What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
Earlier this week the Adverts 250 Project featured a supplement that accompanied the October 27, 1768, edition of the New-York Journal. Although the supplement carried some news, advertising filled the vast majority of space. This was not uncommon in eighteenth-century newspapers, especially those published in the largest urban ports.
Yet newspapers in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia were not the only ones that sometimes circulated supplements devoted almost exclusively to advertising. Publications in smaller cities and towns sometimes did the same. Consider, for example, the November 2, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette. It included the standard four-page issue created by folding a broadsheet in half as well as a one-page supplement comprised entirely of paid notices. An excess of news did not make the advertising supplement necessary. James Johnston, the printer, devoted two entire pages to news items. A couple of those overflowed onto a third page, filling half a column. If anything, that issue carried slightly less news than usually appeared in the Georgia Gazette.
In contrast, it featured significantly more advertising, enough to fill an entire page, but not enough to merit printing on both sides of a half sheet. Johnston resorted to this strategy several times in the summer and fall of 1768, but apparently not so often that he devised a masthead that read “Supplement to the Georgia Gazette.” Newspapers that frequently distributed supplements had such mastheads. Instead, Johnston simply inserted “[No. 266.]” at the bottom of the second column, a brief notation to indicate that the extra page belonged with the November 2 issue, “No. 266” according to its masthead. Most likely the extra page had been tucked inside the standard issue prior to distribution.
Although it generally carried less advertising, in terms both of numbers and of proportion of space filled, than newspapers in the largest American cities, the Georgia Gazette was also a delivery mechanism for advertisements as much as for news and other content. It carried advertisements placed for a variety of purposes – consumer goods and services for sale, runaway slaves, real estate, legal notices, to name some of the most common – to readers in Savannah and throughout the colony.