October 5

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 5, 1772).

“THEIR WHITE and COLOURED PLAINS, which coming, as usual, from the first Hands, the quality will recommend itself.”

Robert Wells, the printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, may have experienced a disruption in his paper supply in October 1772.  That would explain the unusual format of the October 5 edition.  The newspaper usually featured four columns per page.  The October 5 edition did indeed have four columns on each page, but one of those columns was narrower than the other three.  In order to reuse advertisements with type already set, Wells rotated the text ninety degrees to fill the fourth column with six short columns that ran perpendicular to the rest of the text.  In the past, he had sometimes adopted this strategy when forced to use paper of a different size than usual.  Wells usually selected short advertisements and left them intact.  In contrast, this time he used advertisements that overflowed from one column to another in the October 5 edition.

Whether Wells was forced to do so remains a mystery, due in part to working with digitized images of the newspaper rather than original documents.  Digitized images do not have any particular dimensions.  They fit the size of the screen of the viewer.  They can be magnified to see details betters.  They do not have a fixed size the reader can measure.  As a result, I cannot measure pages of the September 28 and October 5 editions to compare them.  An inspection of one visual aspect further suggests that Wells used a slightly smaller sheet on October 5.  There does not appear to be as much space between the title of the newspaper and the page number running across the top on pages from October 5 compared to pages from September 28.

Those page numbers introduce another uncertainty into figuring out why Wells might have decided to distribute an edition with an unusual format.  The September 28 edition concluded with page 244.  The available pages for the October 5 edition commence with page 249.  It does not have the standard masthead.  This was not a numbering error. Page 249 includes “EUROPEAN INTELLIGENCE. (Continued from Page 246.)”  The four pages with a narrow column of perpendicular text were likely an insert that accompanied the standard issue for the week.  Did Wells use the usual size sheet for the standard issue and then a slightly smaller size for the insert?  Printers sometimes did so with significantly smaller sheets when they did not have sufficient content to fill pages of the usual size, but these pages were not significantly smaller.  Rotating the type and breaking advertisements that previously appeared in a single column into shorter segments that ran in multiple columns seems like unnecessary labor when Wells could have instead inserted more “EUROPEAN INTELLEIGENCE” or “AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE” or even inserted an advertisement from a previous edition gratis to fill the space.

The combination of the missing pages and working with digital surrogates make it difficult to know for certain why Wells adopted an unusual format for the October 5 edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Did that format work to the advantage of advertisers?  Did it draw attention to the items in the column set perpendicular to the rest of the page?  Readers may indeed have been curious to discover what kind of content ran along the edges.

Page 250: South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 5, 1772).

October 4

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

New-York Journal (October 1, 1772).

“The surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale … is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance.”

Richard Deane, “DISTILLER, from “LONG-ISLAND,” considered experience one of the best markers of quality for the spirits that he sold in New York.  He stocked “a Quantity of neat Brandy, Geneva, Spirits of Wine, and Cordials of different Sorts” as well as “the very best Quality” shrub and New York rum.  In an advertisement in the October 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, he attempted to leverage a precursor to name recognition or brand recognition, stating that the “good Quality of said DEANE’s Brandy, Geneva, and Cordials, has for several Years past been well experienced” by satisfied customers.  In turn, he redoubled his efforts “to excel in that particular Branch of Business” to further enhance his distillery’s reputation.

Deane elaborated on his business philosophy in a note that concluded his advertisement, confiding that he was “fully convinced by long Experience, that the surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale of the above Articles, is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance, which, with every other Endeavour to give Satisfaction, will be the constant Study, of the Public’s very obliged humble Servant.”  A manicule drew attention to the distiller’s promise to combine high quality, reasonable prices, and excellent customer service.  In many ways, Deane’s marketing strategy anticipated those deployed by breweries and distilleries today.  Many modern companies link their beers and spirits to traditions that date back to previous centuries, invoking a heritage their founders passed down through generations.  They invoke “long Experience” to encourage consumers to feel as though they participate in customs of significance when they imbibe beverages from their breweries or distilleries.  That “long Experience” also testifies to quality.  After all, breweries and distilleries would not remain in business so long if generations of customers did not appreciate their beers and spirits.  The philosophy that Dean expounded at the conclusion of his advertisement in the New-York Journal is the type of historical record that modern advertising executives would love to exploit in connection to the products they market.

