June 16

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (June 13, 1771).

Advertisements … are by him translated gratis.”

When printer Henry Miller (Johann Heinrich Müller) moved to a new location in the spring of 1771, he placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal to alert current and prospective customers.  He also used the opportunity to advise them of specialized services he provided, proclaiming that he performed “all Manner of PRINTING-WORK, in English, German, and other Languages.”  In particular, Miller noted “English and German ADVERTISEMENTS done on the shortest Notice; and a German NEWS-PAPER published every Tuesday.”  A migrant from Germany himself, Miller granted prospective advertisers greater access to the sizable German community in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Miller commenced printing the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote in 1762, making it well established by the time he ran his advertisements in the colony’s English newspapers in 1771.  The final line of those advertisements in those newspapers echoed a note that appeared in the masthead of his own newspaper, usually the only portion printed in English rather than German.  “All ADVERTISEMENTS,” it read, “to be inserted in this Paper, or printed single by HENRY MILLER, Publisher hereof, are by him translated gratis.”  In offering his services as a translator and not charging for it, Miller sought to generate revenue by increasing the number of advertisers who placed notices in the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote.

The printer also produced other forms of advertising.  Items “printed single” likely included broadsides, handbills, trade cards, billheads, and catalogs.  Like their counterparts printed in English, those advertisements were ephemeral compared to the newspapers and almanacs that came off of Miller’s press.  Few survive today, but Miller’s newspaper advertisements and masthead suggest that various kinds of advertisements in German enhanced the vibrant advertising culture that emerged in Philadelphia in the decades before the American Revolution.  As newspapers, handbills, and other items printed by Miller circulated in Philadelphia and beyond, colonists encountered marketing in more than one language, underscoring global networks of commerce and migration in vast early America.

June 15

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

Providence Gazette (June 15, 1771).

“He will sell as cheap … as can be purchased anywhere on the Continent.”

Purveyors of goods and services frequently made appeals to price to entice prospective customers, but some made much bolder claims than others.  Consider how advertisers sought to leverage price to their advantage in the June 15, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette.

William Eliot stocked a variety of textiles “to be sold cheap.”  Similarly, John Fitton sold flour, pork, and peas by the barrel, “all cheap for Cash” (or in trade for “good Melasses”).  In addition to promising low prices, other advertisers insisted that they set the lowest prices for their wares.  The partnership of Nicholas, Joseph, and Moses Brown, for instance, carried “a fine Assortment of Hard Ware and other GOODS, which they will sell on the lowest Terms.”  Coy and Waterman specialized in painting supplies, having “furnished themselves with a compleat Assortment of Painters Colours, which they will sell at the lowest Prices.”

Other advertisers made even more colorful proclamations about prices.  At his shop at the Sign of the Turk’s Head, Paul Allen supposedly offered some of the best bargains anywhere in the colonies.  He trumpeted that “he will sell on as low Terms … as can be purchased anywhere on the Continent.”  Allen informed prospective customers that his prices matched the best deals available in Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and other towns and cities.  Joseph Nash made the same comparison, declaring that he sold his “neat Assortment of GOODS … as cheap … as can be purchased anywhere on the Continent.”  Allen and Nash echoed an appeal John Morton and James Morton made in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy the previous day.  The Mortons promised prospective customers that they could acquire their merchandise “as cheap as in New York or Boston.”

The vast majority of merchants and shopkeepers mentioned low prices in their newspaper advertisements, though some were more creative than others in doing so.  Advertisers like Allen and Nash attempted to attract customers with reassurances that they had the best deals anywhere, not just prices that were low enough to compete in the local marketplace.  In the process, they prompted readers to imagine themselves participating in a consumer revolution taking place throughout the colonies and beyond.  Acquiring goods connected readers of the Providence Gazette to colonists in faraway places, giving them common experiences through their experiences in the marketplace.

June 14

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

Connecticut Journal (June 14, 1771).

“Town and Country Shopkeepers may supply themselves as cheap as in New York or Boston.”

