What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“All Persons indebted to him, to discharge the same.”
Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, wanted to make sure that readers saw his notice calling on “all Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts before August 1, 1770. He inserted that notice in his newspaper multiple times in June and July 1770, sometimes interspersing it with other advertisements. That was not the case in the July 10 edition. Instead, it was the first item on the first page, making it nearly impossible to overlook. With the exception of the masthead, that page consisted entirely of advertisements, most of them notices that others paid to have inserted. Even if readers opted to skip the first page in favor of seeking out the news items on the second, they were most likely to read at least a portion of Crouch’s notice.
The printer meant business. He meant it in exercising his power over the publication to give his notice a privileged place on the page. He also meant it in the organization of the notice. Like many other eighteenth-century advertisements, it had more than one purpose. Crouch called on others to discharge their debts, but he also informed the public that he “has plenty of Hands, and will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work, which will be executed with the greatest Care and utmost Dispatch, and on reasonable Terms.” He sought orders for job printing to increase revenues (though customers may have requested credit when submitting some of those orders), but simultaneously made it clear that that collecting on debts was his primary purpose in placing the notice. This also made it clear to new customers that he expected them to make payment in a timely manner. He warned those who were already in arrears that if they did “not pay a due Regard to this Notice” that they “must expect he will take proper Steps to obtain Payment, tho’ the Circumstance will be disagreeable to him.” In others words, they could expect legal action. Crouch did not make this subtle threat out of spite or malice. Instead, he wished “to PAY his own DEBTS” and depended on his former customers to make that possible.
The news in the July 10 edition consisted mostly of items from London along with a brief description of raising a statue of William Pitt in Charleston. To get to that news on the inside pages, readers first had to glance at front page. Crouch increased the likelihood that even a casual glance would include his notice by making it the lead item on the first page.