October 16

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

Oct 16 - 10:16:1767 Page 1 New-London Gazette
First Page of the New-London Gazette (October 16, 1767).

“MEIN, At the LONDON BOOK-STORE, North Side of KING-STREET, BOSTON.”

The Adverts 250 Project previously featured an extraordinary advertisement that John Mein placed in the New-London Gazette in the fall of 1767. Not only did Mein, a Boston bookseller, advertise in a distant newspaper, his advertisement occupied nearly two entire pages. That was a bold and innovative marketing strategy.

It was not a one-time gimmick. Mein placed a similar advertisement in the October 16, 1767, edition of the New-London Gazette, an advertisement that was even more elaborate than the previous one. The new version extended over six columns, two entire pages (with the exception of the masthead on the first page). Mein’s advertisement accounted for half of that issue of the newspaper, limiting the amount of space for news items and prompting the printer to insert a notice that “Advertisements omitted will be in our next.”

This new advertisement had another feature that distinguished it from the previous version. It appeared on the first and fourth pages of the four-page newspaper (rather than the final two pages). This meant that it was both the first and last item readers encountered when they read that issue of the New-London Gazette. In addition, if a reader held the open newspaper aloft to read the second and third pages, observers would glimpse only the first and last pages. From their perspective it would appear that the New-London Gazette contained nothing except Mein’s advertisement. Similarly, a closed copy of the newspaper sitting on a desk or table assumed the appearance of a broadsheet book catalogue since no other advertisements or news items would have been visible.

Theses visual aspects that depend on the material qualities of the newspaper might be overlooked when working with a copy bound into a volume with other issues of the New-London Gazette, a common practice for preserving and archiving eighteenth-century newspapers. Deprived of the ability to exist as a separate issue but instead reduced to four consecutive pages in a larger book, the transformed newspaper does not immediately suggest all of the visual characteristics that early American readers would have experienced. The same could also be said of digitized versions of the advertisement, each page completely disembodied from the others. The greater significance of Mein’s advertisement becomes apparent only upon contemplating how the form in which the New-London Gazette was originally delivered to readers, not just the format the issue happens to occupy in the twenty-first century.

Oct 16 - 10:16:1767 Page 4 New-London Gazette
Final Page of New-London Gazette (October 16, 1767).

 

October 15

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

Oct 15 - 10:15:1767 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (October 15, 1767).

“MILLINERY … supplied on the shortest notices, by … M. and J. HUNTER.”

At a glance, this advertisement for a “GENTEEL ASSORTMENT of MILLINERY” placed by M. and J. Hunter in the October 15, 1767, issue of the Virginia Gazette seems to obscure the participation of women in the marketplace – and in the public prints – as retailers and producers, at least to modern readers who do not possess the same familiarity with Williamsburg in the 1760s as residents of the period.

Only upon close reading of the second paragraph does it become clear that M. and J. Hunter, the “humble servants” who imported and sold “all the materials for making hats and bonnets,” were women. Since milliners often tended to be women, some readers might have made this assumption as soon as they spotted the word “MILLINERY” in large, bold letters. Yet male shopkeepers and merchants, even if they did not work as milliners themselves, also imported, advertised, and sold millinery supplies to milliners and the general public. That the Hunters who placed the advertisement were women becomes clear when once states, “The subscriber having a sister just arrived from LONDON, who understands the millinery business, she hopes to carry it on to the satisfaction of those who shall favour them with their commands.” Here it becomes clear that the “subscriber,” the person who placed the notice, was a woman who went into business with a sister recently arrived in the colony: “The subscriber” referenced herself as “she.”

While it requires some special attention for the modern reader to identify M. and J. Hunter as female entrepreneurs, it would not have been as difficult for eighteenth-century readers who resided in Williamsburg. Note the careful attention to detail in the advertisement. The Hunters described their merchandise in detail, providing a long list of items as a means of signaling the wide array of choices available to consumers. They made appeals to gentility, fashion, and price. Yet they did not indicate where they operated their millinery shop. This suggests that the Hunters, especially the sister who already resided in Williamsburg for some time, believed that local readers of the Virginia Gazette already knew who they were and where to find them. The signature “M. and J. Hunter” alone does not reveal to modern readers that these milliners were women, but it would have been sufficient for contemporary residents of Williamsburg to immediately associate the advertisement with female entrepreneurs.

