October 31

GUEST CURATOR:  Jake Luongo

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Massachusetts Spy (October 31, 1771).

“A YOUNG, sprightly, sober NEGRO BOY … Enquire of the Printer.”

This advertisement offers a thirteen-year-old “NEGRO BOY” for sale, along with instructions to “Enquire of the Printer hereof” for anybody interested in purchasing the enslaved boy slave.  Selling a human being is just abhorrent, to say the least, but to put the advertisements amongst other advertisements for household items and livestock is just utterly disturbing to today’s readers. Unfortunately, it was just another advertisement to most readers of eighteenth-century newspapers.  Advertisements for enslaved people for sale were abundant in number yet often sparse when it came to details regarding the people actually being purchased. If interested buyers needed more information, they were to “Enquire of the Printer.”

Printers acted as liaisons between buyers and sellers of enslaved people. According to Jordan E. Taylor, printers acted as “slave brokers” both before and after the American Revolution.[1]  Once the Declaration of Independence was signed, it seemed contradictory to some Americans to advertise enslaved people for sale, but printers did not agree.  The advertisements continued, along with instructions to “Enquire of the Printer.”  According to Taylor, no matter the backlash printers received for these advertisements in the late eighteenth century, the money made on them mattered more, especially in towns with more than one newspaper that competed with each other for advertisements.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Jake outlines some of the most significant arguments that Jordan E. Taylor makes in “Enquire of the Printer: Newspaper Advertising and the Moral Economy of the North American Slave Trade, 1704-1807.”  In his study of “Enquire of the Printer” advertisements, Taylor examined newspapers published throughout the colonies and the new nation in the eighteenth century.  That included newspapers published in New England and the Middle Atlantic, where Taylor identified a concentration of these advertisements before the end of the American Revolution.[2]

Note that the advertisement Jake examined appeared in the Massachusetts Spy, the newspaper published in Boston by ardent patriot Isaiah Thomas.  In the spring of 1775, Thomas fled to Worcester for his safety after repeatedly infuriating British officials with the articles and editorials he published in the Massachusetts Spy.  Even in 1771, when the advertisement for a “YOUNG, sprightly, sober NEGRO BOY” appeared with instructions to “Enquire of the Printer” for more information, Thomas made his political principles known.  The advertisement not only ran among notices promoting consumer goods and services but also in close proximity to Thomas’s own advertisement for the “Massachusetts CALENDAR; or an ALMANACK, for the year 1772.”  Rather than publishing a generic almanac, Thomas made clear his was one for American patriots.  It contained essays “On Liberty and Government” as well as an engraving of the Boston Massacre as both memorial and warning.

Taylor identifies many other instances of the juxtaposition of content advocating liberty for some Americans alongside content that perpetuated the enslavement of Africans and African Americans.  Historians now consider Isaiah Thomas one of the most significant and influential printers active during the era of the American Revolution, in large part because he was such a vocal proponent of American rights, American liberty, and American independence.  Closer examination of the contents of the Massachusetts Spy, however, reveals that he also served as a slave broker, facilitating the purchase and sale of enslaved men, women, and children by publishing advertisements and providing additional information to those who did “Enquire of the Printer.”

Massachusetts Spy (October 31, 1771).

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[1] Jordan E. Taylor, “Enquire of the Printer: Newspaper Advertising and the Moral Economy of the North American Slave Trade, 1704-1807,” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 18, no. 3 (Summer 2020): 287.

[2] Taylor, “Enquire of the Printer,” 309.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 31, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

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

Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 31, 1771).

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Massachusetts Spy (October 31, 1771).

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New-York Journal (October 31, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 31, 1771).

October 30

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

Pennsylvania Packet (October 28, 1771).

“JAMES CUNNING, At the sign of the SPINNING-WHEEL.”

