August 13

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

Aug 13 - 8:13:1766 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 13, 1766).

“BLank bonds, bills of sale, mortgages, powers of attorney, bonds of arbitration, indentures, bills of lading …”

Like other colonial newspapers, the Georgia Gazette consistently ended with a colophon that gave the particulars concerning publication: it was printed “by JAMES JOHNSTON, at the Printing-Office in Broughton-Street” in Savannah. Also like other colonial newspapers, the colophon announced a variety of printed goods for sale. Johnston solicited advertisements and subscriptions for the Georgia Gazette, but he supplemented that revenue with job printing: “Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c. printed at the shortest Notice.”

Regular readers may have grown accustomed to seeing the colophon and largely ignored its contents. It would have been harder to skip over this advertisement, strategically positioned as the final item in the final column on the final page (and immediately above the colophon). Whether reading the advertisements intensively or merely skimming over them, this one would have left a lasting impression among most readers thanks to its placement on the page.

The “&c.” (an eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) in the colophon covered an array of printed items, but Johnston elaborated on them in this advertisement. In total, he listed a dozen kinds of printed blanks, forms intended to streamline a variety of economic transactions and legal interactions. Even this extensive list, however, ended with another “&c.” Blank forms, whether printed or online, are part of everyday life in the twenty-first century, but this advertisement suggests that colonial Americans were not strangers to filling out, handling, and reading forms themselves. It also indicates that the work done by printers facilitated diverse commercial and legal activities as their printed blanks passed from person to person within and beyond their communities.

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