March 27

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

Providence Gazette (March 27, 1773).

“Very few will be printed that are not subscribed for.”

For several months John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, disseminated subscription proposals for “reprinting ENGLISH LIBERTIES, or THE FREE-BORN SUBJECT’S INHERITANCE” in his own newspaper and in other newspapers published in New England.  He recruited local agents in Providence and other towns to collect the names of subscribers who reserved copies in advance, a rudimentary form of market research that allowed him to assess demand and the number of copies he needed to print.  In an advertisement that ran in the New-Hampshire Gazette in December 1772, for instance, he indicated that “Subscriptions are received by JOHN CARTER, the Publisher, and by T. and J. FLEET, at the Heart and Crown, in Boston” as well as “by a Number of Gentlemen in the neighbouring Towns and Governments, to whom Subscription Papers are sent.”

On March 27, 1773, Carter inserted a new notice in the Providence Gazette, one that called on “[t]hose Gentlemen who have favoured the Printer in promoting Subscriptions” to return their subscription papers, those broadsides, handbills, or pamphlets that described the proposed volume and had space for subscribers to add their names and the number of copies they wished to reserve.  He also issued another call for those who had not yet subscribed to do so quickly, noting that they would have their “Names prefixed, as Patrons of a Work that contains … a full and compleat View of our Rights as Freemen and British Subjects.”  Books published by subscription often included a list of subscribers, a means of giving credit to those who supported the project and made publication possible.  Such lists also testified to membership in a community that shared common ideals, in this instance a desire to understand and to protect their “Rights as Freemen and British Subjects.”  Carter anticipated that political sympathies and current events might convince some prospective customers that they did indeed want their names among the subscribers to the project, visible to the rest of the subscribers and anyone else who read the book.  The copy in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society includes a six-page list of subscribers at the end.  The placement may have been a decision made by the purchaser or the bookbinder rather than the order intended by the publisher.

Carter made other pitches as he prepared to take the book to press.  He cautioned, “Very few will be printed that are not subscribed for,” so anyone interested needed to reserve their copies in advance or risk the publisher running out.  In addition, the limited number of surplus copies “will be sold at an advanced Price.”  In other words, Carter planned to charge more for those books than the “One Dollar” subscribers paid.  Finally, the printer offered bonus content, declaring that he planned to insert “some valuable Remarks and Additions … by a Gentleman learned in the Law.”  That, Carter confidently stated, would “render the Work still more worthy of the public Attention.”  In his efforts to market an American edition of English Liberties, Carter incorporated several strategies commonly deployed by printers, publishers, and booksellers in eighteenth-century America.

February 25

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

Maryland Gazette (February 25, 1773).

“Every Subscriber shall have his Name and Title printed in the Title Page.”

As spring approached in 1773, the printers Anne Catharine Green and Son prepared to take The Deputy Commissary’s Guide within the Province of Maryland to press.  The first advertisement for the work appeared in the February 25 edition of the Maryland Gazette.  Extending an entire column, it included several features intended to entice subscribers to reserve their copies by May 1.

Like many proposals, the advertisement explained the purpose of the book and provided a list of the contents.  In this instance, that meant publishing an excerpt from the book.  In the “PREFACE,” Elie Vallette, the author, explained that he wrote the Guide to establish “a general Uniformity in the Proceedings of Deputy Commissaries, and of assisting Executors and Administrators in the Performance of their Duties.”  He asserted that he gained valuable experience in “my Office of Register, which I have executed for Eight Years past with Application and Diligence,” and, as a result, could provide valuable advice to anyone “concerned in the Management of the Estates of deceased Persons, as Creditors, Executors, Administrators, Legatees, Relations, or in what they have to leave, as well as to claim.”  Vallette’s preface also devoted a paragraph to outlining the nine chapters and promised “a general Index to the Whole” for easy reference.

To facilitate reserving copies of the Guide, Vallette and the printers enlisted the assistance of several local agents.  According to the advertisement, “the several Deputy Commissaries in each respective County of this Province” took orders and accepted payments.  In addition, local agents in seven towns and four more in Annapolis also received subscriptions.  Customers could also contact the printing office directly.

