February 20

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

Feb 20 - 2:20:1768 New-York Journal Supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (February 20, 1768).

“SAMUEL BROOME, And COMPANY, Have just imported … a beautiful assortment of European and India Goods.”

In general, printers published three types of newspaper supplements in eighteenth-century America: advertising supplements delivered the same day as the regular issue, news supplements distributed sometime during the week between issues, and mixed supplements published on the day of the regular issue.

The first were the most common, especially in the largest port cities. A standard issue consisted of four pages, created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. Given the size of the population in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, printers often found that they had too much content, especially advertisements, to squeeze everything into just four pages. In such cases they simultaneously distributed a two-page supplement comprised exclusively of advertising. Such was the case with the February 18, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Space in the standard issue was almost evenly divided between news and advertisements, but paid notices alone filled the pages of the supplement. Hugh Gaine charted a similar course for the February 22, 1768, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, though the standard issue contained nearly three full pages of advertising. No news items appeared in the supplement.

On February 20, 1768, John Holt distributed a Supplement to the New-York Journal, two days after the regular issue made its usual weekly appearance. This supplement consisted of four pages rather than two, but otherwise followed the pattern for midweek supplements. It contained mostly news items with very few advertisements. What little advertising did appear, including Samuel Broome and Company’s notice, served as filler that completed the supplement. Two days earlier, James Parker issued a two-page New-York Gazette Extraordinary as a midweek supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Post-Boy. Like the Supplement to the New-York Journal, it contained mostly news items with very few advertisements.

During the same week, Richard Draper included a supplement with the Massachusetts Gazette on the day of its usual publication. The supplement balanced news items and advertisements. On the same day, John Holt issued a Supplement to the New-York Journal that accompanied the regular issue, not to be confused with the midweek supplement released two days later. (All three publications bore the same issue number, 1311, but the regular issue and the first supplement were dated February 18 while the second supplement was dated February 20.) This supplement also devoted significant space to both news items and advertisements; neither eclipsed the other.

Supplements from the latter two categories became more common during periods that the imperial crisis intensified. The number of commercial notices and other types of advertisements had been sufficient justification for publishing supplements to accompany the regular issues during times of relative harmony between colonists and Parliament. During periods of unrest, however, the volume of advertising no longer served as the determinative factor in whether or when printers published supplements. The proliferation of supplements certainly disseminated more advertisements to colonists, but the understanding of the purpose of supplements likely shifted as both publishers and readers conceived of them as more than just mechanisms for circulating advertising. The revenues collected from advertisements made possible the publication of supplements in times of political turmoil. In turn, these extraordinary issues may have stoked demand for newspapers – featuring news items – published more frequently. Printers soon experimented with semiweekly and triweekly publication. Not long after the American Revolution, newspapers in the largest cities commenced daily publication.

February 19

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

Feb 19 - 2:19:1768 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (February 19, 1768)

“Robert Bingham … Makes all Kinds of Surgeons Instruments for Amputation.”

In a notice in the New-London Gazette, Robert Bingham, a “CUTLER, from LONDON,” deployed many of the appeals most commonly included in newspaper advertisements during the eighteenth century. Artisans tended to promote the skills they had acquired in their trade, via training or experience or both. Without much elaboration, Bingham did mention his skill, noting that he completed his work “in the neatest manner.” Like many other advertisers, Bingham also established his connection to London, the center of the empire. For artisans, this often implied skill achieved through training superior to that available in the colonies. More often than not, advertisers of all sorts – whether merchants, shopkeepers, or artisans – incorporated appeals to price into their commercial notices. Bingham again followed the standard practice of the period, declaring that he performed his work at the “most reasonable rate.”

In general, Bingham wrote copy that prospective customers likely found reassuring, if not especially innovative or exciting. His appeals did not particularly distinguish his business from others, but neglecting to insert any of them into his advertisement would have distinguished him in the wrong ways. He needed to do more than merely announce his services. He needed his advertisement to demonstrate that he understood the expectations of potential clients.

Still, the composition of Bingham’s advertisement suggests that he may have attempted to make a more nuanced appeal to skill than just asserting that he made cutlery “in the neatest manner.” He worked in a shop in Lebanon, Connecticut. Residents of this small village and the surrounding area were much more likely to purchase “Table Knives and Forks, – Raisors [razors] – Scissars, – Penknives” than “Surgeons Instruments for Amputation and Trepanning; – also Surgeons Pocket Instruments.” Yet Bingham did not commence his advertisement with the items most likely to meet local demand. Instead, he first listed specialized instruments that required skill and precision in crafting, signaling his abilities to readers without making explicit reference to skill. Bingham may have considered the order he listed his wares a persuasive marketing strategy, one that showcased his skills more effectively than professing his abilities at great length.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 19, 1768

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter: @SlaveAdverts250.

Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 10
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 11
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 12
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 13
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 14
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 15
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

February 18

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

Feb 18 - 2:18:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (February 18, 1768).

“All those that really have the Welfare of their Country at Heart, are desired to consider seriously, the Importance of a Paper Manufactory to this Government.”

