September 25

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

Sep 25 - 9:15:1767 Page 3 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (September 25, 1767).

“London BOOK-STORE, North Side of KING-STREET, BOSTON.”

John Mein, prominent bookseller in Boston, placed an extraordinary advertisement in the September 25, 1767, edition of the New-London Gazette. A regular advertiser in Boston’s newspapers, Mein previously experimented with a full-page advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette two months earlier. The length of his advertisement in the New-London Gazette, however, far exceeded that previous notice: it extended nearly two full pages and amounted to almost half of the entire issue. Mein’s advertisement for “A very GRAND ASSORTMENT of the most modern BOOKS, in every Branch of polite Literature, Arts and Sciences” filled the entire third page and all but the second half of the final column on the fourth page. It took up so much space that Timothy Green, the printer, inserted a notice at the bottom of the second page to assure readers (and advertisers whose notices had been squeezed out to make room for Mein) that “Advertisements omitted will be in our next.” Although not unknown, full-page newspaper advertisements were not common in the 1760s. When they did appear they merited special notice, yet they seemed restrained compared to Mein’s nearly-two-page advertisement.

Mein’s extensive advertisement qualified as exceptional for another reason: he operated the “LONDON BOOK-STORE” on King Street in Boston, yet he supplemented his marketing efforts in local newspapers with a newspaper notice in faraway New London, Connecticut. Retailers frequently acknowledged that they served customers in the hinterlands that surrounded their own cities and towns, but they rarely placed advertisements in newspapers published in other colonies if they had local alternatives. Retailers in Boston, for instance, expected that when they advertised in any of the city’s four newspapers that they would attract customers from other parts of Massachusetts beyond the busy port. They typically did not, however, insert advertisements in newspapers printed in other towns, each with their own hinterlands in other colonies. Mein deviated from standard practices related to newspaper advertising, apparently considering the opportunity to enter new markets worth the investment. He had previously published book catalogs that may have been distributed far beyond Boston. Any customers they generated may have encouraged him to consider advertising in newspapers in distant cities. He acknowledged customers who resided outside Boston in the final paragraph of his advertisement: “Gentlemen, Traders, &c. who send Orders, may depend on being served with the utmost Fidelity and Dispatch, and as cheap as if present.” In his efforts to gain customers from markets beyond Boston, Mein anticipated and addressed potential obstacles that might prevent them from patronizing his business.

Sep 25 - 9:15:1767 Page 4 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (September 25, 1767).

September 24

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

Sep 24 - 9:24:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 21, 1767).

“Good, sound, and neat silver watches.”

Advertisements for imported goods – textiles, housewares, hardware – filled the pages of colonial newspapers. In most instances, artisans and manufacturers in England made items colonists either could not produce on their own or that surpassed the quality of similar items made by colonial crafters. As the eighteenth-century progressed, however, greater numbers of skilled artisans participated in transatlantic migrations, bringing their expertise to colonial cities and towns. They set up shop in their new places of residence; their skills and experience contributed to improving the reputation associated with domestically produced goods.

By the 1760s, residents of Philadelphia and major urban ports worried that observers in England, especially London, might look down on them as backwater provincials since they were so far distant from the center of the empire. Some advertisers in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia attempted to allay these anxieties with assurances that they made and sold goods of the highest quality and most recent fashions. Yet concerns about cosmopolitanism were not confined to the largest and busiest port cities. In Lancaster, more than fifty miles west of Philadelphia, Thomas Skidmore opened a workshop where customers interested in purchasing expensive watches “may be here supplied as in London.”

In an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Skidmore, a “WATCH-FINISHER, from London,” insisted that local consumers were no longer “under the necessity of importing good watches from England or Ireland.” For only £12, he made “good, sound, and neat silver watches” in the town of Lancaster. Skidmore did not work alone; instead, he employed two assistants, “the one a movement-maker, and the other a motion-maker,” both of whom had previously followed their trade in England. Working together, the three produced “good watches” that Skidmore asserted rivaled any imported from Britain. Skidmore was so certain of the quality of the work done in his shop that he offered a guarantee that his watches would not require repairs in the first three years. He made appeals that would have been familiar to residents of Philadelphia, the largest city in the American colonies in the decade before the Revolution. His location in Lancaster, however, demonstrates that desire to participate in consumer culture extended beyond urban centers, far into the hinterland.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 24, 1767

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

Sep 24 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette:  Weekly Post-Boy (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - New-York Journal Slavery 2
New-York Journal (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - New-York Journal Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the New-York Journal (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 4
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 11
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 9
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 10
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

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Sep 24 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 8
Virginia Gazette (September 24, 1767).

