August 30

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 30, 1773).

“THE Butchers who have no stalls in the market of this city … will sell their meat a Half-penny cheaper than those that have.”

By the end of August 1773, it was a notice familiar to readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Starting on August 9, the “Butchers who have no stalls in the market of this city” placed an advertisement to inform prospective customers of a considerable bargain available “at their stands in the street above the meal-market.”  Collectively, those butchers pledged that they “will sell their meat a Half-penny cheaper” than the butchers fortunate enough to have stalls in the city market.  They underscored that they did business on the site “where the new market was intended to have been built.”  Undercutting the competition was not merely a marketing strategy.  It was a political protest.

Candice L. Harrison provides an overview of the failed attempt to construct a new market in Philadelphia in the early 1770s.  “As both the rural and urban population thickened,” she explains, “Philadelphia’s public markets drew in increasing numbers of vendors and consumers.  With only a small space of about twenty stalls reserved for the use of ‘country people’ – the Jersey Market – and the rest of the shambles rented to town butchers, residents from the surrounding counties petitioned the colonial legislature for the erection of new market stalls in October 1772.”  Soon after, the colony’s General Assembly and the city’s Common Council collaborated on choosing a site to build new market stalls.  They planned to start the project in January 1773.

Not everyone, however, was happy about this development.  Colonizers who owned property near the proposed site objected.  Many expressed concerned that the location of the new market would reduce their property value as well as alter the character of the wide streets in the neighborhood.  According to Harrison, Owen Jones, the provincial treasurer, led the opposition, assisted by William Goddard, “the printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle [who] lent his editorial and printing skills to muster broader public support” against the market.  Harrison, Goddard, and their allies wrote newspaper editorials and distributed handbills and pamphlets.  While most of the opposition remained peaceful and worked through legal channels, Goddard “issued a call for physical action in a handbill” in June 1773.  Building commenced, met with vandalism and theft by some of the opponents.  The project came to an end on June 29.  The opposition prevailed after “destroying the erection of the market and privileging their own private interests over the ‘public good.’”  In the process, they asserted that “their rights of property ownerships stretched out into the public streets” and “articulated a definition of public space that was neither common nor fully public.”

Given the situation, it was no accident that the butchers without stalls in the city market set up shop “where the new market was intended to have been built” as a rejoinder to the coalition of middling artisans and merchants who had successfully obstructed the project.  They likely intended that discounted prices would not only mean more customers and revenue for themselves but also greater annoyance for local residents.  In addition, it hardly seems a coincidence that they chose to advertise in Goddard’s newspaper.  Although they likely did not relish paying their adversary to publish the advertisements, they almost certainly took some satisfaction in using the printer’s own newspaper against him.  While Goddard could have refused to run the advertisement, he might not have noticed it if someone else who worked in the printing office accepted it and handled the details, especially considering that Goddard was in the process of opening a printing office in Baltimore and launching the Maryland Journal.  That might have been just the distraction the butchers needed to stick it to the printer by advertising their protest in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.


For more on this incident, see Candice L. Harrison, “A Jack of All Spaces: The Public Market in Revolutionary Philadelphia,” paper presented to a joint seminar of the Program for Early American Economy and Society and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, February 16, 2006.

August 20

Who were the subjects of advertisements in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Maryland Journal (August 20, 1773).

“A NEGRO GIRL, about 12 years old.”

“RAN away … Negro PRINCE.”

After many months of disseminating subscription proposals and promoting the Maryland Journal, the first newspaper published in Baltimore, William Goddard printed and distributed the first issue on August 20, 1773.  In addition to subscribers, he sought advertisers to generate revenues that would make the enterprise viable.  In an update that appeared in the May 20 edition of the Maryland Gazette, for instance, Goddard pledged that “seasonable notice will be given in this gazette, to give gentlemen an opportunity to advertise in the first number.”  Just as John Dunlap managed to do when he launched the Pennsylvania Packet, Goddard attracted a significant number of advertisers for the first issue of the Maryland Journal.  Advertising accounted for a little more than four of the twelve columns in the inaugural issue.

