August 6

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

Aug 6 - 8:6:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (August 6, 1770).

“He hopes this will be an additional recommendation to every sincere lover of AMERICA.”

In the summer of 1770, Dennis McReady, a tobacconist on Horse and Cart Street in New York, advertised that he had for sale “a large quantity of the choicest snuff.”  To convince prospective customers to buy his product, he made a “Buy American” argument and proclaimed that his snuff was “equal in quality to any that has ever been imported in this city.”  The city’s merchants had withdrawn from their nonimportation agreement a few months earlier, shortly after receiving word that most of the duties imposed on imported goods in the Townshend Acts had been repealed.  With only the tax on tea remaining, New York’s merchants chose to resume trade with their counterparts in Britain.

Not all New Yorkers universally approved of that decision.  For those who had pursued “domestic manufactures” or local production of alternatives to imported goods, the boycott enhanced their ability to market their wares as symbols of patriotism and support for the American cause.  McReady cautioned prospective customers against turning back to imported goods too hastily, challenging them to try his snuff “manufactured in this country.”  In addition to declaring that his product was equal to snuff that had been processed from tobacco on the other side of the Atlantic, he issued a political challenge to “every sincere lover of AMERICA.”  That “AMERICA” was the only word in all capitals in the body of his advertisement made it easy for readers to spot and underscored the emphasis McReady placed on this particular appeal to consumers.  The tobacconist doubled down on his claims about the quality of his snuff and his challenge to choose it over imported snuff; he expressed his “hopes that no person will be persuaded to the contrary until he has made trial of [McReady’s] snuff.”  At least try this product once to test its quality, McReady demanded, rather than assume that “imported” meant “better quality.”  Instead of purchasing imported snuff just because they could, McReady sought to persuade consumers to support domestic manufactures and the patriotic ideals associated with them.

August 5

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

Aug 5 - 8:2:1770 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (August 2, 1770).

“For CHARLESTOWN … the Sloop SALLY.”

In many ways, these brief advertisements published in the Pennsylvania Journal in the summer of 1770 looked very much like others that appeared in that newspaper.

“CANARY SEED, Sold by DAVID DESHLER, in Market-Street.” (July 26)

“For CHARLESTOWN, (South-Carolina) the Sloop SALLY, JOSPEH BLEWERS, Master.  For Freight or Passage apply to said Master; who has for Sale, Carolina PINE-ROOT, SAIL-CLOTH, &c.” (August 2)

“WANTED, A CORK CUTTER.  For further Particulars enquire of the Printers.” (August 9)

“WANTED, A Pair of well match’d HORSES.  Enquire of the Printers.” (August 16)

The format of these advertisements set them apart from others in the Pennsylvania Journal.  Each appeared on the third page in the margin on the right.  The compositor rotated the text perpendicular to the other contents of the page and set each of these advertisements in a single line.  Apparently, their length rather than their purpose qualified these particular notices for such treatment.

In laying out the page in this manner, the compositor relied on a common means of squeezing a little more content onto a crowded page.  While this was not an aspect of early American newspapers that appeared in all or even most issues, it was a common enough strategy that it would have been familiar to readers throughout the colonies.  Sometimes compositors used this trick to insert time-sensitive advertisements received too late to integrate into columns of type already set.  For the advertisements that ran in the margins of the Pennsylvania Journal in the summer of 1770, however, that does not appear to have been the case.  Instead, their length made them candidates for this format.

Placing advertisements in the margin benefited printers who generated revenue regardless of where in their newspapers paid notices appeared.  This likely also accrued benefits to the advertisers as well.  Their notices became more visible as a result of their placement on the page, perhaps drawing the eyes of curious readers.  Such notices seemed to take up more space; had they been printed in one of the standard columns they would have occupied two or three lines, easily skipped by readers who skimmed the page.  Running down the side of a column, however, made them much more difficult to ignore.

Drawing additional attention to these advertisements by placing them in the margin does not seem to have been the primary goal of this format but rather an unintended consequence.  Still, this decision by the compositor likely yielded benefits for the advertisers.

August 4

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

Aug 4 - 8:4:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 4, 1770).

“A THEFT.”

