Slavery Advertisements Published July 25, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Maryland Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (July 25, 1771).

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Massachusetts Spy (July 25, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

July 24

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Boston Evening-Post (July 24, 1771).

“Brown Sugars of various Qualities.”

Like most advertisements that ran in eighteenth-century newspapers, Joseph Barrell’s notice in the July 22, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post consisted entirely of text unadorned with images.  That did not mean, however, that Barrell did not deploy graphic design to his advantage.  In listing dozens of commodities available at his store, he adopted a unique format that distinguished his advertisement from others in the newspaper.  Barrell centered his text, producing a distinctive amount of white space compared to other notices.

Consider the most common configurations for enumerating goods in advertisements.  Both styles appeared on the same page as Barrell’s notice.  In the first, the most common, advertisers listed items in dense paragraphs of text with both the left and right side justified with the margins.  This gave such advertisements some visual heft, communicating to prospective customers that the advertisers carried vast assortments of goods, but it also made those advertisements more difficult to read compared to the second option.  Some advertisers decided to divide their notices into columns, listing only one or two items per line.  That method also yielded blank space that made it easier for readers to navigate those advertisement, but it meant that purveyors of goods could not list as many items in the same amount of space.  Charles Dabney utilized the first method for his “general Assortment of English and India GOODS” in an advertisement about as long as it was wide, one that featured very little blank space.  William Scott’s advertisement for a “Variety of English and Scotch Goods” was just as dense and perhaps even more difficult to read since it extended more than twice the length of Dabney’s notice and listed many more items available at his shop.  John Head, on the other hand, resorted to columns for his commodities.  In an advertisement that occupied about as much space as Dabney’s, he listed far fewer items.

Readers readily recognized both formats, but that was not the case for Barrell’s advertisement.  Compositors often centered the first couple of lines of advertisements, the introductory materials that gave the advertiser’s name and location, but rarely did they center the contents in the body of the advertisement.  That made Barrell’s advertisement unique, likely drawing the eyes of readers.  Barrell did not offer goods that differed much from those available in other shops, nor did he make appeals to price or quality that differed from those advanced by other advertisers.  His advantage in communicating with prospective customers derived from the graphic design elements of his advertisement.

July 23

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Essex Gazette (July 23, 1771).

“Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield, deceased.”

Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette, inserted several of his own notices in the July 23, 1771, edition, interspersing them among other advertisements.  In so doing, he promoted additional revenue streams and filled space that could have been devoted to other content.  Like many printers, he offered “CASH … for RAGS” to use in making paper.  Most of his notices were fairly short, but he devoted two longer advertisements to “A GENERAL ASSORTMENT of Stationary” and “A general Assortment of Blanks” or printed forms for legal and financial transactions.  Most of his other notices featured books, including one for “Dr. Watts’s young Child’s first Catechism” and another for “A Set of Dean Swift’s Works, neatly bound.”  Hall also stocked “Rev. Dr. Pemberton’s Sermon at the Ordination of the Rev. Mr. Story” and “The Lawfulness, Excellency and Advantage of INSTRUMENTAL MUSICK in the Publick Worship of GOD.”  When it came to individual titles, Hall primarily focused on religious works, yet that was not the only way that the printer engaged religion in his marketing.

Hall inserted one additional advertisement that hawked an item less commonly included among the notices placed by printers.  “Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield, deceased, to be sold at the Printing-Office in Salem,” he advised readers.  That medal commemorated George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  Whitefield died at Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, less than a year earlier.  Almost immediately following the minister’s death, printers and others began marketing commemorative items, mostly books, pamphlets, and broadsides.  Hall first informed the public that he would soon offer medals on May 14.  More than two months later, he apparently still had some on hand and reminded prospective customers that they could honor Whitefield by purchasing medals that bore his likeness.  Like others who sold commemorative items, Hall provided an opportunity for colonists to mourn the minister through acts of consumption.  The medals the printer advertised not only memorialized Whitefield but also transformed him into a commodity following his death.  However sincere Hall’s regard for the minister may have been, he also aimed to generate revenues in the wake of his death.

Slavery Advertisements Published July 23, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).

July 22

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Chronicle (July 22, 1771).

“DUTCH FANS, upon different constructions.”

Yesterday’s entry featured an advertisement for “ROLLING SCREENS for Cleaning Wheat or Flax-seed” placed in the July 18, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal by Christian Fiss.  That advertisement was notable for the image that accompanied it, a woodcut depicting a winnowing fan (better known as a “DUTCH FAN” in the eighteenth century) for separating the wheat from the chaff.  Printers provided several stock images of ships, horses, houses, indentured servants, and enslaved people for advertisers to incorporate into their notices, but not other images with more limited usage.  Instead, advertisers like Fiss commissioned woodcuts specific to their businesses when they wanted to draw greater attention to their newspaper notices.

