December 10

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

Providence Gazette (December 10, 1768).

“The Sign of the Black Boy and Butt.”

No advertisements for enslaved men, women, and children happened to appear in the December 10, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette, but that did not mean that the black body was absent from the commercial landscape of the port city that newspaper served. Jonathan Russell inserted an advertisement for his “large and fresh Assortment of ENGLISH and INDIA GOODS,” noting that readers would easily recognize his store “on the West Side of the Great Bridge” because “the Sign of the Black Boy and Butt” marked its location. It was not the first time that he invoked his shop sign when giving directions to prospective customers, though he had previously referred to it simply as “the Sign of the BLACK-BOY.” Perhaps he had acquired a new sign, but it may have always included a depiction of a butt, a large cask. Russell’s description of it could have shifted over time.

Even when Russell was not advertising in the local newspaper, his sign was constantly on display in Providence, reminding residents and visitors alike of the connections between black bodies and colonial commerce. Nor was Russell the only merchant or shopkeeper to adopt such iconography. Two years earlier Augustus Deley placed an advertisement in the Connecticut Courant to proclaim that he “CONTINUES to carry on the Business of manufacturing TOBACCO … for chewing or smoaking.” Interested parties could find him “At the Sign of the Black Boy, Near the North Meeting-House in Hartford.” Signs depicting black boys had a long history in New England. More than thirty years earlier, Jonathan Williams placed an advertisement for imported wine and New England rum sold “at the Black Boy and Butt.”[1] In some instances, the youths represented enslaved workers closely associated with the products sold. Such was the case for Deley’s tobacco, grown on plantations in other colonies, and Williams’s rum, produced from molasses acquired as a byproduct of sugar cultivation on Caribbean plantations. The connection between Russell’s “Black Boy” and his “ENGLISH and INDIA GOODS” was not as immediate. Instead, it offered a shorthand description of the networks of trade, production, and consumption that crisscrossed the Atlantic in the eighteenth century. Commercial exchange in Providence was part of a larger system that included the transatlantic slave trade and forced labor at sites of cultivation and production. Residents of Providence did not need “the Sign of the Black Boy and Butt” to inform them of that. Instead, it testified to a reality that was familiar to consumers throughout the Atlantic world.

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[1] New England Weekly Journal (March 8, 1737).

December 9

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

New-London Gazette (December 9, 1768).

“[B]OSTON Nov. 20. An Advertisement.”

The December 9, 1768, edition of the New-London Gazette included an advertisement reprinted from one of the Boston newspapers. Or did it? In their effort to acquire sufficient content to fill the pages of newspapers, colonial printers liberally reprinted news and other content that previously appeared in other newspapers. This usually did not include advertisements. After all, printers expected to be paid to insert those in their newspapers. Yet sometimes printers considered an advertisement so entertaining that they reprinted them as novelties to amuse their readers.

At a glance, that appears to have been the case with “An Advertisement” for a concert in Boston. It featured an awkward poem, one even more poorly constructed than most rhymes used to promote consumer goods and services in eighteenth-century advertisements. In the New-London Gazette, it appeared immediately after news (including news from Boston) and before an assortment of paid notices, acting as a transition between the two types of content. The advertisement carried a dateline that attributed it to an unnamed newspaper published in “[B]OSTON Nov. 20.” That date, however, was impossible. November 20, 1768, was a Sunday. No printers anywhere in the colonies published newspapers on Sundays. The date was not merely an error. The “Advertisement” had not appeared in any of the newspapers printed in Boston in the past month. The missing “B” in “[B]OSTON” may have been a wink and a nod to readers of the New-London Gazette that the purported advertisement was actually a piece with another purpose, some sort of political or satirical commentary on current events.

