What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
It has been more than a year since any “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” from Charles Crouch’s South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal have been featured on the Adverts 250 Project. Why? The project relies on eighteenth-century newspapers that have been digitized and made available via Accessible Archives’s collection of South Carolina Newspapers, Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, and Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers. These sources provide extensive access to newspapers published in the colonies in the late 1760s and early 1770s, but they are not comprehensive and complete.
Consider the newspapers printed in Charleston, South Carolina, on the eve of the American Revolution. For nearly a decade before the outbreak of military hostilities, three newspapers circulated in that busy urban port. In addition to Crouch’s South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Peter Timothy published the South-Carolina Gazette and Robert Wells published the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.
Today, all three are available, to varying degrees, via Accessible Archives. That database includes transcriptions of those newspapers as well as digitized images of most issues. However, it does not include such images of issues of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal published in 1769. The transcriptions for that year are certainly valuable, giving scholars and others greater access to the past, but that form of remediation and the methods for navigating that kind of database do not lend themselves well to the Adverts 250 Project. As a result, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal temporarily dropped from both the Adverts 250 Project and, even more significantly, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project. The projects both had good coverage, but not complete coverage, of South Carolina, incorporating two of the three newspapers published in the colony in 1769.
In 2020, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal returns to those projects. The Slavery Adverts 250 Project identifies fourteen advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children published in the January 2, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. The Adverts 250 Project will examine advertisements for consumer goods and services as well as other kinds of paid notices in the coming months. For the past year, the project has relied on the Essex Gazette, the only newspaper published on Tuesdays in 1769 (with dates that correspond to Thursdays in 2019) available via these databases. As a result, that newspaper has been disproportionately featured in the project.
Having access once again to digitized images of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal will shift the scope of the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project. This will clearly benefit the Slavery Adverts 250 Project by generating a more complete archive that demonstrates the ubiquity of advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children in early America. This also has the potential to benefit the Adverts 250 Project by reducing coverage of the Essex Gazette. On the other hand, having no choice but to feature advertisements from that newspaper guaranteed that a less prominent publication from a smaller town regularly found its ways into the Adverts 250 Project. That is a goal that must continue to be observed, even while featuring the Essex Gazette less often thanks to restored access to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.