What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He carries on his Business as usual, at his Shop in Broad-Street.”
A standard issue for most newspapers published in colonial America consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. This did not always provide sufficient space for all of the news and advertising on hand, so printers adopted a variety of strategies for producing supplements. In the past week, the Adverts 250 Project has examined some of the decisions made by printers who had too much content and not enough space. On April 24, 1771, Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, distributed a smaller sheet that consisted entirely of advertising along with the standard issue for the week. The following day, Richard Draper, printer of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, inserted a note that “for want of Room” several advertisements “must be deferred till next Week.” He did, however, issue a supplement that contained “Fresh London Articles” that he received from the captain of a ship that just arrived in port. In that supplement, Draper scooped other newspapers.
Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, took another approach. On April 27, he published an Extraordinary containing both news and advertising that served as a midweek supplement to his newspaper. Prior to the American Revolution, most newspapers operated on a weekly publication schedule. When printers did publish supplements, they usually did so on the same day as the standard issue and distributed them together. Both Draper and Wells did so with their supplements. On occasion, however, printers produced supplements, extraordinaries, or postscripts midway through the week. In such instances, supplements consisted of either news or news and advertising, but rarely just advertising. Typically, breaking news justified publishing and disseminating midweek supplements, but printers determined that advertising supplements could wait until the usual publication day.
Crouch devoted an entire half sheet to his two-page supplement, unlike Draper and Wells who each opted to conserve resources with smaller sheets. Crouch could have devised a smaller sheet that featured only news accounts. Instead, he published news and advertising, further disseminating notices about consumer goods and services, real estate for sale, and ships preparing to sail to England and other colonies. Did those advertisers pay for the additional insertion? Or did those advertisements appear gratis? Answering those questions requires consulting Crouch’s ledgers or other sources beyond the newspaper. Either way, the midweek supplement increased the amount of advertising (and news) circulating in South Carolina near the end of April 1771.