What was its purpose? That may have been readily apparent to readers in 1768, but it has not remained clear with the passage of time. Colonial newspapers are peppered with quips considered humorous at the time that do not translate well for subsequent generations. The opening line of this “Advertisement” invited “all Ladies who paint” to attend a concert and a ball. “Ladies who paint” may have referred to those of such status that they could spend leisure time learning arts like painting, but it may have also been a jibe at women perceived to be promiscuous because they wore cosmetics. It very well could have been a conflation of the two. The invitation to a concert by “various Masters of some sort” followed by a dancing at a ball suggested close interactions with the opposite sex, as did the ambiguous suggestion that “they may retire to their Bed, or their Fire” at the end of the evening.

The advertisement never specified where concert or ball would take place or the exact time, but it did direct those interested to acquire “your Tickets near Liberty Tree.” Did that reference inject politics into the poem? Or did it merely reference a well-known Boston landmark that could complete the final rhyme. The final two lines stated that “In Lawful or Sterling, it heeds not a Farthing, / If you give a JOAN, as a Fee.” What did the author mean by that last reference? Except for the first word of the poem, which was capitalized by convention, only the words “JOAN” and “CHASE” appeared in all capitals, suggesting that readers were to take note of them. Did the “Advertisement” name an individual? Did it imply that “all Ladies who paint” should instead “CHASE JOAN?” Did it make some other sort of quip?

The Oxford English Dictionary includes two definitions for “joan,” both in use at the time the poem was written: “a generic name for a female rustic” and the “name for a close-fitting cap worn by women in the latter half of the 18th century.” Perhaps “JOAN” meant a cap of liberty, an increasingly popular symbol as the imperial crisis continued. (The same day this “Advertisement” appeared in the New-London Gazette an advertisement for an almanac on the front page of the New-Hampshire Gazette proclaimed that it included “eight curious Plates,” but described the one that depicted the “celebrated Patron of Liberty JOHN WILKES” with a “Cupid, with the Cap of LIBERTY.”) Perhaps the poem that masqueraded as an advertisement was meant to offer instruction to the women of Boston and elsewhere that they should concern themselves less with overcoming their anxieties that they were rustics who needed to resort to painting, music, and dance to secure their status and instead concern themselves with activities that advanced the cause of liberty for the colonies.

Either the printer or someone else went to some trouble to make a point to the readers of the New-London Gazette, especially the female readers. The poem in the counterfeit advertisement may have merely made some sort of jest, but it also could have delivered trenchant political or social commentary that readers would not have missed.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 9, 1768

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

During the week of December 9-15, 2018, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project is guest curated by Nicholas Sears (2019), a History major at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

New-London Gazette (December 9, 1768).

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New-London Gazette (December 9, 1768).

December 8

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (December 8, 1768).

“THOMAS WEST … has imported in the last vessels from London and Liverpool, a neat assortment of MERCHANDIZE.”

When he placed an advertisement for “a neat assortment of MERCHANDIZE” in the December 8, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, Thomas West adopted a standard format for advertisements for consumer goods. The amount of variation in the graphic design of such advertisements varied from newspaper to newspaper, but tended to be fairly fixed among those placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette by merchants and shopkeepers in the late 1760s. The printers and compositors may have exercised some influence over this standardization, especially considering that the Pennsylvania Gazette featured an especially high volume of paid notices compared to its counterparts in Philadelphia and throughout the colonies. Those who worked in the printing office may have discouraged, or at least not encouraged, innovations in the visual aspects of advertisements, finding that a no-frills format streamlined setting type. Advertisers may not have insisted on introducing new design elements into advertisements, content to submit copy and leave the format to the compositors.

