J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, June 09, 2017

More Colonial Newspaper Advertising Rates

After my posting on colonial newspaper advertising rates, Caitlin G. DeAngelis alerted me to some additional data inside Charles E. Clark’s The Public Prints: The Newspaper in Anglo-American Culture, 1665-1740.

Then I found more examples quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr.’s New England Quarterly article on “The Colonial Newspapers and the Stamp Act.” And in confirming those I came across other items in newspapers.

So here are yet more prices for colonial newspaper ads:
  • John Peter Zenger’s New-York Weekly Journal, 1733: “three Shillings the first Week, and one Shilling every Week after.”
  • Jonas Green’s Maryland Gazette, 1752: “Advertisements of a moderate Length are taken in and inserted for Five Shillings the first Week, and a Shilling per Week after for Continuance.”
  • Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette, 1754: “In the Gazette, small and middling Advertisements at 3/ the first Week, and 1/ per Week after, or 5/ for 3 Weeks. Longer ones to be valued by Comparison with the foregoing; as if 20 Lines be a middling Advertisement, Price 5/ for 3 Weeks, one of 30 will be 7/6d, etc. judging as near as you can, by the Light of the Copy, how much it will make.” (It seems characteristic that Franklin’s prices would come in the form of a word problem about ratios.)
  • Newport Mercury, probably around 1765: 3s.9d. for three appearances of an ad of 12 lines or fewer, plus 1s. for each additional appearance.
In addition, Clark’s Public Prints reports that in the late 1750s Thomas Fleet billed the Massachusetts government 4s. for each notice in the Boston Evening-Post.

And in the early 1770s, Benjamin Edes and John Gill charged shopkeeper Ebenezer Hancock (John’s little brother) 4s. for advertisements in the Boston Gazette.

And there’s a political dimension to this topic—which brings us back to the Stamp Act! Among the many provisions in that law was:
For every advertisement to be contained in any gazette, news paper, or any other paper, or any pamphlet which shall be so printed, a duty of two shillings.
That basically doubled the cost of a typical ad, it appears—cutting the number of ads people would buy. For printers, that loss of business came on top of the cost of the stamped paper that they had to print the newspaper on—a penny for each full sheet. And, as Carl Robert Keyes explains in this essay, “this put printers in the position of collecting duties” for the stamp agent.

UP AHEAD: What about subscription rates?

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