What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Advertisements omitted this Week, for want of Room, shall be in our next.”
Charles Crouch had more content than would fit in the September 29, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. To resolve the dilemma, he inserted a notice advising that “Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to give Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular notice in our next.” The following week, the October 6 edition consisted almost entirely of advertising. A header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” ran at the top of the first column on the first page. Advertisements filled all three columns on that page. Another header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” appeared midway down the final column of the second page. The first two and half columns featured news items, but the remainder of the second column as well as the entire third and fourth pages consisted entirely of advertising. Crouch presumably made sure that “Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” that he omitted in the previous issue did indeed run in the October 6 edition.
Still, he found himself once again in the position of not having sufficient space to publish all of the advertisements received in the printing office. He inserted a notice at the bottom of the final column on the third page: “Advertisements omitted this Week, for want of Room, shall be in our next.” Why did the notice appear there instead of the bottom of the last page? Understanding the process for producing newspapers on manually-operated presses reveals the answer. A standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (and other colonial newspapers) consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. Printers often produced the first and last pages first. After the ink dried, they then printed the second and third pages on the other side of the sheet. In his effort to give the advertisements omitted the previous week “particular Notice” in the October 6 edition, Crouch printed them first, placing them on the first page. Other new advertisements also ran on the fourth page, interspersed with notices that appeared in previous editions. Crouch made publishing all of those advertisements a priority. He also made advertisements a priority for the second and third pages, though he realized that subscribers who expected to receive news would not be satisfied with an issue that served solely as a mechanism for delivering advertisements. He opted for a couple of columns of news on the second page before filling the rest of the newspaper with advertisements. The notice at the bottom of the final column on the third page would have been the last of the type set and placed into position for the October 6 edition once Crouch determined that he did not have space for all the advertisements he intended to publish.
Crouch did have other options. He could have produced an advertising supplement to accompany the September 29 edition or the October 6 edition or both. He may have decided, however, that he did not have enough additional content to warrant doing so. He may not have had the time to print a supplement. He may not have considered doing so worth the resources required. He apparently believed that advertisers would be patient with a short delay, though he made certain to acknowledge that he owed them space in his newspaper.