August 31

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

Aug 31 - 8:31:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (August 31, 1767).

“Stage-Coach No. I. … SETS out on every Tuesday Morning.”

Thomas Sabin operated “Stage-Coach No. 1” between Boston and Providence. He had a flair for attracting attention to his transportation services, having advertised the previous summer that travelers would ride in “a most curious four wheeled Carriage, called the AETHERIAL VEHICLE.” Yet Sabin realized that generating business required more than just associating snappy names with the carriages that transported his passengers.

In particular, he advertised widely in both cities. His notice appeared week after week in the Providence Gazette, the only newspaper printed in that city in 1767. In addition, he placed advertisements in at least three out of four of the newspapers published in Boston. On August 31, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy carried identical notices, each with an impressive headline for “Stage-Coach No. 1.”

Sabin neglected only one newspaper, the Massachusetts Gazette, the only Boston newspaper distributed on Thursdays rather than Mondays. Here Sabin missed an opportunity to reach as many potential customers as possible by spreading out his advertisements in multiple newspapers. Or did he? Note the schedule for the Boston to Providence journey. His stagecoach departed on Thursdays. Perhaps Sabin did not consider advertising in the Massachusetts Gazette worth the investment since readers obtained their copies just as he left town. It may have made more sense to advertise widely on Mondays, giving potential passengers three days to make arrangements. He observed a similar schedule in Providence, where his advertisements appeared in a newspaper printed on Saturdays and clients had three days to book seats for departure on the following Tuesday.

Some eighteenth-century advertisers made efforts to maximize the number of potential customers exposed to their marketing efforts. In cities with multiple newspapers, they industriously placed the same notice in each of them. Sabin adopted this strategy, but adapted it to fit the particular circumstances of how his business operated.

Slavery Advertisements Published August 31, 1767

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

Aug 31 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 1
Boston Evening-Post (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Boston Post-Boy Slavery 1
Boston Post-Boy (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 1
Boston-Gazette (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 2
Boston-Gazette (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 3
Boston-Gazette (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 4
Boston-Gazette (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 5
Boston-Gazette (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Connecticut Courant Slavery 1
Connecticut Courant (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - New-York Gazette Slavery 1
New-York Gazette (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - New-York Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - New-York Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - New-York Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - New-York Mercury Slavery 4
New-York Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - New-York Mercury Slavery 5
New-York Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Newport Mercury Slavery 1
Newport Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Newport Mercury Slavery 2
Newport Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Newport Mercury Slavery 3
Newport Mercury (August 31, 1767).

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Aug 31 - Pennsylvania Chronicle Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 31, 1767).

August 30

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

Aug 27 - 8:27:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement.jpg
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (August 27, 1767).

“JOHN HOLLIDAY, TAYLOR … UNDERTAKES to make Clothes in the neatest and newest Fashion.”

John Holliday and his wife ran an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette throughout most of 1767. The Adverts 250 Project previously featured that advertisement, examining how the couple surreptitiously inserted information about “Mrs. Holliday’s new-invented curious Compound” for removing unwanted facial hair at the end of an advertisement that, at a glance, focused primarily on John’s services as a tailor.

The Hollidays’ advertisement demonstrates one strategy female entrepreneurs used to promote their participation in the marketplace without independently publishing newspaper notices, yet the initial portion dedicated to John’s enterprise includes fairly rare commentary on attitudes about the effectiveness of advertising in eighteenth-century America. “Mr. Holliday humbly begs Leave to refer to those Gentlemen who have favoured him with their Commands, since the Commencement of this Advertisement, as their Approbation has been equal to his highest Expectation.” In other words, Holliday acknowledged that business had increased since first placing the advertisement and he attributed that development to his marketing efforts rather than other circumstances. Perhaps Holliday’s advertisement had been successfully because he did not merely announce that he had set up shop. Instead, he listed his qualifications, noting that he had previously been employed as “Foreman and Cutter-out to some of the most eminent Master-Taylors in London.” Such a pedigree likely caught the attention of status-conscious residents of the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the colonies!

Furthermore, Holliday attempted to use his new clients to incite additional demand for his services. Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia from London, he promised that “any Gentlemen that shall be pleased to favour him with their Commands … will not be disappointed” with the garments he made “in the neatest and newest Fashion.” According to this advertisement, several “Gentlemen” indeed “favoured him with their Commands” and thought so highly of the work he completed for them that other potential clients should consider that sufficient testimonial to also engage his services.

August 29

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

Aug 29 - 8:29:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 29, 1767).

“He desires all Persons who want to lay their Money out to Advantage, to come and see for Love.”

John Mathewson opened a new shop “on the West Side of the Great Bridge” in Providence during the summer of 1767. To attract customers, he regularly inserted advertisements in the Providence Gazette in July and throughout August, deploying some of the most common marketing appeals yet also giving some of them his own twist in an effort to distinguish him form his competitors.