Consider West’s advertisement. His name, all in capital letters, served as a headline. Next his advertisement featured a short introductory paragraph that provided an overview of his location, the sorts of goods he sold, and their origins. The introduction concluded with a brief appeal to price. The remainder of the advertisement consisted of a lengthy list of his inventory, presented in a paragraph of dense text. Elsewhere in the same issue, Edward Cottrell and James Reynolds inserted advertisements that followed this format. Other advertisers of consumer goods opted for slight variations, reversing the order of the headline and introductory paragraph or placing the headline in the middle of that overview. Despite lists of merchandise that ranged from short to lengthy, Alexander Bartram, James Budden, Benjamin Gibbs, William Nicholls, Richard Parker, and Samuel Taylor all deployed one of those variations.

In this regard, the Pennsylvania Gazette was a fairly conservative newspaper, but given its extensive circulation perhaps neither printers nor advertisers considered innovative graphic design particularly imperative. Advertisements comprised of chunky blocks of text certainly appeared in other newspapers throughout the colonies. Advertisements that deviated from that standard also found their way into the Pennsylvania Gazette. In general, however, many other newspapers ran advertisements that varied in appearance to a much greater degree, incorporating different fonts and font sizes, creative use of white space, and columns within advertisements, even when they also included the advertiser’s name as the headline, an introductory paragraph, and a list of merchandise. The unvarying format of advertisements within its pages made the Pennsylvania Gazette easy to recognize at a glance, even when the masthead was not visible.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 8, 1768

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

During the week of December 2-8, 2018, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project is guest curated by Gregory Patient (2019), a History major at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

New-York Journal (December 8, 1768).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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South-Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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South-Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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South-Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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South-Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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South-Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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South-Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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South-Carolina Gazette (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (December 8, 1768).

December 7

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

Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

“TO BE SOLD … a likely Negroe Wench and Child, a Riding Horse, a Set of Saddlers Tools.”

Advertisements accounted for an important revenue stream for newspaper publishers in eighteenth-century America. Often paid notices, rather than subscriptions, made newspapers viable ventures for the men and women that printed them. The colophons for many newspapers even included a list of services offered at the printing office, usually highlighting advertisements. The Georgia Gazette’s colophon, for instance stated that it was “Printed by JAMES JOHNSTON, at the Printing-Office in Broughton-Street, where Advertisements, Letters of Intelligence, and Subscriptions for this Paper, are taken in.” Johnston prioritized advertising ahead of collecting content or subscribers in his efforts to promote his newspaper.

Advertisements for enslaved men, women, and children appeared among the many sorts of paid notices in eighteenth-century newspapers published throughout the colonies. From New Hampshire to Georgia, colonial printers included such advertisements in their publications, reaping financial benefits from their role in perpetuating human bondage. Even if they did not own slaves themselves, they facilitated both sales and surveillance of runaways. For some printers, advertisements for enslaved men, women, and children represented a significant proportion of their paid notices.

Consider the December 7, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette. Advertisements appeared on two of its four pages, filling three and a half of its eight columns. The first and last notices both concerned enslaved people, the first describing a fugitive slave, “A MUSTEE FELLOW, middle aged, named JOE,” and the last describing Michael, “A TALL STOUT ABLE NEGROE FELLOW” who had been captured and “Brought to the Work-house.” A total of thirty-nine paid notices ran in that issue. Of those, ten concerned enslaved men, women, and children. Four offered slaves for sale, including “TEN YOUNG LIKELY WORKING NEGROES.” One sought to purchase or hire “A CAREFUL HEALTHY NEGROE WENCH, with a good breast of milk” who could nurse a child. Four described runaways, including the advertisement for Cato, a cooper, and Judy, a laundress, that ran for months. The tenth advertisement concerning slavery, the “Brought to the Work-house” notice, appeared in the usual spot for the list of captured runaways, the very last item (excepting the colophon) in the issue. Advertisements for enslaved men, women, and children comprised one-quarter of those in the December 7 edition. The revenue they generated helped to distribute the news content elsewhere in the issue, including updates from Boston and London.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 7, 1768

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

During the week of December 2-8, 2018, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project is guest curated by Gregory Patient (2019), a History major at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

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Georgia Gazette (December 7, 1768).