October 14

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

Oct 14 - 10:14:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 14, 1767).

“Henry Steerman and Jonathan Remington, TAYLORS and PARTNERS.”

The advertisement placed by Henry Steerman and Jonathan Remington, as well as all of the other advertisements on the same page of the October 14, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette, creates a bit of a mystery for modern historian who consult databases of digitized newspapers to conduct their research. These advertisements appeared on the fifth page of that issue.

Why would this be a mystery? Most newspapers published in 1767 followed a standard format: four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half. Occasionally printers issued a supplement, either two (using half a broadsheet) or four pages (using an entire additional broadsheet). Usually these supplements had their own masthead that identified them as supplements, though sometimes they were inserted in the center of the newspaper without additional identification. Due to the scarcity of paper, printers carefully filled both sides of any supplement with news items, advertisements, or both, leaving no empty space. If they did not have enough material to issue an even number of pages – four, six, or eight – they inserted notes indicating that news items would be continued in the next issue or advertisements omitted would be in the next.

The Georgia Gazette rarely issued a supplement. The layout sometimes suggested that the printer had difficulty even filling four pages. On such occasions the advertisements featured generous amounts of white space in order to occupy as much space on the page as possible. That Steerman and Remington’s advertisement, along with twenty others, appeared on the fifth page of the Georgia Gazette was out of the ordinary. What was perplexing to this historian, however, was the absence of a sixth page in the database of digitized newspapers. It would have been extraordinary for the printer not to print on both sides of the sheet, yet the sixth page seemed to be missing. Even more curious, the fifth page did not have a masthead that identified it as a supplement. Had Steerman and Remington’s advertisement actually appeared on the fifth page? Or was it on the sixth page and the fifth page, for whatever reason, was missing from the database?

These questions could not be answered merely by examining the digital surrogates. I found definitive confirmation only when I visited the American Antiquarian Society to examine the original issue of the Georgia Gazette that had been photographed and later digitized by Readex. To my surprise, the October 14, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette did indeed consist of only five pages. More accurately, it consisted of five printed pages and a blank sixth page, but this was not at all evident from the database. It did not include a photograph of the blank sixth page to provide context and a complete record for researchers.

This points to two lessons when it comes to the creation and use of digital surrogates in historical research. First, digital surrogates should be used in addition to, rather than instead of, original sources. Digital surrogates are valuable resources that have made original documents much more accessible to historians, other scholars, and the general public, but sometimes they hide elements of the past rather than reveal them. They must be consulted with caution and with knowledge of what kinds of questions to also ask about original documents in order not to be misled by digitized ones.

Second, the example of the October 14, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette underscores the necessity of content providers, like Readex, consulting with librarians, archivists, historians, and other scholars who are familiar with the original sources and the most likely users of digital surrogates when designing and implementing databases. To a layperson unfamiliar with eighteenth-century newspapers it seemed unnecessary, wasteful, and perhaps even confusing to include a photo of a blank page of a newspaper. To someone who works with eighteenth-century newspapers, both original and digital surrogates, every day, the absence of a blank page in the database actually created confusion that could have been avoided.

Consulting the original issue of the October 14, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette cleared up the mystery about its original format, yet another mystery remains, one that will be much harder to solve. Given the scarcity of paper, why did the printer issue an additional halfsheet printed on only one side?

October 13

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

Oct 13 - 10:13:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 13, 1767).

“THE famous new-invented STOMACH PILLS, prepared by JAMES SPEEDIMAN.”

Colonial shopkeepers and apothecaries frequently advertised a variety of imported remedies, especially patent medicines with names widely recognized by consumers. The “new-invented” pills for stomach ailments “prepared by JAMES SPEEDIMAN” did not have that advantage. Since they were mostly unfamiliar to local customers, William Williamson had to put special effort into marketing them in the fall of 1767.

He first established that patients in other places, especially England, had embraced Speediman’s “STOMACH PILLS.” The proprietor had been granted “HIS MAJESTY’S ROYAL LETTERS-PATENT.” In addition, Williamson assured potential customers that “those Pills are found effectual” by patients on the other side of the Atlantic. They had earned a positive reputation and were “approved of in Great-Britain.” Williamson mobilized both bureaucratic approbation and public consensus as endorsements of Speediman’s pills.

