June 20

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

Jun 20 - 6:20:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 20, 1766).

To be Sold by the Printers.”

Eighteenth-century printers earned their living by offering a variety of services, as this short advertisement indicates. Publishing the New-Hampshire Gazette was not Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle’s sole occupation in 1766. If they earned any profit at all from selling subscriptions, it was likely rather small. The important revenues from publishing newspapers came from the advertisements (which helps to explain why printers often gave over so much of the space in colonial newspapers to advertising rather than news or, on occasion, supplied half sheet supplements filled almost exclusively with commercial notices).

In this advertisement, the Fowles announced another branch of printers’ craft: printed blanks. Today such items are better known as blank forms. To record exchanges or legal transactions that took place so regularly that they were standardized, customers could purchase blank forms with boilerplate language. That meant that they did not have to start each new document from scratch with a quill pen. Printed blanks were convenient and saved time, making them a popular product. Often newspaper colophons indicated that the publishers printed the newspaper itself, standalone advertisements, and blanks, suggesting that the printed blanks were a significant part of their operations and revenues.

Some colonial printers also sold books, often imported books or imprints they exchanged with their counterparts in the colonies. Printing a book was a massive undertaking. Considering the time, effort, and capital required for newspapers, advertisements, printed blanks, and other job printing, printers who sold books tended to sell as many or more books printed by others than books that came off their own presses

This advertisement helps to demonstrate the various activities that took place in an eighteenth-century printing shop. Most printers did not specialize in one type of job. Instead, they generated revenues in multiple ways.

June 19

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

Jun 19 - 6:19:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (June 19, 1766).

“EDWARD BROADFIELD has carried on the manufacture of STURGEON for fourteen years, and given a general satisfaction.”

Edward Broadfield told a dramatic tale of commercial rivalry, sabotage, subterfuge, and woe in his advertisement for pickled sturgeon from the June 19, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Journal.

He started by noting his qualifications and the quality of his product. He had “carried on the manufacture of STURGEON for fourteen years.” The pickled sturgeon he produced was as good as any imported from the Baltic, so good that the “honourable society of arts, manufactures and commerce” had presented him an award, including a cash prize, for the “best Sturgeon cured in America.”

The previous year some misfortunes forced Broadfield to take on a partner, who remained unnamed throughout the advertisement. The partner, in turn, attempted to force Broadfield out of his own business. The partner refused to send the necessary supplies to continue the business. Broadfield found himself in such a predicament, unable to pay his debts, that he left town in order to procure the necessary supplies on his own, leaving his wife to oversee his affairs while he was away.

In Broadfield’s absence, the partner sent “a French Indian and his wife, to supplant my wife.” Furthermore, he spread false rumors about Broadfield and attempted to bribe his wife to leave town. She did “quit the place,” but never received the promised payment for doing so.

This was all bad enough, but Broadfield’s reputation was further at stake. His wife left behind several kegs “branded with my brand” which the Indian and his wife then filled with their own pickled sturgeon. They sold and shipped it as though they were in partnership with Broadfield. His advertisement warned unsuspecting consumers about this trickery.

Broadfield announced that he continued business at Kensington, not at Lamberton where he had formerly pursued his craft. In most circumstances, a brand alone testified to the quality of the product in the kegs, but Broadfield needed customers to know that only pickled sturgeon that came from him directly in Kensington actually had his seal of approval. In addition, he listed one additional authorized seller in Philadelphia, “Mr. Jeremiah Baker, near the Crooked Billet, in Water-street.” Broadfield concluded by stressing that his fish was sold “by no other persons.”

Broadfield told quite a story in his advertisement. He attempted to leverage a frustrating, infuriating, and embarrassing series of events to rehabilitate his damaged reputation, warn others against the perfidy of his former partner, and attract customers for his own product. In the process of promoting his own pickled sturgeon, he aired a lot of dirty laundry. Perhaps a combination of sympathy and indignation resonated with customers.

June 18

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

Jun 18 - 6:18:1766 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 18, 1766).

“Have just imported, In the Georgia Packet, Capt. Anderson, from London, and the Friendship, Perkins, from Bristol.”

Inglis and Hall regularly advertised in the Georgia Gazette. In May 1766 they placed an advertisement announcing that they “have just imported, In the GEORGIA PACKET, Capt. ANDERSON, from LONDON, A NEAT ASSORTMENT” of dry goods and housewares. In addition, they promised “a FURTHER ASSORTMENT daily expected from LONDON and BRISTOL.”

