January 27

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

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

“THE Subscriber returns his sincere Thanks to his Friends and Customers.”

Andrew Taylor placed an earnest, yet cryptic, advertisement to express “his sincere Thanks to his Friends and Customers” for their previous patronage. He also expressed his desire to continue to serve them in the future. Unlike most advertisements, however, Taylor did not give any indication of what sort of business he pursued or where his store or workshop was located. While it was possible that many residents of Charleston already knew Taylor, the busy urban port was large enough to support three newspapers, hardly making it a small town where everyone could be expected to know everyone else.

Eighteenth-century advertisers frequently expressed their appreciation to their customers, but they usually used wording that extended an invitation to the general public, to others who might read the advertisement and wish to avail themselves of whatever services were being offered. Such advertisements aimed to drum up new business from new customers or clients, not just maintain relationships with current patrons.

Perhaps Taylor wished to cultivate an aura of exclusivity by making it seem as though he had little need for new customers but instead wished to focus on his existing clientele. In a nota bene he indicated that his wife was a mantuamaker; perhaps he was in the clothing trades himself. Maybe Taylor was indeed a tailor, one of sufficient prominence in Charleston that he did not need to list his occupation or location. Perhaps the sorts of customers Taylor wished to attract would have already been sufficiently familiar with him and his work that he did not need to provide additional information, and those who could not penetrate his brief open letter to his clients were not anyone whose patronage would contribute to the impression of his business and its patrons that he wished to project.

Many eighteenth-century advertisers played with the concept of gentility and its appeal to consumers, simultaneously offering goods and services that might allow the better sorts to maintain their status while also making the same goods and services available to anyone who could pay. Taylor may have been up to something similar in this advertisement, creating an appearance of exclusivity for his current “Friends and Customers” even as he implicitly invited others to join their ranks as he reminded all of the readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he continued his “Endeavours.”

Slavery Advertisements Published January 27, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

January 26

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

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Boston-Gazette (January 26, 1767).

“My Good Customers and others will excuse my not promising to sell CHEAPER than can be bought elsewhere.”

William Palfrey frequently advertised in the Boston-Gazette and other newspapers printed in the city. His placed notices of various lengths, such as this list advertisement that extended for an entire column. As a preamble to this extensive account of his merchandise, Palfrey inserted much of the standard language and made several of the most common appeals. His method of advertising looked familiar to potential customers because Palfrey understood all the conventions of newspaper advertising in eighteenth-century America. Among those conventions, he made an appeal to price, promising that “he will sell at the very lowest Rates by Wholesale or Retail.”

That was not Palfrey’s last word, however, when it came to the price of his goods. He concluded his advertisement with a short paragraph that advised readers that “The above Goods will be sold as CHEAP as any of the same Quality in Town. My Good Customers and others will excuse my not promising to sell CHEAPER than can be bought of elsewhere; as such promises, though frequently made, are seldom comply’d with, and are only calculated to impose on Persons who are not well acquainted with the Quality of Goods.” In so doing, Palfrey echoed a sentiment that Gilbert Deblois had recently expressed in his advertisements. That other shopkeeper explained that he did not indicate prices of specific items in his advertisements because everyone knew that goods “differ so much in Quality.”

In making these observations, Palfrey and Deblois indicated that they were aware that potential customers, at least savvy ones, did not take all of the claims made in advertisements at face value. While recognizing that readers would naturally be suspicious of the appeals advanced in their own advertisements, both shopkeepers sought to turn such skepticism to their advantage. By acknowledging that there was room for subterfuge in advertising, especially that deception might be practiced by others, they encouraged readers to have greater trust in them to deal fairly. After all, when they admitted that they could not get away with pulling the wool over customers’ eyes that put the shopkeepers in the position of only being able to transact business as honest brokers.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 26, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

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Boston-Gazette (January 26, 1767).

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Boston-Gazette (January 26, 1767).

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New-York Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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New-York Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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New-York Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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New-York Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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New-York Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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New-York Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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New-York Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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Newport Mercury (January 26, 1767).

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Supplement to the South Carolina Gazette (January 26, 1767).

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Supplement to the South Carolina Gazette (January 26, 1767).

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Supplement to the South Carolina Gazette (January 26, 1767).

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Supplement to the South Carolina Gazette (January 26, 1767).

January 25

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

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Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

Subscriptions for the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, and UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER, will be taken in by the Printer.”

Throughout January 1767, William Goddard inserted his “PROPOSALS for printing by Subscription … The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, And UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER” in newspapers printed in Philadelphia. Although he focused most of his efforts on luring subscribers from that city and its hinterland, he also welcomed subscribers from faraway places who already had access to local newspapers published where they lived.

For instance, his lengthy proposal appeared in the Providence Gazette two days before Goddard published the first issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. He recognized three categories of customers and pledged that each would receive their subscriptions in a timely manner: “ladies and gentlemen … shall, in the city, receive [the newspaper] at their respective houses; or, if in the country, forwarded to them by the first opportunity; nor shall any care or industry be wanting to transmit it to the most distant customers with all expedition possible.” To serve that final category, Goddard had appointed agents in “the other colonies on the continent” who collected names of subscribers on his behalf.

Why would residents of other cities and colonies be interested in Goddard’s Pennsylvania Chronicle? After all, even as he pledged “to form his paper on as extensive and universal principles as any other on the continent” he stated that he was not “intending to derogate, in the least, from the merit of any.” Goddard acknowledged that his competitors and counterparts already published fine newspapers.

