January 22

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

jan-22-1221767-pennsylvania-gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

“All those who may be pleased to favour him with Advertisements for the first publication … to send them to the Printing-Office.”

William Goddard published proposals for a new newspaper, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and Universal Advertiser, in Philadelphia’s other newspapers for several weeks in late December 1766 and early January 1767. He pledged “to give his readers a weekly relation of the most remarkable and important occurrences, foreign and domestic, collected from the best magazines and papers in Europe and America, as well as from other sources, having a particular regard to such matters as shall most intimately relate to the welfare of the Colonies.”[1]

In addition, he offered space for advertisements, though the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal already featured extensive advertising, sometimes extending to half-sheet supplements devoted exclusively to commercial and other notices. “The Rates of the paper and advertisements,” Goddard promised, “shall be the same … with those heretofore and now printed in this city.—All advertisements shall be punctually inserted, in order as they come in, and be neither delayed or displaced, but shall appear in a fair and conspicuous manner.”

Readers of the newspapers already printed in Philadelphia encountered Goddard’s proposal, dated December 23, 1766, for nearly a month before he published an update that he expected to commence publication of the Pennsylvania Chronicle on January 26. In that shorter notice, he requested that “all those who may be pleased to favour him with Advertisements for the first publication, which will be very extensively circulated, to send them to the Printing-Office … as soon as possible.”

Goddard had experience with publishing newspapers, having previously printed the Providence Gazette for several years. He knew that profits from such an endeavor usually did not arrive from subscriptions but rather from the additional revenues generated by selling advertising space. He also knew that advertisements drew readers. As attractive as those “most remarkable and important occurrences, foreign and domestic” may have been to prospective subscribers, colonists also desired the news and marketing appeals delivered via advertisements. Assorted legal notices kept citizens informed. Notices about runaway servants, slaves, and wives kept residents cautious of strangers they encountered. Notices promoting consumer goods and services kept potential customers aware of current fashions and the availability of products that were part of the ongoing consumer revolution.

Goddard’s proposal also revealed how advertisers could expect the notices they purchased to be handled by the printer: no privileges or preferences when it came to when or how they were inserted in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Although Goddard’s promise about the timing for printing advertisements may have been accurate, the requirements for laying out columns and pages within any issue almost certainly prohibited publishing advertisements in the same order that they arrived in the printing office. In his advertisement to solicit advertisements, Goddard engaged in his own sleight of hand that savvy consumers expected from any sort of marketing.

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[1] For Goddard’s original proposal, see Pennsylvania Gazette (January 8, 1767).

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