January 19

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

Jan 19 - 1:17:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 17, 1766)

“European and India GOODS … TO BE SOLD By Jonathan Jackson, At his Store in Newbury-Port.”

Jonathan Jackson advertised his wares frequently.  Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette would have been very familiar with his promise to sell imported goods at the same costs they would encounter in the larger port city of Boston.  Indeed, readers would have been aware of this because Jackson inserted the same advertisement in the newspaper repeatedly.  Some wholesalers and retailers that advertised regularly either revised existing notices or devised entirely new ones.  Jackson, on the other hand, repeatedly placed the same advertisement.

Nov 15 - 11:15:1765 New-Hampshire Gazette.gif
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 15, 1765)

Those who have followed the Adverts 250 Project since its origins on Twitter may recognize this advertisement and realize that I have broken one of my rules:  this advertisement was previously featured on November 15, 2015.  Why have I done this instead of providing new content?  Jackson’s (repeated) advertisement raises several issues that merit consideration when considering the history of marketing in early America.  I’ll raise two of them here.

First, did Jackson actually place this advertisement after its initial appearance?  Or was the printer responsible for each subsequent insertion?  Did it generate revenue for the printer?  Or, as a relatively short advertisement, was convenient for filling space?

In addition, did readers and potential customers pay any attention to this advertisement over time?  The promise that merchandise was “JUST Imported” certainly lost its luster over time.  The advertisement continued to prompt potential customers to visit Jackson’s shop.  Perhaps that was sufficient justification for repeating it throughout the winter months, especially since new ships were unlikely to arrive during that period.

2 thoughts on “January 19

  1. Hey, you don’t hint at the frequency of these ads. Was it once every month for a couple of years, or several times a month? I have noticed this kind of lazy marketing in India during the early 20th century as well. These include advertisements of large MNCs of the time as well as homegrown brands. So the questions you raise apply in this context and to those, I’ll add one more – Were creative people involved in the making of these ads?

  2. For many advertisements, it was every week or almost every week for months. Since American newspapers were published only once a week in the 1760s, this meant that sometimes advertisements were repeated in every issue for months. In response to your question, I’m going to go back and chart when this particular advertisement first appeared, each subsequent appearance, and when it ceased. I’ll do a future post about that sometime in the next month or so.

    During the eighteenth century there was not an advertising industry with segmented departments (writing copy, producing art, and so on) that we would recognize now. That developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For colonial American newspapers, the advertisers or the printer wrote the copy (and I’m still working out to what extent each was involved and to what extent they cooperated). In most instances, it appears it was the printer who was responsible for the layout of advertisements, though there are exceptions. And most advertisements did not feature images other than printing ornaments that would have been part of the printer’s equipment. Occasionally advertisers arranged for woodcuts in order to include an image. It seems as though those did belong to the advertiser rather than the printer because they accompanied only a particular advertiser’s notices and they sometimes migrated from newspaper to newspaper.

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