December 8

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

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New-York Mercury (December 8, 1766).

“BOOKS and STATIONARY … to be sold by Hugh Gaine.”

Hugh Gaine’s advertisement for “BOOKS and STATIONARY, Just imported in the last Ships from London” occupied a place of privilege in the December 8, 1766, issue of the New-York Mercury. It appeared in the first column (and extended into the second) on the first page, the first item below the masthead and charts for high tides and prices current. Just to make sure that readers noticed this advertisement, several words were printed in the largest fonts that appeared anywhere in that issue: “Hugh Gaine” in a size that rivaled the title of newspaper in the masthead and “BOOKS and STATIONARY” (at the top of the first column) and “STATIONARY, &c.” (at the top of the second column) in sizes nearly as large.

Gaine did not have to pay extra or engage in any sort of negotiations with the printer of the New-York Mercury in order for his advertisement to receive such extraordinary treatment. As the masthead announced, he printed the newspaper! That certainly gave him the authority and ability to design his own advertisement and lay out the issue in ways that best served his own interests. He used one of his products, his newspaper, to promote the assortment of books, stationery, and other goods he sold “at the Bible and Crown, in Hanover-Square.” Sometimes the layout of advertising in colonial newspapers was haphazard. Printers often moved type already set from previous issues into other columns in subsequent issues or changed the order of advertisements in order to insert other items. In this case, however, the placement of Gaine’s advertisement was not merely fortuitous; it was intentional.

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First Page of New-York Mercury (December 8, 1766).

On the third page, an advertisement for “HUTCHINS’s Improved: BEING AN ALMANACK AND EPHEMERIS Of the Motions of the SUN & MOON” had similarly large font for some of the key words, distinguishing it from the other advertisements and news items on the same and facing pages. Not surprisingly, the almanac was sol “at HUGH GAINE’s Book-Store and Printing-Office, in Hanover-Square.”

In contrast, a relatively short advertisement announcing that James Rivington had just imported “sundry new Books” appeared on the fourth page. Rivington’s name appeared in all capital letters in a font the same size as the names of other advertisers. Gaine published advertisements from his competitors, but he made sure that his own marketing notices overshadowed them in significant ways. Such was the power of the printer!

Slavery Advertisements Published December 8, 1766

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

Compiled by Lindsay Hajjar

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Boston Post-Boy (December 8, 1766).

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Boston-Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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Boston-Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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Connecticut Courant (December 8, 1766).

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New-York Mercury (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1766).

December 7

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

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Providence Gazette (December 6, 1766).

“For New-York, the Brig General Conway; will sail in ten days, and for the sake of getting ballast, will carry freight for half price.”

More than any other printers who published newspapers in 1766, Mary Goddard and Company experimented with layout and graphic design for advertising. In collaboration with several shopkeepers, Goddard and Company mixed genres, placing advertisements that otherwise could have been separately printed and distributed as trade cards within several issues of the Providence Gazette during the summer and fall of 1766. Next, the printers continued producing hybrid publications with issues that featured full-page advertisements, effectively giving over the final page to what otherwise could have been an advertising broadside had it been produced separately.

For those efforts, Goddard and Company emphasized the size of the advertisements that appeared in the pages of the Providence Gazette. Today’s advertisement, however, was relatively short and took up little space on the page. What distinguished it from others was its position within the December 6, 1766, issue. It appeared on the third of four pages, running alongside, but perpendicular to, the column on the far right. It ran in the blank space usually reserved for the margin, making it the last text item readers would have seen when scanning the open pages of the newspaper from left to right.

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Third Page of Providence Gazette (December 6, 1766).

This advertisement occupied space where text usually did not intrude, which would have encouraged curiosity among readers. Three columns appeared on each page of the Providence Gazette, all of them separated by sufficient white space to make them easily distinguishable from those on either side. This advertisement printed perpendicularly in the margin, however, did not have white space on its left. Instead, it was closely nestled next to the conclusion of a news article and an advertisement for the New-England Almanack. This format served both to hide and highlight the advertisement since it would have become distinguishable to readers as a distinct text only after doing a double take and realizing that the layout deviated from expectations of how the page should appear.

Mary Goddard and Company were not the first printers to deploy the single-line advertisement that ran in the margin, but they added a new twist to the relatively few examples from other printers and other newspapers. Such single-line advertisements, when they did appear, spanned multiple columns across the top or bottom of the page. Just as they had previously played with other graphic design elements for the layout and format of advertising in the second half of 1766, Goddard and Company added their own innovation to the single-line advertisement printed in the margin.

December 6

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

dec-6-1261766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (December 6, 1766).

“This Almanack is embellished with the above Cut of the Four Seasons of the Year.”

In colonial America, December was the time for marketing and selling almanacs. Yesterday the Adverts 250 Project featured an advertisement for the New-Hampshire Almanack from the New-Hampshire Gazette. Today’s advertisement for the “true and originalNew-England Almanack, printed by Mary Goddard and Company, appeared in the Providence Gazette.

To spruce up their advertisement, Goddard and Company included a “Cut of the Four Seasons of the Year.” As the only image that appeared in that issue of the Providence Gazette (except for the lion and union that always appeared in the masthead), the woodcut certainly distinguished this advertisement from the others. It did more, however, than entice potential customers by merely previewing the almanac’s contents. It also served as a means of distinguishing the almanac printed by Goddard and Company “from an Almanack under the same Title, published at Boston” that did not incorporate the woodcut.