When additional cargoes arrived in port, Inglis and Hall updated their advertisement to add the name of another vessel that carried the textiles and hardware they stocked: “the Friendship, Perkins, from Bristol.” The new advertisement included many of the items listed in the previous one, but also integrated new merchandise to entice potential customers with the variety of choices available.

In both instances Inglis and Hall presented a list style advertisement, an extensive catalog of goods they stocked. The format, however, shifted from one advertisement to the next. The first one tallied everything together in a single paragraph, while the second one indicated only one item or group of related items per line. Both drew attention to the “NEAT ASSORTMENT” and “GREAT VARIETY” of merchandise, but many potential customers likely found the second one easier to read and identify specific items of interest.

Was that the purpose for the new format? Was it an innovation intended to make the advertisement more accessible to consumers? If so, who was responsible for it, the advertiser or the printer? It is also possible that the printer needed to fill space and choose a new format to extend the advertisement to the desired length. In the absence of additional records some questions about the reasons eighteenth-century advertisements took their form cannot be answered definitively.

June 17

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

Jun 17 - 6:16:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (June 16, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD By JAMES LUCENA, At his Store on the Point.”

James Lucena’s advertisement for the “BEST sort of Teneriffe Wine of the Madeira Grape” and other wines would have looked familiar to readers of the June 16, 1766, issue of the Newport Mercury. It had also appeared in the previous issue. It would look increasingly familiar over the next month. Lucena’s advertisement appeared in the Newport Mercury in six consecutive issues: June 9, 16, 23, and 30 and July 7 and 14. Although it moved around from page to page and column to column within the newspaper, the type had been set and it retained its original appearance.

Repeating an advertisement multiple times helped sellers inform potential customers about their wares, but this practice also aided in building their brand (to use today’s marketing parlance). Through sheer repetition, Lucena prompted consumers to associate the “BEST sort” of wine from Tenerife (the largest of the Canary Islands) with his shop. The brevity of this advertisement did not allow Lucena to expand on that appeal, to say more about the qualities of the wine he sold, but he may have balanced the relative costs of running a longer advertisement fewer times or a short advertisement a greater number of times. The recognition gained from having the short advertisement appear so many times may have been one of the results Lucena desired. Some readers who saw Lucena advertise “Teneriffe Wine of the Madeira Grape” likely came to associate this product with him even when his advertisement ceased its run in the Newport Mercury.

June 16

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

Jun 16 - 6:16:1766 Supplement to the Boston-Gazette
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (June 16, 1766).

“A Fresh and neat Assortment of English and India GOODS.”

Business was booming in Boston at the beginning of summer in 1766. The pages of the Boston-Gazette were filled with advertisements, most of them marketing consumer goods. Perhaps it was because a greater number of ships arrived in port with “English and India GOODS” now that winter was over and conditions for traveling had improved. Or perhaps it was because in the wake of the repeal of the hated Stamp Act a greater number of sellers felt comfortable announcing to the public that they sold imported goods.

Frederick William Geyer was just one of many advertisers in the June 16, 1766, issue of the Boston-Gazette. Indeed, the printer had received so many advertisements that a two-page supplement featuring nothing but advertisements was necessary, increasing the length of the newspaper for that week by half! Geyer’s advertisement appeared on the second page of that supplement. Many of the other advertisements were fairly short, at least in comparison to Geyer’s extensive list of textiles and other dry goods. His advertisement extended an entire column, catching the eye because it took up so much space on the page. Such a lengthy advertisement would have certainly been an investment for the merchant and shopkeeper (he sold the goods (“Wholesale or Retail”), one that he hoped would more than pay for itself by bringing customers into his shop. Given how many competitors were also advertising in the Boston-Gazette and the city’s other three newspapers, Geyer may have considered his own advertisement a necessity.

Jun 16 - 6:16:1766 Supplement to the Boston-Gazette fullpage
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (June 16, 1766).

June 15

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

Jun 15 - 6:13:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (June 13, 1766).

“The unwary purchaser may make use of this to prevent their being taken in.”