Those advertisements included some that previously appeared in other newspapers, including Daniel Grant’s notice that he opened an inn and tavern “at the Sign of the Fountain” in Baltimore and a lengthy notice concerning land in the Ohio River valley placed by Virginia planter and land speculator George Washington.  Other advertisers included Christopher Hughes and Company, “GOLDSMITHS and JEWELLERS,” David Evans, “CLOCK and WATCH-MAKER,” Francis Sanderson, “COPPERSMITH,” Grant and Garrison, “TAYLORS,” and Mr. Rathell, “Teacher of the ENGLISH Language, Writing-master and Accomptant.”

Maryland Journal (August 20, 1773).

In addition, Thomas Brereton, “COMMISSION and INSURANCE BROKER,” placed a short notice in which he “GRATEFULLY acknowledges the favours of his friends, and hopes for a continuance of their correspondence.”  He also reported that he “has now for sale, a Pocket of good HOPS, a 10-inch new CABLE – and wants to buy a NEGRO GIRL about 12 years old.”  In another advertisement, Richard Bennet Hall described a Black man, Prince, who had liberated himself the previously December.  Prince was captured once “at Susquehanna Lower Ferry, but made his escape, and is often seen in the neighbourhood.”  The formerly enslaved man managed to elude capture, but Hall hoped his advertisement would help put an end to that. He offered five dollars who anyone who detained Prince in a local jail “so that that the owner may get him again” or ten pounds and “reasonable charges” to anyone who delivered Prince to Hall in Prince George’s County.  In its very first issue, the Maryland Journal became an instrument for perpetuating slavery with both a brokerage notice related to the slave trade and an advertisement encouraging readers to engage in surveillance of Black men in order to identify an enslaved man who liberated himself and assist in returning him to captivity.  Goddard had prior experience publishing such advertisements in the Providence Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  From New England to Georgia, no newspaper printer in the colonies rejected advertisements about enslaved people.  Instead, they solicited and accepted them as an integral part of generating revenues that underwrote publishing news and editorials.

May 20

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

Maryland Gazette (May 20, 1773).

“Seasonable notice will be given in this gazette, to give gentlemen an opportunity to advertise in the first number.”

William Goddard, the printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle in Philadelphia, continued his efforts to establish a new operation in Baltimore.  In the early 1770s, Maryland had only one newspaper, the Maryland Gazette, published by Anne Catherine Green and Son in Annapolis.  In late October 1772, Goddard placed an advertisement in that newspaper to announce his intention to publish the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser “as soon … as I shall obtain a sufficient Number of Subscribers barely to defray the Expence of the Work.”  He also solicited advertisements, stating that they “shall likewise be accurately published, in a conspicuous Manner, with great Punctuality, at the customary Prices.”

Nearly seven months later, Goddard inserted an update in the May 20, 1773, edition of the Maryland Gazette.   He had opened a printing office “in Baltimore-town,” where “PRINTING in all it’s various branches, [was] performed in a neat,correct, and expeditious manner, on the most reasonable terms.”  The printer also informed readers that he would begin publishing the Maryland Journal “As soon as proper posts or carriers are established.”  They could expect at least one more update in the Maryland Gazette before that happened because Goddard wished “to give gentlemen an opportunity to advertise in the first number.”  While advertising could aid merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others in capturing the markets served by Baltimore’s first newspaper, Goddard also knew from experience that advertisements accounted for an important revenue stream.

In his notice, Goddard attended to both advertisers and subscribers.  He requested that the “gentlemen” who served as local agents “who have been so obliging as to take in subscriptions … transmit the subscription lists (or the subscribers names and places of abode) as speedily as possible” so he “may be enable to ascertain the number necessary to be printed” as well as make arrangements for delivering the newspapers “to every subscriber.”  Goddard was still three months away from publishing “the first number” of the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, but his notice in the Maryland Gazette kept the public, including prospective subscribers and advertisers, apprised of his progress.  In the coming months, the Adverts 250 Project will examine Goddard’s success in attracting advertisers for “the first number” and subsequent editions of Baltimore’s first newspaper.