The PRINTERS” devoted nearly half of their advertisement to a dispute with printers in Boston, claiming that a copy of Benjamin West’s calculations and other contents of the New-England Almanack had been “insidiously obtained, and unhappily sold, after the SOLE PROPERTY justly became ours, by a fair and honorable Purchase.” Goddard and Company stated that they possessed exclusive rights to print and distribute this particular almanac. When they read the newspapers from Boston they were dismayed to discover that competitors also printed it and distributed it to booksellers to sell. To their chagrin, they had supported West’s almanac “at our own Risque, ever since it had a Name, and ay a considerable Expence before it had Credit,” yet other printers now undermined their investment.

Potential customers might purchase the edition printed by Goddard and Company because the woodcut of the seasons was an attractive bonus or because the calculations were accurate and the contents “correctly printed.” If this was not enough to convince prospective readers to choose Goddard and Company’s edition over the other, then purchasers were encouraged to think of their choice in terms of justice. Unlike their competitors, Goddard and Company printed their edition “without the Prostitution of Virtue and Honor.” They encouraged potential customers to simultaneously reward them and deprive the Boston printers of their patronage.

December 5

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

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New-Hampshire Gazette (December 5, 1766).

“The NEW-HAMPSHIRE ALMANCK, For the Year of our Lord CHRIST 1767.”

With only four weeks remaining until the first day of the new year, it was time for readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette to procure almanacs for 1767. Printers and booksellers in some colonial towns had been advertising their almanacs since early September, giving customers plenty of time to purchase one of the most widely distributed types of publication in colonial America.

Some readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette had apparently already acquired their almanacs by the time today’s advertisement appeared. “Those who are not already supplied,” Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle warned, “must apply speedily, as but few remain unsold, and no more will be printed this Year.”

In making such a statement, the Fowles simultaneously deployed three appeals to potential customers. They made an appeal to scarcity, noting that “but few remain unsold.” The printers had limited stock to offer to those who had not yet bought their almanacs for the new year. They made an appeal to popularity, implying that the scarcity had been caused by the large volume of purchases on the part of customers (rather than the printers producing too limited a quantity). Many other readers apparently trusted David Sewall’s calculations and the other content of the almanac; they had already acquired their copies. Finally, the Fowles made an appeal to potential customers’ sense of urgency. Not only was the new year quickly approaching, those who wanted their own copy of the New-Hampshire Alamanack for reference needed to “apply speedily” because “no more will be printed this Year.” The Fowles had printed enough copies to sell the almanac both “Wholesale and Retail,” but they did not print so many that they would end up with leftover stock that could never be sold. This helped to create a sense of urgency as they cautioned potential customers that they risked being shut out if they waited too long to shop for this particular item.

Almanacs were certainly popular reading and reference material in colonial America. It would be hard to deny that latent demand for them existed. However, the Fowles’ advertisement did more than simply notify the public that they offered a product already in demand. Instead, the Fowles various appeals – scarcity, popularity, sense of urgency – to incite greater demand for the New-Hampshire Almanack for 1767.

December 4

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

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 4, 1766).

“THOMAS HEWES, UPHOLSTERER … Easy Chairs.”

I first began studying advertising in eighteenth-century America shortly after I finished my comprehensive exams in graduate school. During the very early stages of the project I discussed my work with a senior colleague at a reception held during a conference. “Don’t get too enamored of the advertisements with the pictures,” this professor counseled. “Those are certainly quaint, but make sure that you look at other advertisements as well.” In hindsight, I recognize both good and poor advice bound together in that conversation. The professor was certainly correct that the world of eighteenth-century advertising was much more extensive than the relatively few newspaper advertisements that included woodcuts. However, he dismissed those woodcuts too quickly when he implied that they were only of antiquarian, rather than scholarly, interest. Because I wanted to be a serious scholar and I wanted others to take my work seriously, I did not give woodcuts in newspaper advertisements as much attention as they merit.

In recent years, however, my interest in the production of advertising in early America has shifted to encompass visual culture and innovative graphic design much more extensively, partly as a result of my exposure to the conferences and other programs sponsored by the Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society. I have come to realize that woodcuts, like the one depicting a wingback chair in upholsterer Thomas Hewes’s advertisement, have real significance beyond merely being “quaint.”

Hewes’ advertisement appeared in the two-page supplement that accompanied the December 4, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. The contents of the supplement consisted exclusively of advertising, without other sorts of content. This more than doubled the space devoted to advertising for the December 4 edition. Amid all those advertisements, only six included any sort of visual image. The other five all featured a ship, the image produced by a woodcut that would have belonged to the printer. Most printers had a few stock images – ships, houses, slaves – that could be inserted interchangeably into advertisements. Other sorts of images, like Hewes’ chair, were commissioned by particular advertisers and used only in their advertisements. Compared to most other advertisers, Hewes invested additional creativity and expense in creating his advertisement.

The five advertisements with woodcuts of ships all promoted ships departing for Europe and encouraged colonists to book passage. That made Hewes’ advertisement unique in that issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. It was the only advertisement for consumer goods that mobilized any sort of visual image to attract the attention of readers and make the advertisement more memorable. For anybody glancing through the six pages of the regular issue and its supplement, Hewes’ advertisement would have stood out. While the illustration may appear primitive to modern eyes (and perhaps even relatively crude to colonists familiar with engraved trade cards), that Hewes’ included an image at all amounted to an innovation intended to distinguish his business from others.

The Adverts 250 Project regularly documents the significance of the seemingly innumerable newspaper advertisements that lacked any sort of visual image. However, it’s also necessary to acknowledge the significance of those that di have some sort of “quaint” woodcut, an important aspect of the evolution of advertising in early America.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 4, 1766

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

Compiled by Lindsay Hajjar

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Massachusetts Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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New-York Journal (December 4, 1766).

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New-York Journal (December 4, 1766).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (December 4, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (December 4, 1766).