By Diane DeBlois
New York State genealogy and local history of the 19th century owes a great deal to Hamilton Child, a compiler and publisher based in Syracuse. His most prolific output was in conjunction with the 1870 census, but he began his county histories and directories earlier than that. As well, he branched out into other areas of New England.
There is just one county Gazetteer and Business Directory for Rensselaer - and so we use Hamilton Child's 1870 edition often. Separately, we found two pieces of ephemera that shed light on how Mr. Child financed his publications.
The Gazetteer is filled with advertisements of several kinds: two full pages printed in blue ink back the fold-out county map. The front and back cover paste-downs are full page ads printed on yellow paper. Advertising pages are inserted in the regular pagination run - some printed on different paper. These include copy for a full, half, or quarter page, as well as a margin ad.
Under "Miscellaneous" in the contents appears a brief essay: "Fact on Advertising," which extols its virtues, including a quote from Stephen Girard (the financial wizard of the War of 1812): "I have always considered advertising liberally and long to be the great medium of success in business, and the prelude to wealth. And I have made it an invariable rule too, to advertise in the dullest times as well as the busiest; long experience having taught me that money thus spent is well laid out; as by keeping my business continually before the public it has secured me many sales that I would otherwise have lost."
M.L. Filley (listed in the Business Directory section as a "hot air furnace, stove and pattern manufacturer," at 287 River Street in Troy) clearly agreed. Two receipts of January 25, 1870, indicate that he paid $10 for an insertion of a half page ad in the Rensselaer, and another $10 for the same in the Saratoga, County Gazetteer.
This was fairly expensive - $10 was the retail price of the furnace that Marcus Filley manufactured - but comparable to a display ad in today's Yellow Pages. And Mr. Child gave good value. For his $10, Mr. Child promised to supply Filley with a copy of the published work. And, in addition to the ad itself, Filley appeared both in the "Index to Advertisers" under Hot Air Furnaces, page 324 (though not under Stoves; Filley had made the Charter Oak cook stove since 1854 but was branching out with the Webster furnace) and in the "Index to Publisher's Notices" page 337. This latter notice was a description of the furnace illustrated in the ad: "Webster's Deflecting and Center-Draft Hot-Air Furnace appears to answer all the conditions for heating Dwellings, Halls, Churches &c., better than any other now in use. It is easily managed, free from dust and gas, and requires a less amount of fuel than other furnaces to produce the same amount of heat. No water evaporator is used and the fresh air is introduced and conveyed to the apartments to be heated, without being deprived of its vitality. Judging from the recommendations of those who have used this furnace, it is worthy of the attention of all who contemplate purchasing a heating apparatus for public or private buildings. It is manufactured and sold by M.L. Filley, No. 187 River Street, Troy, N.Y. See advertisement on page 324." All the advertisers received similar extra ink.
Assuming that a full page ad was $20, a margin ad $10, and the fancier inserts, say, $30, the Rensselaer County Gazetteer brought Mr. Child about $2,500 in ad revenue. The impressive output of his press presumably owed its range and longevity to his advertising acumen.
(This article first appeared in Book Source Magazine.)
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