Throughout the eighteenth century many advertisers emphasized their own virtues, especially their good character. As urban centers increased in size, residents did not necessarily always know all the merchants and retailers who lived in their area. In addition, mobility and migration were common. People were constantly coming and going in colonial America: arriving from Europe, moving from colony to colony, seeking new opportunities wherever they could find them. Many commercial exchanges began with the parties not knowing each other. Accordingly, advertisers frequently assured potential customers of their good character.

This anonymously placed advertisement, on the other hand, warned readers of the Virginia Gazette against trusting Robert Bolling. Less than two weeks earlier “an examination of the weights at Robert Bolling’s warehouse” were “found to have lost, from 2 and half per cent. to 5 per cent. or more.” Bolling, “the designing seller” was cheating his customers.

Maintaining a good reputation played an important role in inaugurating and continuing commercial exchanges in eighteenth-century America. According to this advertisement, Bolling had taken advantage of “unwary purchaser[s]” who bought tobacco at his warehouse, calling his character into question.

Had Bolling intentionally adjusted the weights? Was he even aware that they were off? The advertisements suggest that was the case by describing him as a “designing seller.” However, it’s also possible that a competitor, disgruntled employee, or unhappy customer placed this advertisement as a means of undermining Bolling’s reputation, though it seems that “the designing seller” might have tracked down the author of this advertisement fairly easily with a visit or letter to the printer of the Virginia Gazette.

Jun 15 - 6:13:1766 response Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (June 13, 1766).

At any rate, Bolling seems to have offered a response that suggested the original advertisement was nothing more than subterfuge designed by competitors who had “a great many ships to load” and wanted to prevent planters from selling their tobacco through Bolling’s warehouse. Empty or partially loaded ships diminished revenues. This advertisement suggested that the accusations against Bolling were nothing more than an attempt to direct business to another warehouse.

This was not the first time that commercial rivalries found voice in newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, nor would it be the last.

June 14

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

Jun 14 - 6:13:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (June 13, 1766).

“Those who fail complying may depend upon being sued.”

Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans frequently placed advertisements advising their customers to settle their debts or face the consequences. Both the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century and the colonial economy operated on credit, often webs of credit that extended far beyond consumers and the retailers who sold them goods. Those same retailers had often procured imported goods from English merchants on credit themselves. Hard money was fairly rare in the colonies, often making credit a necessary substitute. Yet extending credit had its risks. Producers, suppliers, and retailers might never receive payment. Consumers might find themselves hauled into court when they did not pay.

Thomas Craig expressed exasperation in his advertisement calling on “those who have been dilatory in paying off their accounts to discharge them.” He wanted to receive payment while the current court was sitting. While this might have seemed like short notice to some, he reminded them that he had “long before now advertised” that the “present state of my affairs makes it absolutely necessary” to settle accounts.

Still, Craig depended on the good will of customers to continue to earn a living. He knew enough about customer service to attempt to mediate any offense he might have given to “good and punctual customers” by offering a nota bene that emphasized that his advertisement was not directed at them. He needed payment from others, but he did not want to risk alienating those who settled their accounts in a timely fashion.

June 13

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

Jun 13 - 6:13:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 13, 1766).

“BOYS and GIRLS to be bound out in Town or Country … as Apprentices.”

In today’s advertisement the Overseers of the Poor issued a call for provisions at the “WORK HOUSE,” an establishment also known as the almshouse, the poorhouse, or, sometimes, the bettering house. The men, women, and children who resided there were known as inmates.

Towns in New England and elsewhere throughout the American colonies devised various methods of dealing with poor residents. Sometimes they provided “outdoor relief” via officials known as the Overseers of the Poor, funded by taxes. Under that system, the Overseers of the Poor gave money, food, clothing, or other goods directly to impoverished residents. In contrast, “indoor relief” took an institutional approach, requiring recipients of aid to enter a workhouse. Several historians, including Billy G. Smith, have noted that the proportion of colonists who relied on public relief increased in the 1760s, especially in urban centers, due in part to the disruptions of the Seven Years War. A feminization of poverty occurred as the war made wives into widows who could not support themselves and their children.

Many colonists who paid taxes preferred workhouses over outdoor relief, considering them less expensive to maintain. Towns also became more stringent in their residency requirements for receiving aid, choosing instead to “warn off” indigents.

