What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Dancing & Fencing.”
“THE Sign of the Golden Cup.”
Mr. Pike, a dancing master, and Thomas You, a silversmith, both used graphic design to draw attention to their advertisements in the October 8, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, yet they adopted different strategies. Their notices further enlivened the vibrant graphic design that distinguished notices in that newspaper from those that ran in other newspapers. The compositor for the South-Carolina Gazette made liberal use of varying font sizes, gothic letters for headlines, italics, capitals, and centering compared to advertisements.
That being the case, the compositor may have played a role in how the dancing master used decorative type and gothic letters to enhance his advertisement. The headline “Dancing & Fencing” in gothic letters appeared inside a border composed of printing ornaments above a secondary headline spread over three lines: “PIKE’s ACADEMY / for / DANCING and FENCING.” Compare that to a similar advertisement that Pike ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. It featured only one headline, “DANCING and FENCING,” that did not appear in a different font than the rest of the advertisement. Rather than constituting a second headline, “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” was part of the first paragraph of the advertisement. An enterprising compositor at the South-Carolina Gazette likely played a significant role in designing Pike’s advertisement, perhaps assuming full responsibility without consulting the advertiser.
On the other hand, You almost certainly submitted instructions to include a woodcut depicting a golden cup in his advertisement for the merchandise he sold at the “Sign of the Golden Cup.” You commissioned that image for his exclusive use, previously inserting it in advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette in December 1770 and March 1771. Prior to that, he used a different woodcut in his advertisements in December 1766 and July 1767. He seemed to appreciate that images helped draw attention to his notices. How to incorporate an image, however, he may have left to the discretion of the compositor. In 1772, his woodcut of a golden cup appeared in the center, flanked by his name and location. In earlier advertisements, it was positioned to the left, replicating the placement of woodcuts depicting ships that adorned other notices.
The advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette testify to both the role of the compositor in designing newspaper notices and occasional collaboration or consultation involving both the compositor and the advertiser. Rather than dense text, variations abounded in the advertisements in that newspaper, making the South-Carolina Gazette one of the most visually interesting publications in the early 1770s.