May 26

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

May 26 - 5:26:1769 Detail New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 27, 1769).

“Books given at the Printing Office for clean white Linen RAGS.”

The May 26, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette concluded with a notice quite familiar to readers: “Books given at the Printing Office for clean white Linen RAGS.” The printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, frequenlty inserted some sort of call for linen rags for use in making paper. The format of the May 26 issues suggests that the Fowles’ regular supply of paper had been disrupted, making it even more important that colonists turn over their rags. This was not the first time something of the sort had happened that year. The Fowles opened the first issue of 1769 with a notice explaining why they printed it “on so small a Paper.” They had not been able to acquire the usual size, but they were determined to print their newspaper “on Paper made in New-England … some of it out of the very Rags collected in Portsmouth.” The printers explicitly stated that they refused to purchase imported paper due to the duties leveled by the Townshend Acts and “spared no Pains to get such as is manufactured here.”

In late May, they did not print on smaller sheets but instead on larger. A standard issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, like most other newspapers published in the colonies in 1769, consisted of four pages of three columns each (created by folding in half a broadsheet with two pages printed on each side). The May 26 edition, as well as the next seven, had only two pages of four columns. Although the metadata for digital surrogates does not include the dimensions of the sheets, examining the masthead and colophon clearly reveals that the substituted paper was wider. The masthead ran across only three of the four columns on the front page. Other content ran the entire length of the page in the fourth column. Similarly, the colophon ran across three of the four columns on the other side of the broadsheet, with other content again extending the entire length of the fourth column. This format suggests that the Fowles made the masthead and colophon, used from week to week and from issue to issue, fit the available paper rather than setting new type to conform to a different size.

This significantly changed the appearance of the New-Hampshire Gazette for two months in 1769 as the Fowles and others collected rags to transform into paper of the usual size for the publication. This time around the Fowles did not offer an explanation about the change, perhaps assuming that since they had so recently undertaken another substitution that subscribers would readily recognize the cause this time. Even without additional comment in late May, their offer to exchange books “for clean white Linen RAGS” reverberated with political meaning.

[Note:  After working exclusively with the digital surrogates, I had an opportunity to examine the originals at the American Antiquarian Society.  As the visual evidence suggested, the Fowles did temporarily print the New-Hampshire Gazette on a paper of a different size.  Usually a page measured 15 inches by 9.75 inches, with each column 2.75 inches across.  The substitute paper measured 15 inches by 15.5 inches, allowing enough space for a fourth column also 2.75 inches across.]

May 26 - 5:26:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
Note that the colophon runs across only three of four columns. (New-Hampshire Gazette, May 26, 1769).

May 25

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

May 25 - 5:25:1769 Massachusetts Gazette Draper
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (May 25, 1769).
“Such pieces as may serve to illustrate their civil history will be gratefully received.”

A week after a brief subscription notice for the American Magazine, or General Repository ran in John Holt’s New-York Journal, a much more extensive variation appeared in Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette. Both printers indicated that they accepted subscriptions on behalf of the magazine’s publisher, Lewis Nicola, and the printers, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford. Nicola and the Bradfords realized that the success of any magazine depended on cultivating interest throughout the colonies, not just in the Philadelphia market. To that end, they recruited printers in other towns to serve as subscription agents and promote the American Magazine in their newspapers.

The subscription notice in Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette gave readers a better sense of the contents of the American Magazine than the abbreviated version in the New-York Journal. Nicola envisioned it as a complement to the publications of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. That institution concerned itself with the “natural history of the American and West-India colonies.” In contrast, Nicola wished to collect and preserve “such pieces as may serve to illustrate their civil history.” After the American Revolution, other magazine publishers advanced the same goal, seeking to record and celebrate the history of the thirteen colonies that became a nation as well as pieces that promoted American commerce. Nicola, like the magazine publishers that came after him, considered this an important undertaking that served purposed other than merely “gratifying the Curiosity of the Public.” Articles about the “civil history” of the colonies provided valuable information for “the present generation,” but over time they would also become useful to “such persons as may hereafter undertake general or particular histories of the colonies.” The American Magazine, or General Repository according to Nicola’s plan, was not ephemeral in the manner that magazines have become in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It was indeed a repository for consultation months, years, or even decades later. Although not explicitly stated in this advertisement, publishers intended for subscribers to collect all the issues to complete a single volume and then have them neatly bound to become a permanent part of the family library. Notice that Nicola stated that a subscription included “a general Title-Page” and index; such items became part of the bound volumes.