October 3

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 3, 1772).

“To particularize the Articles, in an Advertisements, would be too extensive for Publication in a News-Paper.”

Lengthy advertisements often appeared in the pages of colonial newspapers.  Merchants and shopkeepers promoted the choices they made available to customers by listing many of the goods that they stocked.  In some cases, those lists were so extensive that they operated as catalogs embedded in newspapers.  For instance, George Bartram listed scores of items available at his “Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE” in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Chronicle several times in the fall of 1772.  It filled half a column.

Not every advertiser, however, adopted that strategy.  In their own advertisement in the October 3, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Hugh Roberts and George Roberts declared that they carried “Ironmongery and Brass Wares, In the most extensive Branches” as well as “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF Copper Ware, India Metal Ware, Jappanned Ware, and Cutlery” at their “WARE-HOUSE” in Philadelphia.  Like Bartram, they oversaw a warehouse rather than a shop or store, such a name suggesting vast arrays of merchandise gathered in one place.  Unlike Bartram, the Robertses did not go into more detail about their merchandise.  Instead, they proclaimed that the “Ironmongery, Brass, and other Wares, at the said Warehouse, consist of so great a Variety of Sets, Patterns, and Workmanship, that, to particularize the Articles, in an Advertisement, would be too extensive for Publication in a News-Paper.”  Even an abbreviated list, like the one in Bartram’s advertisement immediately below the Robertses’ advertisement, would have been inadequate.

The Robertses challenged readers to imagine what they might encounter on a visit to their “WARE-HOUSE” to browse their “LARGE ASSORTMENT” and “extensive inventory,” hoping that would be as effective as publishing a lengthy list.  This clever strategy may have also been a means of saving money on advertising.  After all, advertisers paid by the amount of space their notices occupied.  The Robertses’ advertisement accounted for approximately a third as much space as Bartram’s notice.  Both strategies did more than merely announce the availability of goods.  They made consumer choice a central component of shopping at both warehouses in Philadelphia.

October 2

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 2, 1772).

“His customers may depend on having their ware packed in the best manner.”

Ebenezer Bridgham sold “Crockery Ware” and other goods at his “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House” on King Street in Boston in the early 1770s.  In an advertisement in the October 2, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he declared that he imported his merchandise “directly from the Pot-Houses in Staffordshire and Liverpool” rather than purchasing from English merchants.  Fewer links in the supply chain meant fewer markups for his inventory.  Bridgham passed along the savings to his customers, making bold claims about his prices.  He trumpeted that he sold his wares “as low as they can be bought in London,” adding that he was “determined not to be UNDERSOLD by any person in America.”

Bridgham made that assertion in the midst of his attempts to create a regional market for the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House.”  In a sense, every newspaper advertiser engaged a regional market since newspapers circulated far beyond the cities where they were published, usually serving entire colonies before the American Revolution.  Bridgham, however, intentionally placed advertisements in newspapers throughout New England.  In addition to Portsmouth’s New-Hampshire Gazette, he also advertised in Salem’s Essex Gazette, the Providence Gazette, Hartford’s Connecticut Courant, and the New-London Gazette.  Bridgham aimed to provide shopkeepers throughout the region with an assortment of merchandise for their own shops.  He expected that his “resolution” not to be “UNDERSOLD by any person in America” resonated with “his former good customers” who he hoped would “continue to favour him with their custom.”  In turn, invoking former customers signaled to new customers that Bridgham merited their orders since he already established and successfully served a clientele.

As evidence of his attention to the needs of his customers, he emphasized more than low prices for an incredible array of choiuces among the “full & complete assortment of Delph, Flint and Glass Ware” at the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House.”  In a nota bene, Bridgham announced that he “lately procur’d packers from England” so “his customers may depend on having their ware packed in the best manner.”  They did not need to worry about receiving broken goods shipped to their towns throughout New England.  Bridgham believed that this ancillary service aided his efforts to serve a regional market, one that extended beyond Boston and beyond Massachusetts.

October 1

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

New-York Journal (October 1, 1772).

