August 23

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

Aug 23 - 8:17:1767 New York Gazette
New-York Gazette (August 17, 1767).

“They will be presented to the Publick in a Catalogue.”

Garret Noel continued to stock “A Very extensive Assortment of Books” nearly a month after his advertisement concerning a shipment that just arrived on the Amelia first appeared in the July 20, 1767, edition of the New-York Gazette. That the second line of his notice, proclaiming that he “Has this Day receiv’d” new inventory, was slightly outdated mattered little compared to two other aspects of the advertisement.

Noel, a prolific advertiser, informed potential customers that his “extensive Assortment of Books” covered a wide variety of topics, including “History, Divinity, Law, Physic, [and] Poetry.” In fact, he now carried so many new books that they were “too numerous” to list all the titles in newspaper advertisements. Instead, he resorted to another medium, a book catalog printed separately and often distributed free of charge as a means of inciting demand. Noel indicated that his catalog was “publishing with all the speed possible.” No extant copy exists, but that does not mean that Noel’s catalog never made it to press. According to the American Antiquarian Society’s online catalog, Noel previously published four other catalogs in 1754/55, 1755, 1759, and 1762. The partnership of Noel and Hazard later published a catalog in 1771. Perhaps Noel never printed the catalog promised in this advertisement but instead suggested that it existed as a means of luring potential customers to his shop, but the evidence suggests a fairly good chance that he did indeed publish this marketing tool to supplement his frequent newspaper advertisements. While fairly complete collections of many eighteenth-century newspapers have survived into the twenty-first century, other printed materials have not. Newspaper advertisements suggest that many more book catalogs likely circulated in the eighteenth century than can be found in archives today.

While awaiting publication of the catalog, Noel also informed existing customers who had placed orders that they could send for them. This announcement did matter more at the time the bookseller originally inserted the advertisement in the New-York Gazette. With a new shipment that had just arrived he likely had not yet had time to send notices to every customer awaiting an order. An announcement in the newspaper presented an opportunity for eager customers to obtain their purchases as quickly as possible (and potentially saved the bookseller time and energy in contacting customers individually). That this portion of Noel’s notice continued to run for so many weeks also served to inform potential customers that they could also submit special orders.

Garret Noel offered two forms of customer service intended to cater to consumers and convince them to purchase his merchandise. He distributed a catalog detailing his “Very extensive Assortment of Books,” introducing potential customers to titles they may not have previously considered. He also accepted orders and informed clients as soon as they arrived, exhibiting how eagerly he sought to serve his patrons.

August 22

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

Aug 22 - 8:22:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 22, 1767).

“A large Assortment of English Goods and Hard-Ware.”

Joseph and William Russell were among Sarah Goddard and Company’s most loyal advertisers in the Providence Gazette. Even when the publication experienced a lull in paid notices during the winter and into the spring of 1767, the Russells continued to place advertisements for the imported goods they sold at their shop at the Sign of the Golden Eagle. On occasion, their full-page advertisement dominated the entire newspaper.

Some of their other advertisements were more modest, but even as they placed notices for purposes other than marketing their goods the Russells made sure to remind readers and potential customers that they “have to sell a large Assortment of English Goods and Hard-Ware” at low prices. Such was the case in this advertisement announcing that they sought tenants to rent “a Convenient Dwelling-House” in the northern part of Providence. This was not the first time they adopted such a strategy in their advertisements. Six months earlier they had evenly divided the space in a previous advertisement, first issuing a call for prospective renters for what might have been the same “Convenient Dwelling-House” and then hawking their “compleat Assortment of English GOODS” and, especially, “Excellent Bohea Tea, which for smell and flavor, exceeds most any ever imported.”

The Russells’ advertisement from August 1767 was not nearly as elaborate, yet the shopkeepers still determined that it should fulfill multiple purposes. They may have figured that as long as circumstances forced them once again to advertise a house for rent in the Providence Gazette that they might as well attempt to gain as much of a return on their investment in advertising as possible. Greater numbers of competitors had turned to the local newspaper to advertise throughout the spring and summer. Having previously established their reputation as retailers in the public prints, Joseph and William Russell reminded readers that they sold similar merchandise also advertised by William Brown, John Mathewson, Benjamin West, and others elsewhere in the issue.

August 21

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

Aug 21 - 8:21:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 21, 1767).

“Choice London BOHEA TEA, to be sold by Henry Appleton, at £4 10s. Old Tenor by the Dozen.”

Henry Appleton advertised “Choice London BOHEA TEA” in the August 21, 1767, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. His was one of nearly two dozen paid notices that appeared in that issue, its format distinguishing it from the others. Appleton’s advertisement ran in a single line across the bottom of the third page, extending nearly the width of three columns. At a glance, it could have been mistaken for the colophon printed on the other side of the page.

