Slavery Advertisements Published February 24, 1772

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 colonizers 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. Colonizers 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-Gazette (February 24, 1772).

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Boston-Gazette (February 24, 1772).

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Boston-Gazette (February 24, 1772).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 24, 1772).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 24, 1772).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 24, 1772).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 24, 1772).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 24, 1772).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 24, 1772).

February 23

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

New-York Journal (February 20, 1772).

“Watches regulated, and such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”

For the past three years, the Adverts 250 Project has tracked newspaper advertisements placed by John Simnet, a “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London,” first in the New-Hampshire Gazette during the period that he lived and worked in Portsmouth in 1769 and 1770 and then in newspapers published in New York after he migrated to that city.  Simnet often promoted his years of experience working in London in his advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette, but he also pursued a nasty public feud with one of his competitors.  That may have contributed to his decision to leave Portsmouth in favor of New York.

In a new city, Simnet adopted a much less aggressive approach in his advertising.  He deployed a variety of marketing strategies that did not focus on denigrating other watchmakers, though he did suggest that he possessed greater skill than any of his rivals.  In an advertisement that ran for the first time in the February 20, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he trumpeted that he “had more practice, and general knowledge on new work [the mechanisms in watches] than any yet in this country could have.”  Drawing on his long experience and superior expertise, he provided a service to anyone considering buying, selling, or repairing watches.  Simnet offered to examine watches and inform the owners or prospective buyers of “the first cost, or value of any new, or old watch.”  Once they knew the value of watches “with certainty,” they could make informed decisions about buying, selling, or repairing watches.

To generate business and enhance his reputation, Simnet also declared that he made “such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”  For those jobs that did involve more time and attention, he stated that he “will clean them, fit glasses, springs, inside chains; and perform every particular article in repairing, at half the price, charg’d by any other.”  Perhaps Simnet discovered that bargain prices brought more customers to his shop “At the Dial … beside the Coffee-House Bridge” than cantankerous diatribes that insulted his competitors.  In this advertisement, he focused on his own skill, asserting that customers could depend on his work keeping their watches in good order for quite some time instead of having them become “an annual or continual expence.”  Simnet attempted to leverage his skill and experience “To the Advantage of those who wear WATCHES” as well as his own benefit in earning a livelihood through providing various services.

February 22

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

Providence Gazette (February 22, 1772).

“He has acquired such an Art in building Chimnies, that he will warrant all he sall hereafter build to carry Smoke in the best Manner.”

Artisans of all sorts often promoted their years of experience when they placed advertisements in American newspapers in the eighteenth century.  Such was the case for Amos Horton, a bricklayer in Providence.  In an advertisement that first ran in the February 15, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette, Horton invoked his “long Experience in the Bricklayer’s Business.”  That “long Experience” prompted him to incorporate an additional marketing strategy into his notice.  Horton offered a guarantee.

The bricklayer proclaimed that he “has acquired such an Art in building Chimnies, that he will warrant all he shall hereafter build to carry Smoke in the best Manner.”  The guarantee, however, came with conditions.  Horton specified that “if any one Chimney in any Stack he shall build after the 15th of February, 1772, fails in carrying Smoke after the best Manner, that then he will deduct out of his Charge for building such Stack, the Value of building such particular Chimney.”  What constituted “carrying Smoke after the best Manner” remained a matter of interpretation, but offering a guarantee of any sort may have helped Horton garner attention.  It likely made prospective clients favorably inclined toward his work before hiring him while also providing reassurances that the bricklayer would address concerns if his chimneys did not meet with their satisfaction.

Furthermore, Horton put his reputation on the line.  After making such a proclamation, published in the public prints on several occasions, he was obligated to honor it.  Not doing so had the potential to damage his reputation and prevent additional clients from hiring him than if he never issued any sort of guarantee at all.  Word-of-mouth critiques of the bricklayer and his chimneys had the potential to outweigh any promises he made in notices that ran in the Providence Gazette.  Adhering to the promise he published in his advertisement became part of his record of customer service.

February 21

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

Connecticut Journal (February 21, 1772).

Can be afforded cheaper than if purchased in Boston or New York.”

In February 1772, Isaac Beers and Elias Beers took to the pages of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy to advertise “a small Assortment of GOODS” they recently imported from London.  They listed some textiles, promising as well “a general Assortment of Articles in the Cloathing Way.”  They concluded their advertisement with a note that they sold their wares “at the very lowest Rates.”  A manicule drew attention to that proclamation.

The shopkeepers provided additional commentary about price intended to convince prospective customers to shop at their store rather than seek out alternatives.  “As we imported the above Goods immediately from London,” they explained, “they undoubtedly can be afforded cheaper than if purchased in Boston or New York.”  Residents of New Haven and nearby towns did not need to visit one of the bustling port cities or send away to shopkeepers there in order to benefit from the best bargains.  The higher volume of shipping that arrived in Boston and New York did not necessarily mean that consumers in those cities had access to better deals, at least not according to the Beerses.  In addition, they managed to keep prices low at their store in New Haven because they did not acquire their merchandise via wholesalers in Boston and New York.  Receiving their goods “immediately from London” eliminated a round of markups.