Prospective customers would have recognized Mathewson’s appeals to current styles and consumer choice within a transatlantic marketplace centered in Britain. To that end, he included formulaic language that could have been drawn from advertisements that appeared in any newspaper throughout the colonies: “a very fashionable and neat Assortment of English Goods.” He also made a standard appeal to price, following a recent trend among shopkeepers who advertised in the Providence Gazette to compare their own prices to others in the port city, colony, or region. Many local shopkeepers had moved away from merely stating that customers could acquire their merchandise at low costs in favor of making bolder pronouncements. Mathewson, for instance, asserted that he would “sell as cheap as are sold in New-England,” suggesting that prospective customers did not need to do any comparison shopping because he already offered the best bargains.

Yet Mathewson did not simply reiterate the language of standard marketing appeals or recent trendy updates. He infused his advertisement with some of his own personality as well. He extended a special invitation to potential customers: “He desires all Persons who want to lay their Money out to Advantage to come and see for Love, and buy for Money.” Mathewson did not depict just a commercial transaction, an exchange of money for goods. Instead, he encouraged readers to imagine the pleasures of shopping, the joys of sorting through the “neat Assortment” he made available to them. More explicitly than most of his competitors, Mathewson depicted a visit to his shop as an experience in and of itself, a pleasant outing that included being “genteely served” while selecting among the many options presented for their consideration. That they would “come and see for love” suggested the delights of window shopping even if customers did not ultimately purchase every item that caught their fancy. In addition, an invitation to “come and see for love” addressed critiques of excessive luxury that accompanied the consumer revolution. Mathewson signaled to potential customers that it was acceptable to entertain their desires without being deemed frivolous or irresponsible, especially since his low prices meant they could “lay their Money out to Advantage.”

August 28

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

Aug 28 - 8:28:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 28, 1767).

“Has lately opened an Evening School, for young Masters and Apprentices.

Schoolmaster Ebenezer Bradford emphasized efficiency and convenience in the advertisement he inserted in the New-Hampshire Gazette late in the summer of 1767. He reminded the residents of Portsmouth that he “continues his Day School for young Ladies and Misses,” but he also announced a new service for other students. He had “lately opened” an “Evening School, for young Masters and Apprentices.”

Bradford not only segregated his classroom by sex but also by when his pupils were likely to be available for lessons. Knowing that “young Masters and Apprentices” had responsibilities that kept them occupied throughout the day, he taught alternate evening classes to fit their schedules. Night courses for working professionals offered by modern colleges and universities have precursors extending back to the colonial period. Then, as now, educators sought to attract students and generate revenues by recognizing that not all prospective students could enroll during daytime hours.

In addition to that convenience, Bradford also acknowledged that potential pupils, especially those attending evening classes, wished to complete their course of study as quickly as possible. He did not give any indication on how long it might take for him “to Teach Reading, Writing and Arithmetic,” but he did pledge that every student would receive his “utmost Care” for “quick Instruction.” Again, modern methods for marketing certain educational programs have antecedents in the eighteenth century. Many colleges and universities promote some of their accelerated programs by emphasizing how quickly they can be completed, allowing students to disrupt other aspects of their lives as little as possible.

Bradford provided a practical education that covered the basics, unlike some schoolmasters that advertised a “polite” education, listed a variety of genteel subjects, and elaborately described various amenities in their classrooms. While other schoolmasters marketed an overall experience to prospective pupils and their parents, Bradford instead communicated his understanding that some students were primarily concerned with learning or enhancing basic skills quickly and efficiently. He catered to students who desired few frills but instead wished to resume their regular lives and schedules in as short a time as possible.

Slavery Advertisements Published August 28, 1767

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

Aug 28 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (August 28, 1767).

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Aug 28 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (August 28, 1767).

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Aug 28 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (August 28, 1767).

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Aug 28 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (August 28, 1767).

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Aug 28 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (August 28, 1767).

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Aug 28 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (August 28, 1767).

Slavery Advertisements Published August 27, 1767

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

Aug 27 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - New-York Journal Slavery 2
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - New-York Journal Slavery 3
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - New-York Journal Slavery 4
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - New-York Journal Slavery 5
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 3
Pennsylvania Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

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Aug 27 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 8
Virginia Gazette (August 27, 1767).

August 27

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

Aug 27 - 8:27:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

“The Subscribers are desired to send for ther Books as soon as possible.”

In 1767 Lambertus de Ronde, “Minister of the Protestant Dutch Church, at New-York,” inserted an advertisement in the New-York Journal to announce that he had finally published True Spiritual Religion, Or Delightful Service of the Lord. The minister had previously solicited subscriptions to gauge the market for his book, but the anticipated date of publication had been delayed due to “the Pre-engagement of the Printer in other Work.”

This actually worked to the author’s benefit – and to the benefit of subscribers, according to de Ronde. He took advantage of the extra time to “enlarge” the volume, drawing up an “alphabetical Table of the Contents.” In other words, he created an index “for the greater Usefulness and Conveniency of the Reader, who now can readily know on what Page the Words and Things are to be found.” Such a helpful addition to the original manuscript, de Ronde insinuated, certainly excused the delay in publishing the book!

