December 10

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

Dec 10 - 12:7:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (December 7, 1769).

“LONDON MAGAZINE.”

Nicholas Langford, “Bookseller, on the Bay,” inserted an advertisement for the London Magazine in the December 7, 1769, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. At a time when many colonists participated in nonimportation agreements to protest taxes that Parliament imposed on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea, most continued to seek redress of grievances rather than political separation from the most powerful empire in the world. Even as they came to think of themselves as Americans with unique concerns within that empire, most still embraced their British identity, not just politically but also culturally. Langford had a reasonable expectation that he would find subscribers for the London Magazine on the eve of the 1770s.

Commencing publication in 1731, the London Magazine had a long history and a notable reputation. According to Langford, the “present Proprietors … are resolved to spare no Cost to continue its Pre-eminence” by “collecting from their extensive Correspondence, such Pieces of Literary Knowledge and Amusement, as may best deserve the Public’s Notice.” They also composed original pieces, “each taking upon him that Department which best suits his Genius.” This sort of cultural production did not have a counterpart or competitor in the colonies. Lewis Nicola had recently tried to launch the American General Magazine, placing subscription notices in several newspapers throughout the colonies, but the magazine quickly folded. Like most other American magazine published before the Revolution, it lasted less than a year. The first issue appeared in January 1769 and the last in September. Nicola modeled the magazine after successful publications produced on the other side of the Atlantic, but did not manage to cultivate a roster of subscribers extensive enough to make the American General Magazine a viable venture. Consumers with the resources to afford magazines and the leisure time to read them had well-established alternatives, including the London Magazine with its “Copper-Plate Embellishments.” Langford also offered The Critical Review “for any Gentleman who may be desirous of having it with the Magazine.”

As colonists expressed their disdain for Parliament and its various abuses, many also continued to embrace their British identity. The politics of the period did not prevent them from marketing or consuming cultural productions that emanated from the center of the empire. For some, staying informed by reading the London Magazine did not seem incongruous with participating in acts of political resistance that included boycotting a vast array of consumer goods imported from Britain.

November 14

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

Nov 14 - 11:14:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (November 14, 1769).

The Last Solemn Scene, will be ready to be delivered to the Subscribers To-Morrow Noon.”

Compared to many other American newspapers published in the late 1760s, the Essex Gazette contained relatively little advertising. Compare the November 14, 1769, edition to the South-Carolina and American General Gazette published on the same day. Only six advertisements, filling only a portion of a column, ran in the Essex Gazette. In contrast, more than fifty advertisements filled nearly six of the sixteen columns in the standard issue of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. That still was not enough space for all of the paid notices submitted to the printing office. A two-page supplement comprised exclusively of advertisements accompanied the November 13 edition; nearly fifty more advertisements filled six columns. Admittedly, Charleston was a larger and busier port than Salem, where Samuel Hall published the Essex Gazette, but the difference in the contents of the two newspapers was stark all the same.

Of the six advertisements that appeared in the Essex Gazette on November 14, two promoted Hall’s own business interests. He divided the advertisements into two sections; three ran at the bottom of the last column on the third page and the other three ran at the bottom of the last column on the final page. In both instances, Hall exercised his prerogative as the printer to place his advertisements first. As readers transitioned from perusing the news to advertisements, Hall increased the likelihood that they would take note of his advertisements, even if they switched to skimming the remainder of the column in search of more news.

Both of Hall’s advertisements concerned books. One informed readers of a book “Just Publish’d, and sold at the Printing-Office.” The other announced the successful outcome of a proposed book published by subscription. Hall had called on interested readers to reserve a copy of “The Rev. Mr. Murray’s Sermon, entitled, The Last Solemn Scene,” in advance. As with other printers who published by subscription, he gauged the market and did not commit the book to press until he knew sufficient demand existed to make it a viable enterprise. His advertisement in the November 14 edition of the Essex Gazette informed subscribers that the book would be ready “To-Morrow Noon.”

Printers frequently inserted advertisements for their own goods and services in the newspapers they published. In Hall’s case, doing so was important not only to generate more business for his other ventures but also to encourage additional advertising from members of the community. He did not have the advantage of pages overflowing with advertising that Robert Wells experienced with the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. As a result, his own advertisements had to serve as a model for prospective advertisers, implicitly encouraging them to submit their own notices for dissemination in the public prints.

October 17

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

Oct 17 - 10:17:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (October 17, 1769).