American booksellers imported many magazines from England in the eighteenth century, so many of them that Nicola described magazines as “the Taste of the Age.” Yet he promoted the American Magazine as timeless and a resource that retained its value over time because it included far more than entertaining curiosities. He suggested that subscribers should invest in the magazine for their own edification as well as the edification of subsequent generations.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 25, 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.

May 25 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - New-York Journal Slavery 2
New-York Journal (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - New-York Journal Slavery Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the New-York Journal (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 3
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 4
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - South-Carolina Gazette Postscript Slavery 1
Postscript to the South-Carolina Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - South-Carolina Gazette Postscript Slavery 2
Postscript to the South-Carolina Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 8
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 9
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 25, 1769).

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May 25 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 25, 1769).

May 24

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

May 24 - 5:24:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

“JUST IMPORTED, in the SHIP GEORGIA PACKET … from LONDON.”

When the Georgia Packet arrived in port in the spring of 1769, it delivered merchandise from London to several merchants and shopkeepers in Savannah. The May 24, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette included four advertisements that listed that vessel as the source of wares now available for purchase. The advertisers, however, adopted different strategies for promoting their new inventory.

Samuel Douglass and the partnership of Reid, Storr, and Reid published advertisements that most resembled each other, listing dozens of items in stock. Such litanies appeared frequently in newspapers throughout the colonies, a popular means of demonstrating the many choices for consumers. Reid, Storr, and Reid were more restrained in compiling their list. They introduced “An ASSORTMENT of the MOST USEFUL ARTICLES imported into this province” before naming various textiles, accessories, and other items. Their list extended sixteen lines, concluding with “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to indicate that prospective customers would encounter far more items at their store in Johnson’s Square. Douglass, on the other hand, did not make an explicit appeal to an “assortment” of goods. Instead, he listed for more items, from fabrics to hardware. His list extended forty-seven lines, nearly three times the length of Reid, Storr, and Reid’s catalog of goods, before concluding with a promise that Douglass had even more to offer: “many other articles too tedious to mention.”

The other two advertisements for goods that recently arrived via the Georgia Packet were much shorter. In the course of only four lines, the partnership of Cowper and Telfairs stated that they carroed a “large and well assorted CARGO of GOODS, suitable for the place and season.” They attempted to entice customers by offering “reasonable terms,” but they did not elaborate on their merchandise. Apparently they expected “large and well assorted” to sufficiently make a point about consumer choice. Cowper and Telfairs may have also benefited from the lengthy lists published by their competitors. Those litanies gave prospective customers a sense of the wares delivered by the Georgia Packet, perhaps prompting some to do some comparison shopping in several stores regardless of how many items appeared in each advertisement.

Finally, Solomon Solomons also published a comparatively short advertisement, only six lines. Rather than an array of goods, he specialized in a “small Assortment of JEWELERY” that he had “JUST IMPORTED, in the SHIP GEORGIA PACKET … from LONDON.” His strategy emphasized exclusivity rather than expansive choices for consumers. With fewer direct competitors than Douglass, Cowper and Telfairs, and Reid, Storr, and Reid, Solomons may not have considered it imperative to catalog his new merchandise in the public prints.

One other advertisement also listed goods “Just imported from London,” though it did not explicitly identify the Georgia Packet as the source. According to the shipping news, the Georgia Packet was the only ship that had arrived from London recently, so it almost certainly carried the “Assortment of Medicines” that Lewis Johnson listed in an advertisement that rivaled Douglass’s advertisement in length.

These five advertisements were the only notices in the May 24 edition that promoted new consumer goods. (Others offered secondhand items for sale.) Together, they accounted for nearly one-quarter of the content in the issue. In a port the size of Savannah, the arrival of a single ship, the Georgia Packet on May 17, had a significant impact on both the commercial landscape and the information distributed throughout the colony in Georgia’s only newspaper the following week. The news items in the May 24 issue all originated from London, like the wares promoted to prospective customers. The news and goods transported on that ship crowded out other content that might otherwise have appeared in the public prints that week.

 

Slavery Advertisements Published May 24, 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.

May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 11
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 9
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

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May 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 10
Georgia Gazette (May 24, 1769).

May 23

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

May 23 - 5:23:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (May 23, 1769).

“3s. 4d. to be paid at Entrance.”