“I think it my duty to declare, that they are a curious, expeditious and elegant contrivance.”

The October 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal included an advertisement for a “MACHINE to dress FLOUR.”  The inventor, John Milne, or his son explained that the king “has been pleased to grant … his royal letters patent, for all his colonies in America, &c. for the sole making and vending” of this new machine.  In turn, the Milnes declared that the “said machines are to be sold by JOHN MILNE, and Co. at their house in Manchester; or by applying to James Milne (son of the said John Milne)” in New York.  They also described how this machine “not only make[s] the flour look better, but also … will dispatch three times as much business in the same time, as the common method of bolting with cloths.”  They went into detail about the greater efficiency of the machine compared to more familiar methods that relied on bolting cloths, underscoring that the efficiency resulted in savings.  Overall, Milne’s machines “are much cheaper” than the alternative.  In addition, he produced machines for cleaning wheat, barley, and other grains that removed seeds and gave “brightness and lustre to the grain.”

Rather than ask prospective customers to trust only in the inventor’s description and the “royal letters patent,” the Milnes provided two testimonials from satisfied customers near New York.  Jacob Sebring, Jr., noted that he used the machines at his mill on Long Island, “where they are now to be seen at work.”  Based on his experience with the new machines, he considered them “a curious, expeditious and elegant contrivance” … that “will answer every purpose for which they are designed, and likewise be of great service to the publick.”  Similarly, Derick Brinckerhoff of “Fish-Kills, Dutchess County” wrote that he “found Mr. Milne’s machine answer the purposes of bolting for which they are intended; infinitely better than the old method of doing it with cloths.”  He confirmed some of the claims made by the inventor, stating that the machines “really bolt three times as quick without the least exaggeration.”  He offered his endorsement “for the good of the community, and particularly to those who are manufacturers of flour.”  Both Brinckerhoff and Sebring positioned their testimonials as a public service rather than a commercial appeal.  Sebring even invoked his “duty” to share his experience with others who would benefit from acquiring Milne’s machine.

The Milnes realized that prospective customers might doubt the veracity of their claims about the efficiency of this invention, even with the “royal letters patent” granted by the king.  To answer doubts, they enlisted others who already had experience with the machine to provide testimonials that confirmed that they accurately represented their product’s capabilities.  They hoped that such endorsements would aid in making sales in the colonies once prospective customers learned that others had positive experiences with the new machines.

September 30

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 30, 1772).

“WILLIAM SMITH, HAS removed his Medicinal Store from Front-street.”

In the fall of 1772, William Smith placed newspaper advertisements to inform the public that he recently moved yet “continues to carry on the Drug Business.”  He invited customers to visit his “Medicinal Store” at his new location, the Rising Sun on Second Street in Philadelphia.  He pledged that he was “determined always to pay particular attention to the quality of his medicines, and hopes by his care and fidelity to render full satisfaction to Practitioners in Physic, and others, who may please to favour him with their custom.”

In an effort to enlarge his share of the market, Smith placed the same advertisement in multiple newspapers.  On Wednesday, September 30, it ran in both the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal.  Later in the week, it also appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on Saturday, October 3.  The advertisements in the three newspapers featured identical copy, though the compositors made different decisions about format, including font sizes and capitalization.

Smith did not choose to place his advertisement in the city’s remaining English-language newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet, on Monday, October 5, nor did he insert it in the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote for the benefit of German-speaking residents in and near Philadelphia.  The printer, had a standing offer in the masthead that “AllADVERTISEMENTS to be inserted in this Paper, or printed single, by HENRY MILLER, Publisher hereof, are by him translated gratis,” but Smith did not avail himself of that service.  Perhaps the apothecary felt that advertising in three newspapers was sufficient.  Perhaps he spent as much as he considered prudent on marketing so opted to forego the other two newspapers.

Whatever the reason, Smith aimed for a greater level of market saturation than advertising in just one publication allowed.  That may have been especially important to him considering that he ran his shop from a new location.  He did not want customers to experience any frustration upon visiting his former location and then decide to visit competitors who continued to do business in familiar locations.  After all, Robert Bass and Townsend Speakman, both prolific advertisers, continued operating their own apothecary shops on Market Street.  Smith did not wish to lose customers to either of them, making his advertisements in three newspapers a sound investment.