In an advertisement that filled an entire column and overflowed into the next, John Morton and James Morton informed readers of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy that they carried “all Sorts of English and India Goods.”  To entice prospective customers, the Mortons listed dozens of items, including “Womans White Silk Gloves,” “Mens worsted Hose,” and textiles in many colors and designs. Choices for consumers and retailers alike abounded at the shop; customers made selections among “An Assortment of Writing Paper,” “Looking-Glasses of different Sizes,” “A good Assortment of Ribbons,” “Pins of different Sorts,” and “A good Assortment of Fans.”  Despite the length of the advertisement, it only hinted at the variety of goods offered by the Mortons.

The merchants stocked this inventory at two shops, one in New Haven “at Mr. Richard Woodhull’s, which is the Corner House opposite the North-East Front of White-Haven Meeting-House” and the other in New York “in Queen-Street, near the Fly-Market.”  They intended their advertisement in the Connecticut Journal primarily for residents of New Haven and nearby towns, but noted their original location in New York for the convenience of other customers.  The Mortons underscored that purchasing goods at their shop in New Haven was in no way inferior to acquiring merchandise in any of the major urban ports.  They imported their wares “in the last Vessels from London and Bristol, via New York,” but the additional step in transporting them to New Haven did not result in higher prices.  Customers, especially “Town and Country Shopkeepers,” could “supply themselves as cheap as in New York or Boston.”  The Mortons declared that they would not be undersold by their competitors.  In addition, they offered the same range of choices as merchants in larger port cities.  The Mortons proclaimed “they are as well laid in as any that comes to America.”

The Mortons’ advertisement continued in a second column of the Connecticut Journal (June 14, 1771).

Compared to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal, the Connecticut Gazette carried significantly less advertising for imported goods.  That did not mean, however, that consumer culture in New Haven and other towns in Connecticut was any less vibrant than in New York, Boston, and other urban centers.  The Mortons suggested to both shopkeepers and consumers that they had access to the same merchandise available at their store in New York … and at the same prices.  The consumer revolution did not occur only in cities.  The Mortons did their part in making it possible for prospective customers in the countryside to acquire a vast array of goods that rivaled the choices they offered to shoppers in New York.

June 13

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

New-York Journal (June 13, 1771).

“James Sloan … hath thought proper to advertise me his Wife for absconding from him.”

In the wake of marital discord in the Sloan household, James placed an advertisement concerning his wife, Altye, in the June 13, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal.  According to James’s version of events, his wife had “in many Respects misbehaved, and without any just Cause eloped from me, wasting and embezling my Substance.”  James further accused Altye of “endeavour[ing] to run me in Debt.”  Accordingly, he placed the advertisement “to warn all Persons not to trust or entertain her on my Account” because he would not pay any “Debt of her contracting since her Elopement.”

Runaway wife advertisements like this one appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers from New England to Georgia. They usually went unanswered, at least in the public prints.  Husbands advanced narratives about what happened, but wives generally did not have the resources to publish their own version of events.  That was not the case, however, for Altye Sloan.  She ran her own notice that acknowledged her husband’s advertisement, suggesting that James had been prompted to tell a tale to the public by “some dissolute Persons like himself.”  In turn, she offered a more accurate rendering of events, claiming that “she neither has embezzled his Substance, nor eloped from him.”  Instead, James “turned her out of Doors” after “beat[ing] and abus[ing] her often Times.”  As far as Altye was concerned, that amounted to “sufficient C[au]se to abandon such an insolent Person.”  She concluded by proclaiming that she would not run her husband into debt and neither would she pay any of his bills.

The two advertisements ran one after the other in the June 13 edition of the New-York Journal.  They did so again in the June 20 and 26 editions, before being discontinued.  The compositor may have chosen to place them together for easy reference, but the notations on the final line of each advertisement suggest that Altye may have requested that her advertisement appear with her husband’s notice.  The notations on the final lines corresponded to the issue numbers for the first and last times advertisements were supposed to run.  They aided compositors in determining whether advertisements belonged in an issue.  The “83 86” in James’s advertisement indicated that it first appeared in issue 1483 (June 6) and ran through issue 1486 (June 27).  For Altye’s advertisement, “84 86” corresponded to first running in issue 1484 (June 13) and concluding in issue 1486 (June 27).  According to the rates in the colophon, most advertisements ran at least four weeks.  James’s advertisement did so, in issues 1483, 1484, 1485, and 1486, but Altye’s advertisement ran for only three weeks.  She may have made special arrangements for a shorter run (and lower fees) that matched the remaining time her husband’s advertisement would appear.  As part of the deal, she could have requested that their advertisements run one after the other.

