December 23

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 23, 1766).

“CARVER’S Wharf, at Gosport.”

Most eighteenth-century advertisements – whether promotions of consumer goods and services, legal notices, or other sorts of announcements – tended to be local, which made this advertisement for “CARVER’S Wharf, at Gosport” at the entrance of Portsmouth Harbor in southern England rather unique. Very rarely did advertising in colonial newspapers originate on the other side of the Atlantic.

Merchants and masters of vessels frequently placed advertisements announcing when ships were scheduled to sail for England and other destinations. Half a dozen such advertisements, seeking to contract for “Freight or Passage,” appeared in the December 23, 1766, issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, accompanied by woodcuts of ships to make them easily identifiable at a glance. Such advertisements, however, rarely elaborated on how any cargo would be handled once it arrived at its destination.

This advertisement for “CARVER’S Wharf, at Gosport,” on the other hand, addressed many concerns merchants, planters, and other producers might have had concerning the logistics of getting rice, indigo, hides, and other goods to markets in England. The harbor was deep enough for ships loaded with rice and other cargo to “lay a-float at all Times of the Tide.” In addition, “the Wharf is now covered,” which meant that cargo could be offloaded regardless of the weather. Despite its location about eighty miles south of London, mail service to the capital operated every day, making it convenient to contact business associates. To aid in moving cargoes to market, numerous porters and wagons could be hired at Gosport. These factors numbered among the “many Additions and Improvements lately made,” but the advertisement also promised “many other Advantages attend the Proprietors of Ships and Cargoes too tedious to mention.”

The Adverts 250 Project usually examines advertisements that addressed potential customers in efforts to incite consumption. Today’s advertisement, however, shows portions of the other side of the process by focusing on exporting rice and other goods. Production and distribution of staple crops and other goods helped make it possible for colonists to participate in the consumer revolution. Sometimes producers were the targets of advertisements that offered services to facilitate commerce.

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