September 29

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 29, 1772).

“Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular Notice taken of them in our next.”

Advertising could appear anywhere in colonial American newspapers, even on the front page.  In fact, some newspapers often devoted the entire front page to the masthead and advertising.  Others placed both news and advertising on the front page.  The distribution of items selected by the printer and paid notices submitted by advertisers varied from week to week in many newspapers.

Such was the case for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, printed by Charles Crouch.  Consider the September 29, 1772, edition.  Like other issues, it consisted of four pages crested by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half.  The first two pages contained news from London that arrived earlier in the week.  The shipping news from the customs house indicated that the Mermaid from London entered port on September 24.  The New Market, also from London, arrived a day later.  That gave Crouch plenty of time to receive newspapers and letters from both ships, read through them, and choose which items to print before publishing a new weekly edition on September 29.  He reserved advertising for the third and fourth pages, marking some notices with a header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”

Crouch also inserted a note to alert readers (and advertisers searching for their notices) that “Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular Notice taken of them in our next.”  What constituted “particular notice” beyond making sure to publish them at all?  No news appeared on the front page of the October 6 edition.  Instead, “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” filled all three columns on both the front page and the final page, two pages printed on the same side of a broadsheet.  Printers often printed those pages first, reserving the second and third pages for news that arrived just before publication.  In addition to the prominent placement of advertising on the front page, almost the entire issue consisted of paid notices.  Only the second page carried anything other than advertising.  News extended throughout the first and second columns.  It overflowed into the third, but more “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” accounted for half of that column.

The proportion and placement of news and advertising often varied from week to week in colonial newspapers as printers made decisions about providing news for subscribers who (sometimes) paid for their newspapers and disseminating paid notices for advertisers who accounted for an important revenue stream.  As a result, some newspapers sometimes looked like vehicles for delivering advertising without much news content at all.

September 28

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (September 28, 1772).

“FALL and WINTER / GOODS / OF ALL KINDS, / AND EXCELLENT / BROAD CLOTHS.”

In their efforts to capture as much of the market as they could, merchants and shopkeepers in cities with multiple newspapers often advertised in more than one publication.  They submitted identical copy to each printing office, but the compositors usually exercised discretion over the appearance of the advertisements in their newspapers.  This resulted in all sorts of variations in capitalization, italics, font sizes, line breaks, and white space.

Consider, for instance, an advertisement that Jonathan Williams, Jr., placed in the Boston-Gazette and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy on September 28, 1772.  The two notices had identical copy, but what appeared as “Fall and Winter GOODS / of all Kinds,—and excellent / BROAD CLOTHS” on three lines in the Gazette ran as “FALL and WINTER / GOODS / OF ALL KINDS, / AND EXCELLENT / BROAD CLOTHS” over five lines in the Post-Boy.  Similar variations occurred throughout the remainder of the advertisements.  The version in the Post-Boy also occupied more space relative to other advertisements than the one in the Gazette.  Longer than it was wide, Williams’s advertisement in the Post-Boy filled nearly two “squares” of space.  In contrast, his advertisement in the Gazette was wider than it was long, filling a little less than one square.

Boston-Gazette (September 28, 1772).

Despite the differences in size and format, both advertisements featured borders made of decorative type that distinguished them from other notices.  It hardly seems likely that this happened by chance, that compositors working independently in two printing offices just happened to create borders for Williams’s notice.  This suggests that the advertiser played some role in designing those advertisements.  That may have involved brief conversations with the printers or compositors, but more likely resulted from submitting written instructions.

Williams certainly did not invent this strategy of making his advertisements distinctive compared to others that did not incorporate borders or other decorative type.  In July 1766, Jolley Allen placed the same advertisement in four newspapers published in Boston.  They had identical copy but different formats.  Borders enclosed all of them, though the compositors made different decisions about what kind of decorative type formed those borders.  Other advertisers occasionally adopted a similar strategy, hoping the borders would help draw attention to their advertisements across multiple newspapers.

September 27

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (September 21, 1772).

“As yet there has not appeared an American Edition of this valuable Piece, what few came over were soon snatch’d up.”

