What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The PRINTING-OFFICE is removed to a new Building.”
In the fall of 1771, John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, moved to a new location. When he did so, he exercised his prerogative as printer to give his announcement a privileged page in the newspaper he published. The first item in the first column on the first page of the October 12 edition proclaimed, “The PRINTING-OFFICE is removed to a new Building on the main Street, fronting the COURT-HOUSE.” In case that was not enough to draw attention, Carter also resorted to ornamental type. Three asterisks preceded the copy of his notice. A decorative border enclosed the entire announcement, distinguishing it from other advertisements in the same issue.
Carter also updated the colophon that ran at the bottom of the final page each week, revising the second line to read “in King-Street, Opposite the Court-House” rather than “in King-Street, near the Court-House.” The remainder of the colophon remained the same, including the invocation of “Shakespear’s Head” as the sign that marked the building where Carter operated the printing office. When Carter moved to a new location, a sign that assisted residents and visitors in navigating the streets of Providence also moved. The printer was not the only advertiser who directed prospective customers to the new location for that landmark. Halsey and Corlis instructed readers that they had “removed their Shop” where they sold imported goods “on the West Side of the Great Bridge, to a new Store directly opposite the Court-House, at the Sign of Shakespear’s Head.” The sign that marked Carter’s printing office for years moved with him. When it did, it became a device that helped identify other businesses that opened in a new building.
The advertisements in the Providence Gazette helped readers re-imagine the streets of the town, aiding them in finding the businesses they wished to visit. A notice on the front page, a slight revision to the colophon, and an advertisement placed by shopkeepers located in the same building all worked together in reorienting the public to the new location of “Shakespear’s Head … opposite the Court-House.”