Readers did not need to look beyond New Haven for the best prices.  The Beerses underscored that point when they asserted that they “are determined to sell [the above Goods] as low as they possibly can be afforded.”  They were not the only entrepreneurs to make appeals to price in Connecticut Journal, but they did provide the most extensive explanation to demonstrate how they managed to keep prices low for their customers.  In so doing, they acknowledged that consumers assessed the claims made in newspaper advertisements and made careful choices when shopping.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 21, 1772

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 colonizers 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. Colonizers 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.

New-Hampshire Gazette (February 21, 1772).

February 20

GUEST CURATOR:  Blue Gabriel

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

Massachusetts Spy (February 20, 1772).

“All sorts of Mathematical Instruments are made and repaired by the above WILLIAMS.”

As I read through all of the newspapers for my week as guest curator, I aw advertisements for perishable goods or clothing items such as linens and other fabrics. This advertisement for “MATHEMATICAL INSTRUMENTS” caught my eye because it was so different. I became more and more interested in in this “Mathematical Instrument Maker” and his life during the eighteenth century.

William Williams started making and repairing mathematical instruments and clocks in 1770, according to Silvio A. Bedini. His shop was called “The Little Admiral” because of a carved figure that marked its location. Bedini notes that Williams served in the American Revolution “as a private in Captain Mills’ company, of Col. Jeduthan Baldwin’s regiment of artificers, during the years 1777-1779.  In 1780 he served in Captain Pattin’s company of General Knox’s artillery, which was stationed at West Point.”[1]

In addition to the mathematical instruments that he made and sold, Williams also sold general goods such as “Journal Books, Ink-powder, Quills and Paper, … and plated Shoe and Knee Buckles.” The nonimportation agreement adopted by the town of Boston on August 1, 1768, restricted importing British goods in response to the duties that Parliament placed on some goods. When the nonimportation agreement ended, Williams sold imported goods.  Shopkeepers, artisans, and other colonists wanted to participate in the consumer revolution.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

One of my favorite parts of inviting students in my classes to serve as guest curators for the Adverts 250 Project is seeing which advertisements they select, what part of each advertisement they choose to research in greater detail, and the sources they consult in their research.  Blue decided to focus on the biography of the advertiser, William Williams, just as Dillon Escandon did in an advertisement placed by Henry Knox, a bookseller, featured on the Adverts 250 Project a week ago.  Williams and Knox may have crossed paths in Boston prior to the American Revolution.  Blue determined that they did indeed have a connection at West Point in 1780.

Between them, Blue and Dillon researched three people mentioned in their advertisements:  Henry Knox, William Williams, and Captain Cazneau.  Their research yielded some interesting insights about how much we can learn about the advertisers whose names appeared in the pages of eighteenth-century newspapers.  Dillon had little difficulty finding information about Henry Knox, a bookseller who became a prominent general in the Continental Army and the first Secretary of War after the American Revolution.  It took a bit more work for Blue to locate biographical information about William Williams, the mathematical instrument maker.  Their research led them to a bulletin about Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers written by Silvio A. Bedini, curator of mechanical and civil engineering at the Smithsonian Institution, and published in 1964.  Williams was one of just over a dozen instrument makers with brief biographies in Bedini’s bulletin.  That bulletin is now available via Project Gutenberg.  Captain Cazneau was the most elusive of the people mentioned in the advertisements Blue and Dillon examined.  Dillon managed to find references to the captain in correspondence between Thomas Digges and John Adams, but very little information compared to what Bedini’s bulletin provided about Williams.  The National Archives provided access to a transcription of the letter from Digges to Adams.

Between them, Blue and Dillon demonstrated the possible outcomes of researching eighteenth-century advertisers and the people mentioned in their newspaper notices.  For some of them who achieved fame or influence, including Henry Knox, historians and scholars have already compiled extensive biographies.  Others, like Captain Cazneau, remain obscure.  Even with painstaking research, it may not be possible to recover significantly more information about Cazneau.  William Williams falls somewhere in the middle.  An historian and curator consulted a variety of primary sources, including multiple newspaper advertisements, to piece together a brief biography.  From my perspective as the instructor for Blue and Dillon’s Revolutionary America class, that may have been the most interesting case because Bedini succinctly demonstrated both how much we can learn about this mathematical instrument maker and how many different kinds of primary sources contributed to the biography he constructed.

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[1] Silvio A. Bedini, Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1964), 95.

Welcome, Guest Curator Blue Gabriel

Blue Gabriel is a sophomore double majoring in Elementary Education and History at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Always having an interest in education, they wish to focus on students with learning disabilities. Academically, they have written a capstone research paper on students with learning disabilities in elementary schools. Their historical interests include ancient civilizations, cultural influences, and religion. They have traveled, allowing themselves to be exposed to multiple cultures.  Blue made their contributions to the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project while enrolled in HIS 359 Revolutionary America, 1763-1815, in Fall 2021.

