January 31

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

Jan 31 - 1:31:1770 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

“For SPAIN, PORTUGAL, LONDON … The SHIP MARY.”

Deciphering the copy in these advertisements may be difficult or even impossible, but the visual images remain as unmistakable in the twenty-first century as they would have been in the eighteenth century. A woodcut depicting a ship at sea adorned half a dozen advertisements, one following right after another, on the third page of the January 31, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. A similar but smaller fleet comprised of three vessels appeared on the first page of that issue. The pages of the newspaper replicated the scene that colonists glimpsed in Charleston’s busy harbor, vessels arriving from faraway ports and departing for new destinations throughout the Atlantic World. This visual imagery testified to the webs of exchange that crisscrossed the ocean and connected colonists in South Carolina to the rest of the continent, the Caribbean, England, mainland Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, and beyond.

Both people and goods moved along those networks of exchange. Most of the notices featuring images of ships advertised “Freight or Passage.” Their captains stood ready to transport commodities cultivated in South America to markets on the other side of the Atlantic. Other advertisements listed vast assortments of consumer goods “imported in the last Vessels” from London, Bristol, and other English ports. Two advertisements on the same page as the larger flotilla featured images of enslaved men, women, and children, vivid reminders that not everyone who arrived in South Carolina migrated there voluntarily.

With their sails billowing and flags looking as if they were flapping in the wind, the woodcuts of the vessels at sea gave the appearance of motion. They testified to the bustling maritime traffic in one of the largest seaports in the colonies. They reminded readers of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette that even as they went about their daily lives and worried about their deteriorating relationship with Parliament that their corner of the empire was part of vast networks of commercial and cultural exchange that extended throughout the Atlantic and far beyond. The shipping news from the customs house provided a list of ports for readers to peruse, but the visual images in the advertisements, all those ships at sea, conjured much more vivid images that connected colonists to faraway places around the Atlantic and even around the globe.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 31, 1770

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.

Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 9
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 10
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 11
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 12
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 13
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 14
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 15
Georgia Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

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Jan 31 1770 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 31, 1770).

 

 

January 30

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

Jan 30 - 1:30:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

“Valuable PLANTATION … THIRTY VALUABLE NEGROES.”

John Rose and Alexander Rose, administrators of the estate “of the deceased Dr. WILLIAM ROSE,” turned to the newspapers published in Charleston, South Carolina, to announce the sale of the late doctor’s “valuable PLANTATION” as well as “About THIRTY VALUABLE NEGROES,” livestock, furniture, and tools. The Roses included visual images in their advertisements to help draw the attention of prospective buyers. Indeed, they included two woodcuts, one depicting a house and another an enslaved man, in their advertisement in the January 30, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. If they included a visual image at all, most advertisements featured only one, even in similar advertisements that offered both real estate and enslaved men, women, and children for sale.

The inclusion of two woodcuts seems not to have been a choice made by the compositor working independently at the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. The following day an advertisement with identical copy ran in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. It also included two woodcuts, one of a house and fields and another of several enslaved people. It was not a coincidence that the two advertisements each had more than one visual image. A notice with the same copy also ran in the February 1, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. It also had two woodcuts, one depicting a house and the other several enslaved people, both adults and children. The typography (fonts, fonts size, capitalization, italics) varied among the advertisements, but the copy was consistent, as was the inclusion of two visual images that set these advertisements apart from others. It seems clear that the Roses instructed each printing office that their notice must include both. Although the compositors made most of the decisions about the format of these advertisements, the Roses did exert some influence over the graphic design. They were certainly not the first or only advertisers to adopt this strategy for drawing attention to their notices, but they did experiment with an uncommon approach to visual images when they submitted the copy and specified that their advertisements must include two woodcuts rather than one or none.

Happy Birthday, Isaiah Thomas!

Isaiah Thomas, patriot printer and founder of the American Antiquarian Society, was born on January 30 (January 19 Old Style) in 1749.  It’s quite an historical coincidence that the three most significant printers in eighteenth-century America — Benjamin Franklin, Isaiah Thomas, and Mathew Carey — were all born in January.

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Isaiah Thomas (January 30, 1739 – April 4, 1831). American Antiquarian Society.