The proposal also described the material aspects of the book and gave prices.  The printers planned to issue “one large Octavo Volume, containing about Three Hundred Folios” for ten shillings.  They also hoped to procure a bookbinder.  If they managed to do so, “the Volume will be neatly bound in Calf, gilt, and lettered.”  That would increase the price by “an additional half Crown.”

Vallette and the printers also promoted a special feature: subscribers would receive personalized copies “provided their Signature comes timely to Hand.”  Each customer who subscribed early enough “shall have his Name and Title printed in the Title Page, in a Label adapted for that Purpose.” The advertisement included an image of that label.  It featured a decorative border made of printing ornaments enclosing the words “FOR MR.” with space to fill in the name and title of the subscriber and the word “County” to appear after the subscriber’s location.  The image of the label likely helped to draw attention to the advertisement.  Readers then discovered the value added by personalizing copies they ordered in advance.

This lengthy advertisement deployed a variety of marketing strategies to convince consumers to reserve copies of the Deputy Commissary’s Guide.  An excerpt from the book explained the author’s purpose and credentials and provided an overview of the contents.  That included describing the chapters and drawing attention to the index.  A list of local agents directed customers where to place their orders.  The printers described the size of the book and the number of pages.  They also indicated that they hoped to hire a bookbinder and gave prices for unbound and bound copies.  Finally, the advertisement offered the option of personalizing the title page, including an image of the label, but only if prospective customers acted quickly to reserve their copies.  Vallette and the Greens ran a sophisticated campaign to promote this book.

February 19

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

Connecticut Journal (February 19, 1773).

“Those who may have subscription papers are desired to return them to the printers.”

In February 1773, Thomas Green and Samuel Green, printers of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, inserted subscription proposals for a book by James Dana, “Pastor of the first Church in Wallingford,” into their own newspaper.  Eighteenth-century printers often placed advertisements promoting their other projects in their newspapers, whether publishing books and pamphlets or peddling books, stationery, patent medicines, and other merchandise.  In this instance, the Greens sought to publish a continuation of An Examination of the Late Reverend President Edwards’s “Enquiry on Freedom of Will” (1770), supplementing the new volume with “Strictures on the Rev. Mr. West’s ‘essay on moral agency.’”  To entice prospective customer to reserve copies by subscribing in advance, the Greens listed the contents of the book and promised that the price “will not exceed Two Shillings.”

Subscription proposals served as a rudimentary form of market research.  Printers and authors did not want to take books to press without knowing if they made a sound investment.  To assess demand for proposed works, they distributed subscription notices that described the contents, the paper and type, and the costs.  Customers interested in the proposed work reserved copies in advance, sometimes paying a deposit.  Collecting the names of subscribers provided guidance about how many copies to print.  In some instances, they discontinued projects after determining that they had not generated sufficient interest to make them viable.  Sometimes, but not always, printers gave credit to those who supported the project by inserting a list of subscribers, an additional incentive for customers to reserve copies.

The Greens began promoting this book before their advertisement appeared in the Connecticut Journal in February 1773. In that advertisement they requested that “Those who may have subscription papers are desired to return them to the printers by the beginning of April next, that they may proceed with the work.”  The Greens apparently provided separate advertisements, perhaps as handbills, broadsides, or pamphlets, to associates who took responsibility for distributing them and collecting the names of subscribers and how many copies they ordered.  Those associates may have kept lists of their own.  Alternately, they may have posted broadsides in their shops, allowing subscribers to sign their own names … and peruse the list of other subscribers to get a sense of the company they kept.  Eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements make frequent reference to subscription papers, suggesting that this form of advertising circulated more widely than surviving copies in research libraries and historical societies suggest.  Many printers and authors, including the Greens, deployed multipronged approaches to marketing, disseminating advertisements in formats other than the newspaper advertisements so familiar to historians of early America.