Altye could not prevent her husband from advertising, but she apparently possessed the means to purchase space in the New-York Journal to tell her side of the story.  Rather than allow her husband to control the narrative, she may have also requested that her notice appear with his in order to give readers a more complete story of what actually transpired in the Sloan household.  Most so-called “runaway wives” did not have opportunities to leverage print to inform the public that it was actually husbands who “misbehaved” and they “eloped” to protect themselves from various kinds of mistreatment and abuse.  Altye Sloan did publish her account of events, managing to have it inserted with her husband’s advertisement to increase the chances that readers would not see his version without the additional context she provided.

June 12

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (June 10, 1771).

“Sold as low as at any Store or Shop in Town.”

Advertisements for consumer goods in eighteenth-century newspapers frequently included appeals to price.  In the June 10, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, for instance, William Bant informed his “Friends and Customers” that he sold a “General Assortment of English and India GOODS … at the very lowest Rates.”  Similarly, Lewis Deblois sold cutlery, hardware, and other goods “at the very lowest Price.”  Joshua Isaacs set “reasonable Terms” for the imported goods he sold.  In many instances, advertisers made only brief reference to the price of their merchandise, but some, like Joshua Gardner, underscored price in their attempts to entice customers.

Gardner stocked a “fine Assortment of English Goods” that he acquired from London, Bristol, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, and other towns.  After listing several items, he declared that “the above-mention’d Goods are purchased upon the best Ter[m]s.”  In turn, he passed along the savings to his customers, pledging that everything in his inventory “shall be Sold as low as at any Store or Shop in Town.”  Prospective customers, he proclaimed, would not find better bargains anywhere in Boston.

In addition, Gardner inserted a special “NOTE” to retailers, informing “THOSE Persons who purchase to Sell again” that they “may be supply’d by the Piece, Half-piece or Quarter-piece, Dozen, Half-dozen or Quarter-dozen, at the same advance as if they bought large Quantities.”  Many wholesalers promoted discounts for purchasing in volume in their advertisements, but Gardner went beyond that deal.  He offered retailers an opportunity to purchase in smaller quantities at the same rates as if they placed larger orders.  Such an offer distinguished him among wholesalers who advertised in Boston, perhaps making his wares more attractive to shopkeepers in the city and surrounding towns.

Although many advertisers resorted to formulaic language when making appeals to price, others experimented with both the rates they charged and how they described prices to prospective customers.  Gardner devoted as much space in his advertisement to discussing his prices as he did to listing his goods, making his notice unique among those inserted by Bant, Deblois, Isaacs, and many other merchants and shopkeepers.

June 11

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 11, 1771).

“She continues to make up EVERY ARTICLE in the MILINARY WAY.”

Readers encountered many advertisements that listed dozens of consumer goods when they perused the June 11, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and the supplement that accompanied it.  Indeed, rather than news accounts the first items on the first page consisted of advertisements for “a general and very compleat ASSORTMENT of GOODS, just imported … from London” that listed many kinds of textiles, garments, and adornments.  Male entrepreneurs placed most of those advertisements, but women also made an appearance in the public prints.  Jane Thomson ran her own notice for a “neat assortment of MILINARY GOODS.”

Thomson stocked everything from “pink, green, white, sky blue, and black English persians” to “women and girls silk and leather gloves and mitts” to “blond lace, single and double edged.”  After listing dozens of items, she proclaimed that her inventory also included “many other articles, too tedious to enumerate.”  She offered as many choices to consumers as her male competitors.  In addition to retailing those goods, Thomson informed prospective clients that she “continues to make up EVERY ARTICLE in the MILINARY WAY, and FINE JOINS LACE as usual.”  That made her a producer as well as a purveyor of goods.

