recalcitrant customers, they used other means to suggest they were serious about receiving overdue payments.

September 28

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 205 years ago today?

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 28, 1770).

This Paper compleats the 14th Year since its first Publication.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, made the usual updates to the masthead for the September 28, 1770, edition.  It included the full title, The New-Hampshire Gazette, and Historical Chronicle, and advised readers that it “CONTAIN[ED] the Freshest ADVICES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.”  A woodcut depicting a lion and unicorn, symbols of the United Kingdom, appeared in the center, along with the initials G.R. for George Rex, the king.  Despite tensions with Parliament due to the Townshend Acts and other abuses, colonists continued to identify as members of the British Empire loyal to George III.  Like most other newspapers printed in the colonies, the volume and issue number also adorned the masthead.  The September 28 edition was part of “VOL. XIV.”  The Fowles listed the issue as “NUM. 728” and, unlike most other printers, explained that number indicated how many “Weeks since this Paper was first Publish’d.”  They added one additional item to the masthead to mark a milestone in the history of the newspaper’s publication.  “This PAPER compleats the fourteenth Year of” the New-Hampshire Gazette, that notation informed readers.

The Fowles noted this milestone elsewhere in the issue as well.  Those “Freshest ADVICES” included advertisements that delivered news and other information, among them notices from the printers.  The Fowles gave their advertisement a privileged place, positioning first among the advertisements and immediately following the shipping news from the customs house.  “As this Paper compleats the 14th Year since its first Publication,” the Fowles addressed readers, “it is desir’d, that those who are in Arrears, would pay off immediately, that it may be determin’d, whether it will be worth while to send any more to those who are so very delinquent.”  The Fowles simultaneously celebrated their accomplishment and an important milestone in the history of their newspaper while also warning subscribers who had not paid their bills to remedy the situation or they would not receive additional issues on credit.  The end of one year and the start of another was a good opportunity for the Fowles to settle accounts and make sure all was in order.

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 28, 1770).