The Adverts 250 Project is possible in large part due to Thomas’s efforts to collect as much early American printed material as he could, originally to write his monumental History of Printing in America.  The newspapers, broadsides, books, almanacs, pamphlets, and other items he gathered in the process eventually became the initial collections of the American Antiquarian Society.  That institution’s ongoing mission to acquire at least one copy of every American imprint through 1876 has yielded an impressive collection of eighteenth-century advertising materials, including newspapers, magazine wrappers, trade cards, billheads, watch papers, book catalogs, subscription notices, broadsides, and a variety of other items.  Exploring the history of advertising in early America — indeed, exploring any topic related to the history, culture, and literature of early America at all — has been facilitated for more than two centuries by the vision of Isaiah Thomas and the dedication of the curators and other specialists at the American Antiquarian Society over the years.

Thomas’s connections to early American advertising were not limited to collecting and preserving the items created on American presses during the colonial, Revolutionary, and early national periods.  Like Mathew Carey, he was at the hub of a network he cultivated for distributing newspapers, books, and other printed goods — including advertising to stimulate demand for those items.  Sometimes this advertising was intended for dissemination to the general public (such as book catalogs and subscription notices), but other times it amounted to trade advertising (such as circular letters and exchange catalogs intended only for fellow printers, publishers, and booksellers).

Thomas also experimented with advertising on wrappers that accompanied his Worcester Magazine, though he acknowledged to subscribers that these wrappers were ancillary to the publication:  “The two outer leaves of each number are only a cover to the others, and when the volume is bound may be thrown aside, as not being a part of the Work.”[1]

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Detail of Advertising Wrapper, Worcester Magazine (Second Week of April, 1786).

Thomas’s patriotic commitment to freedom of the press played a significant role in his decision to develop advertising wrappers.  As Thomas relays in his History of Printing in America, he discontinued printing his newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy, after the state legislature passed a law that “laid a duty of two-thirds of a penny on newspapers, and a penny on almanacs, which were to be stamped.”  Such a move met with strong protest since it was too reminiscent of the Stamp Act imposed by the British two decades earlier, prompting the legislature to repeal it before it went into effect.  On its heels, however, “another act was passed, which imposed a duty on all advertisements inserted in the newspapers” printed in Massachusetts.  Thomas vehemently rejected this law as “an improper restraint on the press. He, therefore, discontinued the Spy during the period that this act was in force, which was two years. But he published as a substitute a periodical work, entitled ‘The Worcester Weekly Magazine,’ in octavo.”[2] This weekly magazine lasted for two years; Thomas discontinued it and once again began printing the Spy after the legislature repealed the objectionable act.

jan-30-advertising-wrapper-worcester-magazine-4th-week-may-1786
Third Page of Advertising Wrapper, Worcester Magazine (Fourth Week of May, 1786).

Isaiah Thomas was not interested in advertising for its own sake to the same extent as Mathew Carey, but his political concerns did help to shape the landscape of early American advertising.  Furthermore, his vision for collecting American printed material preserved a variety of advertising media for later generations to admire, analyze, ponder, and enjoy.  Happy 271st birthday, Isaiah Thomas!

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[1] Isaiah Thomas, “To the CUSTOMERS for the WORCESTER MAGAZINE,” Worcester Magazine, wrapper, second week of April, 1786.

[2] Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers, vol. 2 (Worcester, MA: Isaac Sturtevant, 1810), 267-268.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 30, 1770

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.

Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 11
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 12
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 13
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

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Jan 30 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 14
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

 

January 29

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

Jan 29 - 1:29:1770 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (January 29, 1770).

“Any gentlemen … may depend upon being served as well as in Boston.”

Cotton Murray, “Taylor from BOSTON,” inserted a brief advertisement in the January 29, 1770, edition of the Connecticut Courant “to inform the PUBLIC” that he recently began serving clients in Hartford, though he had not opened his own shop. Instead, he “set up his Business at the Printing-Office, where he makes all sorts of Men’s CLOATHS.” Though an unusual location for a tailor, he pledged that “Any gentleman that please to favour him with their Custom, may depend upon being served as well as in Boston.”

In making that promise, Murray played on anxieties common among colonial consumers. Those in the largest cities looked to London and other major cities on the other side of the Atlantic, comparing the goods and services available in the two locales. Similarly, consumers in smaller cities and towns in the American colonies looked to Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia as centers of fashion and refinement. Yet artisans like Murray assured prospective customers in places like Hartford that their cities and towns need not have the advantage of size in order for consumers to benefit from the same services available in the larger port cities.