Welcome, guest curator Blue Gabriel!

Slavery Advertisements Published February 20, 1772

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 colonizers 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. Colonizers 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 (February 20, 1772).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (February 20, 1772).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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Pennsylvania Journal (February 20, 1772).

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Pennsylvania Journal (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 20, 1772).

February 19

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

Boston Evening-Post (February 17, 1772).

“On as low Terms as at any Store in BOSTON.”

The partnership of Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers made low prices one of the focal points of their advertising in a notice that ran in the February 17, 1772, edition of the Boston Evening-Post.  Most newspaper advertisements of the era featured the names of the advertisers as headlines, if they included headlines at all, but in this case “Amorys, Taylor and Rogers” constituted a secondary headline.  Their advertisement commenced with a primary headline that proclaimed, “GOODS EXTREMELY CHEAP.”

The partners then developed that theme in a nota bene that preceded a lengthy list of their inventory that extended three-quarters of a column.  They offered their wares wholesale to retailers, both “Country Shopkeepers” and “Town Shopkeepers.”  Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers explained that they offered their customers low prices because they acquired “almost every Kind of Goods usually imported from Great Britain … immediately from the Manufacturors.”  In other words, they did not deal with English merchants whose intervention tended to inflate prices.  By eliminating those middlemen, Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers kept prices down for American retailers.  In turn, those retailers could generate business by setting their own low prices for their customers.

The partners underscored that they offered the best bargains.  They pledged that “Country Shopkeepers may be supplied at any Time with what Goods they want, and on as low Terms as at any Store in BOSTON.”  Those “Country Shopkeepers” had many choices of merchants supplying retailers with imported goods in that bustling port city, but Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers indicated that they matched the prices of any of their competitors.  In addition, “Town Shopkeepers … who usually import their Goods, may have them on such Terms as may answer them as well as importing.”  Retailers in Boston would not find better deals through corresponding with English merchants, especially since Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers had their goods shipped “immediately from the Manufacturors.”

Low prices played an important role in marketing imported goods among both wholesalers and retailers in eighteenth-century Boston.  Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers explained at some length how they were able to part with their goods “EXTREMELY CHEAP,” hoping to attract the attention of retailers looking to set low prices of their own and pass along the savings to consumers.  That merchants and shopkeepers promoted low prices comes as no surprise, but the commentary about prices that sometimes appeared in newspaper advertisements demonstrates that some advertisers made deliberate efforts to engage prospective customers rather than passively announcing low prices and expecting that would be sufficient to generate business.

February 18

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

Essex Gazette (February 18, 1772).

“ADVERTISEMENTS not exceeding eight or ten Lines are inserted for Three Shillings.”

How much did advertising cost?  How much did advertising cost compared to subscriptions?  These are some of the most common questions I encounter when discussing eighteenth-century advertising at conferences and public presentations.  The answer is complicated, in part because most eighteenth-century printers did not list advertising rates or subscription fees in their newspapers.  A significant minority, however, did regularly publish that information in the colophon that ran at the bottom of the final page.

Such was the case with Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall, printers of the Essex Gazette in Salem, Massachusetts, in the early 1770s.  Over the course of two lines, the colophon in their newspaper announced, “THIS GAZETTE may be had for Six Shillings and Eight Pence per Annum (exclusive of Postage) 3s. 4d. (or 4s. 6d. if sent by the Post) to be paid at Entrance.  ADVERTISEMENTS not exceeding eight or ten Lines are inserted for Three Shillings.”  The colophon revealed how much the Halls charged for subscriptions and advertising as well as other business practices.

Subscribers paid six shillings and eight pence per year, but that did not include postage for delivering the newspapers.  The printers expected subscribers to pay half, three shillings and four pence, in advance.  Like many other eighteenth-century entrepreneurs, the Halls extended credit to their customers.  Newspaper subscribers were notorious for not paying for their subscriptions, as demonstrated in the frequent notices calling on subscribers to settle accounts placed in newspapers throughout the colonies, prompting the Halls to require half from the start.  They asked for even more, four shillings and six pence, from subscribers who lived far enough away that they received their newspapers via the post, though the colophon does make clear if the additional shilling covered postage.  The Halls may have charged a higher deposit because they considered it more difficult to collect from subscribers at a distance.

Short advertisements, those “not exceeding eight or ten Lines,” cost three shillings or nearly half what an annual subscription cost.  Other printers specified that they adjusted advertising rates “in proportion” to length.  The Halls likely did so as well, making the cost of an advertisement that extended twenty lines about the same as a subscription.  They did not specify in the colophon that they required payment before running advertisements.  Some printers made that their policy but apparently made exceptions.  When they inserted notices calling on subscribers to send payment, they sometimes addressed advertisers.  For many eighteenth-century printers, advertising generated significant revenue. Considering that a single advertisement could cost as much or more as an annual subscription in the Essex Gazette, the Halls had good reason to cultivate advertisers as well as subscribers.