October 31

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

Oct 31 - 10:31:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (October 31, 1767).

“Have built and completed the best and largest Shop and Store in Providence.”

Benjamin Thurber and Daniel Cahoon placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to announce that “they have entered into Copartnership in all their mercantile Business.” The new partners operated a store that stocked “a very large and general Assortment of the very best of English and India Piece Goods, Hard Ware, all Sorts of West-India Goods, and Groceries of all Kinds.” They advanced some of the most common marketing strategies that appeared in eighteenth-century advertising – consumer choice, price, quality – but they also incorporated other appeals to distinguish their notice from others.

Merchants and shopkeepers rarely commented on their shops as retail spaces in newspaper advertisements, choosing instead to focus on their merchandise or personal attributes that qualified them to serve customers. Thurber and Cahoon, however, mentioned their location “at the Sign of the Bunch of Grapes” at the north end of Providence before launching any of the many other appeals in their advertisement. “[F]or the better accommodating their Customers,” they proclaimed, they “have built and completed the best and largest Shop and Store in Providence.” Considering the range of imported goods in their inventory, Thurber and Cahoon needed adequate space to store and display their stock. Yet operating the “largest Shop and Store” in town had other advantages. It presumably allowed customers sufficient room to examine the merchandise and to move throughout the establishment freely. By implication, their competitors occupied small and crowded spaces that detracted from the overall experience.

Thurber and Cahoon invited potential customers “to come and look for themselves” at their shop, promising the “greatest welcome.” Here customer service intersected with the amenities of the retail space to create an environment in which patrons would experience “Pleasure” even as they “lay out their Money.” The partners predicted that their customers would “chearfully” make purchases, in part because they so enjoyed shopping at the “best and largest Shop and Store” in Providence. In the nineteenth century department stores marketed themselves as palaces of consumption. Thurber and Cahoon’s advertisement anticipated that strategy approximately a century before it became a standard aspect of selling the shopping experience to customers.

October 30

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

Oct 30 - 10:30:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

“Ravens Duck, German Stripes, Holland Shirting.”

It may appear that I have made an error in posting the image of today’s advertisement, but that is not the case. Rather than rotate it ninety degrees counterclockwise to make it easier to read, I have instead chosen to retain its original orientation from the October 30, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. A closer look at E. Pierce’s advertisement for “GERMAN Osnaburghs” and other textiles reveals important lessons about both eighteenth-century printing practices and modern remediation projects.

Pierce’s advertisement appeared on the fifth page of the October 30 issue. Although most issues of eighteenth-century newspapers consisted of only four pages (a single broadsheet printed on both sides and folded in half), sometimes printers issued a two-page supplement when they had sufficient news and advertising. Robert Wells took that approach with this issue, though he did not include a masthead that denoted a supplement. Instead, he continued the consecutive page numbering of the issue, indicating that he conceived of the contents of the extra sheet coming after the news and advertising from the standard issue. If the additional sheet had been tucked into the broadsheet to form the third and fourth pages of a six-page issue (which was quite likely, especially considering the lack of a masthead designating a supplemental issue), the page numbers did not match that format. The pages for the broadsheet ran from 213 to 216. The pages on the half sheet were 217 and 218, indicating Wells thought of them as coming after the other content. Otherwise, they would have been pages 215 and 216, the numbers associated with the third and fourth pages of the six-page issue. The numbering suggests that Wells may not have initially intended to issue a six-page issue but instead made that decision only after some of the sheets had been printed.

Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Page 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

Yet this does not explain the odd orientation of Pierce’s advertisement. In order to fit as much content as possible on the pages of the additional sheet, Wells rotated several advertisements to print in short columns that ran perpendicular to the three columns that ran from the top to bottom of the page. Given the scarcity of paper, this also resulted in maximum efficiency in using his resources.

That being the case, it would be helpful to know more about the dimensions of the extra sheet. From the digitized images of the newspaper, the extra sheet appears to be a different size than the standard issue. The broadsheet featured four columns of text, while the additional pages had only three and the narrow column of rotated advertisements. When printing the images on each page on office paper (once again remediating them to 8.5 x 11 inches), the type on the extra sheet appears much larger than the type from the broadsheet, though it all would have been the same type of a consistent size throughout the entire issue read by colonists in the eighteenth-century. Both the digitized images and hard copies of those images hide the original dimensions of the pages of the original newspaper. That aspect of the materiality of the text has been lost because the database that includes these images does not provide sufficient metadata about the size of each page. As an historian with significant experience investigating these sorts of discrepancies, I realize that if I want to learn more about the dimensions of the original broadsheet and additional sheet, which in turn will tell me more about newspaper production in colonial South Carolina, that I must consult an original copy of the newspaper.

Digitization of eighteenth-century newspapers is wonderful for delivering content. The process makes historical sources much more widely accessible to scholars and the general public. The Adverts 250 Project is possible because of digitization. Yet digitization, especially digitization without extensive metadata, only produces surrogates for the original sources, sometimes hiding certain aspects (such as the size of the page or type of paper) even while revealing others (the contents). Robert Wells found it necessary to print two extra pages to accompany the October 30, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. The digitized images, however, obscure elements of the printing process and the actual appearance of the newspapers that subscribers and other readers encountered in the eighteenth century.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 30, 1767

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

Oct 30 - New-Hampshire Gazette Slavery 1
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 30, 1767).

