January 24

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

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Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

“JUST PUBLISHED …. The true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack.”

Despite the proclamation in the first line of this advertisement, the “true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack” had not been “JUST PUBLISHED” by Sarah Goddard and Company. Even if readers of the Providence Gazette had not seen the original advertisement, published seven weeks earlier, that announced the almanac was slated for publication just a few days later, they would have realized that no printers waited more than three weeks into the new year to print almanacs. Goddard and Company ran this advertisement – yet again – in an attempt to move surplus inventory that was quickly becoming outdated. With every day that passed, this almanac, like the “NEW-YORK Pocket Almanacks” advertised on the previous page, had less value to potential customers.

Printing and selling almanacs could be a lucrative business for members of the book trades in early America, but it could also be a tricky business. Starting as early as September, printers and booksellers advertised almanacs for the coming year, seeking to incite demand among potential customers. They aimed to print or stock just enough to meet that demand, not wishing to turn away customers (especially given that disappointed prospective customers might then patronize competitors who still had almanacs available), but also not producing so many that leftover copies diminished profits.

Goddard and Company apparently overestimated how many almanacs they needed to print for 1767. Perhaps their earlier complaints about dishonorable dealings by competitors in nearby Boston and corresponding appeals to customers’ sense of justice and fairness to convince them to purchase the “true and original” version of Benjamin West’s New-England Almanack had not gone over as successfully as they had anticipated or hoped. As a result, they found themselves in a position of devoting space in the Providence Gazette to advertisements intended to clear out their inventory, even as Joseph and William Russell continued to note, in their advertisement on the same page, that their assortment of imported goods was “too large” to print the sort of enumerated list that had been part of their marketing strategy over the past several months. Having too many almanacs on hand as the end of January approached may have prompted Goddard and Company to forego potential advertising revenue that they would have obtained from selling more space to the Russells.

January 23

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

jan-23-1231767-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-page-6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

A List of Dr. HILL’s Medicines sold by Messrs. Carne and Wilson.”

Patent medicines became a staple of American advertising about as soon as the first weekly newspapers were published in the early eighteenth century, so much so that historians of advertising have focused attention disproportionately on these quack remedies. Why not? The advertisements hawked potions with odd names, emphasized strange ingredients, and made wild claims today considered obviously false, making later generations marvel that anyone could have possibly been influenced by that sort of marketing.

Yet patent medicines were indeed popular in eighteenth-century England and America, perhaps the first class of commodities to develop distinct and recognizable brand names. For instance, John Hill’s “PECTORAL BALSAM OF HONEY,” the first of half a dozen medicines listed in today’s advertisement, appeared in advertisements printed in newspapers throughout the colonies. Both apothecaries and shopkeepers announced that they imported and sold elixirs produced by Hill and other English “doctors,” assuming prospective customers recognized names and products like Anderson’s Pills, Batemans’s Drops, Stoughton’s Bitters, and Turlington’s Balsam. Unlike most purveyors of patent medicines, Hill, a botanist and author, did hold a medical degree.

Given the ease of counterfeiting patent medicines in a marketplace without formal regulation of medical supplies, Hill and others made various efforts to protect both their reputations and their share of the market. For instance, Hill designated specific agents authorized to sell his patent medicines. His advertisement first identified the men who operated on his behalf before listing and describing the remedies they sold to colonists: “I HAVE appointed Messrs. CARNE and WILSON my agents, for the sale of my medicines in CAROLINA; and all persons may be supplied wholesale and retail by them.” Others in Charleston and beyond sold patent medicines, including Hill’s various nostrums, but Carne and Wilson sought to benefit from having a seal of approval from Dr. Hill himself as they sold “ESSENCE OF WATER DOCK,” “TINCTURE OF VALERIAN,” and other medicines compounded by the famous doctor.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 23, 1767

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

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

January 22

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

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Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

“All those who may be pleased to favour him with Advertisements for the first publication … to send them to the Printing-Office.”

William Goddard published proposals for a new newspaper, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and Universal Advertiser, in Philadelphia’s other newspapers for several weeks in late December 1766 and early January 1767. He pledged “to give his readers a weekly relation of the most remarkable and important occurrences, foreign and domestic, collected from the best magazines and papers in Europe and America, as well as from other sources, having a particular regard to such matters as shall most intimately relate to the welfare of the Colonies.”[1]

In addition, he offered space for advertisements, though the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal already featured extensive advertising, sometimes extending to half-sheet supplements devoted exclusively to commercial and other notices. “The Rates of the paper and advertisements,” Goddard promised, “shall be the same … with those heretofore and now printed in this city.—All advertisements shall be punctually inserted, in order as they come in, and be neither delayed or displaced, but shall appear in a fair and conspicuous manner.”