The August 4, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette included advertisements that promoted consumers goods and services for sale, but it also featured several notices that indicated some colonists resorted to alternate means of participating in the consumer revolution.  Purchasing new and secondhand items was not the only means of acquiring goods in eighteenth-century America.

In one such advertisement, Jonathan Farman announced “A THEFT” in the headline.  He went on to list the various items stolen from him in Newport, including “one Pair of blue Yarn Stockings” and “a red and white woollen Jacket, without Sleeves.”  His wallet also included notes and papers that he wished to recover.  Farman provided a brief description of the thief, “a Mulatto Fellow,” that was so general as to focus suspicion on any young, light-skinned Black man that readers encountered.

In another advertisement, Seth Wetmore of Middletown, Connecticut, commenced with a headline that promised a “Twenty-One Dollar Reward.”  His house had been “broke open … by some Person or Persons unknown” in the middle of the night a month earlier.  The culprits made off with “one black double Sattin Cloak, a full Suit of black Paduasoy (Womens Cloaths, large) a black Taffety Quilt and Apron, a light colored Chintz Gown, four Yards of double-folded white Holland, six Yards of whitened Tow-Cloth, three or four Pocket Handkerchiefs, not made up, a Woman’s Shift, and sundry other Things.”  Wetmore conjected that “the Felons” who stole these items had escaped from the New Haven jail the previous items.  He identified John Galloway and John Armstrong, noting that James Burne was an accomplice.  These men may not have desired to possess the stolen items for themselves but instead intended to fence them or sell them for cash to further aid in their flight from the law.

That seemed to have been the case with several items that Ezekiel Burr declared that he had “STOPPED” or confiscated in another advertisement.  When offered “one Woman’s Apron, one Pair of Womens Shoes, and a Remnant of fine Holland” cloth for sale, he suspected that those items “have been stolen,” seized them, and placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette in hopes that the rightful owner would reclaim them.

This trio of advertisements told a different story of participation in the consumer revolution than many of the other advertisements that promoted goods and services in eighteenth-century America.  Rather than listing goods for sale by merchants and shopkeepers or up for bid at auctions and estate sales, they described the theft, burglary, and fencing that were part of what Serena Zabin has described as an “informal economy” in the colonies.

August 3

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

Aug 3 - 8:3:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 3, 1770).

At his SHOP in PITT-STREET.”

Advertisements for consumer goods and services in the August 3, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included addresses of various sorts.  James McMasters sold English good at his store “on Spring Hill.”  Stephen Hardy stocked a similar inventory at his shop “in PITT STREET.”  Breeches makers James Haslett and Mathew Haslett pursued their trade “in King Street,” while Samuel Foster made boots and shoes at his shop “in Queen-street.” Thomas Achincloss sold textiles and hardware at his shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street.”

With the exception of Spring Hill, each of these landmarks invoked political figures in England.  King Street and Queen Street made general reference to the monarchy, but also evoked images of George III and Queen Charlotte.  Residents of Portsmouth named Pitt Street for William Pitt the Elder, the prime minister from July 30, 1766, through October 14, 1768.  Pitt was a popular figure among American colonists as a result of his leadership during the Seven Years War and his opposition to the Stamp Act.  Similarly, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the second Marquess of Rockingham and former prime minister, earned acclaim in America due to his support for constitutional rights for the colonies.  He immediately preceded Pitt as prime minister, serving from July 13, 1765, through July 30, 1766.  During his brief time in office, he oversaw the repeal of the Stamp Act.

These street names and shop signs testify to the expectations that many colonists had of their relationship to Great Britain throughout much of the imperial crisis that eventually culminated in the American Revolution.  Many colonists, most even, did not originally conceive of separating from the British Empire and the many advantages it bestowed upon them.  Instead, they sought redress of grievances, hoping to exercise traditional English rights on the other side of the Atlantic.  Many simultaneously asserted their allegiance to the monarchy and revered members of Parliament who defended American interests.  The location of Achincloss’s shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street” encapsulated the sentiments of those coloniosts.

August 2

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

Aug 2 - 8:2:1770 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (August 2, 1770).