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Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

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Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

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Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

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Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

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Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

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Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

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Oct 30 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 30, 1767).

October 29

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

Oct 29 - 10:29:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (October 29, 1767).

“The Medley of Goods.”

Gerardus Duyckinck, a prolific advertiser in New York’s newspapers in the 1760s, introduced consumers to an innovative advertisement for his “UNIVERSAL STORE” in the October 29, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal. His new advertisement enclosed most of the copy within an ornate rococo cartouche, a design suggestive of the frames for the “Pictures [and] Looking-Glasses” he sold. Visually, his advertisement was unique. Nothing else of the sort appeared in that issue of the New-York Journal, nor in any newspaper published in the colonies.

Several other advertisements included images, but all of them were comparatively crude woodcuts of ships, houses, slaves, and horses. These widely used yet generic images belonged to the printer, a standard part of the type acquired by anyone who printed a newspaper. They could be used to spruce up any relevant advertisement. Occasionally some merchants and shopkeepers commissioned woodcuts for their exclusive use, images often tied to the shop sign that marked their location. In such instances, the image appeared at the top of the advertisement before any copy, not enclosing the text, as was the case for Duyckinck’s notice.

That visual element also distinguished this advertisement from others. In general, eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements did not have borders that set them apart from other items on the same page. Printers usually inserted a line between advertisements to help readers identify where one ended and another began. Sometimes they used decorative ornaments to add some visual appeal, but borders surrounding entire advertisements were exceptionally rare. Jolley Allen experimented with rudimentary borders for his advertisements in Boston’s newspapers the previous year, but they looked primitive compared to the genteel frame that enclosed Duyckinck’s advertisement.

It would have been impossible for readers not to notice Duyckinck’s advertisement. Noticing likely led to reading and examining the advertisement in greater detail, taking in the novelty of a form both new and sophisticated. In addition, the use of an elaborate cartouche introduced a common feature of eighteenth-century trade cards, each printed on its own sheet, into colonial newspapers. The form of one influenced the other, perhaps to the delight of readers. Such an extraordinary advertisement might have also enflamed potential customers’ curiosity about the “Medley of Goods” that Duyckinck sold at his “UNIVERSAL STORE.”

Slavery Advertisements Published October 29, 1767

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

Oct 29 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - New-York Journal Slavery 2
New-York Journal (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - New-York Journal Slavery 3
New-York Journal (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - New-York Journal Slavery 4
New-York Journal (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 10
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 8
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

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Oct 29 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 9
Virginia Gazette (October 29, 1767).

October 28

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

Oct 28 - 10:28:1767 Georgia Gazette
Advertisements for slaves dominated the final page of the October 28, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette.  Twelve advertisements that explicitly mentioned slaves are identified with red.  An additional advertisement, identified with blue, sought an overseer who would have presumably managed enslaved laborers.

“TO BE SOLD, A Likely Young NEGROE WENCH.”

Advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children dominated the notices published in the Georgia Gazette in the 1760s. Of the thirty-six advertisements in the October 28, 1767, edition, twelve concerned slaves. Nine offered slaves for sale or to be “hired out by the Month or Year.” One described a runaway slave and offered a reward to anyone who captured him and delivered him “to the Warden of the Work-house in Savannah.” Another described a fugitive “with an iron on his right leg” who had been detained at the workhouse. One slaveholder announced that “AN OVERSEER is wanted to take charge of about 20 negroes to be employed in the planting of rice.” In addition, four other advertisements offered employment to overseers but did not explicitly mention slaves, yet any overseer “well acquainted with plantation business” most certainly would have expected to manage slaves as part of the job.

In addition to indicating how extensively Georgians incorporated slavery into the commerce and culture of their colony, these advertisements reveal an important aspect of operating a printing business, including publishing the only newspaper in the province, during the decade before the American Revolution. Few colonial newspapers attracted sufficient subscribers to generate profits or even continue publication. Instead, the printers relied on advertising for revenues. Given that one out of three paid notices in the October 28 issue explicitly mentioned slaves and another four sought overseers, James Johnston depended on advertisements concerning the bondage of men, women, and children to fund the publication of the Georgia Gazette. This was neither unique nor extraordinary to this particular issue. The Adverts 250 Project previously examined the high proportion of advertisements about slaves in another issue published four months earlier. Advertisements for slaves regularly dominated the paid notices in the Georgia Gazette.

Yet it was not just Johnston, the printer, who relied on the revenue from these advertisements to continue publishing and distributing the Georgia Gazette. The residents of the colony also depended on advertisements about slaves to bring them other news, foreign and domestic, including the list of taxes to be assessed on various commodities when the Townshend Act went into effect on November 20. That excerpt from “An Act for granting certain Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America” was printed on the other side of the page that featured the twelve advertisements for slaves in the October 28 edition. Those advertisements not only contributed to the livelihood of the printer and the continuation of the newspapers, they also made possible the dissemination of news throughout the colony. Advertisements about slaves funded an important civic institution in colonial Georgia.