What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The proposal made in the letter published against me in your last.”
When last we saw Lachlan McGillivray and John Joachim Zubly the rivals had composed such extensive advertisements accusing each other of misconduct in their real estate enterprises and interactions with one another that James Johnston published a supplement to the Georgia Gazette that consisted entirely of their dispute. Zubly had concluded his lengthy retort by stating, “Nothing shall ever be wanting on my part to shew that with a me a law-suit was not a matter of choice, but painful necessity; and whatever you may think or say of me, or do against me, I shall be glad of every opportunity to approve myself your real wel[l] wisher, till then I bid you right heartily FAREWELL.”
Yet it was not time for farewell quite yet. Two weeks after the supplement carried all three advertisements so far published by the adversaries, McGillivray inserted yet another notice in the April 20, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette. He could not pass up responding to Zubly’s “very elaborate performance.” Indeed, Zubly’s most recent advertisement had extended more than a page (or one-quarter of the length of a standard issue of the newspaper that carried it). McGillivrary described Zubly’s “very elaborate performance” as “such a piece of scurrility, (truly worthy of the author)” that it “does not deserve an answer in the Gazette.” Yet McGillivray published a response that extended more than half a column, not for his own benefit but in order to defend the reputation of McGillivray’s associate (who had so far declined to inject himself into the argument unfolding among the advertisements in the Georgia Gazette). McGillivray concluded his newest public missive by echoing Zubly: “I will thank you for your kind wishes when I think them sincere. In my turn bid you farewell.”
Having previously “bid you right heartily FAREWELL” to McGillivray, Zubly chose not to engage him directly when he decided to publish yet another advertisement. He could not let the notice from April 20 pass unremarked, but he addressed his new response to “Mr. Printer” and made an appeal to readers of the Georgia Gazette to review the series of advertisements and judge for themselves that he was the aggrieved party who had been abused by McGillivray. He ended his advertisement by returning to the real estate dispute that had launched the entire exchange, issuing instructions that he “forbids all persons to trespass on or plant any of his lands, especially those on Augustin’s Creek.”
This exchange was a windfall for James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette. At the very least, it generated significant advertising revenue that supported the newspaper, but it may have yielded other benefits. Readers who had no stake in the real estate dispute may have been entertained, amused, or infuriated by the antics of McGillivray and Zubly as their dispute played out in a series of advertisements. As a result, readers may have anticipated new issues to find out what happened next. Non-subscribers may have made greater efforts to obtain copies of the new issues in hopes of encountering more advertisements that prolonged the feud. In the process, they would have been exposed to the remainder of the news and advertising, benefiting both the printer and the advertisers. McGillivray and Zubly produced their own serial in the middle of the eighteenth century.