“JUST PUBLISHED … A Volume of Curious Papers.”

A brief advertisement in the October 17, 1769, edition of the Essex Gazette (published in Salem) announced that “A Volume of Curious Papers collected by His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor, which may serve as an Appendix to his History of Massachusets Bay” had gone to press and was “now ready to be delivered to the Subscribers by T. and J. FLEET, Printers in Boston.” This notice was a variation on advertisements that ran in newspapers throughout New England during the previous week. One variation ran in the New-Hampshire Gazette (published in Portsmouth) on Friday, October 13 and in the Providence Gazette on Saturday, October 14. The Fleets inserted a slightly different version in their own newspaper, the Boston Evening-Post, on Monday, October 16. That same day, variations ran in the Boston-Gazette, the Connecticut Courant (published in Hartford), and the Newport Mercury. Following publication in the Essex Gazette on October 17, a similar notice appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on Thursday, October 19. Over the course of a week, the Fleets inserted notices about the publication of this “Volume of Curious Papers” in eight newspapers printed in six cities and towns in four colonies.

This meant that readers in Boston, Hartford, Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, Salem, and beyond encountered similar advertisements for the same product, a book about the history of Massachusetts, as they perused their local newspapers. Although most advertisers were not so enterprising when it came to publishing notices in multiple colonies, members of the book trades often relied on subscription notices distributed widely as a means of creating markets for books they wished to publish. Printers published proposals in several newspapers and, later, published updates for subscribers who pre-ordered books, including, ultimately, announcements informing both subscribers and the general public when they published a proposed work.

These advertisements contributed to the formation of what Benedict Anderson termed “imagined communities” of geographically dispersed people drawn together through the experience of simultaneously reading the same content in newspapers. In the eighteenth century, most of this content consisted of news and editorials, especially since colonial printers liberally reprinted material from one newspaper to another. T.H. Breen has argued that colonists also formed imagined communities around consumption practices, demonstrating that the same sorts of goods appeared in newspaper advertisements from New England to Georgia. Subscription notices and subsequent advertisements, however, did not merely expose readers to similar wares. Like the news and editorials reprinted from one newspaper to another, they replicated content associated with particular products, in this case a “Volume of Curious Papers” about the history of Massachusetts. Print helped to knit together colonists in the era of the American Revolution, but the print that did so was not limited to newspaper reports or political pamphlets distributed far and wide. Sometimes advertising also contributed to the formation of imagined communities in early America.

October 14

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

Oct 14 - 10:14:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (October 14, 1769).

“Subscribers are desired to send for their Books.”

The day after a notice concerning the publication of “A COLLECTION of Original PAPERS, which are intended to support and elucidate the principal Facts related to the first Part of the HISTORY of MASSACHUSETTS BAY” ran in the New-Hampshire Gazette, a nearly identical advertisement appeared in the Providence Gazette. Some spelling and punctuation varied, as did the typography throughout the notice, but for all intents and purposes the two newspapers published the same advertisement. The notice in the Providence Gazette, like the one in the New-Hampshire Gazette, provided instructions for customers who had pre-ordered a copy of the “Collection of original Papers” to “send for their Books.” Those customers were known as subscribers because they had responded to subscription notices distributed to incite demand and gauge interest in the book before T. and J. Fleet committed to publishing it. The Fleets obtained enough subscribers to make the venture viable and now called on those customers to collect their books.

The advertisement occupied a privileged place in the October 14, 1769, edition of the Providence Gazette. Of the several advertisements in that issue, it appeared first, immediately below local news. John Carter, the printer and proprietor of the Providence Gazette, may have instructed the compositor to place it there when setting the type for the issue. This courtesy extended to fellow printers could have enhanced the visibility of the advertisement, increasing the likelihood that subscribers would take note. The compositor also included a manicule to draw attention, deploying a device that did not often appear in the Providence Gazette. Carter may not have charged the Fleets for inserting the advertisement, running it as an in-kind service for fellow printers in another city who did not directly compete the work he did at the printing office in Providence. Although this advertisement did not explicitly state that was the case, others published in connection to subscription notices sometimes called on fellow printers to give notices space gratis.

October 13

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

Oct 13 - 11:13:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 13, 1769).

Subscribers are desired to send for their Books.”