December 6

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

Dec 6 - 12:6:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

“A List of the Person’s Names may be seen affixed to the Directions.”

According to their advertisements, eighteenth-century printers and booksellers often carried at least some merchandise not related to the book trades. Throughout much of 1768 Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, attempted to supplement the revenues gained from subscriptions, advertisements, and job printing by also selling a patent medicine he imported from Long Island, New York, “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous GREAT American BALSAM.” He placed lengthy advertisements about this patent medicine in the summer; as winter arrived, he inserted shorter notices to remind readers that they could purchase this elixir “at his Printing Office in Elliott-street.”

In case prospective customers suspected that Crouch sought to clear out leftovers that had been sitting on the shelves for several months, he proclaimed that he had “A FRESH SUPPLY.” That was only the first of several appeals he made in the abbreviated version of his advertisement. He also offered a bargain, pledging that customers could acquire the nostrum for “Five Shillings cheaper than any yet sold here.”

The price did not matter, however, if the patent medicine was not effective. Crouch assured consumers that “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous GREAT American BALSAM” was “superior by Trial, for its Use and Efficacy, to any imported from Europe.” Readers did not even need to consider any of those more familiar remedies produced in London and other places on the far side of the Atlantic, not when they had access to a product produced in the colonies that was even better. Crouch did not expect prospective customers to simply take his word that others had found the potion “superior by Trial.” Instead, he reported on “surprising Cures” in both New York and South Carolina, stating that “a List of the Person’s Names may be seen affixed to the Directions.” Even if local customers did not recognize the names of any of the patients cured in New York, they were likely to be familiar with colonists from South Carolina who had benefited from “this very famous BALSAM.” In providing directions that also listed satisfied customers, Crouch deployed printed materials beyond newspaper advertising to market this patent medicine to consumers.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 6, 1768

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

During the week of December 2-8, 2018, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project is guest curated by Gregory Patient (2019), a History major at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

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Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

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Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

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Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

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Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

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Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

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Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

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Dec 6 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

December 5

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

Dec 5 - 12:5:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (December 5, 1768).

“To be sold by SARAH GODDARD.”

Even after retiring and relocating from Providence to Philadelphia, it did not take long for Sarah Goddard to appear among the advertisers in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. The final advertisement in the December 5, 1768, announced that the former printer of the Providence Gazette sold books “in Chestnut Street, between Second and Third Streets.” Just a month earlier she published a farewell address in the Providence Gazette, the newspaper that she had published for more than two years. In that notices she turned over operations to John Carter, her partner at the printing office for more than a year, and announced that she planned “in a few days to embark for Philadelphia.” She regretted leaving Providence, stating that “in her advanced age” only the “endearing Ties of Nature which exist between a Parent and an only Son, who is now settled in the City of Philadelphia” prompted her departure. Indeed, William Goddard ran “the NEW PRINTING-OFFICE in Market-Street” in Philadelphia, where he had been publishing the Pennsylvania Chronicle for nearly two years.

It did not take long after her arrival in Philadelphia for Goddard to make her entrepreneurial spirit known, though her advertisement does not indicate the scope of her activities. It listed nine books for sale, but did not indicate whether Goddard offered a single copy of each. She may have been reducing the size of her own library, placing an advertisement for secondhand goods like many other colonists who were not shopkeepers. The “&c.” (an eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) that concluded her list of available titles suggested that she also sold other books. Perhaps Goddard ran a small shop to generate some supplemental income in her retirement, an enterprise significantly smaller than the printing office in Providence. To help her get established in a new city, her son may have inserted her notice gratis in his newspaper. Whatever the extent of her bookselling business, Goddard did not remain in (partial) retirement for long. William was frequently absent and did not provide effective management of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, so Sarah once again found herself overseeing a printing office in 1769. Her advertisement from December 1768 previewed the visibility she would achieve as a printer and entrepreneur in the largest urban port in the colonies.