What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Crim-¶son Chiney; green & blue ¶ print; cartridge paper; ¶ paste board; Starch by the ¶ cask; Brimstone by the ¶ hundred, or smaller quan ¶ tity; powder and Shot.”
It appears that Joseph Bass liked to advertise. I’ve previously featured a different advertisement from Bass (on December 6, when Adverts 250 was confined to Twitter exclusively). Either he or the printer of the New-Hampshire Gazette liked to experiment with breaking his list of merchandise into columns. Bass may have requested a particular format, but the printer was ultimately responsible for the execution. From a graphic design perspective, some attempts appear more successful than others.
This particular advertisement drew my eye because the design seems particularly poor. The pilcrows (¶¶¶) that form the dividing line are distracting and disruptive. They do not make it easy to read the advertisement. Many eighteenth-century printers created works of art using ornamental type. Even in the hurry of setting type for newspapers, their efforts usually yielded better, more attractive results than this.
I am left wondering how eighteenth-century readers would have approached this advertisement. It looks ugly to my twenty-first-century eyes and the possibilities presented by modern technologies, but would it have been so off-putting to potential customers in 1766? To what extent would they have acknowledged the differences between today’s advertisement and the one from December?
On the other hand, the design elements of this advertisement got my attention. I examined it more closely as a result. In that regard, maybe it was successful.