August 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 12, 1772).

“He proposes to affix his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”

In the summer of 1772, John Sellers of Darby placed advertisements promoting “VARIOUS Kinds of Wire Work” in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He made and sold “rolling Screens for cleaning Wheat,” “rolling Screens for cleaning Flaxseed from the yellow or wild Seed,” “small Bolts for separating the Cockle from the Flaxseed,” and “common Dutch Fans” for separating wheat from chaff.

Sellers presented a variety of reasons that readers in need of any of those devices should purchase them from him.  He promised that customers who “favour him with their Orders, may depend on their Work being done with Care,” reiterating a description of his products as “made in the neatest and best Manner.”  He also offered a guarantee, stating that “the Work [is] Warranted.  Furthermore, Sellers drew on long experience as an artisan who met the expectations of his clients.  He was “not pretending to perform that which he has not, in a great Number of Instance, given the utmost Satisfaction.”  Over time, he made “upwards of 50 rolling Screens for Wheat, and upwards of 70 for Flaxseed,” establishing his reputation.

Sellers did not expect prospective customers to visit his workshop in Darby, six miles away from Philadelphia, to examine his products or purchase them.  Instead, “for the Conveniency of his Customers,” he arranged to have them on display “in Plumsted’s Stores, in Philadelphia.”  Sellers instructed to customers to ask for John Brown to handle sales.  For those who wished to confer with the artisan directly, he advised that he “attends generally twice a Week, in Philadelphia.”  Anyone interested in contacting him directly could do so by “leaving a Line at the Conestogoe Waggon, in Market-street, or sending by the Post.”

To attract notice to the various appeals he deployed in the copy of his advertisement, Sellers adorned it with a woodcut depicting one of the rolling screens he constructed.  He commissioned that image at least five years earlier, having included it in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette in September 1767.  Just as sellers aimed to make his newspaper notice distinctive, he also marked the items he made in his workshop.  He informed his customers that he “affix[ed] his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”  That demonstrated pride in his craft while also marketing his products every time someone encountered his name on this equipment after it left his workshop. Sellers did not limit his marketing strategy to describing his products.  Instead, he used distinctive marks to draw attention, both an image in his newspaper advertisement and his name branding his bolts, screens, and fans.

August 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 11, 1772).

“White and coloured NEGRO CLOTH.”

The partnership of Ancrums and Chiffelle took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advise “their Friends” that they stocked “White and coloured NEGRO CLOTH, Together with a Variety of other GOODS, fromLONDON and BRISTOL” in the summer of 1772.  They placed an advertisement in the August 11 edition, as did Atkins and Weston.  They informed readers that they imported “NEGRO CLOTH, DUFFIL, BLANKETS, and SAIL CLOTH” from Bristol.  Atkins and Weston assured “their Friends and Customers” that they set low prices.  Elsewhere in the same issue, Thomas Eveleigh advertised “A FEW BALES of NEGRO CLOTH, and some good LONDON PORTER, just imported, and to be sold reasonably.”

Those advertisements accompanied seven others that offered enslaved men, women, and children for sale, one seeking “TWO or Three NEGRO BOYS, as Apprentices to the Wheel-Wright’s Business,” five announcing rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers, and a lengthy notice describing eighteen Black men and women “Brought to the WORK-HOUSE” and imprisoned there on suspicion of attempting to liberate themselves.  The printer did not arrange advertisements according to purpose or category, so readers encountered notices about enslaved people interspersed with advertisements promoting consumer goods and services, real estate notices, legal notices, and other kinds of advertisements.

Ancrums and Chiffelle and their competitors who hawked “NEGRO CLOTH” may or may not have participated in the slave trade directly, yet they certainly aimed to profit from maintaining that institution.  In their advertisements, those merchants made supplying enslavers with an inexpensive textile to clothe the men, women, and children held in bondage central to their operations at the stores and warehouses they operated in Charleston.  Furthermore, they demonstrated that commerce enmeshed in the transatlantic slave trade extended beyond any sort of streamlined triangular trade that connected Africa, England, and colonies on the other side of the Atlantic.  Even as ships departing from London, Bristol, and other English ports carried goods to Africa to purchase captives held in outposts along the coast, other ships from those ports delivered finished goods, including “NEGRO CLOTH,” directly to South Carolina and other colonies.  Many merchants, including Ancrums and Chiffelle, sought opportunities to profit from selling supplies to enslavers, embracing the transatlantic slave trade in their business models even if they did not transport or sell Black men, women, and children themselves.

August 10

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

South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (August 10, 1772).