Why did Appleton’s advertisement have such a unique layout? A few other advertisements were nearly as brief, yet they had been set as squares of text within the usual three-column format of the New-Hampshire Gazette. The brevity of Appleton’s notice alone did not justify its unusual layout.

Who made the decision to treat Appleton’s advertisement differently? Perhaps Appleton, wishing to draw special attention to it, made arrangements with Daniel and Robert Fowle, the printers, to deploy an innovative format. Perhaps the Fowles or someone working in their printing office opted to experiment with the appearance of advertising on the page.

Perhaps neither the advertiser nor the printers put that much consideration into Appleton’s notice. If it had been submitted late or somehow overlooked, running it in a single line across the bottom of the page may have been the result of practicality rather than an intentional effort to challenge the conventions of eighteenth-century advertising.

As far as potential customers were concerned, however, the origins likely would have been less important than the effects. Readers scanning the contents of the issue would have encountered Appleton’s advertisement three times instead of passing over it only once. Its unique format demanded at least one close reading to determine what kind of information it contained, whereas advertisements that conformed to the standard layout did not elicit the same curiosity merely from their appearance.

Even in a short advertisement, Henry Appleton incorporated appeals to price and quality, but the format of his advertisement – whether intentionally designed or not – made it much more likely that consumers would spot those appeals and consider purchasing his merchandise.

August 20

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

Aug 20 - 8:20:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (August 20, 1767).

“A considerable number of rolling screens for cleansing wheat.”

John Sellers and Richard Truman both advertised their “SCREENS for cleaning all sorts of Grain” in the August 20, 1767, issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Truman devoted more than half of the space in his notice to a woodcut depicting a machine that used one of the screens he made. This strategy likely garnered a fair amount of attention since visual images were relatively rare in eighteenth-century newspapers; even the most humble woodcuts distinguished the advertisements they adorned from the vast majority of others.

Sellers purchased the same amount of space, but, like most advertisers, densely filled it with text. He used that space to develop two marketing strategies: an appeal to unparalleled expertise in his field and roll call of existing customers who could testify to his abilities and their experience using the screens he made.

Sellers not only “MADES and sold” screens for cleaning flaxseed and wheat, he claimed to be “the original inventor and institutor of that branch of business in America.” Furthermore, he protected his trade secrets by not sharing his techniques with anyone else. As evidence that former customers recognized the quality and utility of his “wire work of all sorts,” Sellers argued that he had made “all the wire boults used in the cities of Philadelphia and New-York” as well as a “considerable number” of rolling screens akin to those advertised by Truman. Due to his “long experience” and status as “the best master of the work,” he believed that he was “best intitled” to the patronage of those who needed to purchase such equipment.

Potential customers did not need to take Sellers’ word. Instead, he listed eight associates in Philadelphia and another eight in New York, encouraging readers to enquire of them for further endorsements. Realizing that consumers would rightfully be skeptical of what amount to nothing more than braggadocio, Sellers made it possible for them to independently verify his claims by speaking with satisfied customers.

Without a woodcut decorating his advertisement, John Sellers instead worked to convince potential customers of the superiority of his product over others marketed and sold by his competitors. Richard Truman’s advertisement was rudimentary in comparison. It included an eye-catching visual image, but did little beyond announcing that he sold fans and screens for cleaning grains. In contrast, Sellers explained why customers should prefer the products he made and sold. In addition, he directed them to satisfied customers who could speak authoritatively about his screens.

August 19

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

Aug 19 - 8:19:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 19, 1767).

“I will not pay any debts of her contracting.”

Four short lines on the final page of advertisements in the August 19, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette alerted residents of Savannah to discord in the Frentz household. John Frentz placed a notice “to forewarn all persons from purchasing effects of any kind from my wife, Margaret Frentz, or crediting her on my account.” He added that he would not “pay any debts of her contracting” after August 4, 1767.

By August 19, regular readers of the Georgia Gazette would have been aware of Frentz’s prohibition already. The notice first appeared two weeks earlier in the August 5 edition and again on August 12. Like many advertisements published during the colonial era, it ran for three weeks before disappearing from the pages of the public prints. The discord between John and Margaret Frentz, however, most likely did not evaporate quite so quickly, not if it had been so substantial as to warrant airing in public in the local newspaper.

Frentz’s advertisement was the only one of its kind in the Georgia Gazette throughout the month of August 1767, but it was not a sort unfamiliar to colonists. In larger ports, weekly newspapers often carried as many as half a dozen such warnings published by husbands targeting absent or recalcitrant wives. Any given issue published in New York or Philadelphia was as likely as not to contain at least one such notice.

Frentz’s notice, however, did differ from most others in one significant way. He did not indicate that Margaret had departed from his household. Similar announcements have collectively become known as “runaway wife” advertisements; they usually included some sort of variation on the wife “eloping” away from husband and home, thus justifying the aggrieved husband no longer assuming responsibility for any debts contracted by an absent and insubordinate wife.

