What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A Few Bales of well bought WHITE PLAINS.”
When he prepared to go to press with the May 22, 1770, edition, Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, found that he had too much content to fit into a standard four-page issue. To remedy the situation, he also produced a two-page supplement comprised entirely of advertisements. That was not unusual, but one of the decisions Crouch made about the format of that supplement differed from the approach usually taken by printers and compositors throughout the colonies. In an effort to fill every square inch of space on the page, Crouch included three advertisements that deviated from the standard width for columns in his newspaper.
Understanding this strategy first requires a closer look at the entire supplement. Crouch did not have enough material to fill two sides of a half sheet, the most common format for supplements. Instead, he used a smaller sheet, one that was wide enough for only two columns with generous margins. Regular issues had three columns. To take advantage of the empty space, Crouch selected shorter advertisements to rotate perpendicular to the rest of the text. Those he inserted in several columns. This was a common trick for printers and compositors. It saved the time and effort of resetting type by arranging in a different configuration several advertisements that previously appeared in the newspaper.
Crouch could have left space on either side of these advertisement. Instead, he positioned them with margins as narrow as if they appeared in the regular columns. This left empty space at the bottom of the page, but it was not wide enough for an advertisement of the same width. Here Crouch’s method departed from the usual practice. Rather than adjust the margins, he instead inserted advertisements that were narrower than any of the other columns throughout the standard issue or the supplement. Doing so required resetting type for advertisements that previously ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Crouch chose to expend the time and effort rather than surrender the otherwise empty space. He made use of every last inch of the smaller half sheet when he published this particular advertising supplement.