“ADVERTISEMENTS of some Consequence to the Parties, are brought in so late, that the immediate Insertion of them in the GAZETTE, would delay the Publication thereof.”

Thomas Powell and Company aimed to provide the best possible service for advertisers who chose the South-Carolina Gazette, such as disseminating their notices to the public as quickly as possible.  That included publishing supplements when necessary.  With a few exceptions, most American newspapers published before the Revolution consisted of a single weekly issue.  Powell, Hughes, and Company circulated a new edition of the South-Carolina Gazette on Thursdays in 1772.  Less than two weeks after the death of Edward Hughes, Powell and Company distributed a South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary on Monday, August 10.

A notice at the top of the first column on the first page explained the purpose of the supplement.  “[I]t frequently happens,” Powell and Company declared, “that ADVERTISEMENTS of some Consequence to the Parties, are brought in so late, that the immediate Insertion of them in the GAZETTE would delay the Publication thereof beyond the stated Day.”  In addition, “others are omitted to make Room for fresh Intelligence” or news just arrived in the printing office. Powell and Company recognized that they had a duty to both subscribers and advertisers, prompting them to “NOW assure the Public, that in EITHER of the above Cases … they will issue a GAZETTE EXTRAORDINARY, as soon after their stated Day as possible.”  Publishing supplements minimized delays for both news and paid notices, allowing Powell and Company to fulfill “their Duty, to contribute … to the ENTERTAINMENT, as well as EMOLUMENT, of that Public which so generously supports them.”

The four-page supplement contained both advertising and news, divided nearly evenly between the two.  The advertisements included five that offered rewards for the capture and return of enslaved men and women who liberated themselves as well as several others promoting consumer goods and services.  Powell and Company inserted a heading for “New Advertisements” on all three pages that carried paid notices, though not all advertisements in the supplement appeared for the first time.  Despite these efforts, Powell and Company suggested that more advertising and news flooded into their printing office than would fit in the supplement.  That may have been a strategy to underscore the viability of the newspaper following the death of one of the partners.  A brief notice at the bottom of final column on the third page, the last item the compositor would have locked into place for the entire supplement, advised that “Several NEW ADVERTISEMENTS, &c. now omitted, shall be inserted in Thursday’s Gazette.”  According to their notice on the first page, Powell and Company hoped “to merit a CONTINUANCE” of the support they already received.  Hughes no longer participated in publishing the newspaper, yet, the notice suggested, subscribers, advertisers, and the general public could depend on the South-Carolina Gazette being in good hands with Powell.

August 9

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

Addition to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 7, 1772).


Like many colonial printers, Charles Crouch and Powell, Hughes, and Company advertised and sold patent medicines, including Dr. Keyser’s pills for venereal disease, at their printing offices in Charleston.  In the summer of 1772, that prompted a feud between those printers.  It began when Powell, Hughes, and Company ran a lengthy advertisement in their newspaper, the South-Carolina Gazette, providing a history of the medicine and its effectiveness.  In the next issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Crouch ran his own advertisement, but considered it “needless to trouble the public with more Encomiums on the Effects of this Remedy” in the public prints.  Instead, he offered “A NARRATIVE of the Effects of Dr. KEYSER’s MEDICINE, with an Account of its ANALYSIS, by the Members of the Royal Academy of Sciences,” that colonizers could examine at his printing office.  Powell, Hughes, and Company made clear in a new advertisement in the next issue of the South-Carolina Gazette that they took issue with Crouch seeming to critique their marketing efforts.  That led to a series of advertisements that descended into the printers accusing each other of carrying counterfeit medicines and making attacks on each other’s character.  Powell, Hughes, and Company even reprinted one of Crouch’s advertisements, for the purposes of insinuating that their rival suffered from venereal disease himself, in the July 30 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.

Crouch chose not to escalate the war of words at that point.  In his most recent advertisement, he proclaimed that “as to my good or bad Qualities, they are submitted to Candour and Impartiality of the respectable Public, whose Favours I shall always make my chief Study to merit.”  That did not stop him from placing another advertisement for the patent medicine at the center of the controversy.  In the August 4 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, he inserted a short advertisement that alerted prospective customers that “A Fresh Parcel of Dr. KEYSER’s real famous PILLS, are to be had, with full Directions for their Use in all Cases, at CHARLES CROUCH’S Printing Office in Elliott-street.”  He also reminded readers that they could peruse “a Narrative of the Effects of KEYSER’S Medicine, with an Account of its Analysis, by the Members of the Royal Academy of Sciences.”  Crouch suggested the pills he sold were authentic when he described them as “real.” Edward Hughes died on July 30, so the newly-constituted Thomas Powell and Company may have been too occupied with other matters to take notice.  Two days later, they ran a two-line advertisement that simply stated, “Keyser’s PILLS and Maredant’s DROPS, may be had at the Printing-Office near the exchange.”  Crouch opted to advertise once again, inserting a variation of his most recent notice as one of only six that appeared in a supplement published on August 7.  He revised the description from “A Fresh Parcel of Dr. KEYSER’s real famous PILLS” to “A Fresh Parcel of Dr. KEYSER’S GENUINE PILLS,” perhaps intending to defend his own merchandise and cast doubt on the pills stocked by a competitor without calling enough attention to his efforts to incite a response from Powell, Hughes, and Company.  Of all the advertisements he could have chosen to include in the limited space in the midweek supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, Crouch consciously chose to promote the patent medicines available at his printing office, likely hoping to build on any attention generated by the recent dispute.

