What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Messrs. JOHN SKETCHLEY and CO. of GOSPORT.”
Most advertisements for goods and services in colonial newspapers came from local providers, though local did not necessarily mean close proximity to the printing office. Newspapers served not only the towns and cities where they where they were published but also entire colonies or regions. Newspapers printed in Philadelphia, for instance, served colonists in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland. Similarly, the Georgia Gazette served residents of Savannah and the rest of the colony. In large part this was because it was the only newspaper printed in the colony in 1770. With the exception of subscription notices for books and magazines, very few advertisements in colonial newspapers originated from beyond the region that any particular newspaper served.
Most of the advertisements in the January 10, 1770, edition of the Georgia Gazette came from Savannah, though the partnership of Williams and Mackay did insert a notice concerning “Their Trading House in Augusta.” Merchants and shopkeepers in Sunbury also placed advertisements in the Georgia Gazette on occasion, but the newspaper received few notices from neighboring South Carolina or beyond.
John Sketchley and Company of Gosport, England, placed one of those rare advertisements, addressing it to “their friends in the Carolina Trade.” They informed colonial merchants who traded rice, one of the staple commodities produced in the Lower South, that they made significant additions and improvements to their “THREE COMMODIOUS STOREHOUSES, built with brick and tile.” They further described their wharf in Gosport as “one of the most convenient in England for large ships, as well as small vessels.” Furthermore, Sketchley and Company pledged to serve their clients “with the greatest care, diligence, and dispatch.” By placing an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette, they hoped to divert vessels departing from Savannah to their wharf and storehouses in Gosport rather than sailing for other British ports. Due to the distance, placing their advertisement in the Georgia Gazette required more coordination than most that ran in that newspaper, but Sketchley and Company apparently considered it worth the investment in time and effort. In the process, the colonial press made the British Atlantic world just a little bit smaller with an advertisement that integrated commercial interests in Georgia and southern England.