When John Dunlap launched the Pennsylvania Packet on October 28, 1771, the first edition featured an astounding number of advertisements, enough that he distributed a supplement containing some of the news and advertising that did not fit in the standard issue.  Still, he did not print all of the advertisements submitted to his printing office.  Dunlap included a note that “Some Advertisements … are deferred till next week, when they shall be carefully regarded.”  Most colonial newspapers did not benefit from such an abundance of advertising in their inaugural issues.  Advertisers tended to wait to assess the success and circulation of new newspapers before investing in advertising that might not be seen by many readers.  Dunlap may have attracted so many advertisers because he announced in the subscription proposals that “The first Number shall be given gratis.”  Many advertisers may have assumed that free newspapers would result in high demand, at least for that first issue, making their own advertisements sound investments.

James Cunning, a merchant who did business “At the sign of the SPINNING WHEEL, in Third-street,” was among the advertisers who placed notices in the first issue of the Pennsylvania Packet.  He adorned his advertisement with an image of a spinning wheel, replicating the sign that marked his location.  That image, however, was not unique to the Pennsylvania Packet.  It previously appeared in advertisements Cunning placed in the Pennsylvania Journal on October 10 and October 17.  Colonial printers tended to supply stock images of ships, houses, horses, enslaved people, and indentured servants to advertisers, but advertisers who wished to publish other kinds of images had to commission woodcuts that then belonged to them, not the printers.  Three advertisements in the inaugural issue of the Pennsylvania Packet included images of ships at sea, but Cunning’s was the only advertisement with a specialized image keyed to his particular business.  To make that happen, he had to retrieve his woodcut of the spinning wheel from the printing office operated by William Bradford and Thomas Bradford at the corner of Front and Market Streets and deliver it, along with copy for his advertisement, to Dunlap’s “NEWEST PRINTING-OFFICE” on Market Street.  Already in the first issue of the Pennsylvania Packet, Dunlap participated in a longstanding practice of providing stock images for advertisers while also incorporating more specialized woodcuts that advertisers submitted with their copy.

October 29

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

“NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”

As was often the case, the October 29, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal overflowed with advertising.  The first page consisted of the masthead and more than a dozen advertisements, but no news items.  The second page did include those “freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic,” promised in the masthead.  The shipping news from the customs house continued on the third page, but two dozen advertisements filled the vast majority of it.  Nearly two dozen more appeared on the final page, along with a brief column identifying Charles Crouch as the printer at the bottom of the last column.  Crouch received so many advertisements at his printing office on Elliott Street that he issues a two-page supplement that contained about three dozen more advertisements, including Joseph Atkinson’s oversized notice that spread over more than half a page.  Thirteen advertisements about enslaved people ran among the other notices.

To help readers navigate the contents of the newspaper, Crouch inserted headers to identify “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”  The first appeared at the top of the first column on the first page.  When advertising commenced once again on the third page, the “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” header ran once again, directing readers to notices they did not encounter in previous issues.  Midway through the page, however, Crouch transitioned to advertisements already inserted at least once without providing a different header.  Newspapers of the era tended to feature relatively few headlines and headers, so an effort to identify “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” made Crouch’s publication distinctive even though he did not devise other markers to aid readers as they perused the advertising.  Similarly, neither Crouch nor any other printer in the colonies organized advertisements according to purpose or genre.  Instead, advertisements for consumer goods and services, legal notices, advertisements offering rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves, real estate advertisements, and a variety of other kinds of notices ran alongside each other in an undifferentiated amalgamation.  A header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” provided some guidance for readers, but it was a rudimentary classification system.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 29, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

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

Essex Gazette (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).

October 28

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

Pennsylvania Packet (October 28, 1771).

“A GENERAL ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST INDIA GOODS.”

In “PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING BY SUBSCRIPTION, A WEEKLY NEWS-PAPER, ENTITLED, THE PENNSYLVANIA PACKET, AND GENERAL ADVERTISER,” dated October 8, 1771, John Dunlap declared that the newspaper would commence publication on Monday, November 25 “or sooner, if sufficient encouragement should offer.”  That “encouragement” included acquiring both subscribers and advertisers whose fees would support the new enterprise.