Murray exerted some authority in making that claim. After all, he had formerly resided and worked in Boston. He knew the quality of service customers received there and stood ready to transfer the experience to his new clientele in Hartford and the surrounding towns. He may have also expected that his origins, “from BOSTON,” gave his enterprise additional cachet among prospective customers, just as artisans in urban ports frequently proclaimed in their newspapers advertisements that they were “from London.” Doing so simultaneously introduced and promoted artisans by associating them with places considered more cosmopolitan than their new homes. That was the primary appeal to prospective customers Murray made in his advertisement. He presented his case implicitly at the beginning of his notice, stating he was “from BOSTON,” and explicitly at the conclusion to aid readers in making the connection that if they became clients they could “depend upon being served as well” as in the largest city in New England.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 29, 1770

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.

Jan 29 1770 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 1
Boston Evening-Post (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 1
Boston-Gazette (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 4
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 5
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 6
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 7
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 8
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 9
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (January 29, 1770).

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Jan 29 1770 - New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 2
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (January 29, 1770).

 

Happy Birthday, Mathew Carey!

Though Benjamin Franklin is often considered the patron saint of American advertising in the popular press, I believe that his efforts pale in comparison to the contributions made by Mathew Carey (1760-1839) in the final decades of the eighteenth century. Franklin is rightly credited with experimenting with the appearance of newspaper advertising, mixing font styles and sizes in the advertisements that helped to make him a prosperous printer, but Mathew Carey introduced and popularized an even broader assortment of advertising innovations, ranging from inventive appeals that targeted potential consumers to a variety of new media to networks for effectively distributing advertising materials. In the process, his efforts played an important role in the development of American capitalism by enlarging markets for the materials sold by printers, booksellers, and publishers as well as a host of other goods marketed by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans who eventually adopted many of Carey’s innovative advertising methods. Mathew Carey will probably never displace Benjamin Franklin as the founder of American advertising in the popular imagination, but scholars of early American history and culture should recognize his role as the most important leader in eighteenth-century advertising among the many other activities and accomplishments of his long career in business and public life.

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Mathew Carey (January 28, 1760 – September 16, 1839). Portrait by John Neagle, 1825. Library Company of Philadelphia.

Carey’s efforts as an advertiser were enmeshed within transatlantic networks of print and commerce. Though he did not invent the advertising wrapper printed on blue paper that accompanied magazines in the eighteenth century, he effectively utilized this medium to an extent not previously seen in America, Ireland, or the English provinces outside of London. The wrappers distributed with his American Museum (1787-1792) comprised the most extensive collection of advertising associated with any magazine published in North America in the eighteenth century, both in terms of the numbers of advertisements and the diversity of occupations represented in those advertisements. In Carey’s hands, the American Museum became a vehicle for distributing advertising media: inserts that included trade cards, subscription notices, testimonials, and book catalogues in addition to the wrappers themselves.

Located at the hub of a network of printers and booksellers, Carey advocated the use of a variety of advertising materials, some for consumption by the general public and others for use exclusively within the book trade. Subscription notices and book catalogues, for instance, could stimulate demand among potential customers, but exchange catalogues were intended for printers and booksellers to manage their inventory and enlarge their markets by trading surplus copies of books, pamphlets, and other printed goods. Working with members of this network also facilitated placing advertisements for new publications in the most popular newspapers published in distant towns and cities.

Carey also participated in the development of advertising appeals designed to stimulate demand among consumers in eighteenth-century America. He targeted specific readers by stressing the refinement associated with some of his publications, while simultaneously speaking to general audiences by emphasizing the patriotism and virtue associated with purchasing either books about American history, especially the events of the Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution, or books published in America. In his advertising, Carey invoked a patriotic politics of consumption that suggested that the success of the republican experiment depended not only on virtuous activity in the realm of politics but also on the decisions consumers made in the marketplace.

For my money, Carey is indeed the father of American advertising.  Happy 260th birthday, Mathew Carey!

January 28

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

Jan 28 1770 - 1:25:1770 New-York JournalFREEMAN’s NEW-YORK ALMANACK, For the Year 1770.”