Subscription notices for books regularly appeared in colonial newspapers, but not all proposed publications eventually went to press. Printers used subscription notices to gauge the market for books they considered printing. Only when sufficient numbers of customers “subscribed” – reserved a copy in advance and, in some cases, made a deposit – did printers produce books advertised in subscription notices. In some cases, they also specified that they would not print surplus copies but instead limit publication to copies for subscribers exclusively. This mediated risk for printers, publishers, and booksellers in eighteenth-century America.

An advertisement in the October 13, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette provided an update for “subscribers” who had responded to a subscription notice that appeared in the same newspaper several months earlier. That notice, dated “Boston, July 2d, 1769,” presented “PROPOSALS for Printing by Subscription, A Volume of curious Papers, to serve as an Appendix to Lieutenant-Governor HUTCHINGSON’S History of Massachusetts-Bay.” The new advertisement indicated that the proposed work indeed went to press. “JUST PUBLISHED,” it proclaimed.

The original notice called on subscribers to submit their names to “T. & J. FLEET, Printers in Boston, D. & R. FOWLE at Portsmouth, & Bulkeley Emerson, at Newbury-Port.” The printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette collaborated with other printers in encouraging the project. The subsequent advertisement, however, suggested the limits of their responsibilities as local agents for a project that originated in Boston. T. & J. Fleet printed the octavo tome there. They also assumed the lead in distributing it to subscribers. The notice in the New-Hampshire Gazette stated, “Subscribers are desired to send for their Books to T. and J. FLEET, at the Heart and Crown, in Cornhill, Boston.” The Fleets apparently did not send copies to Portsmouth for local distribution by the Fowles. Instead, the Fowles fulfilled their obligations to the project by running an advertisement in their newspaper. The participation required of local agents when printing books by subscription varied from publication to publication.

August 11

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

Aug 11 - 8:11:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 11, 1769).

Most of these Papers will, probably, be irrecoverably lost in a few Years, unless they be preserved by Printing.”

During the summer of 1769, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, cooperated with other printers to incite demand for “a Volume of curious Papers, to serve as an Appendix to Lieutenant-Governor HUTCHINSON’S History of Massachusetts-Bay,” a work frequently advertised in newspapers in Boston and other parts of New England. To that end, the Fowles inserted a subscription notice in the New-Hampshire Gazette. Printers had dual purposes in circulating such “PROPOSALS” as newspaper advertisements and, sometimes, separate subscription papers. They aimed to stimulate demand, but they also conducted market research by assessing demand. They did not move forward with projects if consumers did not express sufficient demand. Such was the case with this “Volume of curious Papers.” The subscription notice starkly stated that the “Work will begin as soon as a sufficient Number of Subscribers appear to defrey the Expence.” Those who wished to reserve a copy needed to submit their names to T. and J. Fleet in Boston, Bulkeley Emerson in Newburyport, or the Fowles in Portsmouth.

In their efforts to encourage colonists to subscribe to the work, the printers vowed that “No more Books will be printed than what are subscribed for.” This created a sense of urgency for prospective subscribers, warning that if they did not make a commitment soon that eventually it would be too late to acquire a copy so they better not waver. The printers also presented a challenge that made colonists responsible for preserving the history and heritage of New England. The subscription notice concluded with a short paragraph that outlined their duty: “As most of these Papers will, probably, be irrecoverably lost in a few Years, unless they be preserved by Printing, it is hoped that a sufficient Number of Subscribers will soon appear, from a regard to the Public, as well as for the sake of their particular Entertainment.” The printers did not envision carefully storing the original documents as a means of safeguarding them for future generations. Instead, the best form of preservation occurred through multiplication. Taking the volume to press would guarantee that the contents of those “curious Papers” would survive long beyond the originals becoming “irrecoverably lost” through deterioration or mishap over the years. Colonists had a civic duty, “a regard to the Public,” to play a role in preventing that loss, according to the printers. Rather than thinking about purchasing and reading the “Volume of curious Papers” as a form of “particular Entertainment” only for themselves, the subscription notice challenged colonists to think of it as a service to their community. Consumption need not be frivolous; it could also serve a purpose in the interests of the greater good.

July 25

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

Jul 25 - 7:25:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (July 25, 1769).

“THIS Day’s Paper (No. 52) compleats the first Year of the ESSEX GAZETTE.”

Samuel Hall, the printer of the Essex Gazette, participated in a familiar ritual. In the July 25, 1769, edition, he inserted a notice that announced, “THIS Day’s Paper (No. 52) compleats the first Year of the ESSEX GAZETTE.” Colonial printers often marked such occasions in the pages of their newspapers. They marked the first year but also commemorated subsequent years as a means of demonstrating the importance of newspapers to the community and promoting them to new subscribers and advertisers. These notices usually occupied a privileged place on the page, serving as a bridge between news items and advertisements. Part news, part marketing, they served more than one purpose.