Even though printers already published several newspapers – the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Pennsylvania Journal, and the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote – in Philadelphia, Dunlap garnered the attention he needed to launch the Pennsylvania Packet much earlier than expected, four weeks ahead of schedule.  On Monday, October 28, he distributed the first issue.  In a note “TO THE PUBLIC” on the front page, he extended “his most hearty thanks … for the generous encouragement … whereby he is enabled to issue this new publication in about half the time he proposed.”

The front page also included three advertisements, a brief notice in which Lennox and Turnbull promoted their “GENERAL ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST INDIA GOODS,” a lengthy list cataloging the “large and neat Assortment of MERCHANDIZE” sold by John Biddle and Clement Biddle, and a testimonial about Enoch Story’s services as a broker and auctioneer signed by several prominent merchants.  The testimonial, dated May 16, 1771, previously ran in newspapers published in Philadelphia and Annapolis.

Those notices were just a few of many that appeared in the first issue of the Pennsylvania Packet.  Dunlap devoted half of a column on the third page to the shipping news from the customs house and then filled the rest of the page with advertisements.  The fourth page consisted entirely of advertisements and the colophon running across the bottom.  Dunlap even distributed a two-page supplement.  Essays appeared on the front and advertisements, mostly from Dunlap and other printers, on the back.  Dunlap even inserted a brief note to alert readers that “Some Advertisements which came too late, are deferred till next week, when they shall be carefully regarded.”

Many newspapers carried minimal advertising when they first launched.  Advertisers waited to see what kind of reception a publication received before investing in advertising.  They wanted to make sure newspapers had sufficient circulation to justify the expense.  How did Dunlap acquire so many advertisers so quickly?  Some may have responded to the pledge he made in the proposals when he stated that the “first Number shall be given gratis” to prospective subscribers.  Some advertisers may have believed that would yield sufficient circulation to merit placing their notices in the inaugural issue and then assessing whether they wished to continue.  If that was the case, Dunlap and his advertisers mutually benefitted.  The number of advertisements made the new Pennsylvania Packet look like a robust endeavor, one worthy of more subscribers.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 28, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

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

Boston Evening-Post (October 28, 1771).

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Boston-Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 28, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 28, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 28, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 28, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 28, 1771).

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Newport Mercury (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 28, 1771).

October 27

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

Massachusetts Spy (October 24, 1771).

“Neatly engraved … The BOSTON MASSACRE.”

In the fall of 1771, Isaiah Thomas, the printer of the Massachusetts Spy, advertised an almanac for the coming year.  In the October 27 edition of his newspaper, he announced that he published the “Massachusetts CALENDAR; or an ALMANACK, for the year, 1772.”  He deployed several strategies to market the almanac to both retailers and readers.  Like many printers, he listed the contents as a preview for prospective buyers.  In addition to the usual astronomical calculations, this almanac included “Several Select Pieces … On Liberty and Government; Thoughts on Government; On the Culture of Silk,” and other essays.  In addition, it contained poetry and useful tables, including one for calculating interest “on a Entire new Construction.”

Thomas also noted the price, including discounts for retailers and others who bought in volume.  A single copy cost three shillings, but a dozen only twenty-two shillings and six pence.  That meant that anyone who purchased eight copies received four additional copies for free, a pricing scheme that allowed booksellers, shopkeepers, and others to charge competitive prices that still allowed them to generate profits on the sale of the almanac.  In addition, Thomas emphasized that he published “The SECOND Edition,” suggesting that this particular almanac was especially popular among the many choices available to consumers.  Anyone interested in acquiring copies needed to act quickly.

To further entice customers, Thomas also promoted the “FOUR Plates, neatly engraved” that embellished the almanac.  Those images included “The four Seasons, with the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac,” rather standard fare in eighteenth-century almanacs, as well as portraits of “The King of Denmark” and “Mr. Weatherwise,” whose “Prognosticks” appeared among the contents.  Thomas considered one image especially significant, a depiction of “The BOSTON MASSACRE, on the evening of the 5th of March 1770.”  He listed it first and used capital letters to draw attention to this relief cut from an engraving attributed to Paul Revere.  The combination of essays examining “Liberty and Government” and an image of the Boston Massacre made clear that this almanac incorporated a particular political ideology among its contents.  This was an almanac for American patriots who remained vigilant throughout the imperial crisis.