August 8

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 8, 1772).

“My wife, HANNAH FREDERICK, did … elope from my bed and board.”

In the eighteenth century, aggrieved husbands often took to the pages of newspapers to warn others not to extend credit to misbehaving wives who “eloped” from them.  Readers regularly encountered “runaway wife” advertisements in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  Those notices continued to appear during the era of the American Revolution and, as Mary Beth Sievens demonstrates, well into the nineteenth century.[1]

Although most notices followed a pattern, each provided details specific to a particular household.  Wives usually “eloped” from their husbands on their own, but in an advertisement in the August 8, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle one husband reported that his wife, Hannah Frederick, “did … elope from my bed and board … with a certain Abraham Hudson.”  The husband believed that the two of them traveled “from Fish-Kills, in Duchess County, in New-York government … to Elizabeth-Town” in New Jersey “and from thence to Philadelphia.”  To aid readers in identifying his wife, the advertiser reported that her “maiden name was Hannah Coleman” and she “served her time,” likely as an indentured servant, “with John Taylor, at Tinicum-Island.”  He concluded with a formulaic statement cutting his wife off from his credit: “these are therefore to forewarn all persons from trusting her on my account, as I shall pay no debts of her contracting after the date hereof.”

Printers published such advertisements without offering commentary of their own, but, in this instance, William Goddard did insert a clarification.  “In the copy of the foregoing Advertisement, which was sent to the Printer,” he explained, “the Advertiser’s name was omitted.”  As a result, the husband’s name appeared as “———- FREDERICK.”  That being the case, how did Goddard handle payment for the advertisement?  Some printers required advertisers to pay in advance, even though they extended credit to subscribers.  After all, advertising comprised a lucrative revenue stream.  Occasional notices in eighteenth-century newspapers, however, make clear that some printers did allow credit for advertisements as well as subscriptions.  This husband may have submitted payment, but not his name, to the printing office … or Goddard may have taken a chance that he would settle up in a timely manner.  Even if that was the case, the printer’s trust only went so far.  The advertisement ran just twice (August 8 and 15), though most newspapers initially published advertisements for three or four weeks for a set fee before charging a lower fee for each insertion.  Goddard may have been carefully managing how much credit he extended to “———- FREDERICK” even as that husband attempted to exert control over his credit when it became clear his wife was beyond his influence.


[1] Mary Beth Sievens, “Female Consumerism and Household Authority in Early National New England,” Early American Studies:  An Interdisciplinary Journal 4, no. 2 (Fall 2006):  353-371.

August 7

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Addition to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 7, 1772).


Charles Crouch usually distributed new issues of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on Tuesdays in 1772.  Like many other printers, however, he sometimes issued a supplement, postscript, or addition on another day, disseminating news more quickly than waiting to print the next weekly edition of his newspaper.  That was the case in early August.  A standard four-page issue came out as scheduled on Tuesday, August 4, followed by a two-page Additionon Friday, August 7.  Crouch either had too much news to fit in the standard issue at the time it went to press or he acquired news that he felt could not wait nearly a week shortly after the usual publication day.  After all, his newspaper competed with two others in Charleston.

Most of the Addition consisted of news from London.  The final column included a few items of local news as well as shipping news from the customs house.  That left room for six short advertisements, three of them concerning ships seeking passengers and freight for trips to Philadelphia, Boston, and London.  Another advertisement advised readers of an upcoming sale of “TWO HUNDRED CHOICE Gambia SLAVES, Mostly MEN and WOMEN,” scheduled for August 18.  William Somarsall asserted that the captives “JUST arrived (after a short Passage) in the Sloop THOMAS & ANTHONY, SOLOMON GIBBS, Master.”  The dateline read “Charles Town, August 7, 1772.”  An entry for “Sloop Thomas & Anthony, Solomon Gibbs,” arriving from St. Kitts on August 6 appeared among the shipping news.  The vessel apparently visited at least one port in the Caribbean before continuing to Charleston.