At the same time that Fiss included an image of a winnowing fan in an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal, one of his competitors, Robert Parrish, pursued the same strategy in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Fiss divided the space in his advertisement more or less evenly between image and text, but Parrish devoted more space to images than to his description of the “various kinds of wire work” he made.  In addition to a woodcut depicting a winnowing fan, he included a second woodcut of a rolling screen.  That represented even greater expense for his marketing efforts, but Parrish presumably believed that investing in such images would result in more sales and the woodcuts would pay for themselves in the end.

Parrish previously included his woodcut depicting a winnowing fan in an advertisement in the October 29, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  He may have chosen to resume running advertisements that included that image upon seeing Fiss publish advertisements with a similar image.  Having made the initial investment, he did not want to lose any advantage once a competitor commissioned a woodcut of his own.  Not long after that, he collected his woodcuts from the Pennsylvania Chronicle and delivered them to the Pennsylvania Gazette to include in an advertisement with identical copy on October 15.  Unlike the stock images that printers provided, such specialized images belonged to the advertisers, who could choose to insert them in more than one newspaper.  Parrish sought to increase the exposure, achieve a greater return on his investment, and ward off a rival by inserting the images in more than one newspaper.

Slavery Advertisements Published July 22, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Boston Evening-Post (July 22, 1771).

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Boston Evening-Post (July 22, 1771).

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Boston-Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 22, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 22, 1771).

July 21

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Pennsylvania Journal (July 18, 1771).

“ROLLING SCREENS for Cleaning Wheat or Flax-seed.”

Christian Fiss devoted half of the space in his advertisement in the July 18, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal to a depiction of a rolling screen for cleaning wheat and flaxseed.  That woodcut almost certainly garnered attention from readers since it was one of the few images in that issue.  Woodcuts adorned only three other advertisements, each of them showing nearly identical vessels at sea.  The printers provided those stock images to advertisers seeking freight and passengers.  On the other hand, Fiss commissioned an image specific to the “ROLLING SCREENS,” “DUTCH FANS,” and “various kinds of WIRE-WORK” he made at his shop.  That woodcut appeared exclusively in his advertisements; other artisans who made similar items did not have access to it when they placed notices of their own.

Although the vast majority of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements did not feature any sort of image, woodcuts commissioned by individual entrepreneurs did appear with some regularity.  Did the frequency change over time?  Did advertisers become more likely to use combinations of words and unique images to promote their products?  Did they become more likely to use images as brands or logos to make their advertisements more distinctive and their businesses more memorable?  I believe that the answer to each of those questions is “yes,” but I also caution that this is merely an impression at this point rather than based on tabulating the number of specialized images incorporated into advertisements.  When I compiled an archive of American newspapers published in 1771 that have since been digitized, I noticed what seemed to be a greater frequency of images commissioned by advertisers compared to the late 1760s.  This merits further investigation to chart the evolution of graphic design in early American advertising.  Throughout the eighteenth century, advertisers resorted primarily to text to deliver messages to prospective customers, but it also appears that over time greater numbers of advertisers experimented with visual images and invested in iconography associated with their businesses.  As advertisers continued to encourage colonists to participate in a transatlantic consumer revolution, the early 1770s may have been a turning point in the development of advertisements that utilized unique images.

July 20

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (July 20, 1771).

“A VERY large and neat Assortment of English Goods.”

Joseph Russell and William Russell, two of the city’s most prominent merchants, regularly advertised in the Providence Gazette in the early 1770s.  They placed their notices for short periods, sometimes running more than one at a time.  Consider their marketing efforts during the summer of 1771.  On June 29, they inserted an advertisement to inform prospective customers that they now stocked “A VERY large and neat Assortment of English Goods, Ironmongery, Brasiery, Cutlery, Haberdashery, Stationary,” and other goods imported from London.  That advertisement ran for four consecutive weeks before being discontinued on July 27.  Two weeks after first placing that notice, the Russells placed another advertisement, that one for “THIRTY Barrels of choice Connecticut Pork” as well as corn and textiles.  It also ran for four weeks, appearing in the July 13 and 20 editions of the Providence Gazette with the other advertisement.  On July 27, the Russells published just one advertisement, but on August 3, the last issue for the advertisement about pork, they ran a new advertisement for imported goods.  It also appeared for four weeks.