The advertisement concludes with a nota bene informing readers that children in the workhouse could be “bound out in Town or Country … as Apprentices.” The Overseers of the Poor hoped that this might decrease their expenses while also helping boys and girls develop skills that would later allow them to pursue occupations and support themselves in adulthood rather than relying on additional public aid.

Perhaps some of the goods advertised elsewhere in the newspaper were among the “Provisions of any Kind” that residents of Portsmouth were encouraged to either donate to the workhouse or turn over in lieu of taxes.

June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1766 Frauncis Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 12, 1766).
Jun 12 - 6:12:1766 Johnson Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 12, 1766).

“Gentlemen will be entertained in the most polite manner.”

“AT the Sign of the Globe, … is opened a convenient EATING-HOUSE.”

Compare yesterday’s advertisement for Daniel Ocain’s “house of entertainment” in Savannah to two advertisements for similar establishments that appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette during the same week. Samuel Frauncis (more commonly Fraunces) and William and Ann Johnson offered more extensive and luxurious accommodations and promoted them in greater detail.

Fraunces devoted most of his advertisement to listing and describing the food from his “Cook Shop” and “Confectioner’s Shop,” variety of “Victuals,” baked goods, and condiments. Several related enterprises operated out of his location “at the Sign of Queen Charlotte.” His advertisement suggested that he catered to both male and female clients. “Ladies and Gentlemen may be supplied with Cakes and Pastries of all Sorts” at his large Confectioner’s Shop, but it appears that the “Ordinary,” a separate restaurant operated for three hours in the afternoon, was reserved for “the better Entertainment of Gentlemen” exclusively. Men often gathered in homosocial spaces like taverns and coffeehouses to conduct business, discuss politics, and gossip.

William and Ann Johnson did not indicate that their “EATING-HOUSE” had as extensive a menu, but they promoted other amenities instead, including a billiard table “where Gentlemen may divert themselves, by paying for their Games only.” (In other words, patrons were not required to purchase food or drink if they only wished to play billiards and socialize. The Johnsons likely assumed that visitors who came with the intention of only playing pool would eventually order something, but they didn’t want to put up any obstacles to getting customers through the door.) The house, located on the outskirts of Philadelphia in the Northern Liberties, was in an attractive setting away from the crowded port. It had pleasant Gardens and Walks, shaded with pleasant Groves of different Kinds of Apple Trees.” Guests could rent rooms by the week, month, or even the entire summer.

Jun 12 - Samuel Fraunces
Portrait of Samuel Fraunces (unknown artist, ca. 1770-1785).  Francis Tavern Museum.

Samuel Fraunces is still remembered today, best known for Fraunces Tavern in New York City, the site of George Washington’s farewell to his officers at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. He also served as the steward of Washington’s household throughout the president’s first term in office. Fraunces Tavern is still in operation at Pearl and Dock Streets in New York City. Visitors may eat, drink, and socialize on the first floor and tour a museum operated by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York on the second and third floors.

June 11

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

Jun 11 - 6:11:1766 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 11, 1766).

“A house of entertainment … good assortment of liquors … food for men and horses.”

Daniel Ocain used an advertisement to announce that he had opened a tavern and inn in Savannah in 1766. In just a few lines he let potential customers know about the variety of services available ay his “house of entertainment.” He offered “to board or lodge any person that please to favour him with their custom.” Although he did not say so explicitly, Ocain stabled horses for his guests, as his promise of “food for men and horses” suggested. To entice potential visitors to choose his establishment over others, he also promoted his “large and good assortment of liquors.”

Ocain resorted to two methods in listing his location. For the headline for his advertisement he used “DANIEL OCAIN in Savannah.” At the conclusion of the advertisement he indicated that he operated his business “at his house near the Hon. James Habersham, Esq.’s in Johnson-Square.” That would have been sufficient for local residents familiar with the area to find their way to his tavern, even if they didn’t already know Ocain or where he lived and worked. His initial announcement that he operated a tavern and inn “in Savannah” was for the benefit of readers outside the port. The Georgia Gazette was the only newspaper printed in the colony in 1766. As a result, it served readers far beyond Savannah. Copies circulated throughout the colony and throughout the Lower South and beyond. Ocain opened his advertisement by noting that his “house of entertainment” was in Savannah to attract the attention of distant readers who might have business or other reasons to visit the city and would need a place to lodge. Ocain knew that in the 1760s “local” newspapers usually had distant readers.