Slavery Advertisements Published February 23, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (February 23, 1769).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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Pennsylvania Journal (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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South-Carolina Gazette (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 23, 1769).

February 22

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

Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

“Samuel Elbert HAS JUST IMPORTED … NEW-ENGLAND RUM in hogsheads and quarter casks.”

James Johnston rarely experimented with typography in the pages of the Georgia Gazette. Both news items and advertisements generally adhered to a uniform format that did little to distinguish one news item from another or one advertisement from another. Like other colonial printers, Johnston printed some words in italics or all capitals, presumably for emphasis, but those examples usually represented the extent of his playfulness with the type that appeared in his newspaper in the late 1760s. One exception regularly distinguished an advertisement that listed captured runaway slaves who were being held until slaveholders claimed them. The headline “Brought to the Work-house” appeared in a gothic font of the same size as the rest of the advertisement. Although Johnston possessed that font, he rarely deployed it elsewhere in the pages of the Georgia Gazette.

The February 22, 1769, edition, however, included several advertisements that incorporated the gothic font for the headline. One presented an enslaved woman “To be hired out.” While rare, that advertisement was not unique. The phrase “To be hired out” did not appear nearly as often as ever constant “Brought to the Work-house,” but Johnston was just as likely to set it with gothic type when inserting such an advertisement. This advertisement introduced some variation onto the page, but not anything that caught the eye nearly so well as two other advertisements with headlines in gothic font. One informed prospective customers that Samuel Elbert had just imported a variety of goods from Boston. Like many other advertisements for consumer goods, the merchant’s name served as the headline. Unlike others in the Georgia Gazette, his name was in gothic font much larger than the remainder of the advertising copy. The same was true of “Ugly Club” in a notice that advised members of an upcoming gathering.

While either Elbert or the officers of the club may have negotiated with the printer for a distinctive headline, it seems unlikely that both did so simultaneously. More likely Johnston decided to experiment with the tools available to him. After all in the previous issue he upended the usual layout of the Georgia Gazette by distributing the advertisements throughout rather than grouping them all on the final pages after the news items. He did so again in the February 22 issue, with advertisements appearing on every page. In setting type for Elbert’s advertisement, Johnston demonstrated what was possible when it came to the paid notices in his newspaper, even if not what was probable. The spark of innovation apparent in that advertisement eventually became a much more common element of advertisements published in the nineteenth century.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 22, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

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Georgia Gazette (February 22, 1769).

February 21

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

Essex Gazette (February 21, 1769).

“ADVERTISEMENTS, &c. are received for this Paper.”

Regular visitors to the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project may have noticed that the content presented on Thursdays changed significantly in January of this year. Thursdays previously featured an advertisement from the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on the Adverts 250 Project and a dozen or more advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children on the Slavery Adverts 250 Project. For the last eight weeks, however, the advertisements examined on Thursdays have been drawn from the Essex Gazette. During that time, no advertisements about enslaved people published in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal have been added to the Slavery Adverts 250 Project. Why? Digital images of issues of that newspaper from 1769 are not readily available. Accessible Archives, the source of all three newspapers from South Carolina that have been included in these projects, includes transcriptions of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal for 1769, but not images of the pages of that newspaper. Such images recommence with issues published in 1770.

What effect has this had on the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project? It has certainly shifted the content of both. With the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal no longer available for inclusion on Thursdays, only one English-language newspaper for that day remains. The Essex Gazette had been in circulation for less than six months at the beginning of 1769. It had not yet cultivated a substantial clientele of advertisers, whereas the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal regularly featured dozens of advertisements in each issue and sometimes issued supplements for notices that overflowed from the standard issue. In addition to having far fewer advertisements to choose among for the Adverts 250 Project, this has resulted in the Essex Gazette being overrepresented in the project. It is certainly not the only one. On Mondays, the Providence Gazette is the only option. The same goes for the Georgia Gazette on Fridays. In contrast, half a dozen or more newspapers come under consideration when selecting advertisements for both Wednesdays and Saturdays, including some of the most significant newspapers with the greatest number of advertisements. As a result, newspapers from the largest urban centers – Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia – are underrepresented. This has been part of the project from the beginning due to the methodology that calls for examining an advertisement published 250 years ago to the day whenever possible. With the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal having been the only option on Thursdays for some time and the most significant option after the Essex Gazette commenced publication, Charleston had avoided that underrepresentation. Now, advertisements from Charleston compete with those from other major urban ports as those from Providence, Salem, and Savannah find their way into the project every week.