Yet local consumers did not need to trust solely William’s representation of how the pills had been received in England. He reported that he had brought a few boxes to South Carolina the previous year, “upon Trial” for his customers. After he distributed them, “they proved so beneficial to sundry Persons who used them” that patients wanted more of them and made “very frequent Applications” for them. This convinced Williamson to acquire a greater quantity, which had just arrived in port. Although Williamson did not provide testimonials, he did suggest that local consumers could verify that Speediman’s pills had worked for them.

In order to sell these stomach pills, Williamson also created a sense of exclusivity. He noted that Speediman made them available to him “by particular Appointment,” selecting him – “and him only” – to sell the pills in South Carolina. To substantiate the authenticity of the pills, Williamson delivered them with “printed Directions” that had been “signed with the Proprietor’s own Hand.” Advertisers sometimes indicated that other medicines came with printed directions and other marketing material, but rarely did they have such an immediate connection to “the Proprietor.” This also contributed to forging an aura of exclusivity.

William Williamson had a relatively new product, one not yet familiar to most consumers in his local marketplace. Colonists were already familiar with other patent medicines, with other brands, and their effects so he needed to convince them to give Speediman’s stomach pills a chance. To do so, he stressed that their effectiveness had made them popular in England, but emphasized that they were not yet widely available in South Carolina. Due to an exclusive contract, local consumers could obtain them only from him.

October 12

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

Oct 12 - 10:12:1767 Boston-Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (October 12, 1767).

“The Calamitous State of the Enslaved NEGROES in the British Dominions.”

American colonists became increasingly preoccupied with their own liberty and potential enslavement by Parliament in the 1760s and 1770s. Among their many methods of protest, they gave voice to their anxieties in newspapers. For instance, Edes and Gill printed a lengthy letter warning against “parliamentary slavery” resulting from the “corruption of Parliament” alongside the text of the an “ACT OF PARLIAMENT, for granting certain Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America,” better known today as the Townshend Act.

Colonists concerns about the enslavement they believed they experienced stood in stark contrast to advertisements concerning enslaved Africans that appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies, including those published in New England. In the same issue of the Boston-Gazette that Edes and Gill paired the Townshend Act with a spirited critique of Parliament, four advertisements presented slaves for sale. Whether for “a very likely Negro Boy” who could “sort & cut & spin all Sorts of Tobacco” or a “healthy, stout Negro Man … who has been in this Country about three Months,” all four advertisements instructed interested buyers to “inquire of Edes and Gill” for more information. A fifth advertisement offered “A fine Negro Male Child, well provided with Cloathing” for free, “To be given away.” Again, the advertisement concluded with “inquire of Edes & Gill.” The printers who gave voice to Anglo-American colonists’ objections to the tyranny of Parliament not only generated revenues by selling advertisements for slaves but also served as agents who facilitated the trade for anonymous sellers.

Edes and Gill could not have been completely oblivious to this contradiction. After all, one additional advertisement mentioned slavery. The printers announced that they sold “A CAUTION and WARNING to Great-Britain and her Colonies, in a short Representation of the Calamitous State of the Enslaved NEGROES in the British Dominions.” Anthony Benezet, a Quaker abolitionist from Philadelphia, penned this pamphlet in 1766. Originally published in Philadelphia, it was reprinted in London the following year. Based on the supplementary materials mentioned in the advertisement, Edes and Gill sold yet another edition, this one printed by Hall and Sellers in Philadelphia in 1767.

As many colonists fretted over the tension between their own liberty and imagined enslavement, some applied such rhetoric more broadly to include enslaved Africans and their descendants in the colonies. Others conveniently ignored any contradictions. Printers like Edes and Gill, through the advertisements and pamphlets they sold and the exchanges they facilitated, stood to gain financially from the activities of slaveholders and abolitionists alike.

October 11

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

Oct 11 - 10:8:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette.jpg
Pennsylvania Gazette (October 8, 1767).

“The public is referred to a pamphlet of cases, to be had of the vender.”