Editorials in early American newspapers often framed women solely as consumers, usually to critique their activities in the marketplace, but Thomson demonstrated that women filled other roles during the consumer revolution.  They ran their own businesses, negotiated with English merchants who supplied their inventory, kept ledgers and other records, collected debts, produced goods, placed advertisements, and mentored other women.  Thomson informed readers that she sought “one GIRL a[s] an apprentice,” someone she could train as a milliner who might eventually operate her own business.

Many more women pursued shopkeeping and other occupations in eighteenth-century American than placed newspaper advertisements.  As a result, the public prints did not give a complete accounting of the presence of women in the marketplace as producers and purveyors of consumer goods.  As they went about their daily business, however, colonists certainly knew that many of their female friends, relatives, and neighbors operated businesses of one kind or another.  Jane Thomson’s advertisement only hints at the number of women who made or sold goods in Charleston in the early 1770s.

June 10

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 10, 1771).

“We shall refer for particulars to our general catalogue now printing.”

Booksellers, like other purveyors of consumer goods, often listed their merchandise in their advertisements.  James Rivington, for instance, inserted a notice that named dozens of titles in the June 10, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  On the same day, an advertisement for a “New-Book & Stationer’s Store” in Boston filled an entire column and overflowed into another in the Boston-Gazette, most of the space devoted to naming more than 150 books.

The partnership of Noel and Hazard, on the other hand, took a different approach in their advertisement in the New-York Gazette.  In a short paragraph, they listed sixteen books “just come to hand,” but also reported that they recently imported many other titles from London and Bristol.  The booksellers opined that “the news-paper can’t afford room but for a few articles,” so rather than publishing a longer list like Rivington and the proprietor of the “New-Book & Stationer’s Store,” a list that would have been incomplete, they directed readers to “our general catalogue now printing” in order to learn more “particulars” about their inventory.  Interested parties presumably visited Noel and Hazard’s shop to acquire copies of the catalog.

The booksellers may have also distributed copies to retailers who had done business with them in the past.  They stated that they had “a large supply of books and stationary, suitable for country stores” and noted that they sold their wares “wholesale and retail.”  Some eighteenth-century printers sent catalogs to associates with the intention that they would use them as order forms.  The recipients marked the number of copies next to each title before returning them, a more efficient method than copying titles into a letter.

Noel and Hazard used one form of marketing, a newspaper advertisement, to promote another form of marketing, a book catalog.  Other newspaper advertisements that listed scores of titles amounted to book catalogs embedded in newspapers, but Noel and Hazard instead opted to produce an item that circulated separately.  The frequency that booksellers mentioned catalogs in their newspaper advertisements suggests that retailers and consumers had access to many more than survive today.

June 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette (June 6, 1771).

“A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS … will be inserted in a CONTINUATION.”

The South-Carolina Gazette was a delivery mechanism for advertising, often devoting more space to paid notices than to news.  The printer, Peter Timothy, must have generated significant revenues, assuming advertisers paid their bills.  Like other colonial newspapers, a standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Some printers reserved advertising for the final pages, but other distributed advertisements throughout an issue, including on the front page.

Consider the contents of the June 6, 1771, edition.  News from London comprised most of the first and third columns, but several advertisements filled the entire column between them.  In addition, a single advertisement appeared at the bottom of the first and third columns, each with a header proclaiming “New Advertisements.”  Local news and a poem filled most of the second page, but an advertisement appeared at the bottom of the last column.  It also bore a header for “New Advertisements,” leading into the facing page.  Advertisements accounted for the first two columns and a portion of the third on that page, though it concluded with “Timothy’s Marine List,” the shipping news from the customs house.  Paid notices filled the entire final page.  In total, advertising comprised seven of the twelve columns in the standard issue.

In addition, Timothy distributed a half sheet supplement, two more pages that contained nothing except paid notices.  Printers who ran out of space for the content they wished to print – or needed to print to satisfy agreements made with advertisers – often resorted to supplements.  In this instance, a header for “Advertisements” appeared at the top of the first column on the first page.  Timothy also inserted a notice in the standard issue to explain that “A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS, which we could not get into this Day’s Paper, will be inserted in a CONTINUATION, to be published on Monday next.”  That meant even more advertising, though the printer’s notice may have been misleading. Timothy may or may not have printed and distributed another supplement on Monday.  The supplement dated June 6 may have been that supplement, taken to press earlier than anticipated at the time Timothy composed his notice and printed the standard issue.