The publication of an Addition to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal certainly served the interests of participants in the transatlantic slave trade.  Of the six advertisements in the Addition, four previously ran in the standard issue on August 4.  The midweek supplement provided an opportunity for Somarsall to promote an auction of enslaved men and women as soon as the Thomas and Anthony arrived in port.  He wasted no time in submitting copy to Crouch’s printing office, rewarded with immediate publication.  He ran the same advertisement three days later in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette … and a South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary that circulated three days before the printers distributed the standard issue for that week on August 13.  The appearance of a supplement once again facilitated the slave trade in addition to sharing news and other advertisements with colonizers.

August 6

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 6, 1772).

“THE Subscriber takes this Method to inform his Friend and the Public in general …”

When Martin Bicker “prepared a compleat Room at his Dwelling House … for the Reception of Goods, to be Sold at public Sale,” he placed an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  He advised prospective clients that “Such who are pleased to favor him with their Commands may, rest assured, that the greatest Punctuality and Honor will be strictly observed.”  He also asserted that since “the Situation is very suitable for said Business” that “the Result of his Undertaking will be attended with mutual Advantage to his Employers and self.”

To draw attention to his overtures “To the Public,” Bicker arranged to have his newspaper enclosed in a border composed of decorative type.  That distinguished the enclosure from the simple horizontal lines that separated other advertisements from one another.  No other advertisements in the August 6, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter had a border, making Bicker’s notice all the more distinctive.  That was not the first time that Bicker sought to enliven a newspaper notice with some sort of unique visual element.  Earlier in the summer, he placed an advertisement for hats in the Massachusetts Spy, adorning it with a woodcut depicting a tricorne hat.  Advertisers sometimes availed themselves of stock images of ships, houses, horses, and enslaved people provided by printers, but fewer of them commissioned woodcuts that correlated to the goods they produced or the signs that marked their shops.

Bicker strove to make his advertisements visually interesting on newspaper pages that often consisted primarily of dense text.  Indeed, the first time he inserted the advertisement with the border, it appeared at the top of the final column on the first page.  The two columns to the left contained news from London, Bristol, and Philadelphia.  The border around Bicker’s advertisement clearly signaled that it was not part of those dense dispatches, inviting readers to have a closer look at what merited such special typographical treatment.  Bicker sought to use graphic design to his advantage when he launched his new enterprise.

August 5

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 5, 1772).

“Probably will endeavour to pass for a freeman.”

Jem, a “Mulattoe SLAVE,” made his escape during the night of July 15, 1772, liberating himself from Thomas May in Elk Forge, Maryland.  In his efforts to capture Jem and return him to enslavement, May ran an advertisement in which he described Jem as a “cunning ingenious fellow” who “probably will endeavour to pass for a freeman.”  Jem possessed several skills that may have helped him elude May, but those skills also made him even more valuable to the enslaver.  In addition to being able to read “pretty well” and speak Dutch, Jem was a “good workman in a forge, either in finery or chafery, can do any kind of smith’s or carpenter’s work, necessary about a forge, [and] can also do any kind of farming business.”  May also described the clothes that Jem wore when he liberated himself.  No doubt Jem would have offered other details had he been given an opportunity to publish his own narrative.  Even in Jem’s absence, May exerted control over his depiction in the public prints.

Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote (August 4, 1772).

May also made decisions about how widely to disseminate advertisements describing Jem and offering “FIVE POUNDS REWARD” for capturing him.  His advertisement appeared in both the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal on August 5.  Of the newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time, those had the longest publication history.  That likely gave May confidence that those newspapers circulated to many readers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.  Apparently, however, he did not consider that sufficient.  May was so invested in capturing and returning Jem to enslavement at the forge that he also placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on August 8 and the Pennsylvania Packet on August 10.  Considering the skills that Jem possessed, May probably thought it well worth the fees to place notices in all four English-language newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time.  He even took advantage of the translation services that Henry Miller, printer of the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote, offered to advertisers in a nota bene that appeared at the bottom of the masthead.  May’s advertisement describing Jem ran in that newspaper on August 4, further increasing the number of colonizers who might read it, carefully observe Black men they encountered, and participate in capturing the fugitive seeking freedom.  Thomas May expended significant money and effort in attempting to re-enslave Jem, using the power of the press to overcome the various advantages Jem sought to use to his own benefit.

August 4

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

Connecticut Courant (August 4, 1772).

“The following BOOKS, imported directly from LONDON, are to be sold.”