January 3

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 3, 1772).

“Blanks and Hand-Bills, in particular, are done on the shortest Notice, in a neat and correct Manner.”

Some colonial printers used the colophon at the bottom of the final page of their newspapers merely to give publication information.  Such was the case in several newspapers during the first week of 1773.  The colophon for the New-Hampshire Gazette succinctly stated, “PORTSMOUTH, Printed by Daniel and Robert Fowle.”  Similarly, the colophon for the Boston-Gazette simply read, “Boston: Printed by EDES & GILL, in Queen-Street, 1773.”  Beyond New England, the colophon for the Pennsylvania Gazette gave similar information: “PHILADELPHIA: Printed by HALL and SELLERS, at the NEW PRINTING-OFFICE, near the Market.”

In contrast, many printers treated their colophons as perpetual advertisements for the goods and services they provided at their printing offices.  In many instances, those colophons included the most readily accessible information about subscription prices, advertising fees, or both.  Consider the colophon for the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  It opened with the same information that appeared in concise versions in other newspapers: “PHILADELPHIA: Printed by WILLIAM GODDARD, at the NEW PRINTING-OFFICE in Front-Street, near Market-Street, on the Bank Side, and almost opposite to the London Coffee-House.”  In a bustling city where printers published four other newspapers, Goddard wanted to make sure that subscribers, advertisers, and other customers could find his printing office.

From there, the printer noted that “Subscriptions, (at TEN SHILLINGS per Annum) Advertisements, Articles and Letters of Intelligence are gratefully received for this paper.”  In addition to generating revenue through subscriptions and advertising, Goddard encouraged an eighteenth-century version of crowdsourcing for content that he might choose to include in his publication.  In addition to publishing the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Goddard also accepted orders for job printing.  In the final lines of the colophon, he asserted that “all Manner of Printing Work is performed with Care, Fidelity and Expedition,” adding that “Blanks [or printed forms] and Hand-Bills, in particular, are done on the shortest Notice, in a neat and correct Manner.”  That Goddard and other printers so often mentioned handbills in their colophons suggests that many more of those ephemeral advertisements came off of colonial presses than the relatively few that survived might suggest.

Eighteenth-century printers introduced a variety of variations into their colophons.  Some included only brief publication information, while others consistently used their colophons as advertisements to promote their businesses.  Those who took that approach were the most consistent advertisers of the period, disseminating at least one advertisement in each issue they printed.  Even the most prolific advertisers among the merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans who placed paid notices did not advertise at that rate.

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 9

What was (not) advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 9, 1771).

“Advertisements omitted this Week, will be inserted in our next.”

Nearly three dozen advertisements appeared in the October 7, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but William Goddard, the printer, did not have enough space to publish all of the notices submitted to his printing office on Arch Street in Philadelphia.  Neither did he have room for all of the news.  The final column of the third page concluded with a brief note advising that “Advertisements omitted this Week, will be inserted in our next.  Also a Variety of Intelligence which we are now obliged to postpone, in order to oblige our advertising Customers.”

Colonial newspapers generated revenue along two trajectories:  subscriptions and advertising.  Subscribers purchased access to the “freshest advices, foreign and domestic,” as the mastheads for many newspapers described the news. Advertisers, in turn, purchased access to readers.  They sought to place their notices before the eyes of as many readers as possible.  Printers sometimes commented on how many subscribers received their newspapers as a means of encouraging prospective advertisers to place notices.  In making decisions about what to publish, printers had to balance news and advertising in order to satisfy both subscribers and advertisers.  Displeasing one constituency or the other had the potential to negatively affect revenues.

