What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“BLank bonds, bills of sale, mortgages, powers of attorney, bonds of arbitration, indentures.”
Variations of this advertisement for printed blanks that appeared in the Georgia Gazette have been featured on the Adverts 250 Project on a couple of occasions. Rather than focus on the advertisement itself, this presents an opportunity to discuss methodology and process instead. This notice was the only advertisement for any sort of new consumer goods in the January 7, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette, though several advertisements did announce secondhand goods to be sold at estate auctions.
Selecting advertisements to include in this project can sometimes be a case of feast or famine. On some days I encounter multiple advertisements that I would like to share with readers and explore in greater detail. On those occasions I look ahead to see if an advertisement of interest ran for multiple weeks and could be incorporated into the project at another time. On other days, like today, selecting an advertisement becomes much more challenging due to the scarcity of commercial notices that appeared in some newspapers. Throughout the colonial period advertising for consumer goods and services (as well as other sorts of advertising) was not evenly distributed across newspapers or days of the week.
Consider the newspapers published during the first week of January 1767. (This is not an exhaustive list but instead includes only those newspapers for which a digital surrogate is available via Accessible Archives, Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, or Readex’s Early American Newspapers.)
Thursday, January 1, 1767
- Massachusetts Gazette
- New-York Gazette, or Weekly Post-Boy
- New-York Journal
- Pennsylvania Gazette
- Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon)
Friday, January 2, 1767
- New-Hampshire Gazette
- New-London Gazette
- South-Carolina and American General Gazette
Saturday, January 3, 1767
- Providence Gazette
Sunday, January 4, 1767
Monday, January 5, 1767
- Boston Evening-Post
- Boston Gazette
- Boston Post-Boy
- Connecticut Courant
- New-York Gazette
- New-York Mercury
- South Carolina Gazette
- Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote
Tuesday, January 6, 1767
- South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
Wednesday, January 7, 1767
- Georgia Gazette
Newspaper publication clustered on particular days, especially Mondays and Thursdays. That means that there are some days that I may select advertisements from far more newspapers. As much as possible, I cycle through each publication. In addition, many of those newspapers were published in larger cities and included much more advertising than their counterparts in smaller towns. Some even expanded from four to six pages in order to insert greater numbers of advertisements.
On other days, however, I have no choice about which newspaper to consult. In general, I know that once a week I will examine advertisements from the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Georgia Gazette, and Providence Gazette because those were the only newspapers published on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, respectively. For most weeks, I also expect to select a second advertisement from the Providence Gazette since no newspapers were published on Sundays and the project’s methodology requires consulting the most recently published newspaper in colonial America 250 years ago that day. On occasion all of the advertisements for consumer goods and services from the Providence Gazette have previously been featured in the project, which means that I have to go back a day earlier to select an advertisement.
Fortunately, the printers of the Providence Gazette and their advertisers created some interesting and significant advertisements in the 1760s, but there have been occasions that only one advertisement in a particular issue qualified for inclusion in the project. That made the choice easy while sometimes providing a challenge as far as research and writing was concerned. The same situation periodically presents itself on days that I consult the Georgia Gazette. According to the project’s methodology, technically I should not have once again selected the advertisement for printed blanks from the Georgia Gazette. However, it has been a while since I discussed methodology. I decided that this provided a helpful opportunity to share with readers a more complete accounting of newspapers published during this week in 1767 in order to provide more context for understanding advertisements otherwise removed from the publications in which they originally appeared.