Margaret may not have departed at the time John composed his advertisement, but he still worried about what sorts of mischief she might do to his disadvantage. He attempted to eliminate, or at least curtail, her ability to participate in the marketplace, disavowing any debts she initiated. He also sought to prevent her from selling any sorts of goods, presumably including his own belongings, which may have been a strategy for preventing her from eventually “eloping” once she had accumulated enough cash to have a fair chance of making her escape.

Runaway wife advertisements are often interpreted as evidence of women asserting agency in eighteenth-century America, removing themselves from unhappy marriages and households. That was certainly the case, but they also demonstrate that husbands continued to possess the upper hand, even after wives departed. Women had less access to cash and credit as well as fewer opportunities to participate in the marketplace. In this advertisement, John Frentz used buying and selling goods as a means of curbing the agency of his disobedient wife.

August 18

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

Aug 18 - 8:18:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 18, 1767).

“They will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.”

Samuel Peronneau advertised “A large parcel of genuine Made[i]ra Wines” in the supplement that accompanied the August 18, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. On the same page, William Hulme promoted the “MADEIRA, VIDONIA and LISBON WINES, BRANDY and GIN” he sold, along with “RUMS, from Jamaica, Barbados, and the Northward.” Elsewhere in the issue, several shopkeepers advertised other alcoholic beverages. James McCall included “bottled beer, cyder, ale, and perry” among a list of dozens of imported items in stock at his shop. Samuel Grove carried “best Taunton ale, [and] cyder,” while Greenland and Jones sold “best Bristol bottled beer, [and] Philadelphia ditto in whole and half barrels.” Other merchants and shopkeepers regularly advertised beers, wines, and liquors in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers printed in Charleston in the late 1760s. Residents of Charleston had many options when it came to acquiring alcohol.

Amid this sea of choices, Peronneau attempted to distinguish his offerings from those presented by his competitors. He confidently stated that his wines were “Of the best London, York, and Jamaica qualities” and boldly pledged that they “will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.” Some competitors made passing comments about the quality of their beverages, but Peronneau elaborated on why potential customers could trust his assurances in that regard. He did not sell whatever happened to be shipped to him by faraway associates. Instead, he contracted “a gentleman on the spot” to examine “every pipe.” In each instance, that gentleman “spared no pains in the choice of them.” In effect, Peronneau had a quality control agent overseeing the merchandise that entered his warehouse. Ultimately, that “gentleman” worked on behalf of Peronneau’s clients, his efforts mutually benefitting the retailer and the customers rather than the suppliers.

Whether they sold wine or other imported goods, most advertisers did not provide much information about the processes through which they acquired their inventory. Peronneau, however, had a system that distinguished his wines from others on the market. This allowed him to include specific details that further developed his appeal to quality, one of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements. Rather than make vague and general statements about the quality of his merchandise, Peronneau offered potential customers specific details explaining why they should believe that he did indeed stock wine “equal, if not superior in quality” to any others they could purchase locally.

August 17

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

Aug 17 - 8:17:1767 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (August 17, 1767).

“I … am of Opinion that they may be serviceable in many Disorders, if properly used.”

These items from the August 17, 1767, edition of the Boston Evening-Post blurred the lines between advertising and news content. The proprietor of “JACKSON’s Mineral Well in Boston” had previously advertised the spa in other newspapers. The “RULES” for the establishment, including the hours and rates, appeared in an advertisement on the final page of the issue that carried these announcements, easily identified as an advertisement among more than a score of other advertisements. These announcements, on the other hand, occupied a more liminal space on the third page, at the transition between the news content and advertising in the issue.

The notices had the appearance of news. They followed immediately after an extract from a “Letter from a Gentleman in London” and news from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but they preceded James McMaster’s advertisement for “A general Assortment of Scotch and English Goods” and the advertising that accounted for the remainder of the issue. In particular, the item by James Lloyd resembled a letter submitted to the newspaper rather than an advertisement. Lloyd sought to rectify an incorrect report that he described “Mr. Jackson’s mineral Spring” as being “of a noxious Quality.” Furthermore, he so wholly approved of the waters that he “recommended the Use of them” to his patients afflicted with various disorders. Was this news or an endorsement? The other item contained information that might have been considered general interest but did not explicitly address potential patrons.

Were these pieces local news items the editor selected as a service to readers? Or were they puff pieces and product placements that the proprietor of the “Mineral Well” had arranged to have printed in such close proximity to the news as to make them appear as though they came from a source that did not stand to generate revenue from inciting clients to visit the spa? If they were indeed advertisements, they could have been combined with verifiable advertisement printed on the following page.

Aug 17 - 8:17:1767 Page 3 of Boston Evening-Post
Third Page of Boston Evening-Post (August 17, 1767).