Printers regularly informed readers that they postponed advertisements, a means of assuring advertisers that their notices would indeed soon appear.  Most printers, however, did not often explicitly comment on their endeavors to serve their advertisers, making Goddard’s note about “oblig[ing] our advertising Customers” all the more remarkable.  He revealed to readers, subscribers and advertisers alike, that publishing advertisements sometimes took priority over “a Variety of Intelligence” that he might otherwise have published.  While he framed this as a service to customers who placed notices, the revenues those advertisements represented could not have been far from his mind.  Goddard was willing to delay some advertisements until the next edition, but not too many of them as he aimed to please both subscribers and advertisers.

January 7

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

Boston Evening-Post (January 7, 1771).

“Dr. Whitaker’s Sermon on the Death of Mr. WHITEFIELD.”

In addition to publishing the Boston Evening-Post, printers Thomas Fleet and John Fleet sold a variety of books at their shop at the Sign of the Heart and Crown.  Throughout the colonies, printers commonly augmented their incomes by selling books and pamphlets, mostly items that they either imported or acquired from associates in other towns alongside a few titles they produced on their own.

Such was the case in the advertisement the Fleets inserted in their own newspaper on January 7, 1771.  They concluded the notice with Jeremiah Dummer’s Defence of the New-England Charters, a pamphlet they reprinted in 1765, but they first listed titles published by others.  The Fleets devoted half of the notice to a pamphlet printed by William Goddard.  In The Partnership, Goddard detailed his disputes with “Joseph Galloway, Esq; Speaker of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Province of Pennsylvania, Mr. Thomas Wharton, sen.,” a prominent merchant, “and their Man Benjamin Towne,” a journeyman printer.  The four men had formerly been partners in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but their disagreements led to a dissolution of the partnership in the summer of 1770 and a war of words in newspapers, handbills, and pamphlets.

The other titles available at the Heart and Crown included “Dr. Whitaker’s Sermon on the Death of Mr. WHITEFIELD.”  George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  In the wake of his death, printers and others produced, marketed, and sold a variety of commemorative items, including funeral sermons preached in memory of the minister.  For several months, advertisements for those items appeared alongside reports about reactions to the news in towns throughout the colonies and poetry composed for the occasion.  The Fleets’ advertisement, listing the funeral sermon third among four titles, marked a transition in the marketing of items commemorating Whitefield.  No longer was Whitefield the sole or even primary focus of the advertisement.  As time passed and the minister’s death became more distant in the memories of prospective buyers, the Fleets recognized that demand for such commemorative items waned.  Funeral sermons no longer had the same immediacy as when the news was fresh.  As a result, they became one item among several in booksellers’ inventories rather than items that merited advertisements of their own in the public prints.

After several months of Whitefield fervor, especially in newspapers published in New England, printers and booksellers like the Fleets recalibrated their advertising efforts.  In this case, a spirited account of a bitter feud among printers and politicians in Pennsylvania received top billing over a sermon in memory Whitefield.

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).


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.

June 27

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

Jun 27 - 6:27:1769 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 27, 1769).

“SUBSCRIPTIONS are taken in … in different parts of America.”

In the spring of 1769, William Goddard inserted a subscription notice for his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, in several newspapers published in other cities. It ran in the Connecticut Courant, the Connecticut Journal, the Newport Gazette, the New-York Journal, and the Providence Gazette in May. The printers who ran the advertisement likely did not expect that subscribers would choose the Pennsylvania Chronicle over their own newspapers but rather as a supplement, especially since Goddard marketed his own publication as “a repository of ingenious and valuable literature, in prose and verse,” in addition to “a Register of the best Intelligence.”

Goddard printed the news and more, distinguishing the Pennsylvania Chronicle from other newspapers printed in the colonies. His subscription notice made the Pennsylvania Chronicle sound as much like a magazine as a newspaper, placing it in competition with the American Magazine. Lewis Nicola, the publisher, and William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, the printers of the American Magazine (and also the printers of the Pennsylvania Journal), embarked on their own advertising campaign, placing subscription notices in several newspapers beyond Philadelphia, their local market. Although the Pennsylvania Chronicle carried advertisements from Philadelphia and the surrounding area, Goddard’s subscription notice promoted the other contents of the publication as a rival to the American Magazine.