October 26

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

Providence Gazette (October 26, 1771).

“They will be able to sell as cheap as any on the Continent.”

The merchants who advertised in the October 26, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette placed special emphasis on their prices as they competed with each other for customers.  Halsey and Corlis made a rather generic appeal to price, stating that they were “determined to sell at the very lowest Rates,” but other advertisers made more specific claims about their prices that departed from the formulaic language that appeared in so many advertisements of the period.

Several advertisers focused on retailers seeking inventory for their own shops in Providence and the countryside.  Nicholas Brown and Company, for instance, declared that “Town and Country Shop-Keepers may depend on being supplied on as advantageous Terms as by any Importers in New-England.”  Joseph Russell and William Russell provided even more guidance to retailers.  They stressed that they purchased their inventory “in England on the very best Terms.”  That allowed them to “sell at so low an Advance, as will afford to those who buy to sell again, a very good Profit.”  Prospective customers likely realized this also meant that they could better serve their own customers by setting competitive prices.

The partnership of Stewart and Taylor even included a nota bene to draw attention to the prices for the “Variety of ENGLISH and INDIA GOODS” that they “Just Imported from London, Manchester, and Liverpool.”  The merchants proclaimed that they “expect (as one of them has been at the above Places, and purchased their Goods from the Manufacturers) they will be able to sell as cheap as any on the Continent.”  Having traveled to England to negotiate the best bargains, Stewart and Taylor passed along the savings to their customers.  They made a bold claim that consumers would not find better prices anywhere in the colonies.

Even as some advertisers relied on standardized language about low prices in their newspaper advertisements, others engaged readers with more robust descriptions about how they acquired their goods and how that contributed to their own low prices.  Retailers and other customers could compare the accounts presented in the advertisements to determine which merchants were most likely to give them the best deals on their merchandise.

October 25

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

New-London Gazette (October 25, 1771).

“Scarlet, / Crimson, / Brown, / Blue, / Mix’d } Broadcloths.”

In the early 1770s, the New-London Gazette carried less advertising than its counterparts published in the major urban ports.  Newspapers in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia often overflowed with advertising; the printers sometimes resorted to disseminating supplements in order to disseminate all the advertisements.  Those newspapers tended to feature greater variation and innovation in the format of their advertisements.  The New-London Gazette rarely ran more than two pages of advertising, yet occasionally it featured notices that rivaled the advertisements in newspapers from port cities.

Such was the case for John-McClarren Breed’s advertisement in the October 25, 1771, edition of the New-London Gazette.  It listed scores of items available at his store in Norwich, but rather than dense paragraphs of text, the most common format in any newspaper (and especially those printed in smaller towns), it divided the space into two columns with only one item on each line.  Items of similar sorts appeared together.  For example, Breed carried several different kinds of locks.  Each of them – “Chest, Cupboard, Desk, Till, Pad” – had its own line, with a bracket that extended five lines to the right and the word “Locks” printed only once.  The advertisement utilized the same style for various sorts of broadcloths, handkerchiefs, and hinges.  Visually, this communicated choices for consumers while also adding an unusual element to attract attention.  In the final portion of the advertisement, Breed listed more than two dozen books that he stocked, once again dividing them into two columns with one title or genre per line.

Breed carried an assortment of goods similar to the inventory prospective customers expected in any shop in the largest ports.  His advertising also looked as though it could have appeared in a newspaper published in Boston or New York.  The design guided readers through the contents, helping them locate items of interest much more easily than paragraphs of crowded text that required closer attention.  When it came to graphic design, Breed’s advertisement was an outlier in the New-London Gazette in the early 1770s, but it also testified to what was possible for advertisers to achieve in the public prints, even in smaller towns.