Booksellers Smith and Coit had a true full-page advertisement in the August 4, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant.  They came close in the previous issue, but the compositor squeezed another advertisement into the space that otherwise would have been the right margin.  When readers perused the August 4 issue, they encountered only Smith and Coit’s advertisement on the final page.  Not even a colophon stating that Ebenezer Watson printed the Connecticut Courant in Hartford appeared at the bottom of the page.

Smith and Coit likely distributed this advertisement via other methods.  They may have placed an order for handbills or broadsides.  They certainly did so a year later when they disseminated a broadside promoting “a universal assortment of drugs, medicines, painter’s colours, and grocery articles; together with the following books” on sale “at their store east of the Court-House in Hartford.”  According the notes in the American Antiquarian Society’s catalog, this broadside was “Primarily booksellers’ catalog” and the “complete text of the broadside appeared in the July 6, 1773, issue of the Connecticut Courant, printed by Ebenezer Watson.”  It did not run in the standard issue of the July 6 edition, but Watson may have distributed a supplement not included in America’s Historical Newspapers.  The broadside did do double duty as the second page of the July 13 edition.  Considering that Watson collaborated with Smith and Coit in creating a broadside book catalog that also served as a full-page newspaper advertisement in the summer of 1773, they probably did so in 1772 as well.

Smith and Coit had several options for circulating their book catalog.  They may have posted it at their shop or pasted it up around town.  They may have passed it out as a handbill.  They may have given customers a copy when they made purchases, encouraging them to consider buying other titles on a subsequent visit.  They may have treated it as a circular letter, writing a short note, folding the catalog into a smaller size, sealing it, addressing it, and sending it via the post.  They may have sent copies to booksellers in other towns, alerting them to titles they had in stock to sell or exchange for others.  Smith and Coit may have distributed their book catalog in some or all of these ways.  Other advertisers utilized all of them in the second half of the eighteenth century.

August 3

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (August 3, 1772).

Vide the case of Flackfield published in this paper the 29th June, and 6th of July instant.”

When they feuded over selling “Dr. KEYSER’S famous PILLS” for venereal disease in the summer of 1772, Charles Crouch and Powell, Hughes, and Company ran advertisements that referenced notices by their competitor.  In the July 30 edition of their South-Carolina Gazette, Powell, Hughes, and Company even reprinted Crouch’s most recent advertisement “From the South-Carolina GAZETTE, AND Country Journal, of July 28, 1772.  [No. 348.]”

Hundreds of miles to the north, another purveyor of “KEYSER’s famous PILLS” placed an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy that directed readers to a notice he placed weeks earlier.  On July 20, Michaell B. Goldthwait ran a notice in which he asserted that doctors who prescribed the pills and observed the results “have produced the following testimonies which is written under Dr. Hammond Beaumount’s original certificate of the case* of Thomas Flackfield, a soldier in the 26th Reg’t, an event that astonished all the officers of that corps, and all the inhabitants of New-York.”  The asterisk directed readers to a note at the end of the advertisement: “Vide the case of Flackfield published in this paper the 29th June, and 6th of July instant.”  Goldthwait cited his own lengthy advertisement for “Dr. Keyser’s celebrated PILLS” that overflowed from one column into another.  Much of that earlier notice consisted of a narrative of “The Case of Thomas Flackfield,” signed by “H. BEAUMONT, Surgeon to his Majesty’s twenty sixth, or Cameronian Regiment,” and dated “New-York, May 10, 1772.”

On July 27, that original advertisement ran once again, but on August 3 Goldthwait once again published the newer notice that cited the earlier one.  It featured two new testimonials, including “The Opinion of Dr. JOHN KEARSLEY, of Philadelphia, published now with his knowledge and consent,” and an “Extract of a Letter from a Doctor of Physick in a City to the Southward of Philadelphia.”  Although this new advertisement likely provided sufficient information to entice doctors and patients hoping to cure “the French disorder” as well as “the several diseases specified in the printed direction,” Goldthwait asked prospective customers to consider other notices from his marketing campaign.  He also expected that readers had fairly easy access to previous issues of the weekly Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  Subscribers sometimes held onto issues for some time before discarding them.  Coffeehouses also maintained libraries of recent newspapers, allowing patrons to peruse them for items they missed.

Whether part of a feud between rival printers who peddled patent medicines in South Carolina or a marketing campaign devised by an apothecary in Massachusetts, advertisements for Keyser’s pills were not always standalone entries in the entries in which they appeared.  Instead, the advertisers expected that readers had seen other advertisements and even provided citations for them to find additional advertisements they referenced as they told a more complete story about the products they sold.