March 4

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

Boston-Gazette (March 2, 1772).

“THE FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE … By SUSANNAH CARTER.”

In 1772, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, published an American edition of The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook by Susannah Carter of London.  The book included “Five Hundred approved Receipts” for everything from roasting and frying to sauces and soups to tarts and puddings to jellies and custards as well as instructions for preserving, pickling, and candying various foods.  In addition, Carter provided “Various BILLS of FARE, For DINNERS and SUPPERS in every Month of the Year” to guide readers in consulting the many recipes and choosing which items to prepare together.  The book also featured “a copious Index of the whole” to help readers find the recipes.  Edes and Gill promised that “Any Person, by attending to the Instructions given in this Book, may soon attain to a compleat Knowledge in the Art of Cookery.”

The printers marketed The Frugal Housewife in their own newspaper, but they also turned to other publications in their effort to create a larger market for what they believed had the potential to be a popular American edition of a cookbook first published in London in the 1760s.  On March 2, 1772, they ran advertisements in both the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette.  Three days later, they placed an advertisement in the Massachusetts Spy.  The notices in the other newspapers were not as elaborate as the one that appeared in their own.  The version in the Boston-Evening Post, for instance, did not include the price nor the nota bene assuring prospective customers that they would acquire “a complete Knowledge” of cooking.  The version in the Massachusetts Spy, on the other hand, included both of those items as well as a note that the book “contains more in Quantity than most other Books of a much higher Price.”  It did not, however, feature the distinctive typography with only two items on each line that made the notices in the other newspapers occupy significantly more space.  Instead, a dense list of the contents comprised most of the content of the advertisement in the Massachusetts Spy.

Edes and Gill sought to expand their marketing and sales by placing advertisements in multiple newspapers.  Though they exercised control over the copy, they did not exert as much influence when it came to the format.  Compositors who labored in other printing offices made decisions about the appearance of Edes and Gill’s advertisements for The Frugal Housewife.

January 15

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

Boston-Gazette (January 13, 1772).

“Any Person, by attending to the Instructions given in this Book, may soon attain to a competent Knowledge in the Art of Cookery.”

Cox and Berry sold “Modern Books of all Kinds” as well as “School Books” and “Prayer Books of various Sizes” at their store on King Street in Boston, but they targeted women and children (or parents and others who bought books to give to children) as prospective customers in an advertisement that ran in the January 13, 1772, edition of the Boston-Gazette.  That notice listed several “Little Books for the Instruction and Amusement of all good Boys and Girls,” including “Brother Gift, or the Naughty Girl Reformed” and “Sister Gift, or the Naughty Boy Reformed.”  They also stocked abridged versions of popular novels by Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson.

The partners devoted half of their advertisement to promoting “THE FRUGAL HOUSE-WIFE, OR COMPLETE WOMAN COOK … by SUSANNAH CARTER, of London” to female consumers (or others who believed that women they knew would benefit from the guidance offered in that volume).  Quoting from the extensive title, Cox and Berry explained that the book provided instruction in “the Art of Dressing all Sorts of Viands [or Foods] with Cleanliness, Decency and Elegance.”  It contained five hundred “approved Receipts” or recipes as well as the “best Methods” for “Preserving, Drying, Candying, [and] Pickling” various foods.  In addition to the recipes, readers would encounter menus or “various Bills of Fare, for Dinners and Suppers in every Month of the Year” as well as a “copious Index to the Whole” to help them navigate so much content.  To further entice prospective customers, Cox and Berry declared that The Frugal House-Wife “contains more in Quantity than most other Books of a much higher Price.”  Such a bargain!

The booksellers promised that “Any Person, by attending to the Instructions given in this Book, may soon attain to a competent Knowledge in the Art of Cookery.”  That theme ran throughout Cox and Berry’s advertisement.  They targeted women and children as consumers out of a belief that they merited special instruction in performing their household duties or behaving appropriately.  They deployed consumer culture, especially choices about which books to purchase, as a means of promoting good order within households, though they suggested that the readers of these books would experience “Amusement” as well as “Instruction” in the process of learning their proper roles.