February 11

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (February 11, 1773).

“His French and English Rudiments, by the help of which a scholar may learn French with very little assistance from a master.”

In February 1773, Mr. Delile, a “Professor of the French Language” Boston, published an advertisement in which he confided to the public, especially the “Encouragers of LITERATURE,” that he had “always been desirous of meriting the esteem of the learned world … by the cultivation of the BELLES LETTRES.”  To that end, he issued a subscription proposal for printing several of his “performances” in the French language.  The two volumes would include the “French and English Rudiments” that he devised, an address that he delivered at “the Academy,” the school he operated, the previous December, and two “French Odes, in the manner of Pindar.”  In addition, he planned to add a “Latin discourse, on the arts and sciences, against several paradoxes of the celebrated Jean Jacques Rousseau.”

To further entice prospective subscribers to reserve copies, Delile elaborated on most of those items.  He declared that “the public favor’d him with the kindest testimony of their benevolence” after hearing his oration at the school, so much so that “many Gentlemen” had “earnestly requested a copy.”  Delile commodified that address, giving those gentlemen and others an opportunity to purchase that address.  For those not yet fluent in French, the “most eloquent fragments … will be translated into English.”  Delile also inserted two stanzas of the French odes, providing a preview for prospective subscribers and allowing them to judge the quality of the work.  In promoting the “French and English Rudiments,” he asserted that “a scholar” could consult that “performance” and “learn French with very little assistance from a master.”  Those “Rudiments” supplemented, but did not completely replace, working with a French tutor.

Delile was prepared to provide the necessary assistance to “those Gentlemen, who study under him” and others who wished to enroll in his classes.  He concluded his subscription proposal with an announcement that he “gives constant Attendance at the Academy” throughout the day and into the evenings on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Such an extensive schedule made it possible for pupils to attend lessons “as their business will admit of their leisure to attend.”  Even if Delile did not garner enough subscribers to make publishing his French and Latin “performances” a viable venture, he likely hoped that the enterprising spirit and commitment to belles lettres demonstrated in his subscription proposal would resonate with current and prospective pupils to convince them to make their way to “the Academy” for lessons.

January 31

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

New-York Journal (January 28, 1773).

“Printed Proposals for taking in Subscriptions for Printing the ANSWER to De Laune’s Plea for the Non-Conformists.”

In addition to printing the New-York Journal, John Holt also sold imported books and printed and sold books and pamphlets.  Following the example of other printer-booksellers in the colonies, he inserted advertisements in his own newspapers.  Such was the case on January 28, 1773, when he advised readers of several pamphlets available at his printing office, including “A Memorial of the first Settlement of Plymouth in New-England.”

Holt also used that advertisement to pursue other business.  He planned to print “the ANSWER to De Laune’s Plea for the Non-Conformists,” a work that he indicated had been “lately reprinted.”  As part of that project, Holt distributed subscription notices that likely described the work, both its contents and the material aspects of the paper and type, and the conditions for subscribing, including prices and schedule for submitting payments.  He provided these “printed Proposals for taking in Subscriptions” to associates who assisted in recruiting customers who reserved copies in advance.  In some instances, subscribers made deposits as part of their commitment to purchasing a work once it went to press.  Holt’s associates may have distributed subscription notices in the form of handbills or pamphlets to friends, acquaintances, and customers or posted them in the form of broadsides in their shops.  Subscribers may have signed lists, perusing the names of other subscribers when they did so, or Holt’s associates may have recorded their names.  Holt’s reference to “printed Proposals for taking in Subscriptions” did not offer many particulars.

Like many broadsides, handbills, trade cards, and other advertising ephemera that circulated in eighteenth-century America, Holt’s “printed Proposals for taking in Subscriptions” were discarded when no longer of use.  Perhaps one or more copies have been preserved in research libraries or private collections, but they have not yet been cataloged.  For now (and probably forever), a newspaper advertisement that makes reference to a subscription notice that circulated in New York in the early 1770s constitutes the most extensive evidence of its existence.  As I have noted on several occasions, this suggests that early Americans encountered much more advertising, distributed via a variety of printed media, than historians previously realized … and much more than will ever be recovered.