“A Parcel of young healthy NEW NEGROES.”

A woodcut that crudely depicted four figures, presumably enslaved men, women, and children, adorned an advertisement in the August 2, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal.  One of the few visual images in that issue, the woodcut likely drew attention to the advertisement, despite its shortcomings.  Its presence in the New-York Journal testifies to the presence of enslaved people and the operations of the transatlantic slave trade in New York in the era of the American Revolution.  Colonists encountered enslaved people as they went about their daily activities in the busy port.  They also encountered representations of enslaved people in the public prints as well as an even greater number of notices about enslaved people that consisted entirely of text.  John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal and an enslaver himself, aided in perpetuating slavery in America and the transatlantic slave trade by publishing advertisements offering enslaved people for sale and notices promising rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves.

The advertisement featuring the woodcut announced the arrival of “NEW NEGROES” in the colony.  Comprised of “Men, Women, Boys, and Girls” ranging in age from ten to twenty-two, these “NEW NEGROES” arrived in New York directly from Africa.  The advertisement did not indicate where in Africa, nor did it specify how many enslaved men, women, and children survived the Middle Passage.  The Slave Voyages database estimates that this “Parcel of young healthy NEW NEGROES” consisted of 103 enslaved people who made it to New York.  (See Voyage #37023.)  An estimated fifteen died during the transatlantic crossing, but such advertisements never revealed that information.  Instead, they focused solely on assuring prospective buyers that the people they treated as commodities were indeed “healthy” and thus a sound investment.

According to the Slave Voyages database, three vessels transported an estimated 376 enslaved people to New York in 1770.  The brigantine Elliot featured in this advertisement was just one of those vessels.  The advertisement placed in the New-York Journal at the culmination of the Elliot’s voyage represented only a fraction of the slave trade undertaken in New York at the time.

August 1

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

Aug 1 - 7:30: 1770 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (July 30, 1770).

“He can fix them as well as any Surgeon-Dentist who ever came from London.”

Silversmith Paul Revere placed several advertisements in 1770, but not for his primary occupation.  Instead, he ran advertisements for other purposes.  In March, just three weeks after the Boston Massacre, Revere advertised “A PRINT containing a Representation of the late horrid Massacre in King-Street,” though his name did not appear in the advertisement.  Instead, it announced that Edes and Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, sold the print.  Still, Revere engraved the print and rushed it to market to beat a competing print by Henry Pelham (from whom Revere pirated the image).  A few weeks later, Revere advertised another print, this time with his name prominently displayed in the advertisement.  That print depicted “a View of the Town of Boston in New-England, and British Ships of War landing their Troops in the Year 1768.”  Revere likely considered this a companion piece to his Boston Massacre print.  Both of them operated as propaganda supporting the American cause.

By late July, Revere shifted the focus of his advertising efforts to “ARTIFICIAL-TEETH.”  He expressed gratitude to “the Gentlemen and Ladies who have employed him in the care of their Teeth” while simultaneously “inform[ing] them and all others … that he still conti[n]ues the Business of a Dentist.”  In the two years that he had followed that occupation, Revere claimed to have “fixt some Hundreds of Teeth.”  He made his own version of a “Buy American” appeal by proclaiming that he fixed teeth “as well as any Surgeon-Dentist who ever came from London.”  Advertisers who offered medical services often noted their origins or training in London as a means of establishing their credentials and even suggesting that they were more qualified than their counterparts from the colonies.  Revere had little patience for such claims, especially in comparison to the quality of the services he provided as a dentist.

Whether advertising prints of British troops arriving in Boston or firing on the residents of the city or promoting artificial teeth, Revere injected pro-American sentiments into the notices for goods and services he placed in the public prints in 1770.  Running advertisements in the Boston-Gazette allowed him to simultaneously seek advance his business interests and disseminate pro-American ideology.

July 31

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

Jul 31 - 7:31:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 31, 1770).

“The Gentlemen who please to favour us with their Subscriptions, shall have their Names carefully published in an alphabetical List.”

