September 25

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

Postscript to the Maryland Journal (September 25, 1773).

“At the Sign of the CUP and CROWN … in BALTIMORE.”

William Goddard quickly gained advertisers for the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, the city’s first newspaper, when he commenced publication in August 1773.  So many advertisers submitted notices to the printing office that a two-page supplement accompanied the sixth issue.  That Postscript contained advertising exclusively.  In addition, paid notices filled the entire final page of the standard four-page edition, along with a couple advertisements below the prices current on the third page.  A lengthy list of winning tickets and prizes from the Frederick Street Lottery, likely also a paid advertisement, occupied the first page.  Christopher Hughes and Company, “GOLDSMITHS and JEWELLERS, At the Sign of the CUP and CROWN,” joined many others in using the new publication to market goods and services or disseminate information that did not appear among the articles and editorials selected by the editor.

The publication of the Maryland Journal, published on Saturdays, shifts the contours of the Adverts 250 Project.  The project currently incorporates approximately two dozen newspapers published in 1773 and subsequently digitized to make them more accessible.  Of those many newspapers, however, only the Providence Gazette was published on Saturdays.  Once a week, that made the Providence Gazette the only option for selecting an advertisement to feature on the Adverts 250 Project.  That allowed for examining that newspaper, as well as the city and the region it served, in greater depth, but it also resulted in disproportionate representation of the Providence Gazette, one out of seven entries on the Adverts 250 Project, relative to the total number of digitized newspapers currently available.  On occasion, this also significantly narrowed the choices in issues with few advertisements or with many advertisements previously featured on the Adverts 250 Project as a result of running for several weeks.

Goddard published the Maryland Journal on Saturdays for less than a year.  That means that my opportunity to consult both the Maryland Journal and the Providence Gazette when selecting which advertisement to feature will be temporary, but I plan to make good use of that opportunity while it lasts.  In addition, America’s Historical Newspapers provides access to the Maryland Journal into the 1790s, which means that the newspaper will continue to be part of the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project long “after” publication shifts to other days of the week.

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