An eighteenth-century newspaper was not a local publication in the sense that it served just the city where it was printed. Most newspapers served an entire colony or even larger regions, circulation radiating out from the place of publication. Yet printers did not tend to advertise their own newspapers in newspapers published in other cities. Yet Goddard aggressively advertised the Pennsylvania Chronicle in newspapers in New England and New York in the spring of 1769 and in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette early in the summer. The latter concluded with a familiar note for interested readers: “SUBSCRIPTIONS are taken in by the Printer in Market-street [Philadelphia]; by most of the Postmasters, Booksellers and Printers, and many other Gentlemen, in different parts of America.” In addition, it specified that Robert Wells, the printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, accepted subscriptions in Charleston.

Goddard was not content to cultivate a regional audience for the Pennsylvania Chronicle. The contents of the publication, the distribution network envisioned by Goddard, and the participation of newspaper printers in collecting subscriptions positioned the Pennsylvania Chronicle as akin to a magazine. Goddard’s counterparts apparently did not consider it a rival to their own newspapers, though the time required to deliver it to faraway subscribers may have influenced their views as much as the contents Goddard described in his subscription notice. The reach of his advertising campaign helped to distinguish the Pennsylvania Chronicle as a different sort of publication when compared to other newspapers printed in the colonies at the time.

May 13

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

May 13 - 5:13:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (May 13, 1769).

“The Printer of the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE … is very desirous to extend its Utility.”

On May 13, 1769, William Goddard published “PROPOSALS For continuing and improving the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE AND UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER” not in that newspaper but instead in the Providence Gazette. At the same time, he inserted the same advertisement in the Newport Gazette (May 8), the New-York Journal (May 18), Connecticut Journal (May 19), and the Connecticut Courant (May 22). While it was unusual for printers to advertise their newspapers in faraway markets, Goddard’s vision for his publication explains why he thought colonists in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and other places beyond Philadelphia and its hinterlands would be interested in subscribing to the Pennsylvania Chronicle. He billed it as both “a REGISTER of the BEST INTELLIGENCE” and “a Repository of ingenious and valuable Literature, in Prose and Verse.” He aimed to collect news and editorials concerning current events from correspondents in the colonies, Europe, and other locales, newspapers he received via exchange networks created by fellow printers, and political pamphlets published on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet the Pennsylvania Chronicle delivered more than just news and editorials. “Literature, in Prose and Verse,” was such a significant component of the publication that Goddard hoped “to incite Persons to preserve their Papers, which will grow into a Family Library of Entertainment and Instruction.” As part of that plan, Goddard promoted the size of the sheets, the quality of the paper, and the “beautiful” type. He also promised that subscribers would annually receive “two elegant Copper Plates … executed by the most ingenious Artists; one to serve as a Frontispiece and the other to close the Volume,” as well as an attractive title page and “a copious and useful INDEX.” After they gathered the issues, the plates, the title page, and the index, Goddard encouraged subscribers to have them bound together into a single volume to become an important part of home libraries.

Individual issues of the Pennsylvania Chronicle were not ephemeral; instead, they were part of a larger publication with value that endured beyond delivering the “freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic.” The Providence Gazette, which carried Goddard’s subscription notice, incorporated that phrase into its masthead, as did many other newspapers printed in the American colonies. The masthead for the Pennsylvania Chronicle, however, advised that it contained “the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic; with a Variety of other Matter, useful, instructive, and entertaining.” The inclusion of that “other Matter” transformed the Pennsylvania Chronicle into more than just a vehicle for delivering news and advertising. It explained why Goddard believed he could cultivate a market for this publication beyond Philadelphia and the surrounding area. This was not merely a publication that fellow printers could scour for material to reprint or merchants could peruse for political and economic news and then lay it aside in coffeehouses. It was an anthology that merited preservation for the continued edification and entertainment of subscribers and their families.