When it came to advertising, the Russells made deliberate choices.  According to the rates that John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, inserted in the colophon, “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length (accompanied with the Pay) are inserted in this Paper three Weeks for Four Shillings.”  The Russells did not opt to have their notices run for the minimum amount of time before removing them.  Instead, they added an additional week to allow for greater exposure, but then retired their advertisements and devised new notices.  Doing so allowed them to keep their enterprise visible to prospective customers without risking readers dismissing advertisements that became too familiar.  Did advertising in eighteenth-century newspapers work?  The Russells seemed to believe that advertising was indeed effective, at least when properly managed, or else they would not have placed so many notices in the Providence Gazette and incurred the expenses of doing so.

July 19

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 19, 1771).

“Stage-Coach, Number One.”

John Stavers faced competition for clients … and he did not appreciate it.  In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Stavers operated a stagecoach between Portsmouth and Boston.  For a time, he enjoyed a monopoly on the route, but he tried to convince the public that did not necessarily amount to an unfair advantage.  Instead, Stavers contended, he provided an important service to the community “at a very great Expence” to himself when no one else did.  In an advertisement in the July 19, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he asked prospective customers to take into account the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” he experienced “when no other Person would undertake” the route.  He did so in service not only to his passengers but also to deliver “the Mails of Letters and News Papers.”

Stavers depicted that as a heroic effort.  His stagecoach had already “surmounted every Obstruction, and through Heat and Cold, Rain and Snow Storm, push’d forward, at Times when every other Conveyance fail’d.”  Regardless of any kind of difficulty, his operation previously ran like clockwork … and would continue to do so.  The stagecoach set off from Stavers’s tavern in Portsmouth on Tuesday morning and departed Boston for the return trip on Friday mornings.  Stavers hired a “careful Driver” and kept the carriage and horses “in such Order, that Nothing bit some unforeseen Accident, shall at any Time give Hindrance, or by any Means retard the Journey.”  Through experience, Stavers was prepared for any obstacle.

Accordingly, he felt “intitled to” the patronage of travelers now that he faced an upstart who challenged him for business.  Stavers requested that the public “now give his Coach the Preference” rather than hire a competitor “whose Drivers, big with Importance, new and flaming Coaches, expect mighty Things.”  Stavers made clear that he did not believe the competition could live up to its promises, especially in the face of “the first Snow Storm” when the seasons changed. Moreover, he felt annoyed that his rival plied the same route and schedule.  Stavers feigned best wishes for the competition, but simultaneously declared his enterprise “Stage-Coach, Number One,” seeking to establish a ranking to influence prospective clients.  Simultaneously, he asked those prospective clients to take his past successes and sacrifices into consideration when choosing which stagecoach service to hire for trips between Portsmouth and Boston.

July 18

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-York Journal (July 18, 1771).

“86—.”

For several weeks in 1771, Nesbitt Deane promoted “HATS, MANUFACTURED by the Advertiser” in the New-York Journal.  His advertisements concluded with “86—,” a notation intended for the compositor rather than readers.  Most advertisements in the New-York Journal included two numbers, the first corresponding to the issue in which the advertisement first appeared and the other indicating the final issue for the advertisement.  That allowed the compositor to quickly determine whether an advertisement belonged in the next issue when arranging notices and other content on the page in advance of going to press.

George Ball’s advertisement for “A Neat Assortment of CHINA, GLASS, STONE and DELPH WARES” in the same column as Nesbitt’s advertisement for hats in the July 18 edition, for instance, concluded with “88 91.”  That signaled to the compositor that Ball’s advertisement first appeared in “NUMB. 1488” on July 11 and would continue through “NUMB. 1491” on August 1.  That was the standard run, four issues, for many advertisements.  According to the colophon, John Holt, the printer, charged “Five Shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after.”  Many advertisers tended to pay for the minimum number of issues and then discontinued their notices.  Others, like Jacobus Vanzandt and Son, arranged for their advertisements to appear for longer durations.  Their notice for imported textiles, garments, and housewares in the column next to Nesbitt’s notice concluded with “79 87,” indicating that they specified that it should run for nine weeks.

Deane apparently did not select an end date when he initially placed his advertisement in “NUMB. 1486” on June 27.  Instead, he opted to let it run indefinitely until he decided to remove it.  The dash instead of a second number communicated to the compositor to continue inserting the advertisement until instructed otherwise, while the “86” aided in keeping the books.  The printer did not need to consult previous editions when calculating how much Deane owed when he eventually stopped running his advertisement.  Many, but not all, printers included similar notations in advertisements that appeared in American newspapers in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.