Thomas Nixon sold several books at “his Shop at the Fly-Market” in New York in the fall of 1772.  In an advertisement in the September 21, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury he promoted “THE celebrated Lecture on HEADS, by George Alexander Stevens” and “the Devil upon Crutches in England, or the Night Scenes in London, a satirical Work, written upon the Plan of the celebrated Diable Boiteua of Monsieur La Sage, by a Gentleman of Oxford.”  Both books had been published in Philadelphia, The Celebrated Lecture on Heads by Samuel Dellap, whose name appeared just as prominently in the advertisement as Nixon’s own, and The Devil upon Crutches by William Evitt. According to Isaiah Thomas, Dellap traveled frequently between Philadelphia and New York, transporting books from each location for sale in the other.

Nixon composed an advertisement that deployed the popularity of those works to market them to consumers in New York.  To entice readers to purchase Stevens’s satire on fashion and physiognomy, Nixon proclaimed, “These Lectures have been exhibited in London upwards of One Hundred successive Nights, to crowded Audiences, and met with the most universal Applause.”  Consumers could experience that sensation themselves, though tangentially, by acquiring their own copies of the “celebrated Lecture.”  The advertisement went into even greater detail about audience reception of The Devil upon Crutches.  “This Satyre,” Nixon explained, “is universally approved of by all Ranks of People in Europe, and all those Parts of America where it has made its Appearance.”  The bookseller attempted to use the strength of sales elsewhere to influence local consumers, reporting that “six large Impressions were struck off in London in one Year, besides several other Impressions printed in Dublin and Edinburgh.” A few copies found their way to the colonies, met with such demand that they “were soon snatch’d up, tho’ sold at no less Price than 5s.”  Rather than five shillings, Nixon offered the first American edition of only two shillings, surely a bargain for readers who wanted to partake in the phenomenon of The Devil upon Crutches.

Today, publishers regularly cite bestseller lists and the number of copies sold in their efforts to convince consumers to purchase books that have already achieved widespread popularity.  Nixon devised a version of that strategy when he marketed The Celebrated Lecture on Heads and The Devil upon Crutches in New York during the era of the American Revolution.

September 26

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 26, 1772).

Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE, At the sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD.”

In the fall of 12772, George Bartram advertised a “very large assortment of MERCHANDIZE” recently imported via “the last vessels from Britain and Ireland.”  To entice prospective customers, he provided a list that included “Dark & light drabs or cloth colours, suitable for women’s cloaks,” “Cinnamon, chocolate and snuff colours, with a variety of mixed elegant coloured cloths,” “Scotch plaid, suitable for littler boys short cloths, gentlemen’s morning gowns,” “A COMPLETE assortment of man’s wove and knit silk, silk and worsted, worsted, cotton and thread HOSE,” and “Men & women’s silk, thread and worsted gloves.”  The extensive list, however, did not exhaust Bartram’s inventory.  He proclaimed that he carried “a great variety of other articles in the woollen and linen drapery, and hardware branches.”

With such an array of goods, Bartram did not purport to run a mere shop.  Instead, he promoted his business as a “Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE, At the sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD” on Second Street in Philadelphia.  The header for his advertisement in the September 26, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle had the appearance of a sign, with Bartram’s name and address within a border of decorative type.  The merchant already had a record of using visual devices to draw attention to the name he associated with his store.  In the January 22, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet, for instance, the words “GEORGE BARTRAM’s WOOLLEN DRAPERY AND HOSIERY WAREHOUSE” flanked a woodcut depicting a “GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD.”  He previously kept shop “at the Sign of the Naked Boy.”  Newspaper advertisements Bartram placed between 1767 and 1770 featured a woodcut of a shop sign with a naked boy holding a length of cloth in a cartouche in the center, rolls of textiles on either side, and “GEORGE” and “BARTRAM” flanking the bottom of the cartouche.

Many merchants and shopkeepers published lists of their merchandise.  Bartram enhanced such marketing efforts by associating a distinctive device, first the Naked boy and then the Golden Fleece’s Head, with his business, giving his shop an elaborate and memorable name, and using visual images, both woodcuts and decorative type, to distinguish his advertisements from others.  He did not merely announce goods for sale.  Instead, he experimented with marketing strategies.