Like many books, maps were often published by subscription in the eighteenth-century.  Mapmakers published subscription notices to incite demand as well as gauge interest in their projects.  Doing so also allowed them to avoid some of the risk inherent in the enterprise.  Upon attracting a sufficient number of subscribers, they moved forward with confidence in the financial viability of the project.  On occasions that they lacked subscribers, they knew that it was not worth the time and resources required to publish a book or print a map.  Subscription lists also gave them a sense of how many copies to produce in order to avoid producing a large quantity that did not sell and counted against the financial success of the venture.

In the summer of 1770, James Cook and Tacitus Gaillard published “PROPOSALS FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR THE DRAUGHTS Of SOUTH-CAROLOINA,” their subscription notice for a map of the colony.  They presented this undertaking as a community endeavor, first noting that their work “has met with the Approbation of the Honourable the COMMONS HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY” and stating that they hoped their “Proposals will merit the Favour of the Public.”  Subscribers did not need to contact Cook and Gaillard directly.  Instead, they designated local agents who gathered names on their behalf, listing them at the conclusion of the advertisement.  Those agents included several prominent merchants and planters as well as Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette.  In addition, “sundry other Gentlemen of each Parish” also accepted subscriptions and reported them to Cook and Gaillard.  The mapmakers gave the impression that their project already had the support – and the financial backing through subscriptions of their own – of some of the most prominent men in the colony.

Cook and Gaillard offered subscribers an opportunity to join the ranks of those prominent men … and to enjoy public recognition that they had done so.  “The Gentlemen who please to favour us with their Subscriptions,” the mapmakers promised, “shall have their Names carefully published in an alphabetical List, unless they desire the contrary.”  Books and maps published by subscription often featured such lists that acknowledged the benefactors that made the projects possible.  Publishing subscription lists drew together in one place all the members of the community that supported these projects, giving subscribers the chance to associate with others in a manner that remained visible to the public long after they subscribed, paid for, and collected their books and maps.  These lists became lasting records of which colonists supported the publication of books and maps.  Cook and Gaillard’s marketing strategy suggested that securing a spot on their subscription list was nearly as alluring as acquiring a copy of their beautifully rendered map.  Subscribers purchased prestige along with the map.

July 30

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

Jul 30 - 7:30:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 30, 1770).

“TO BE SOLD, By ELIZABETH VAN DYCK.”

The front page of the July 30, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury featured a letter “To the PRINTER” reprinted from the Public Ledger and several advertisements for consumers goods.  Many of those notices used the names of the advertisers as headlines, setting them in larger type and often in capitals.  At a glance, readers saw that ABEEL & BYVANCK; GEORGE BALL; RICHARD CURSON; Herman Gouverneur; Greg, Cunningham and Co.; PHILIP LIVINGSTON; JOHN McKENNEY; and ELIZABETH VAN DYCK all offered goods for sale to consumers in the city and beyond.

In many ways, those advertisements each resembled the others.  With the exception of George Ball and the partnership of Abeel and Byvanck, each advertiser purchased a “square” of space and filled most of it with a short list of their merchandise.  Abeel and Byvanck’s advertisement occupied two squares and George Ball’s four.  Each of those longer advertisements divided the list of goods into two columns, as did Richard Curson’s advertisement.  With minor variations, these advertisements for consumer goods adhered to a standard format.

That meant that the most distinguishing feature of Elizabeth Van Dyck’s advertisement was that it promoted a business operated by a female entrepreneur.  Women comprised a substantial minority of shopkeepers in colonial American port cities, with some estimates running as high as four out of ten.  Yet they did not place newspaper advertisements in proportion to their presence in the marketplace as purveyors of goods rather than consumers.  Van Dyck was the only female shopkeeper who advertised in that issue of New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, while more than a dozen advertisements for consumer goods deployed men’s names as their headlines.  No female shopkeepers advertised in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Post-Boy published the same day, nor the New-York Journal three days later.

The representation of the marketplace among the advertisements in New York’s newspapers presented it as primarily the domain of men, at least as far as wholesalers and retailers were concerned.  Even though women operated shops in the bustling port in the early 1770s, they did not establish a presence in the public prints in proportion to their numbers.  When Van Dyck chose to join the ranks of her male counterparts who advertised, she composed a notice that conformed to the standard format.  She struck a careful balance, calling attention to her business but not calling too much attention to it.  In so doing, she claimed space for herself in the market, both the actual market and the representation of it in the newspaper, while demonstrating that women’s activities as entrepreneurs need not be disruptive to good order.

