What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“THE Printer of this Paper … will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work.”
Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, included a brief note in the June 8, 1773, to alert readers and, especially, advertisers that “Advertisements omitted this Week, for want of Room, shall be in our next.” Despite that “want of Room,” Crouch found space to run six of his own notices. Some of them concerned the business of running the newspaper, while others advertised goods and services available at the printing office.
In tending to the operations of the newspaper, Crouch requested that “ALL Persons who may favour the Printer of this Gazette with their Advertisements … send the CASH with them, except where he owes Money, or has a running Account.” Crouch suggested that “will prevent disagreeable Circumstances, as well as Trouble.” He also prepared to address some of those “disagreeable Circumstances” with recalcitrant subscribers. In another notice, he informed “ALL Persons in Charles-Town, who are in Arrears for this GAZETTE, to the first of January last, HAVE THIS PUBLIC NOTICE given them, that in the Course of this Month, they will be waited upon by my Apprentice, for Payment.” Printers throughout the colonies often ran notices calling on delinquent subscribers to settle accounts, sometimes threatening legal action. Few mentioned having their apprentices attempt to collect payment, but many likely tried that strategy as well.
In other advertisements, Crouch attempted to generate business at the printing office. He advised that the “Printer of this Paper, being supplied with plenty of Hands, will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work, let it be ever so large.” Prospective customers could depend on job printing orders “be[ing] correctly and expeditiously executed, and on reasonable terms.” In another advertisement, the printer hawked “Shop and Waste PAPER, to be sold at Crouch’s Printing-Office, in Elliott-street.” He also tried to generate interest in surplus copies of “THOMAS MORE’s ALMANACK, for the Year 1773.” Though nearly half the year had passed, Crouch emphasized contents that readers could reference throughout the year, including “a List of Public Officers in this Province; a List of Justices for Charles-Town District; excellent Notes of Husbandry and Gardening, for each Month in the Year; [and] Descriptions of Roads throughout the Continent.” At the end of that advertisement, Crouch appended a note that he also stocked copies of “BUCHAN’s Family Physician.” In a final advertisement, the printer tended to the health of readers with products unrelated to the printing trade. He announced that he just imported a variety of popular patent medicines, including a “Fresh Parcel of Dr. KEYSER’s genuine Pills,” “Dr. RYAN’s Incomparable Worm Destroying Sugar Plumbs,” and “Dr. JAMES’s Fever Powders.” Like many other printers, Crouch sold patent medicines as an additional revenue stream.
An item that could be considered a seventh advertisement from the printer even found its way into the local news. Immediately above the entries of vessels arriving and departing the busy port provided by the customs house, a short note stated, “Those GENTLEMEN who subscribed with the Printer hereof, for the AMERICAN EDITION of BLACKSTONE’s COMMENTARIES on the LAWS of ENGLAND, are requested to apply for the Fourth Volume, and the Appendix.” Crouch served as a local agent on behalf of the publisher, Robert Bell in Philadelphia.
Crouch claimed that a “want of Room” prevented him from publishing all of the advertisements received in his printing office, yet he managed to include many of his own notices in the June 8, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He exercised his prerogative as printer in shaping the contents of that issue, an act that potentially frustrated some advertisers who expected to see their notices in the public prints. Given that just a few months earlier Crouch emphasized his “REAL Want of his Money,” he may have considered that a necessary gamble in his efforts to continue operations at his printing office on Elliott Street in Charleston.