However, he also underscored that he had “established an extensive correspondence in Europe, and the several Colonies in America” that would allow him to collect in one publication all sorts of items that would “tend to the improvement, instruction, and entertainments of the PUBLIC.” Other newspapers might (and certainly did) print some of the same material that appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but Goddard cultivated a network of “learned and ingenious” correspondents who not only forwarded accounts of “the most remarkable and important occurrences foreign and domestic” but also submitted original “judicious remarks, pieces of wit and humor, essays moral, political, geographical, historical, and poetical.” Considering the editorial care that Goddard devoted to the Pennsylvania Chronicle, subscribers could expect a publication “as complete as possible,” one that provided both news items printed and reprinted throughout the colonies and original features for their edification and amusement.

Goddard’s lengthy proposal, which filled almost an entire column, did not appear alongside other advertisements in the Providence Gazette. There certainly would have been space for it on the final page, had the printer chosen to place a poem submitted by a reader earlier in the issue. Instead, Goddard’s proposal appeared in the final column on the third page, to the left of news items from Williamsburg, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Boston, and Newport. As a result, Goddard’s proposal took on the appearance of a news item as opposed to the commercial notices for consumer goods and services clustered on the following page.

Given its placement within the Providence Gazette, Goddard’s proposal was an advertisement that was not an advertisement, a puff piece that seemed to deliver news but also promoted a product. That Goddard’s proposal received this sort of preferential treatment hardly comes as a surprise when we remember that he formerly published the Providence Gazette before the Stamp Act and when the newspaper once again began publication it did so under the stewardship of his mother, Sarah Goddard.

January 24

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

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Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

“JUST PUBLISHED …. The true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack.”

Despite the proclamation in the first line of this advertisement, the “true and original NEW-ENGLAND Almanack” had not been “JUST PUBLISHED” by Sarah Goddard and Company. Even if readers of the Providence Gazette had not seen the original advertisement, published seven weeks earlier, that announced the almanac was slated for publication just a few days later, they would have realized that no printers waited more than three weeks into the new year to print almanacs. Goddard and Company ran this advertisement – yet again – in an attempt to move surplus inventory that was quickly becoming outdated. With every day that passed, this almanac, like the “NEW-YORK Pocket Almanacks” advertised on the previous page, had less value to potential customers.

Printing and selling almanacs could be a lucrative business for members of the book trades in early America, but it could also be a tricky business. Starting as early as September, printers and booksellers advertised almanacs for the coming year, seeking to incite demand among potential customers. They aimed to print or stock just enough to meet that demand, not wishing to turn away customers (especially given that disappointed prospective customers might then patronize competitors who still had almanacs available), but also not producing so many that leftover copies diminished profits.

Goddard and Company apparently overestimated how many almanacs they needed to print for 1767. Perhaps their earlier complaints about dishonorable dealings by competitors in nearby Boston and corresponding appeals to customers’ sense of justice and fairness to convince them to purchase the “true and original” version of Benjamin West’s New-England Almanack had not gone over as successfully as they had anticipated or hoped. As a result, they found themselves in a position of devoting space in the Providence Gazette to advertisements intended to clear out their inventory, even as Joseph and William Russell continued to note, in their advertisement on the same page, that their assortment of imported goods was “too large” to print the sort of enumerated list that had been part of their marketing strategy over the past several months. Having too many almanacs on hand as the end of January approached may have prompted Goddard and Company to forego potential advertising revenue that they would have obtained from selling more space to the Russells.

January 23

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

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

A List of Dr. HILL’s Medicines sold by Messrs. Carne and Wilson.”

Patent medicines became a staple of American advertising about as soon as the first weekly newspapers were published in the early eighteenth century, so much so that historians of advertising have focused attention disproportionately on these quack remedies. Why not? The advertisements hawked potions with odd names, emphasized strange ingredients, and made wild claims today considered obviously false, making later generations marvel that anyone could have possibly been influenced by that sort of marketing.

Yet patent medicines were indeed popular in eighteenth-century England and America, perhaps the first class of commodities to develop distinct and recognizable brand names. For instance, John Hill’s “PECTORAL BALSAM OF HONEY,” the first of half a dozen medicines listed in today’s advertisement, appeared in advertisements printed in newspapers throughout the colonies. Both apothecaries and shopkeepers announced that they imported and sold elixirs produced by Hill and other English “doctors,” assuming prospective customers recognized names and products like Anderson’s Pills, Batemans’s Drops, Stoughton’s Bitters, and Turlington’s Balsam. Unlike most purveyors of patent medicines, Hill, a botanist and author, did hold a medical degree.

Given the ease of counterfeiting patent medicines in a marketplace without formal regulation of medical supplies, Hill and others made various efforts to protect both their reputations and their share of the market. For instance, Hill designated specific agents authorized to sell his patent medicines. His advertisement first identified the men who operated on his behalf before listing and describing the remedies they sold to colonists: “I HAVE appointed Messrs. CARNE and WILSON my agents, for the sale of my medicines in CAROLINA; and all persons may be supplied wholesale and retail by them.” Others in Charleston and beyond sold patent medicines, including Hill’s various nostrums, but Carne and Wilson sought to benefit from having a seal of approval from Dr. Hill himself as they sold “ESSENCE OF WATER DOCK,” “TINCTURE OF VALERIAN,” and other medicines compounded by the famous doctor.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 23, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 23, 1767).

January 22

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

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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).

Slavery Advertisements Published January 22, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

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New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the New-York Journal (January 22, 1767).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette (January 22, 1767).