By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger
A recent find was a discovery of “Carriers’ addresses.” According to the Brown University Library:
Carriers’ addresses were published by newspapers, usually on January 1, and distributed in the United States for more than two centuries. The custom originated in England and was introduced here during colonial times. The newsboys delivered these greetings in verse each New Year’s Day and the customers understood that a tip was expected. The poems, often anonymous, describe the events of the past year, locally, regionally, and nationally, and end with a request for a gratuity for the faithful carrier. Often the poem referred to the carrier’s diligence and hardships during winter weather. Illustrated with wood-engravings and decorative borders, carriers’ addresses are distinctive examples of popular publishing in nineteenth century America.
We have at least four of these carriers’ addresses in our broadside collection. They were written for the patrons of the Portland Advertiser, Salem Gazette, Christian Mirror, and Eastern Argus. Of particular interest is the address related to the Civil War. One is an ode written by Horace, at the command of Augustus Caesar. With the exception of this ode, all the carriers’ addresses personalize the verse with humor and good will (and a little bit of begging for a tip):
“A Happy New Year is the Carrier’s call
To our kindly patrons and readers all
And now that you have read my lay,
What does the Carrier want, you’ll say.
For all the past year your Mirror I’ve brought,
And tossed it each week on the steps as I ought:
I’ve come in the cold and come in the heat,
I’ve come in the rain and the snow and the sleet—
When the keen March winds and the April rains
Shook and rattled your window-panes,
And waked wide up with the pattering sound
The crocus and snow-drop asleep in the ground.
I’ve come in the summer when scarcely a breeze
Stirred the leaves on the dusty trees,
Through all the heat of the scorching sun
My work I’ve always faithfully done,
And when October’s bracing air
Comes to paint the leaves and the trees to bare,
And instead of the rose, the gentian blows
With its beautiful blue and fringes rare—
And when still alter old Jack Frost comes
And pinches my ears, and my fingers numbs,
Still I go through the cold and the snow,
Bravely along I trudge,
And your Mirror I leave in time I believe,
As all of you rightly can judge,
What does the Carrier want, do you know?
He wants a quarter, a half, or so;
So feel in your pocket and pull out your purse,
The want of the loss will make you feel worse—
And to close this somewhat lengthy verse,
A happy New Year with merry good cheer
Is the Carrier’s New Year’s call
(Carrier’s address, January 1, 1866. Written for the Christian Mirror)
For more information see the Minerva records for Broadside 200-203.
Our newly published A Bibliography of Maine Imprints, 1785-1820 by Glenn B. Skillin also has information on carriers’ addresses printed in Maine.