Hall expressed his “sincere Thanks to the Publick” for supporting the Essex Gazette. He also promised “his Customers,” subscribers and advertisers, that he would “make it his invariable Study and Endeavour to render his Publications as agreeable to his Customers in general as he possibly can.” Unlike some other printers, he did not take the opportunity to outline proposed improvements to the newspaper in the coming year.

Before thanking “the Publick” and “his Customers,” Hall first made a pitch to prospective subscribers. It commenced with a report that some readers already experienced disappointment in their attempts to acquire “a compleat Sett” of issues of the Essex Gazette “from the Commencement of the first Volume.” A new year and a second volume of the Essex Gazette presented an opportunity for prospective subscribers, but only if they acted quickly. Hall requested that they “speedily … send in their Names to the Printer.” For the moment, he intended to print a few additional copies, starting with the “Beginning of Vol. II.” the following week. He did not mention the cost of subscribing in this notice, but the colophon running across the bottom of the following page stated that subscriber paid six shillings and eight pence, half “at Entrance.”

When the Essex Gazette survived its first year and continued into a second, the printer commemorated the occasion with a notice that informed the public of this significant milestone. Yet he did not confine his message to relaying this news and thanking those who had supported his endeavor. Instead, Hall also used the occasion to drum up more business for his newspaper, warning prospective subscribers not to repeat the mistakes of others who hesitated to subscribe during the newspaper’s first year of publication.

July 19

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

Jul 19 - 7:19:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 19, 1769).

“PROPOSALS FOR CONTINUING AND IMPROVING The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE.”

In the spring of 1769, William Goddard launched an advertising campaign intended to garner subscriptions for the Pennsylvania Chronicle from throughout the colonies. In outlining its contents, Goddard described a weekly publication that prospective subscribers may have considered as much a magazine as a newspaper. He proclaimed, “Several Gentlemen of great learning and ingenuity, in this and the neighbouring provinces, have promised to lend their assistance, so that there may not be wanting dome original productions, which may exhibit agreeable specimens of American humour and genius.” That being the case, Goddard did not produce a local or regional newspaper that merely delivered news reprinted from one newspaper to another, but instead a “Repository of ingenious and valuable literature, in prose and verse.” Goddard intended for subscribers to preserve their copies of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, pledging to distribute a title page, index, and two copperplate engravings (one for use as a frontispiece) to be bound together with the several issues each year. Such plans paralleled those distributed by magazine publishers in eighteenth-century America.

Goddard’s “PROPOSALS FOR CONTINUING AND IMPROVING The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE” radiated out from Philadelphia. They first found their way into newspapers published in New York and then others published in New England. Eventually they appeared in newspapers published in southern colonies. Dated “May 1, 1769,” Goddard’s “PROPOSALS” did not run in the Georgia Gazette, the newspaper most distant from Philadelphia, until July 19, eleven weeks later. Goddard envisioned what Benedict Anderson termed an imagined community of readers. Although dispersed geographically, readers formed a sense of community and common interests through exposure to the same information via print culture. Colonial newspapers served this purpose as printers established networks for exchanging their publications and liberally reprinting news and other content from one to another. Goddard presented an even more cohesive variation: subscribers throughout the colonies reading the same information in a single publication and feeling a sense of community because they knew that other subscribers in faraway places read the same news and literature contained in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, rather than whichever snippets from other publications an editor happened to choose to reprint for local and regional consumption.

Creating an imagined community depended in part on establishing a sense of simultaneity, that readers were encountering the same content at the same time. Communication and transportation technologies in the eighteenth century made true simultaneity impossible, as seen in the lag between Goddard composing his “PROPOSALS” on May 1 and their eventual publication in the Georgia Gazette on July 19. Yet readers could experience a perceived simultaneity from knowing that they read the same publication as subscribers in other colonies. Reprinting items from one newspaper to another already contributed to this, but the widespread distribution of a single publication made that perceived simultaneity much more palpable and certain. Readers encountered Goddard’s “PROPOSALS” in several newspapers published in cities and towns throughout the colonies, but they could experience the same contents, pitched as political and cultural and distinctively American, in the pages of the publication that Goddard made such great effort to distribute as widely as possible.