In the final week of January 1770, John Holt continued in his efforts to rid himself of surplus copies of Freeman’s New-York Almanack, for the Year of Our Lord 1770. He did so much more vigorously than other printers who reduced the length and size of their advertisements significantly as January came to an end, perhaps an indication that Holt seriously miscalculated demand for Freeman’s New-York Almanack, printed far too many, and now had an excessive quantity on hand.

Three advertisements for the almanac appeared on the final page of the January 25 edition of the New-York Journal, Holt’s newspaper. He exercised his privilege as the printer to insert and arrange advertisements as he saw fit. The first of those notices was not at first glance an advertisement for the almanac. Instead, it appeared to be a public interest piece about “raising and preparing FINE FLAX” and the advantages of “farmers in North America” doing so. A separate paragraph at the end, just two lines preceded by a manicule, informed readers that “The whole process of raising and managing this flax is inserted in Freeman’s New-York Almanack for the year 1770.” That note appeared immediately above the most extensive of Holt’s advertisements for the almanac. He had previously run the notices about “FINE FLAX” and the almanac separately, sometimes even on different pages, and left it to readers to discover the synergy for themselves. A month into the new year, however, he no longer left it to prospective customers to make the connection on their own.

To further increase the likelihood that prospective customers would take note of the almanac, Holt placed a third advertisement next to the second one. Even if readers perused a page comprised almost entirely of advertisements so quickly that they did not notice how the “FINE FLAX” advertisement introduced an advertisement listing the contents of the almanac, it would have been difficult to skim all three columns without taking note of Freeman’s New-York Almanack.

Holt’s advertisements for the almanac accounted for a significant portion of the January 25 edition of the New-York Journal. Even taking into account the two-page supplement distributed with it, the entire issue consisted of only eighteen columns. The three advertisements for the almanac filled more than an entire column, displacing news items and editorials that Holt could have published instead. He apparently calculated that he included sufficient news between the standard issue and the supplement to satisfy subscribers, thus allowing him to aggressively advertise the almanac.

January 27

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

Jan 27 - 1:27:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (January 27, 1770).

JUST PUBLISHED … A SERMON … by the Rev. MORGAN EDWARDS.”

John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, continued to advertise “WEST’S ALMANACKS, For the present Year” and “his ACCOUNT of the TRANSIT of VENUS” in the January 27, 1770, edition of his newspaper. Both were written by Benjamin West, an astronomer, mathematician, and one of the first professors at Rhode Island College (now Brown University), and printed by Carter. The printer also advertised another book for sale at his printing office at the Sign of Shakespeare’s Head, though he had not published “A SERMON delivered January 1, 1770, by the Rev. MORGAN EDWARDS, A.M. one of the Fellows of Rhode-Island COLLEGE, and Pastor of the Baptist Church in Philadelphia.” The advertisement announced that the sermon was “JUST PUBLISHED at NEWPORT,” though Carter had acquired copies to sell in Providence.

This advertisement referred to A New-Years-Gift: Being a Sermon, Delivered at Philadelphia, on January 1, 1770, and Published for Rectifying Some Wrong Reports, and Preventing Others of the Like Sort, but Chiefly for Giving It Another Chance of Doing Good to Them Who Heard It. Solomon Southwick, printer of the Newport Mercury, reprinted the sermon after Joseph Crukshank first printed an edition in Philadelphia. Southwick presumably believed that the sermon would find a market in Newport because of Edwards’s affiliation with the college and his role as a “prime mover” in its founding. Similarly, Carter likely hoped to capitalize on the college’s imminent move to its permanent home in Providence in 1770 when he advertised the sermon.

Both printers may have also expected a particular passage in the sermon, one not mentioned in its long and ponderous title, would attract the attention of prospective customers. Carter’s advertisement stated that it had been “occasioned by his having been strongly impressed for a Number of Years past, that he should die on the 9th Day of March next.” According to Martha Mitchell in the Encyclopedia Brunonia, Edwards’s wife, who died in 1769, “had somehow foreseen the time of her death. Edwards now recalled a dream he had fifteen years earlier and became convinced he would die the next year.” Edwards survived the year, but his credibility did not. Another minister suggested “that the year was not to be that of Edwards’s death but of the death of his ministry,” which turned out to be the case. He resigned as pastor and did not preach again. Preaching the sermon damaged his reputation; that it circulated in print in several colonies compounded the problem, even as it provided an opportunity for printers and booksellers to augment their revenues.