July 29

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

Jul 29 - 7:26:1770 Virginia Gazette Rind
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (July 26, 1770).
“He purposes to return to this LAND of LIBERTY.”

In the summer of 1770, William Wylie, a watchmaker, took to the pages of William Rind’s Virginia Gazette to inform the community that he would soon depart for Britain.  He made “his grateful acknowledgments to those Ladies and Gentlemen, who have hitherto employed him,” but he had other purposes for placing his advertisement.  He requested “that those who have omitted sending the money for the repairing their watches” would settle accounts before his departure.  He did not explain why he was making the voyage, but did state that he needed the money “to accomplish his design, in going to Britain.”  Wylie also pledged to return to Virginia and wanted former and prospective customers to keep him in mind for their watchmaking needs.  He hoped that loyal customers would once again hire him after his temporary absence.

Wylie also injected politics into his advertisement.  He proclaimed that he planned “to return to this LAND of LIBERTY as soon as possible,” using capital letters for added emphasis for his description of Virginia.  Paying to insert his advertisement in the newspaper also allowed the watchmaker an opportunity to express political views in the public prints as he went about his other business.  As printer and editor, Rind selected the content when it came to news, editorials, and entertaining pieces, but he exercised less direct control over the content of advertisements.  Wylie could have submitted a letter to the editor in which he extolled the virtues of “this LAND of LIBERTY,” but with far less certainty that Rind would print it than an advertisement in which the watchmaker commented on his political views in the course of communicating with his customers.  Besides, presenting a homily on politics to readers of Rind’s Virginia Gazette does not appear to have been Wylie’s primary purpose in publishing the advertisement.  All the same, he made a deliberate choice to deviate from the standard format for the type of advertisement he placed.  Nothing about the goals he wished to achieve required that he opine about politics at all, but Wylie purchased the space in the newspaper and had the liberty to embellish his advertisement as he wished.  In turn, readers of Rind’s Virginia Gazette encountered political commentary among the advertisements in addition to the news and editorials elsewhere in the newspaper.

July 28

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

Jul 28 - 7:28:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 28, 1770).

“JOSEPH AND Wm. RUSSELL.”

Joseph Russell and William Russell were among Providence’s mercantile elite in the decade prior to the American Revolution.  They conducted business at a shop marked by the Sign of the Golden Eagle, a device that became inextricably associated with the Russells.  Their name and the sign were interchangeable in advertisements that ran in the Providence Gazette.  Sometimes their notices included their names and the sign, sometimes just their names, and sometimes just the sign.  When advertisements included just their names, readers knew that they could find the Russells at the Sign of the Golden Eagle.  When advertisements directed readers to the Sign of the Golden Eagle, they knew that they would be dealing with the Russells.  No matter which configuration appeared in their advertisements, the Russells’ use of the public prints to promote their various enterprises enhanced and contributed to their visibility as prominent merchants.

They achieved that visibility with a variety of novel approaches to advertising, including full-page advertisements and multiple advertisements in a single issue.  In November 1766, they published what may have been the first full-page advertisement for consumer goods in an American newspaper.  (This excludes book catalogs that printer-booksellers inserted into their own newspapers, taking advantage of their access to the press.)  In addition, placing multiple advertisements per issue helped keep their names in the public eye, a strategy adopted by a small number of advertisers in the largest port cities.  Consider the July 28, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette.  It featured fourteen paid notices and a short advertisement for blanks inserted by the printer.  Of those fourteen advertisements, the Russells placed two, one on each page that had advertisements.  One of them presented various commodities for sale, while the other offered cash in exchange for potash and salts.  The Russells certainly were not the only American entrepreneurs to use the strategy of drawing readers’ attention to their names multiple times in a single issue of a newspaper, but they were the only ones who did so regularly in the Providence Gazette, a publication that tended to run fewer advertisements than its counterparts in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.  As a result, their advertisements were all the more noticeable because they competed with fewer others for attention.