September 2

The Troy Budget, an upstate New York weekly of Jacksonian bent, printed a notice on this day during the presidential campaign of 1828 :

“During the month of August just passed, we find on looking over our books, that 63 persons have become subscribers. Three persons have discontinued their papers, one because he was moving from the county, one because he had not the time to read it, and one because he was an Adams man, or rather because we were not.”

Thus the weekly newspaper editor discussed a matter that was uppermost in the minds of his fellow small town editors—statistics concerning circulation. There were 54 newspapers in the State of New York in 1806, seven of which were New York City dailies; three were semi-weeklies, and three were issued three times a week. One publisher estimated that the average press run was 700 copies, but some authorities of the period consider this to be rather high.

Actually, if an editor could be sure of 100 subscribers he might take a chance in establishing a new sheet. A “most respectable list” was 200 to 400. Success or failure could be measured with a relatively small change in circulation. However, the actual number was not always considered to be the sign of a successful venture. The editor-publisher-printer might enjoy the esteem of his community, but he required some cash income in order to exist and this was not always forthcoming.

Milton W. Hamilton, in his definitive work, The Country Printer in New York State, quotes an English observer who stated with some sarcasm that there “was little difficulty in filling up a list with two or three hundred subscribers’ names, for probably in no other country where newspapers exist do the subscribers trouble themselves less about finding the means of paying their newspaper subscriptions than they do in the United States.”

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