Readers of the newspapers already printed in Philadelphia encountered Goddard’s proposal, dated December 23, 1766, for nearly a month before he published an update that he expected to commence publication of the Pennsylvania Chronicle on January 26. In that shorter notice, he requested that “all those who may be pleased to favour him with Advertisements for the first publication, which will be very extensively circulated, to send them to the Printing-Office … as soon as possible.”

Goddard had experience with publishing newspapers, having previously printed the Providence Gazette for several years. He knew that profits from such an endeavor usually did not arrive from subscriptions but rather from the additional revenues generated by selling advertising space. He also knew that advertisements drew readers. As attractive as those “most remarkable and important occurrences, foreign and domestic” may have been to prospective subscribers, colonists also desired the news and marketing appeals delivered via advertisements. Assorted legal notices kept citizens informed. Notices about runaway servants, slaves, and wives kept residents cautious of strangers they encountered. Notices promoting consumer goods and services kept potential customers aware of current fashions and the availability of products that were part of the ongoing consumer revolution.

Goddard’s proposal also revealed how advertisers could expect the notices they purchased to be handled by the printer: no privileges or preferences when it came to when or how they were inserted in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Although Goddard’s promise about the timing for printing advertisements may have been accurate, the requirements for laying out columns and pages within any issue almost certainly prohibited publishing advertisements in the same order that they arrived in the printing office. In his advertisement to solicit advertisements, Goddard engaged in his own sleight of hand that savvy consumers expected from any sort of marketing.

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[1] For Goddard’s original proposal, see Pennsylvania Gazette (January 8, 1767).

Slavery Advertisements Published January 22, 1767

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

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New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

January 21

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

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Georgia Gazette (January 21, 1767).

“He will undertake to fair-copy and engross any deeds.”

Patrick Poulson turned to the advertising section of the Georgia Gazette in his attempts to attract clients in early 1767. He assured readers that he possessed all the necessary skills of a clerk, copyist, and bookkeeper. He could “fair-copy and engross any deeds or instruments whatsoever” and “post and settle merchants books of accompt” as well as “any other business in the way of a scrivener.” In making his pitch, he adapted familiar appeals concerning quality to fit his own profession: he promised “exactness” in the work he did and the documents he created. Attending to legal and financial matters demanded a special attention to detail.

Poulson gave “Publick Notice” to all readers of the Georgia Gazette, seeking clients among local merchants as well as shopkeepers and artisans in Savannah and farmers in the countryside. Considering literacy rates of the period, some among the lower sorts in particular may have possessed special need of his services when it came to producing copies of legal documents. Regardless of their status or occupation, colonists who read Poulson’s advertisement may not have been able to write. The two skills were taught separately in colonial schools, with greater numbers of people learning how to read than to write or do calculations. Schoolmasters often listed the familiar triad of reading, writing, and arithmetic together when they described their curricula in newspaper advertisements, but that did not result in each student developing all three skills to the same extent.

Even colonists who possessed basic writing skills may have turned to Poulson to draft copies of particularly important documents, including various sorts of contracts or deeds that secured their property. His ability to “fair-copy and engross” documents meant that he created formal records in clear, attractive, and possibly large script for clients and witnesses to affix their signatures and, when appropriate, any necessary seals. When he promised prospective customers that “their business shall be dispatched with exactness,” Poulson did not refer to accuracy alone. He also meant the attractiveness and readability of the documents he produced.

Summary of Slavery Advertisements Published January 15-21, 1767

These tables indicate how many advertisements for slaves appeared in colonial American newspapers during the week of January 15-21, 1767.

Note:  These tables are as comprehensive as currently digitized sources permit, but they may not be an exhaustive account.  They includes all newspapers that have been digitized and made available via Accessible Archives, Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, and Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers.  There are several reasons some newspapers may not have been consulted:

  • Issues that are no longer extant;
  • Issues that are extant but have not yet been digitized; and
  • Newspapers published in a language other than English (including the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote).

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Slavery Advertisements Published January 15-21, 1767:  By Date

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Slavery Advertisements Published January 15-21, 1767:  By Region

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