December 20

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

Massachusetts Spy (December 17, 1772).

“It is requested that those thoughts may be published, at this alarming season.”

In November and December 1772, an author who identified himself as “A BRITISH BOSTONIAN” placed a newspaper advertisement addressed to “the Inhabitants of the Town of BOSTON” in which he proposed publishing “a concise Essay upon the Beauties of LIBERTY in its Political and Sacred branches.”  As a relative newcomer to the city, he considered it “very unpolite [for] a stranger to take this freedom” of publishing “The AMERICAN ALARM, Or, a Confirmation of the Boston Plea, for the Rights and Liberties of the People” without first requesting “the approbational leave of the Gentlemen of Boston.”  The “Gentlemen” of the city could demonstrate their approbation or support for the project by entering their names on the subscription lists kept by printers David Kneeland and Nathaniel Davis.

Although historians and bibliographers formerly attributed American Alarm to Isaac Skillman, the pastor at the Second Baptist Church of Boston, John M. Bumsted and Charles E. Clark convincingly demonstrate that John Allen, “a Baptist minister and a recent émigré from England, politically disenchanted and personally discredited,” penned both American Alarm and An Oration, Upon the Beauties of Liberty, Or the Essential Rights of the Americans.[1]  Kneeland and Davis printed these “small but inflammatory political pamphlets” in 1773, suggesting that the advertisement in the Boston-Gazette and the Massachusetts Spy helped in recruiting subscribers for American Alarm.[2]  Bumsted and Clark describe the Oration as “one of the best-selling pamphlets of the pre-Revolutionary crisis, passing through seven editions in four cities between 1773 and 1775.”[3]

They devote less attention to American Alarm, but do provide essential context for understanding events that would have resonated with newspaper readers and prospective subscribers to the pamphlet when they encountered the advertisement.  Allen wrote American Alarm in response to Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s announcements that the colonial legislature would no longer pay the salaries of the governor and judges.  Instead, those officers would receive their salaries from the Crown, an arrangement that many colonizers believed made the governor and judges beholden to the monarch and, especially, Parliament.  According to the British Bostonian, “The plan is laid, the foundation is fixed, to make them [the governor and judges] dependant for place and payment, upon the arbitrary will, and power of the British ministry; upon that power that has for years been seeking the destruction of your RIGHTS.”[4]

Bumsted and Clark describe Allen as “New England’s Tom Paine,” a counterpart to the author of the political pamphlet, Common Sense, widely considered to have had the most significant impact in convincing colonizers to declare independence.  Bumsted and Clark assert that some colonizers did not need as much pushing in that direction as their leaders.  The arguments made by the British Bostonian and the popularity of American Alarm and, especially, the Oration “suggest that in attitude if not in ideology, a large portion of the population may have been well in advance of its leadership” in 1772 and 1773.[5]  Those colonizers expressed their politics by buying the pamphlets and imbibing their contents.  Though he may have exaggerated how much support and encouragement he initially received, Allen asserted that after he delivered “my thoughts in public, upon the Beauties of LIBERTY” that listeners “requested that those thoughts may be published, at this alarming season.”


[1] John M. Bumsted and Charles E. Clark, “New-England’s Tom Paine:  John Allen and the Spirit of Liberty,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 21, no. 4 (October 1964): 562.

[2] Bumsted and Clark, “New-England’s Tom Paine,” 561.

[3] Bumsted and Clark, “New-England’s Tom Paine,” 561.

[4] British Bostonian [John Allen], The American Alarm, or the Bostonian Plea, for the Rights, and Liberties of the People (Boston:  D. Kneeland and N. Davis, 1773), 17.

[5] Bumsted and Clark, “New-England’s Tom Paine,” 570.

December 18

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 18, 1772).

“PROPOSALS for Re-printing by Subscription, ENGLISH LIBERTIES.”

