What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
Unlike some of its counterparts in other colonies, the Georgia Gazette rarely distributed a supplement with the standard issue in the late 1760s. Occasionally, however, residents of Savannah and its environs submitted sufficient advertisements to James Johnston “at the Printing-Office in Broughton-Street” to merit a truncated supplement, such as the one that accompanied the January 25 edition. That issue did not contain any more news than usual; paid notices accounted for all of the additional space. In other words, Johnston did not fill the standard issue with news, making it necessary to create an advertising supplement. The supplement happened to consist entirely of advertising, but paid notices in the standard issue filled the usual proportion of space.
The truncated supplement consisted of a single page. Most supplements for other newspapers were two pages, half of a broadsheet printed on both sides, though sometimes an entire broadsheet doubled the size of the issue from four to eight pages. Johnston, however, either did not have enough content or sufficient time to expand the supplement to a second page, leaving the reverse side blank. This truncated supplement differed from other supplements in another significant way. Johnston so rarely issued supplements that he did not have a masthead to identify the additional half sheet delivered with the standard issue. Rather than Supplement to the Georgia Gazette running across the top, a single line at the end of the final column said “[NO. 278.]” The January 25 edition was issue number 278, according to the masthead, so this brief notation would have aided in matching the loose sheet with the standard issue.
Johnston sometimes had to deploy especially generous spacing in the advertisements, incorporating significant white space compared to the dense text in other newspapers, to fill the four pages of a standard issue of the Georgia Gazette. That was certainly not the case for the January 25 edition, one of those rare occasions when he had so much content, especially paid notices, that he devised a truncated supplement in order to fulfill his commitments to his advertisers. In the process, he did not sacrifice news items. He could have made room in the standard issue by reducing the amount of space devoted to news, but he instead opted to give readers a substantial amount of both types of content, as they had come to expect of the Georgia Gazette.