The author also suggested that this must make his book more attractive to additional customers, not just the original subscribers. He indicated that he had “a few more to dispose of than were subscribed for.” In effect, his advertisement did not merely announce publication of True Spiritual Religion and call on subscribers to retrieve their copies. Instead, what masqueraded as an announcement actually marketed the book to other readers. In addition to promoting the utility of the index, de Ronde also praised the material qualities of the volume. It was “printed on a good Paper” and “also neatly bound” (as opposed to being sold in sheets for buyers to have bound on their own). In addition, the printer had set the book with “new large Letter” that readers would find “very Easy for the Eyes.” Even though these various enhancements made the book “more expensive,” de Ronde parted with it at “the lowest Rate” he could charge “without the Author’s Loss.” This was a bargain for potential customers!

Although Lambertus de Ronde addressed subscribers more than once in his advertisement, he did not merely inform them that True Spiritual Religion was ready for delivery. Instead, he used that as a pretext for marketing surplus copies to additional readers who had not participated in the first round of subscriptions. To some extent, he also marketed the book to the original subscribers, especially those who had not paid in full. For any who wavered in their commitment to acquire (and pay for) True Spiritual Religion, he provided multiple reasons for following through on their commitment.

August 26

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

Aug 26 - 8:26:1767 Photo Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 26, 1767).

“INGLIS and HALL have just imported …”

Inglis and Hall were among the most frequent advertisers of consumer goods in the Georgia Gazette in 1767. Their multiple advertisements, however, remain hidden when relying on certain technologies, especially keyword searches in online databases, to uncover them.

Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers database makes the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project possible. In many ways, it is an invaluable resource, but no database is perfect. Current technologies, as cutting edge as they may be compared to previous methods of conducting historical research, sometimes constrain or skew the process. In some instances, for example, keyword searches of newspapers uncover far fewer results than examining individual issues page by page, column by column, in chronological order. Inglis and Hall’s advertisement makes for an interesting case study.

As part of the research process for the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project, I download a copy of every American newspaper published 250 years ago that day. This already requires a clarification: I only download those that have been digitized. Some are not yet available in digital format for online consultation; others have not survived into the twenty-first century and will never be available for consultation, neither original copies nor digital surrogates.

The most efficient way to download this material from America’s Historical Newspapers involves downloading an entire issue all at once. This process results in a multipage PDF of the newspaper. It transforms the digital photo seen in the online database into a format that can sometimes be more difficult to read. Note how the photo of Inglis and Hall’s advertisement above differs from the PDF rendering below. It is possible to download photos of individual pages. Given that most newspapers were four pages, but many were six when they included an advertising supplement, this method would take at least four times as long. For the purposes of this project, it is not practical to download photos rather than PDFs of the newspapers.

Aug 26 - 8:26:1767 PDF Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 26, 1767).

Next I print hard copies of every page of every newspaper so I can mark on them and more easily consult them than if they remained strictly in digital format. Despite the comparatively poor visual quality of the PDF version, once I have printed hard copies I can work back and forth between the PDF and the more clear (but not always crisp) photos in the database when necessary.

In the case of Inglis and Hall’s advertisement, I can make out what it says in the PDF version, but I consider the photo easier to read (and more attractive and accessible for readers of the Adverts 250 Project). Still, I have to work at decoding the advertisement. Given that this takes me some effort, imagine how confusing it must be for OCR software. In fact, OCR cannot accurately read Inglis and Hall’s advertisement, not even the slightly clearer photo.

I assumed that would be the case. To test my suspicions I ran a keyword search for Inglis and Hall, limiting the year to 1767. The database turned up only two instances of Inglis and Hall advertising in the Georgia Gazette in 1767. One appeared in the January 21 issue. The database also flagged an earlier iteration of today’s advertisement in the August 19 issue, one that was much easier to read. The keyword search did not, however, identify the August 26 advertisement, yet I knew it existed because I had a hard copy originally drawn from the database sitting next to my computer. I also knew from experience reading the Georgia Gazette that Inglis and Hall advertised more than twice in 1767.

Aug 26 - 8:19:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 19, 1767).

This means that there are certain questions that keyword searches cannot address given current technological constraints. For instance: How frequently did Inglis and Hall advertise in the 1760s? Determining the answer to that question requires an older method of research, examining the newspaper page by page. The online database certainly facilitates that process, eliminating the need to consult original copies of the Georgia Gazette in archives, yet the keyword search does not always eliminate portions of the research process it was intended to streamline. Researchers cannot depend on keyword searches to be exhaustive.

As an historian, I regularly consult original copies of newspapers at the American Antiquarian Society and other archives, microfilms of newspapers, digital surrogates in databases like Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers, and hard copies that I have generated from my own photos and the materials available via databases. Each of these formats is unique and has its virtues, as well as its shortcomings. None of them replaces the others. Instead, historians must recognize the limitations and devise strategies for effectively and efficiently utilizing the various resources available to them.