In the first week of November in 1772, John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, issued a proposal for “Re-printing by Subscription, ENGLISH LIBERTIES, OR, The free-born Subject’s INHERITANCE,” a volume “Compiled first by HENRY CARE, and continued with large Additions, by WILLIAM NELSON, of the Middle Temple, Esq.”  The contents of the book included the “Magna Charta, or the Great Charter of English Liberties,” “a short History of the Succession, not by any hereditary Right,” “a Declaration of the Liberties of the Subject, and of the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy,” and other essays.

Carter inserted the subscription proposal in the Providence Gazette, sometimes placing it on the front page to give it greater prominence.  Except for notices about goods and services available at his printing office, advertisements appeared on the final pages of that newspaper.  Carter also arranged to have the subscription proposal published in other newspapers in New England, including in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  The proposal stated that ‘SUBSCRIPTIONS are received by JOHN CARTER, the Publisher, and by T. and J. FLEET,” printers of the Boston Evening-Post, as well as “by a Number of Gentlemen in the neighbouring Towns and Governments, to whom Subscription Papers are sent.”  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, likely had subscription proposals, either broadsides posted in their office or handbills to distribute to customers, and collected names of those who wished to reserve copies of the book.

In the proposal, Carter advised that he would not take the work to press without first knowing that he had generated sufficient interest to make it a viable venture.  “As soon as the Names and Residences of 500 Subscribers are collected,” he declared, “the Work will be immediately put to the Press, & compleated with all Expedition.”  It apparently took some time for Carter to convince that many consumers to subscribe to the project.  Unlike many books advertised via subscription proposal, however, he was eventually successful, publishing English Liberties more than a year later in 1774.  True to his word, Carter included a list of subscribers, six pages at the end of the book.  The “Friends of Libertyand useful Knowledge” that the printer addressed in the subscription notice could see their names listed among other “Friends of Liberty and useful Knowledge.”

November 8

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

Maryland Gazette (November 5, 1772).

“Intend shortly to exhibit Proposals for publishing a NEWS-PAPER.”

Robert Hodge and Frederick Shober took to the pages of the Maryland Gazette, published in Annapolis, in the fall of 1772 to advise prospective customers that they did “PRINTING In all it’s DIFFERENT BRANCHES … with the greatest neatness, accuracy and dispatch” at their “NEW PRINTING-OFFICE” in Baltimore.  At the time, the Maryland Gazette was the only newspaper published in the colony, so it served Baltimore as well as Annapolis.

Hodge and Shober, however, had plans for establishing their own newspaper in Baltimore.  They declared that they “intend shortly to exhibit Proposals for publishing a NEWS-PAPER, which shall be justly entitled to the Attention and Encouragement of this FLOURISHING TOWN and PROVINCE, both for ENTERTAINMENT and ELEGANCE.”  They were not the only entrepreneurs to decide that Baltimore seemed ready for its first newspaper.  A week earlier, the Maryland Gazette carried an extensive subscription proposal in which William Goddard announced his plans to publish “THE MARYLAND JOURNAL, AND BALTIMORE ADVERTISER … as soon therefore as I shall obtain a sufficient Number of Subscribers barely to defray the Expence of the Work.”  In a market that did not yet have one newspaper, Hodge and Shober competed with Goddard in their efforts to launch two newspapers simultaneously.

Neither met with immediate success.  Goddard, who was already printing the Pennsylvania Chronicle at the time he published his subscription proposal, did not manage to take the Maryland Journal to press until August 20, 1773, ten months after he announced his plans for the newspaper.  Hodge and Shober never published a newspaper.  In his monumental History of Printing in America (1810), Isaiah Thomas notes that the partners purchased “printing materials” in 1772 and “began business in Baltimore, where they intended to have published a newspaper; but, not meeting with the encouragement they expected, before the end of the year they left Baltimore, and settled in New York.”[1]  A variety of factors likely contributed to their decision to relocate.  Competing with Goddard for subscribers to Baltimore’s first newspaper probably did not help their prospects in the city.