Even without a midweek Continuation in addition to a Supplement that accompanied the June 6 edition, advertising constituted the majority of content delivered to subscribers.  Paid notices filled thirteen of the eighteen columns in the standard issue and supplement, amounting to more than two-thirds of the space.  Revenues generated from that advertising supported the production and distribution of the news, even in the colonial era.

June 8

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

Providence Gazette (June 8, 1771).

“Choice Cyder Vinegar.”

As summer approached in 1771, the number of advertisements in the Providence Gazette increased, due in part to the arrival of ships from England delivering imported goods to merchants and shopkeepers after winter ended.  Advertising accounted for nearly half of the content in the June 8, 1771, edition, many of the paid notices seeking to entice consumers to purchase textiles, garments, housewares, and hardware.

Many of those advertisements followed a similar format.  Headlines consisted of the names of the advertisers while the body of the notices provided lists of goods, alerting prospective customers to the many choices available, in dense paragraphs of text.  In terms of graphic design, those advertisements resembled other paid notices, including advertisements about runaway indentured servants, legal notices, estate notices, and even advertisements about strayed or stolen horses.  Some advertisements did not much different than news accounts.  Determining the purpose of an advertisement and navigating its contents required careful reading.

Some purveyors of consumer goods adopted a different strategy when enumerating their merchandise.  Instead of a single paragraph, Edward Thurber used two columns with only one item on most lines.  This introduced a greater amount of white space into the advertisement while simultaneously making it easier to skim the notice and determine whether it included specific items of interest.  This format increased the amount of space an advertisement filled, which meant that advertisers paid more for it.  Thurber may have considered it well worth the investment if the graphic design distinguished his notice from the many others placed by his competitors.

Only one other advertisement in the June 8 edition featured merchandise listed in columns.  Amos Throop, an apothecary, used columns for listing the various patent medicines available at his shop.  He then reverted to the standard paragraph format for listing other items, producing a hybrid format for describing his inventory.  Both Thurber and Throop competed with other advertisers who sold the same goods, as well as many others who did not resort to the public prints to hawk their wares.  Thurber and Throop made appeals to consumer choice, customer service, and low prices, but they did not depend on advertising copy alone in reaching out to prospective customers.  Graphic design likely also helped them to capture and keep the attention of consumers perusing the Providence Gazette.

June 7

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (June 7, 1771).

“As neat, as good, as handsome, as cheap, as ever was, or can be fabricated in New England.”

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, James Haslett and Matthew Haslett occasionally placed advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Originally from Boston, the Hasletts relocated to Portsmouth.  They set up shop as leather dressers, making breeches, jackets, gloves, and other garments.  They also sometimes stocked tea, coffee, and other grocery items, their efforts as shopkeepers supplementing the revenues they generated as artisans.  Some of their advertisements were quite notable for featuring woodcuts depicting the “Sign of the BUCK and GLOVE.”  Other advertisements were more modest in appearance, though not in content.

Such was the case for an advertisement that ran in the June 7, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  It extended only five lines, taking up much less space than some of the Hasletts’ more elaborate advertisements, but its brevity did not mean that it lacked appeals intended to entice consumers to hire the Hasletts to make breeches and other leather items.  The Hasletts proclaimed that they made and sold their wares “As neat, as good, as handsome, as cheap, as ever was, or can be fabricated in New England.”  The unique cadence of their message to prospective customers may have caught the attention of readers.  In just a few words, they made several claims about the price, quality, and appearance of their breeches and other leather goods.  They also envisioned a regional marketplace rather than a local one, declaring that consumers would not acquire superior goods or better bargains in Boston or any other town in New England.

Visually, the Hasletts’ advertisement, like so many others in eighteenth-century newspapers, may seem unremarkable, especially compared to modern graphic design standards.  The copy, however, advanced multiple appeals intended to engage consumers.  The Hasletts did not merely announce that they made and sold leather breeches and other items.  Instead, they made a series of assertions about why prospective customers should select them to provide their services, incorporating many of the most popular appeals made in advertisements of the period.