Eighteenth-century newspaper printers often treated the colophon as advertising space, promoting the goods and services they provided at the printing office. They encouraged readers to purchase subscriptions and place advertisements, though most remained silent about the costs for doing so. In May 1769, Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette, updated his colophon to indicate the price for subscriptions: “Six Shillings and Eight Pence per Annum.” Previously the colophon simply stated that the Essex Gazette was “Printed by S. HALL, at his Printing-Office a few Doors above the Town-House” in Salem.

When he updated his colophon, Hall actually reverted to the style that more closely resembled what had been in place at the beginning of the year. This time, however, instead of simply listing the yearly subscription fee he also specified “3s. 4d. to be paid at Entrance.” In other words, subscribers had to pay half of the subscription fee up front; Hall extended credit for a portion of the subscription, but he did not assume the risk for it entirely. Given how frequently printers throughout the colonies published notices calling on debtors to settle accounts, Hall may have wished to avoid some of that difficulty as well as the somewhat unseemly practice of threatening legal action against customers.

Consider also that he commenced publication of the Essex Gazette less than a year earlier. He managed to attract advertisers, but not nearly as many as placed notices in the several newspapers published in Boston. The number of advertisements in some even overflowed into half sheet supplements. Like other printers who understood the market for newspapers, Hall realized that he would likely attract more advertisers and revenue to sustain his enterprise if he expanded his roster of subscribers. After all, greater circulation meant a better return on investment for advertisers who placed their notices in front of more prospective customers. Hall likely sought to balance several concerns when he required only partial payment from subscribers: he enticed subscribers with credit, simultaneously took in some revenue and reduced his own risk, and made his newspaper more attractive to advertisers who would supply even more revenue.

May 22

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

“Enquire of the Printers.”

May 22 - 5:22:1769 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (May 22, 1769).

On May 22, 1769, readers of the Boston Evening-Post encountered an advertisement offering an enslaved youth for sale: “TO BE SOLD, A fine healthy Negro Boy, 17 Years old, brought up to Kitchen Work, and is fit for Town or Country. Enquire of the Printers.” On the same day, a nearly identical advertisement ran in the Supplement to the Boston-Gazette: “TO BE SOLD, A fine healthy Negro Boy, 17 Years old, bro’t up to Kitchen Work, and is fit for Town or Country. Enquire of Edes and Gill.” The Massachusetts Gazette, published the same day, also carried that advertisement: “TO BE SOLD, A fine likely Negro Boy, 17 Years old, bro’t up to Kitchen Work, and is fit for Town or Country. Inquire of Green & Russell.”

May 22 - 5:22:1769 Boston-Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (May 22, 1769).

Except for variations in the spelling of “brought” (or “bro’t”), the copy in all three notices was identical until the final sentence that advised interested parties to “Enquire of the Printers” for more information. These advertisements and many others like them made T. and J. Fleet, Edes and Gill, and Green and Russell active participants in the slave trade. Printing advertisements for the purposes of buying and selling enslaved men, women and children or capturing those who escaped from bondage already made printers complicit in the perpetuation of slavery, but these “Enquire of the Printer” advertisements demonstrated even more active involvement as purveyors of people, not merely as conduits for disseminating information.

May 22 - 5:22:1769 Boston Post-Boy
Massachusetts Gazette [Green and Russell] (May 22, 1769).
Compared to newspapers published in the Chesapeake and Lower South, far fewer advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children ran in newspapers in New England and the Middle Atlantic, but they were not absent. Printers in Boston devoted less space in their newspapers to these advertisements, but the frequency of “Enquire of the Printer” advertisements suggests that the Fleets, Edes and Gill, and Green and Russell invested time in facilitating these transactions beyond what was required for receiving the copy and setting the type. In effect, they served as brokers, even if they never described or advertised their services in that manner.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 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.

May 22 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 1
Boston Evening-Post (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 2
Boston Evening-Post (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 3
Boston Evening-Post (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 1
Boston-Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Boston-Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Boston-Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Massachusetts Gazette Green and Russell Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette [Green and Russell] (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Massachusetts Gazette Green and Russell Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette [Green and Russell] (May 22, 1769).
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May 22 - New-York Chronicle Slavery 1
New-York Chronicle (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 4
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 5
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Newport Mercury Slavery 1
Newport Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Newport Mercury Slavery 2
Newport Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Newport Mercury Slavery 3
Newport Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Newport Mercury Slavery 4
Newport Mercury (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - Pennsylvania Chronicle Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Chronicle (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1769).