Nathaniel Tweedy, a druggist, operated a shop “At the Golden Eagle, in Market-street” in Philadelphia. To promote his “fresh assortment of drugs, chemical and galenical medicines, [and] patent and family medicines of all kinds,” he placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette and other local newspapers in the summer and fall of 1767. In several of them he marketed the “BAUME DE VIE” in particular, listing a broad range of symptoms that it alleviated. According to Tweedy, the Baume de Vie was a cure-all that benefited patients with just about any sort of malady, from “disorders of the stomach and bowels” to “female complaints.”

Tweedy did not consider a brief newspaper advertisement sufficient for relaying the virtues of this particular patent medicine. “For a more ample account of its uses,” he proclaimed, “the public is referred to a pamphlet of cases, to be had of the vender as above.” These “cases” presumably included testimonials from patients who previously benefited from the Baume de Vie. The druggist turned to the advertising pages in the public prints to incite initial interest, but hoped to stoke even more demand by making additional information available in a pamphlet. Rather than purchasing additional space in the newspaper at considerable expense, distributing pamphlets allowed him to target those consumers most interested in his product and most likely to acquire it once they learned more. Furthermore, potential customers might hold onto a pamphlet longer than they kept a newspaper. Tweedy’s marketing efforts resembled those of printers and booksellers who previewed their inventory in newspaper notices but also informed readers that they distributed catalogs at their shops.

Newspapers, catalogs, and pamphlets were all ephemeral, but sometimes catalogs and pamphlets more so than newspapers. As a result, the only evidence of some advertising materials that survives today comes from newspaper advertisements that mention other media, such as Tweedy inviting readers to visit his shop to receive a pamphlet about the Baume de Vie. This also raises questions about Tweedy’s advertising campaign. How many copies of the pamphlet did he distribute? Did he write the copy and have it printed locally? Or did the supplier of the medicines also provide pamphlets for dissemination in local markets? In giving modern readers a more complete glimpse of eighteenth-century advertising media, Tweedy’s newspaper advertisement raises a series of questions about related marketing practices.

October 10

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

Oct 10 - 10:10:1767 Providence Gazette.jpg
Providence Gazette (October 10, 1767).

“The said Joseph is not, by me, any Ways authorized or impowered to settle any of my Affairs.”

According to his advertisement, a notice that originally appeared in the September 26, 1767, edition of the Providence Gazette must have surprised John Whipple. It stated that “ALL Persons having any Demands on the Estate of Captain JOHN WHIPPLE, of Providence; and likewise all those who are any ways indebted to said Estate” should contact the executor, Joseph Whipple. At a glance, it appeared to be a standard estate notice; it replicated the language deployed in similar notices published in newspapers throughout the colonies.

However, John Whipple, the deceased, saw the advertisement and then disputed his death and stated in no uncertain terms that he had not “authorized or impowered” Joseph Whipple “to settle any of my Affairs.” In the very next issue, published on October 3, he inserted his own advertisement, but it was not until the following week that the compositor positioned the two contradictory advertisements next to each other. Was that the result of those working in the “PRINTING-OFFICE, [at] the Sign of Shakespear’s Head” attempting to impose order within the pages of the Providence Gazette? Did they seek to assist readers in navigating the two advertisements? Did they place them one after another as a service to the aggrieved John Whipple? Or did the supposedly deceased captain examine the October 3 issue, notice that his advertisement was not even on the same page as the second insertion of Joseph Whipple’s original notice, and then make a subsequent visit to the printing office to demand that his advertisement would be most effective if it appeared immediately after the fraudulent one?

Colonists engaged in extensive and active reading of newspapers, yet the decision to place the advertisements by the feuding Whipples one after the other (which continued in subsequent issues) suggests that someone – printer, compositor, or advertiser – saw a need for greater organization than the system of unclassified advertisements usually provided. This also had the effect of telling a better and more complete story, potentially ramping up interest among readers interested in local gossip. On the rare occasions that runaway wives responded to advertisements placed by their abandoned husbands, printers or others sometimes positioned their notices next to each other, giving each their say while also accentuating the drama for readers.

Sarah Goddard and John Carter and their employees in the printing office did not further differentiate or organize other advertisements in the Providence Gazette according to their purposes, but in the case of the Whipples and an early modern case of identity theft they did print the related advertisements next to each other throughout most of their runs.