What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Advertisements omitted this Week, for want of Room, will be inserted in our next.”
Sarah Goddard and Company, the publishers of the Providence Gazette, apparently received more advertisements than space permitted them to insert in the July 25, 1767, edition. As a result, they included a notice frequently seen in rival newspapers in other cities: “Advertisement omitted this Week, for want of Room, will be inserted in our next.” This signaled to readers that they would discover new material in the next issue, but it also communicated to advertisers not to fret when they did not spot their notice in the current issue.
Space was indeed at a premium in that edition of the Providence Gazette. Advertising filled nearly five of the twelve columns (including the entire final page), which was quite a change from the scarcity of advertising that plagued Goddard and Company the previous winter. The printers no longer resorted to filling the last page with their own advertisements (although one short notice did inform readers that “THE new Digest of the LAWS of this Colony, printed in One Volume, are to be sold at the Printing-Office in Providence”). Instead, they printed advertisements of various sorts, including legal notices, real estate pitches, and one seeking the capture and return of “a Negro Man named Caesar.” The majority of advertisements, however, promoted consumer goods and services. William Logan announced that he “now carries on the Painting Business in all its Branches.” Thomas Sabin advertised his stagecoach service to Boston (also advertised in Boston’s newspapers) and Ebenezer Webb advertised his “Passage-Boat” between New London and Long Island (also advertised in the New-London Gazette). Several merchants and shopkeepers – Black and Stewart, William Brown, James Green, John Mathewson, Philip Potter, Benjamin West – sought to attract customers.
What accounted for this spirit of competition in the public prints that had been absent during the winter months? Why did Goddard and Company now have more advertisements than they squeeze into the weekly issue of the Providence Gazette? Did other marketing efforts beget more advertising? In recent weeks, several advertisers made bolder claims (such as James Green proclaiming that “he will sell as cheap as can be bought in any Shop in this Town, or an of the neighbouring Governments”), became rancorous (such as Black and Stewart lamenting “the Knavery of some, and the Collusion of others” to their detriment), and singled out specific competitors (such as Philip Potter pledging “he will sell as Cheap as the Messrs. Thurbers”). A combination of increasingly vocal marketing efforts in the pages of the local newspaper and concurrent events revived the advertising section of the Providence Gazette in the summer of 1767.