What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“WHEN I saw myself attacked again by your advertisement …”
In the spring of 1768 John Joachim Zubly and Lachlan McGillivray litigated a dispute over real estate via a series of advertisements. It began when an “advertisement was stuck up” by McGillivray and George Galphin “at divers places at Augusta and New-Windsor” in Georgia in early March. Zubly responded by placing an advertisement in the March 16 edition of the Georgia Gazette. The same advertisement ran in the following issue. After that, the dispute escalated as Zubly and McGillivray published additional advertisements attacking each other.
Zubly’s advertisement ran for a third time in the March 30 edition, but by then McGillivray had composed a response of a similar length that ran on another page. They were the longest advertisements in the issue, each occupying significantly more space than any of the other paid notices. This windfall for the printer continued the following week when Zubly submitted a response to McGillivray’s response. Zubly meticulously addressed McGillivray’s counterattack, moving through his assertions charge by charge. He did so in such detail that his new advertisement extended more than a page.
James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, did not have sufficient space to publish this war of words in a regular issue. Like most other colonial newspapers, a standard issue of the Georgia Gazette consisted of four pages printed on a broadside folded in half. Johnston filled the April 6 edition with news and other advertisements. He simultaneously distributed a two-page supplement that consisted entirely of the advertisements that so far comprised the Zubly-McGillivray dispute (with the exception of the broadsides that had been “stuck up at diverse places at Augusta and New-Windsor”). The advertisements no longer ran on separate pages; instead, the printer gathered them together chronologically in order to present a coherent story for readers.
Throughout the colonies the number of supplements to weekly editions of newspapers increased in the first months of 1768. Most of those supplements carried news about deteriorating relationships with Great Britain or selections from John Dickinson’s series of “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania” or they carried advertisements that did not fit in the regular issue because the news and “Letters” had crowded them out. The supplement to the April 6 edition of the Georgia Gazettewas different. It was not the ongoing dispute between the colonies and Parliament that prompted it but instead a personal dispute between two colonists who disagreed about a real estate transaction. For Zubly and McGillivrary – and perhaps some readers of the Georgia Gazette– this drama was as compelling as the unfolding feud with Parliament. Each considered it important enough to make a handsome investment in publishing it for all to see among the advertisements in the colony’s only newspaper.