September 23

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

Sep 23 - 9:23:1767 Cowper and Telfairs in Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

“A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF GOODS.”

Lewis Johnson inserted an advertisement for his inventory of “A LARGE and COMPLETE ASSORTMENT of FRESH AND GENUINE MEDICINES” in the September 23, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette. The partnership of Cowper and Telfairs also placed an advertisement, informing potential customers of the “LARGE ASSORTMENT OF GOODS” they had imported from London. The notices, each listing an elaborate array of items, appeared side by side.

Although Lewis Johnson and Cowper and Telfairs each resorted to the common list-style advertisement to market their wares, the visual aspects of their notices distinguished them from each other. Cowper and Telfairs opted for a dense paragraph that extended two-thirds of the column, enumerating everything from “white, striped and ermine flannels” to “shirt buttons” to “broad and narrow axes” to “complete sets of china.” With some exceptions, they grouped their merchandise together by category (textiles, accouterments and accessories, hardware, and housewares). This made it somewhat easier for potential customers to locate specific items of interest (while also introducing them to others they may not have otherwise considered), even though the merchants did not include any sort of headers to indicate where one type of merchandise ended and another began. This dense list maximized the number of items Cowper and Telfairs presented to the public. While its format may have been somewhat overwhelming or difficult to read, it offered extensive choices to consumers.

Johnson’s advertisement, on the other hand, occupied the same amount of space on the page, but did not list nearly as many items. Instead, it divided a single column into two narrower columns, listing only one item per line. This left much more white space on the page, making it easier for readers to navigate through the merchandise. Like Cowper and Telfairs, Johnson introduced his list with the phrase “Amongst which are,” indicating that the advertisement did not include an exhaustive inventory. Both carried additional items at their shops. Given that he carried additional medicines, Johnson made a calculated decision to truncate his list in order to make it easier to read. Compared to the dense format of everything else on the page, the layout of his list likely drew the eyes of colonial readers, increasing the likelihood that they would take note of his advertisement.

Both list-style advertisements had advantages and shortcomings inherent in their appearance on the page. Although eighteenth-century advertisements lack the dynamic graphic design elements of modern marketing efforts, advertisers and printers did experiment with different layouts in their efforts to attract attention and incite demand among potential customers.

Sep 23 - 9:23:1767 Johnson from Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

Summary of Slavery Advertisements Published September 17-23, 1767

These tables indicate how many advertisements for slaves appeared in colonial American newspapers during the week of September 17-23, 1767.

Note:  These tables are as comprehensive as currently digitized sources permit, but they may not be an exhaustive account.  They includes all newspapers that have been digitized and made available via Accessible Archives, Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, and Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers.  There are several reasons some newspapers may not have been consulted:

  • Issues that are no longer extant;
  • Issues that are extant but have not yet been digitized (including the Pennsylvania Journal); and
  • Newspapers published in a language other than English (including the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote).

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Slavery Advertisements Published September 17-23, 1767:  By Date

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Date Sep 17

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Slavery Advertisements Published September 17-23, 1767:  By Region

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Region Sep 17

Slavery Advertisements Published September 23, 1767

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

Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

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Sep 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 9
Georgia Gazette (September 23, 1767).

September 22

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

Sep 22 - 9:22:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

“Yorkshire stuffs, fit for house negroe’s gowns.”

John Davies frequently placed advertisements in Charleston’s newspapers in the 1760s, promoting the “Great variety of sundry merchandize” he imported from England and Ireland. His commercial notices incorporated fairly sophisticated marketing methods. In today’s advertisements, for instance, he offered a discount on Irish linens (“15 per cent. under the common advance”) and “no charge of commissions” because his supply chain eliminated middlemen and buying in credit. To obtain his ware, he “bought of the manufacturers with cash.” Unlike most other advertisers, he specified prices for some of his inventory, including “Yorkshire stuffs … at 8s. 9d. the yard” and blue and white plains at 10s. per yard,” which allowed potential customers to engage in comparison shopping before visiting Davies’s “store in Beadon’s Alley.”