After Goddard commenced publication of the Maryland Journal, Baltimore did gain a second newspaper less than two years later.  John Dunlap, printer of the Pennsylvania Packet, established Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette; or the Baltimore General Advertiser on May 2, 1775.  James Hayes, Jr., seems to have operated the publication on Dunlap’s behalf for three years before acquiring it for himself and changing the name to the Maryland Gazette, and Baltimore General Advertiser on September 15, 1778.  Hodge and Shober were just a few years too early in their efforts, though the war almost certainly played a role in inciting interest to establish more than one newspaper in Baltimore.  Under those difficult circumstances, however, Hayes removed to Annapolis just four months later.  Baltimore did not have a second newspaper of any longevity until after the war.[2]


[1] Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers & an Account of Newspapers (1810; New York: Weathervane Books, 1970), 480.

[2] See entries in Clarence Brigham S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1947) and Edward Connery Lathem, Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Barre, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society and Barre Publishers, 1972).

October 29

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

Maryland Gazette (October 29, 1772).

“I now propose to publish, by Subscription, … a Weekly News-Paper.”

Maryland had only one newspaper in 1772.  William Goddard aimed to change that.  To aid his efforts, he inserted a proposal in the October 29 edition of the Maryland Gazette, the publication that would be his competitor if he managed to launch “THE MARYLAND JOURNAL, AND BALTIMORE ADVERTISER.”  Printed in Annapolis, the Maryland Gazette served the entire colony, but Goddard believed that a market existed, or would exist after some savvy advertising, to support two newspapers in the colony.  In addition, he underscored the political utility of newspapers to prospective subscribers.  “IT is the Sentiment of the wisest and best Men that adorn our Age and Nation,” Goddard declared in the first sentence of his proposal, “that the Liberty of the Press is so essential to the Support of that Constitution under which we have hitherto derived the Blessings of Freedom, that it becomes every one to consider, in the most reverential Light, this Palladium of our Rights.”  The printer further explained that “well conducted News-Papersdispel Ignorance, the Parent of Slavery, give a Taste for Reading, and cause useful Knowledge to be cultivated and encouraged.”  Accordingly, he called on “every Friend to Liberty and his Country” to support his proposed project.

Goddard’s proposal filled nearly an entire column in the Maryland Gazette.  In addition to expounding on the philosophy that prompted him to consider publishing a newspaper in Baltimore, he advised potential subscribers that he was indeed prepared to launch the venture “as soon … as I shall obtain a sufficient Number of Subscribers barely to defray the Expence of the Work.”  Already in correspondence with “many Gentlemen of the most respectable Characters” in Baltimore, Goddard had “engaged a suitable Printing-Apparatus, which will be speedily here.”  In addition, as printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle he had already “established an extensive Correspondence, and shall not only receive all the different Weekly American Papers, but also the best News-Papers, political Pamphlets, Registers, Magazines, and other periodical Publications of Great-Britain and Ireland.”  In addition to printer and publisher, Goddard assumed the responsibilities of editor, drawing the news from the letters, newspapers, and periodicals sent to him.  Every American newspaper printer-editor reprinted extensively from other publications. Goddard even acquired “the most valuable Papers of German Advices” in order to provide news of interest to the growing German population in the backcountry.

The proposal also outlined the particulars of the publication and how to subscribe.  The newspaper would be “printed in four large Folio Pages, equal in Size to any of the Pennsylvania Papers” that, along with the Maryland Gazette, operated as local newspapers for Baltimore and the region.  Goddard intended to print and distribute the newspaper “regularly every Saturday Morning, unless another Day should appear more agreeable to the Subscribers.” Subscriptions cost ten shillings per year, with half to be paid immediately and the other half at the end of the year. Goddard briefly mentioned advertisements, noting they would be “accurately published, in a conspicuous Manner, with great Punctuality, at the customary Prices.”  He did not list those prices.  Colonizers interested in subscribing could leave their names “at the Coffee-Houses in Baltimore-Town and Annapolis” or with “several Persons with whom Subscription Papers are left.”  Like other printers attempting to launch new projects, Goddard relied on a network of local agents who assisted in recruiting subscribers.