The Townshend Act assessed new taxes on all sorts of imported paper. When it went into effect on November 20, 1767, many colonists vowed to encourage and purchase domestic manufactures, especially paper, as a means of resisting Parliament overreaching its authority. Calls for colonists to collect linen rags and turn them over to local papermakers, not uncommon before the Townshend Act, took on a new tone once the legislation went into effect.

The “Manufacturers of PAPER at Milton” in Massachusetts placed an advertisement in the Boston-Gazette in late November 1767. In it, they addressed “All Persons dispos’d in this Wat to encourage so useful a Manufacture.” The “Manufacturers” aimed to collect enough rags quickly enough to replenish the “large Quantities of Paper” that “fortunately arriv’d from Europe before the Duties could be demanded.” Ultimately, the “Manufacturers” wished to produce so much paper that colonists would never have to purchase imported paper again (and thus avoid paying the new taxes), but that required the cooperation of consumers participating in the production process by saving their rags for that purpose.

In January 1768, Christopher Leffingwell placed a similar advertisement in the New-London Gazette. He issued a call for “CLEAN LINEN RAGS” to residents of Connecticut, calling collection of the castoffs “an entire Saving to the COUNTRY.” He encouraged “every Friend and Lover” of America to do their part, no matter how small. Leffingwell suggested that producing paper locally benefited the entire colony; the economy benefited by keeping funds within the colony rather than remitting them across the ocean as new taxes. With the assistance of colonists who collected rags, Leffingwell could “supply them with as good Paper as is imported from Abroad, and as cheap.”

John Keating joined this chorus in February 1768. In an advertisement in the New-York Journal he even more explicitly linked the production and consumption of paper to the current political situation than Leffingwell or the “Manufacturers of PAPER at Milton.” He opened his notice by proclaiming, “All those that really have the Welfare of their Country at Heart, are desired to consider seriously, the Importance of a Paper Manufactory to this Government.” Purchasing paper made in America represented a double savings: first on the cost of imported paper and then by avoiding “a most arbitrary and oppressive Duty” that “further drain’d” the colony of funds that would never return.

Keating acknowledged that collecting rags might seem small and inconsequential, yet he assured colonists that collectively their efforts would yield significant results. He recommended that they cultivate a habit of setting aside their rags by hanging a small scrap in a visible place “in every House” as a reminder. Readers who followed that advice transformed domestic spaces into political venues; otherwise mundane actions took on political meaning as both members of the household and visitors noticed clean linen rags hung as reminders to encourage domestic production and consumption. In the end, Keating predicted that this “would have the desired Effect, and supply us with Paper at home sufficient for our own Use … whereas now we are obliged to send Money abroad, not only to pay for Paper at a high Price, but an oppressive Duty upon it into the Bargain.” Keating not only advanced a “Buy American” campaign but also encouraged colonists to participate in the production of domestic manufacturers for the common good.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 18, 1768

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter: @SlaveAdverts250.

Feb 18 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - New-York Journal Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the New-York Journal (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - New-York Journal Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the New-York Journal (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 18, 1768).

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Feb 18 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 18, 1768).

February 17

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

Feb 17 - 2:17:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (February 17, 1768).

“The Town Subscribers to this Gazette are requested to send to the Office for their Papers.”

James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, inserted an advertisement concerning the distribution of the newspaper in the February 17, 1768, edition. “The Town Subscribers to this Gazette,” he announced, “are requested to send to the Office for their Papers.” Why did Johnston believe that this merited inclusion in the newspaper? Did it revise existing practices for getting his newspaper into the hands of subscribers? What does it reveal about the business practices of eighteenth-century printers, especially their methods for distributing newspapers?

Johnston’s short notice raises as many questions as it answers. It suggests that subscribers in Savannah previously enjoyed delivery service, but it does not indicate who made the deliveries. Johnston placed a help wanted advertisement in the same issue, promising “good encouragement” to an “honest, sober and industrious LAD” interested in becoming “an APPRENTICE to the PRINTING BUSINESS.” Perhaps another apprentice had formerly been responsible for delivering newspapers to subscribers in the relatively small port, just one of many duties assigned by the master. Maybe delivery service was only temporarily suspended until Johnston obtained a new apprentice.

That the notice addressed only the “Town Subscribers” suggests that subscribers who lived outside Savannah continued to receive their newspapers without change in the method of delivery. They may have been distributed via the post, but Johnston or his subscribers could have hired riders to carry the Georgia Gazette to readers in the hinterlands. Post riders for other newspapers sometimes published notices aimed at their customers, usually providing updates to their schedules or requesting payment for services rendered. Did the cost of a subscription usually include delivery? The newspaper’s colophon was silent on this; it solicited “Subscriptions for this Paper,” but did not list prices for either newspapers or delivery. Had Johnston previously provided delivery gratis to “Town Subscribers,” incurring only the small expense of sending an apprentice around town to drop off the newspapers? Did subscribers in the country expect to pay more for their newspapers because of their distance from the printing office?

Johnston frequently advertised various goods and services available at his printing office, indicating how he earned a living beyond publishing the Georgia Gazette. Other advertisements, however, address other aspects of his business operations. Notices concerning apprentices and delivery services reveal some of the concerns of colonial printers, even if they do not always provide all the details about the division of labor or the means of distributing newspapers to readers.