All of these factors made Davies’s advertisements noteworthy, but another element also merits attention for what it reveals about life in eighteenth-century South Carolina. Davies lived and worked in a slave society. In distinguishing between slave societies and societies with slaves, the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative defines slave societies as settlements “where slavery stood at the center of politics, the economy, labor experiences, and social identities. Slaveholders made up the ruling class in these areas and the master-slave relationship shaped all aspects of society and daily life.” (In societies with slaves, on the other hand, “the institution of slavery was relatively peripheral to local economies and white social status.”)

Davies’s advertisement reveals just one of the many ways that slavery shaped commerce and everyday life in colonial South Carolina. Those Yorkshire stuffs that Davies sold at the low price of eight shillings and nine pence per yard were “fit for house negroe’s gowns.” Davies realized that many potential customers owned slaves, some of whom worked in domestic service rather than laboring to raise rice, indigo, or other agricultural commodities. He directed customers to take note of a textile appropriate for clothing enslaved women who worked in the home, a fabric fitting to their station (as opposed to the “negroe cloth” often advertised to clothe most other enslaved men, women, and children) but that also testified to the status of slaveholders who assigned some of their human property to domestic service. Slaveholders needed a fabric that was fine enough, but not too fine, to reflect well on them should visitors glimpse their domestic “servants” at work. He gave that part of the local culture only casual acknowledgment, making no fanfare or otherwise distinguishing that particular appeal from the rest of the advertisement. Instead, the “Yorkshire stuffs, fit for house negroe’s gowns” were sandwiched between descriptions of other textiles.

A nota bene, however, did stand out from the remainder of Davies’s advertisement. In it, he informed readers that “A young Negro Fellow, who is a good Cook, is wanted on hire.” This notice was unrelated to the “Great variety of sundry merchandize” Davies sold at his store, yet he apparently did not believe that it merited a separate advertisement. Instead, he appended it to an advertisement for his business. His own arrangements for domestic labor performed by an enslaved man merged with a commercial notice intended to entice customers to make purchases from him. The institution of slavery was inseparable from commerce and domestic life in Davies’s advertisement.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 22, 1767

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

Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

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Sep 22 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

September 21

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

Sep 21 - 9:21:1767 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 21, 1767).

“New Shop at the Sign of the Naked Boy.”

George Bartram launched a new venture in 1767, opening his own shop “at the Sign of the Naked Boy” on Second Street in Philadelphia. To let both former and potential new customers know about his new location, he published an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Bartram promoted the “general Assortment of dry Goods, imported in the last Vessels from Great-Britain and Ireland,” but he did not confine himself to merely describing the goods he stocked. Instead, he included a woodcut that featured some of the textiles he imported and hoped to sell to consumers in the port city. A cartouche in the center depicted a naked boy examining a length of cloth, encouraging potential customers to imagine themselves inspecting Bartram’s merchandise. That the boy held the fabric close to his naked body suggested quality and softness, enticing readers to anticipate the luxurious pleasures that awaited them at Bartram’s shop. Many rolls of fabric flanked the central cartouche, testifying to the “general Assortment” of merchandise. What kinds of tactile sensations might shoppers experience when they compared the weave of one fabric to another? The naked boy surrounded by textiles of all sorts invited colonists to visit Bartram’s shop, where they did not need to confine themselves merely to window shopping but could indulge their sense of touch as well as sight.

The woodcut also included the proprietor’s name on either side of the cartouche, an unnecessary flourish in an advertisement that featured Bartram’s name as a headline. Its inclusion may have been necessary, however, if the woodcut doubled as an accurate representation of the “Sign of the Naked Boy” that marked Bartram’s shop. The shopkeeper had previously conducted business at a “Shop lately occupied by Bartram and Lennox.” To mark his new shop as exclusively his own, Bartram may have instructed the painter or carver who made his sign to include his name as well as the device he intended to serve as his brand. Eighteenth-century advertisements regularly indicate which shop signs marked which businesses, but few of those signs have survived. Woodcuts like the naked boy in Bartram’s advertisement suggest what colonists may have seen as they traversed the streets and visited retailers and artisans who used signs to mark their businesses.