Beyond the particulars, Goddard emphasized that he pursued a higher purpose than merely generating revenues or turning a profit on the publication.  He promised to publish news about every “remarkable Occurence, extraordinary Phenomemon, curious Invention, or New Discovery in Nature or Science” as well as “judicious original Essays … on political and other Subjects.”  In selecting material to include in the Maryland Journal, Goddard pledged that “the Freedom of the Press shall be maintained, the utmost Impartiality observed, and every well written Piece admitted, without Scruple, that does not tend to destroy or impair our excellent Constitution, injure the Cause of Liberty, disturb the Repose of Society, give Offence to Modesty, or, in any Shape, reflect Scandal on a News-Paper.”  In an era of upheaval as Parliament turned unwanted attention to the colonies, Goddard framed publishing a newspaper as a civic duty that served the commercial and political interests of the community.

Did the subscription proposal help Goddard to obtain that “sufficient Number of Subscribers barely to defray the Expence” and commence publication?  Perhaps, but it took some time.  The first issue appeared on August 20, 1773, ten months after Goddard initially proposed publishing the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser.  The newspaper continued publication, under the guidance of various printers and proprietors, throughout the American Revolution and into the 1790s, transitioning from weekly to semi-weekly to tri-weekly to daily as newspaper publishing expanded throughout the new nation.

October 25

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

Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 22, 1772).

“PROPOSALS For Re-Printing by Subscription … Baron de MONTESQUIEU’s celebrated Spirit of Laws”

On October 22, 1772, Richard Draper distributed a two-page supplement to accompany the standard issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  That supplement consisted almost entirely of advertising, though it did include brief news items from London and Quebec.  A subscription proposal for an “American Edition of … Baron de MONTESQUIEU’s celebrated Spirit of Laws” filled most of the second page of the supplement.  That subscription proposal would have looked familiar to colonizers who also read the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy since it appeared in that newspaper three days earlier.  It may have also looked familiar to those who had not perused the other publication.  As I argued when examining the first appearance of the subscription proposal in Boston’s newspapers, it likely circulated separately as a handbill or broadside.

Draper adopted the same method of making the subscription proposal fit on the page that John Green and Joseph Russell used in their newspaper.  Since it was wider than two standard columns, he created a narrower third column by rotating the type to run perpendicular to the rest of the page.  Draper also added a colophon, centered at the bottom of the subscription proposal.  This method of making the broadside fit on a newspaper page was not the only similarity between its appearance in two newspapers.  It looks as though the printing offices shared the type.  If that was the case, who produced the broadside?  Draper or Green and Russell?  Even if the subscription proposal did not circulate separately as a broadside or handbill, the printers almost certainly shared type between their offices.  That was not the first time in 1772 that Draper collaborated with other printers in that manner.  In May, Jolley Allen’s advertisements in the Boston-Gazette and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter had identical copy and format.  At the same time, Andrew Dexter’s advertisements in the Boston Evening-Post and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter also featured identical copy and format.  At various times, Draper apparently shared type already set with three other printing offices.  Yet he was not always involved in instances of sharing type.  Advertisements for a “Variety of Goods” that ran in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette on October 12, for instance, appear identical, with the exception of the last two lines either added to the notice in the Boston-Gazette or removed from the one in the Boston Evening-Post to make it fit the page.  Examining advertisements reveals several other examples of printers in Boston seemingly sharing type in the early 1770s.

As I have noted on other occasions that I have identified what appears to be type transferred from one printing office to another, these observations are drawn from digitized copies of eighteenth-century newspapers.  Examining the original editions, including taking measurements, may yield additional details that either demonstrate that Boston’s printers did not share type for newspaper advertisements or that further suggest that they did indeed do so.  This question merits further investigation to learn more about business practices in printing offices that competed for both newspaper subscribers and advertisers.

Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 22, 1772).