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project has been affected as well. The South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal regularly published a dozen or more advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children in each issue. Those advertisements were among the many that overflowed into supplements. Since digital images are not available for issues from 1769, the total number of advertisements incorporated into the project each week has declined. The Slavery Adverts 250 Project aims to demonstrate the ubiquity of such advertisements in colonial newspapers, arguing that they testify to the constant presence of slavery in everyday life throughout the colonies. The absence of advertisements from the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal makes that argument less effective and less powerful. With the exception of an occasional advertisement from the Essex Gazette, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project now goes silent on Thursdays, giving the mistaken impression that advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children were not published in colonial America on that day. This is more significant than the overrepresentation and underrepresentation of certain newspapers in the Adverts 250 Project. The availability of digitized primary sources have made the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project possible, but both researchers and readers must remain aware that these projects draw on original sources made unevenly available. Even as the Slavery Adverts 250 Project strives to tell a more complete story about the lives of enslaved people in the era of the American Revolution as well as illustrate the connections between the press and perpetuation of slavery as an institution, the project also unintentionally obscures part of that story. Digitization has made the past much more readily accessible to scholars and general audiences alike, but it is a partial past shaped by which sources have been included and excluded in the digitization efforts that have been completed to this point.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 21, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Essex Gazette (February 21, 1769).

February 20

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

Boston-Gazette (February 20, 1769).

“To be sold by Lydia Dyar … A Variety of sundry Garden Seeds.”

It was a sign of spring, even though the season would not arrive for another month. Lydia Dyar placed an advertisement for “A Variety of sundry Garden Seeds” in the February 20, 1769, edition of the Boston-Gazette. In so doing, Dyar was one of the first advertisers to participate in an annual ritual. Just as the first appearances of advertisements for almanacs marked the arrival of fall, advertisements for garden seeds heralded spring, especially in newspapers published in Boston.

Dyar was one of several seed sellers who annually inserted advertisements in the Boston-Gazette and other local newspapers. Just a few days after her notice ran, Elizabeth Clark and Elizabeth Greenleaf both placed advertisements for seeds in the Boston Weekly News-Letter. Over time many others who sold seeds, the overwhelming majority of them women, would join Clark, Greenleaf, and Dyar on the pages of the public prints. Each tended to advertise in multiple newspapers, presenting colonists with an image of a feminized occupational group. Compared to their male counterparts, relative few women who were purveyors of goods placed advertisements to promote their commercial activities. That made the simultaneous appearance of half a dozen or more advertisements by female seed sellers in a single issue of a newspaper particularly noticeable.

Compositors contributed to the enhanced visibility of those advertisements, often placing them together such that they filled entire columns or sometimes the smaller sheets issued as supplements to standard issues. Printers and compositors rarely organized advertisements by category; usually they did not impose any sort of classification system, yet advertisements for seeds were an exception. They tended to place those notices together, presenting readers with advertisement after advertisement that featured women’s names in larger font as the headlines. Most of these women rarely advertised other goods or services during the rest of the year, but for a couple of months in late winter and early spring they asserted a noteworthy presence in the pages of Boston’s newspapers.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 20, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Boston Evening-Post (February 20, 1769).

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Boston-Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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Connecticut Courant (February 20, 1769).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 20, 1769).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1769).

February 19

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

New-York Journal (February 16, 1769).

“We have therefore reprinted a few Hundreds.”

Throughout January and February each year the number and frequency of newspaper advertisements for almanacs tended to taper off, though some printers and booksellers did continue their efforts to sell surplus copies and turn expenses into revenues. Each day that passed meant that more of the contents, especially the astronomical calculations, became obsolete. Based on their advertisements, retailers expected that most colonists would purchase their almanacs before a new year commenced or very shortly after.

That made an advertisement in the February 16, 1769, edition of the New-York Journal rather unusual. Instead of announcing that he still had copies of “FREEMAN’s ALMANACK” for sale, John Holt announced that he planned to print more copies in order to meet the ongoing demand. “Having been much called for since the first Edition has been all sold off, And many People being not yet supplied,” Holt explained, “We have therefore reprinted a few Hundreds, which will be ready for delivery To-Morrow, at the usual Prices.” This raises several questions about the production and distribution of Freeman’s New-York Almanack. When did it sell out? How long did it take Holt to decide to issue a second edition? How many prospective customers, especially retailers who indicated they would purchase copies by the dozens, approached Holt about printing a second edition?

The entire enterprise seems suspicious. Even though the almanac included contents that retained their value throughout the year – such as “Times of the Courts in New-York, New-Jersey, Philadelphia, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island” – seven weeks of 1769 had elapsed. It seems strange that consumers voiced so much demand for this almanac at the same time that printers and booksellers ceased advertising almanacs and further attempts to sell any remainders. Did Holt actually issue a second edition? Or did he devise this announcement to make Freeman’s New-York Almanack seem like it had achieved extraordinary popularity in hopes of bamboozling readers into purchasing his surplus stock? Or could this notice have been his first attempt at marketing almanacs for the following year, planting the idea that Freeman’s New-York Almanack for 1769 was still in such high demand that prospective customers needed to acquire Freeman’s New-York Almanac for 1770 as soon as they saw it advertised in the fall? Holt’s advertisement deviates so significantly from others that appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies that it merits skepticism.

