December 21

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 21, 1770).

“He has removed from his SHOP … to the Shop lately improved by Mr. James M’Donough.”

George Craigie’s advertisement in the December 21, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette got cut short.  Craigie informed the public that he carried “a good Assortment Of English GOODS, Suitable for the Season,” but his advertisement ended with a note that the “Particulars of which will be inserted in our next.”  In other words, someone decided to truncate a longer version of the shopkeeper’s advertisement that would run in the next issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  It could have been Craigie himself if he had not had time to prepare a list of his merchandise.  More likely, either the compositor or the editor made the decision due to lack of space for the lengthy advertisement.  When it ran the following week, Craigie’s notice occupied more than half a column, listing everything from textiles to housewares to groceries to writing paper.

Although a catalog of his inventory was an important means of inciting interest among prospective customers, Craigie likely did not consider it as important as the portion of his advertisement that did appear in print on December 21.  The shopkeeper took the opportunity to inform the public “that he has removed from his SHOP near the Market House, on Spring Hill, Portsmouth, to the Shop lately improved by Mr. James M’Donough, in the Pav’d Street, leading from the State House to the Market.”  Craigie did not want to lose any customers because they were unaware of his new location.  The “Particulars” held until the next issue did not matter if shoppers had difficulty finding him following his move from a familiar location to one previously associated with someone else.  In addition, the promise of a more complete accounting of Craigie’s goods in the next issue may have prompted some anticipation and curiosity among readers, another benefit of a shorter advertisement that made his enterprise more visible compared to no advertisement at all in that issue.  By the time the more elaborate advertisement appeared, Craigie already encouraged interest in both his new location and his inventory.

November 5

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (November 5, 1770).

“The remainder of the Articles will be advertised next Week.”

Readers of Boston’s newspapers in the late 1760s and early 1770s would have been familiar with shopkeeper Frederick William Geyer thanks to his frequent advertising.  On November 5, 1770, he placed a brief advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, but its length was not of his choosing.  Instead, the printers truncated the notice that Geyer submitted for publication.  The advertisement indicated that Geyer sold “a fine Assortment of Englishand India GOODS” at his shop on Union Street.  It included a short list of textiles that extended only three lines that preceded a note from the printers that “The remainder of the Articles will be advertised next Week.”  Indeed, the following week a more extensive advertisement did appear in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  It opened with identical copy, but then devoted forty-four lines, rather than just three, to enumerating the inventory available at Geyer’s shop.

Based on the placement of Geyer’s advertisement in the November 5 edition, it appears that the printers cut short his notice in order to make room for news items.  Like most other newspapers of the era, an issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  The first and fourth pages were often printed first.  Printers held the second and third pages in reserve for news that arrived by messenger, post, or ship.  Geyer’s notice ran in the final column on the third page, suggesting that it and other advertisements in that column filled out the issue once the printers inserted the news for the week.  The news on that page included more than a column of content dated “Boston, November 5” that the printers apparently considered more pressing than Geyer’s advertisement.

This raises questions about the relationship between printers and advertisers.  Did Geyer have to pay to have the truncated advertisement inserted in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy?  Printers usually charged by the amount of space an advertisement occupied, so Geyer might have paid a smaller amount for the brief version than he paid for the full version a week later.  Alternately, recognizing that Geyer was a regular customer whose advertisements generated revenues for their newspaper, the printers could have inserted a short version gratis as a courtesy, giving Geyer and his goods at least some exposure in the public prints.  The length of the truncated advertisement implies that the printers may have valued it as filler to complete the column.  The note about the remainder of his merchandise appearing in the next edition was likely intended just as much for the advertiser as for prospective customers who would be interested in perusing the list.  Questions about these printing practices and business decisions cannot be answered by examining the newspapers alone, but ledgers and correspondence that provide more detail may no longer exist.