May 21

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

May 21 - 5:18:1769 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 18, 1769).

“Particular care will be taken to do Advertisements, Blanks, &c. on very short notice.”

When Joseph Crukshank opened a printing office in Philadelphia in 1769, he attempted to attract clients by placing an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal. He pledged that his customers “may depend on having their work done in a neat and correct manner.” Crukshank anticipated that his job printing would include producing “Advertisements, Blanks, &c. on very short notice.” In that regard, he emphasized some of the same services as some newspaper printers regularly promoted in the colophons of their publications. The colophon on the final page of the Georgia Gazette, for instance, stated, “Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c. printed at the shortest Notice.” Similarly, the colophon for the Pennsylvania Chronicle concluded with “Blanks and Hand-Bills in particular are done on the shortest Notice, in a neat and correct Manner.”

Printers generated revenue by printing handbills and other advertisements. For those who published newspapers, this revenue supplemented what they earned from subscriptions and advertisements inserted in the newspapers. For those who did not publish newspapers, like Crukshank, advertisements were an especially important component of their business. Handbills accounted for some of that work, but a variety of other sorts of advertising media came off of eighteenth-century printing presses, including trade cards, billheads, broadsides, furniture labels, catalogs, subscription notices, and magazine wrappers. Crukshank even promoted a catalog of the books he sold, inviting prospective customers to visit his shop to pick up their own copies.

All advertising could be considered ephemeral, but these other forms of advertising proved to be even more ephemeral than newspaper advertisements. Printers and others created repositories of eighteenth-century newspapers at the time of their creation, but handbills, trade cards, and other printed media deployed as advertising did not benefit from the same systematic collection and preservation. As a result, the sources for reconstructing the history of advertising in the colonial and revolutionary eras are skewed in favor of newspaper advertisements. Certainly newspaper advertisements were the most common form of advertising and merit particular attention, but they do not tell the entire story. The scattered billheads found among household accounts, labels still affixed to furniture, and other relatively rare eighteenth-century advertising media in modern libraries and archives belie their original abundance, according to the frequent references to “Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c.” and “catalogues” in newspaper advertisements and colophons. Printers’ ledgers and correspondence also include references to advertisements with no known extant copies. These various sources indicate that, especially in the second half of the eighteenth century, Americans encountered a rich visual and textual landscape of advertising as they went about their daily lives.

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:20:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (May 20, 1769).

“Coy and Waterman do all Manner of Painting, Gilding, Drawing, and Writing upon Signs.”

Like many others who advertised in eighteenth-century newspapers, Coy and Waterman helped prospective customers locate their shop both by identifying a landmark and a describing their sign. They advised that they could be found “At their Shop, the Sign of the Painter’s Arms, opposite Moses Brown’s, Esq; in Providence,” where they sold “A Compleat Assortment of Painters Colours.”

Their sign, the Painter’s Arms, served not only as an advertisement for their wares but also as a testament to the quality of a service they also offered. After listing the several varieties of “Painters Colours” in stock, Coy and Waterman stated that they “do all Manner of Painting, Gilding, Drawing, and Writing upon Signs, in the most neat and genteel Manner.” They invited shopkeepers, merchants, artisans, tavernkeepers, and others to commission signs to mark their places of business, promote the goods and services they provided, and distinguish them from their competitors. Posting a sign played a part in creating a memorable identity for practically any enterprise. For instance, John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, gave his location as the “PRINTING-OFFICE, the Sign of Shakespear’s Head” in the colophon of every issue.

Coy and Waterman’s advertisement suggests that the market for producing and maintaining signs in the late 1760s was vibrant enough that they needed to address the competition. The painters pledged to “work as cheap for Cash, or Country Produce, as any Person in Town, Newport or Boston.” Apparently prospective clients had several choices in a regional market.

Print played an important role in eighteenth-century marketing, but newspapers, trade cards, catalogs, and other printed media were not the only means for promoting commerce and consumption. Shop signs became synonymous with purveyors of goods and services, a precursor to creating brands, logos, and trademarks consistently associated with particular businesses. They have not survived in nearly the same numbers as eighteenth-century newspapers, but many of the advertisements in those newspapers suggest that colonists regularly glimpsed “the Sign of the Painter’s Arms,” “the Sign of Shakespear’s Head,” and many other shop signs as they navigated the streets of Providence and other cities and towns.