February 18

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

Providence Gazette (February 18, 1769).

“He wants good Hoops, Boards and Staves, some very good Horses, and a new Milch Cow. (51)”

Readers of the Providence Gazette may have noticed that some, but not all, of the advertisements concluded with a number in parentheses. In the February 18, 1769, edition, Samuel Chace’s advertisement for a “NEW and general Assortment of English and India GOODS,” for instance, ended with “(51)” on the final line. Thomas Greene’s advertisement for a “fresh Assortment of DRY-GOODS” immediately above it featured “(64).” Elsewhere in the issue, other advertisements included “(55)” and “(62).” The first three advertisements all had “(67)” on the final line. What purpose did these numbers serve?

They were not part of the copy submitted by advertisers. Instead, the compositor inserted these numbers to record the first issue in which an advertisement appeared. According to the masthead, the February 18 edition was “NUMB. 267.” The “(67)” indicated three of the advertisements made their inaugural appearance in that issue. Similarly, “(51)” was associated with issue number 251 and “(64)” first ran in issue number 264. The printer and compositor made use of these numbers for bookkeeping and other aspects of producing the Providence Gazette. They made it much easier to determine when it was time to remove an advertisement from subsequent issues.

That the advertisements in the February 18 edition did not appear in numerical or chronological order also demonstrates another aspect of newspaper production. Compositors set the type for each advertisement only once. Once the type had been set, however, compositors moved advertisements around to fit them on the page. In general, no advertisements received privileged placement based on how many weeks they ran in the newspaper, nor did the compositor attempt to organize them according to any principles other than the most efficient use of space. Advertisements making their inaugural appearance, however, were an exception to that rule. In the February 18 issue, all of the advertisements marked “(67)” appeared before any other advertisements. Printers and compositors did give new advertisements a place of prominence, knowing that readers sometimes looked for those in particular. Although the Providence Gazette did not do so, some newspapers even ran special headings for “New Advertisements” to distinguish them from others that already ran in previous issues.

Printers and compositors intended for subscribers and other readers to ignore the numbers they inserted on the final line of many advertisements. Those numbers made important information readily accessible to those who worked in printing offices, but it was not information intended to shape public reaction to the contents of the paid notices.

February 17

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (February 17, 1769).

“ALL Persons Indebted to the Printers hereof are desired to make immediate payment.”

Like many colonial printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle inserted their own notices in the newspaper they published. The February 17, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included three advertisements placed by the printers. One announced, “RAGS Taken in at the Printing-Office as usual, in case they are white and clean.” The Fowles collected linen rags to manufacture into paper. For several weeks earlier in the year they had printed the New-Hampshire Gazette on smaller sheets because their paper supply had been disrupted. They refused to purchase imported paper because doing so would have required paying duties levied by the Townshend Act. Instead, the Fowles waited on supplier in New England to produce more paper, choosing temporarily to print their newspaper on smaller sheets. By February the New-Hampshire Gazette had returned to its usual size, but the Fowles continued to advertise for rags in order to maintain access to paper produced in New England.

In another advertisement the Fowles marketed goods they offered for sale: “BLANKS of all sorts, and a great variety of BOOKS, are sold at the Printing-Office.” Selling books and job printing for blanks (or printed forms) supplemented the revenues gained from newspaper subscriptions and advertising fees, especially when subscribers and advertisers did not settle their accounts in a timely manner. The Fowles’s third advertisement addressed that situation: “ALL Persons Indebted to the Printers hereof are desired to make immediate payment.—Some of those whose Accounts are of long standing will very soon be put in Suit, unless speedily Settled.” This was a constant refrain for many colonial printers, especially the Fowles. Three months earlier they had published a similar message, though they had been much more strident in their threats of legal action. They also made another threat, one that went beyond the usual means of cajoling recalcitrant subscriber to pay their bills. The Fowles declared that would “publish a List of those Customers … whose Accounts are of long standing, with the Sum due.” The printers did not follow through on this extraordinary plan. Perhaps it convinced a sufficient number of customers to settle their accounts, or maybe the Fowles decided that such a public shaming of their customers would have a significant negative impact on their business.

Either way, they soon found themselves once again placing a notice in their newspaper to instruct their subscribers to make payment or else face the consequences. Their advertisements not only looked to the future of their business, such as their call for rags to make paper or the books and blanks they provided for sale, but also played an important role in concluding transactions previously initiated.