July 8

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

Jul 8 - 7:8:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 8, 1769).

Subscriptions for the American Magazine, published in Philadelphia.”

On behalf of Lewis Nicola, the editor of the American Magazine, John Carter inserted a brief advertisement in the July 8, 1769, edition of the Providence Gazette. In just four lines, it advised readers in Rhode Island that “Subscriptions for the American Magazine, published in Philadelphia by the Editor Lewis Nicola, are received by the Printer hereof, at 13 s. Pennsylvania Currency per Annum, to be paid on subscribing.” This notice was much less extensive than some that appeared in other newspapers. An advertisement that ran in the New-York Journal almost two months earlier informed prospective subscribers of the length of each issue and promised a title page and index with the final edition for the year. Another much more extensive advertisement appeared in Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette at the end of May. It described magazines as “the Taste of the Age” and provided an overview of the publication’s purpose and contents. The editor aimed “To instruct, and innocently amuse” readers. The magazine served as “a Repository for the many small, tho’ valuable Pieces that would otherwise be lost to the World.”

Though vastly different in length and content, these advertisements provide an example of the networks that members of the book trades established in eighteenth-century America. Realizing that local markets alone would not sustain some of their enterprises, printers and publishers banded together, sometimes formally but often informally, to assist each other. This included exchanging newspapers and then liberally reprinting content from one to another, but disseminating information was not the extent of the work accomplished by these networks. Note that Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, served as a local agent for Nicola in Providence, as did Draper, the printer of the Massachusetts Gazette, in Boston, and John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal, in New York. These printers did not merely publish Nicola’s advertisement; they also informed him of the subscribers in their cities, collected subscription fees, and likely aided in the distribution of the American Magazine.

Publishing books, magazines, and other printed materials in eighteenth-century America often depended on these networks of cooperation among members of the book trades, especially printers and publishers. Sometimes such networks played a significant role in the success of an endeavor; other times, they were not enough to overcome other factors that ultimately led to the failure of publications. Nicola’s American Magazine ceased publication within three months of the advertisement in the Providence Gazette. Yet his efforts provided an important marketing model that other magazine publishers successfully deployed after the American Revolution.

July 1

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

Jul 1 - 7:1:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 1, 1769).

“JUST PUBLISHED … TWO SERMONS.”

John Carter exercised his privilege as printer to have his own advertisement appear first among the advertisements in the July 1, 1769, edition of the Providence Gazette. Carter announced that he had “JUST PUBLISHED” two sermons delivered by Thomas Story to “Public Assemblies of the People called QUAKERS.” Story (1662-1742) became a Quaker convert in 1689. He became friends with William Penn, the founder of the sect. Story spent sixteen years in colonial America, lecturing to Quakers and held several offices in Pennsylvania, before returning to England.

Although Carter called the pamphlet “TWO SERMONS” in the advertisement, he referred to Two Discourses, Delivered in the Public Assemblies of the People Called Quakers. Much of the advertisement seems to have been a transcription directly from the title page (“Taken in Short-Hand; and, after being transcribed at Length, examined by the said T. STORY, and published by his Permission”), but Carter did add a short description of Story (“that eminent and faithful Servant of CHRIST”) as a means of better promoting the book. According to the American Antiquarian Society’s catalog, the discourses included “The Nature and Necessity of Knowing One’s-Self” and “The Insufficiency of Natural Knowledge and the Benefits Arising from that which Is Spiritual.”

The transcription of the title page available via the Evans Early American Imprint Collection’s Text Creation Partnership lists this imprint: “LONDON, Printed. PROVIDENCE, Re-printed and Sold by JOHN CARTER, at Shakespear’s Head. M,DCC,LXIX.” Only one London edition, published in 1738, had appeared during Story’s lifetime, but two others were published in 1744 and 1764. Carter most likely consulted the 1764 edition when reprinting the book in Providence, inspired that a relatively new London edition signaled that there might also be demand for the pamphlet on his side of the Atlantic.

In addition to offering copies for sale, the advertisement also called on subscribers who had pre-ordered the pamphlet to collect their copies. Carter had not simply assumed the risk for printing a collection of lectures originally delivered more then three decades earlier. He first determined that a market existed to make it a worthwhile venture. Like other colonial printers, he did not print the proposed title until after he secured a sufficient number of subscribers who pledged to purchase the pamphlet (and perhaps even made deposits to reserve their copies). Any subsequent sales amounted to an even better return on his investment.