June 29

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

Jun 29 - 6:29:1767 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (June 29, 1767).

“Those Persons who will send their Victuals, ready prepared, may depend upon being well served.”

John Jent, a baker in Newport, sold pies that he made, but that was not the primary purpose of the advertisement he placed in the Newport Mercury in June 1767. Jent informed local residents that he had a “good Oven” for baking “any Sort of Victuals” delivered to him “ready prepared.” The baker heated his oven twice daily to accommodate midday and evening meals.

Like many other advertisers, Jent promised good service and low prices, but that was not the extent of the benefits he afforded his customers. He also provided convenience, though he did not elaborate on that quality of his business. In the 1760s various advertisers played with the idea of convenience without fully developing the concept. They hinted at it, anticipating larger scale articulations that emerged as marketing evolved.

Some shopkeepers, for instance, published lengthy lists of merchandise. Most emphasized consumer choice, but a few began to suggest that large inventories meant customers could enjoy one-stop shopping rather than traipsing from one shop to another. To that end, Thompson and Arnold asserted that “they have been at great Cost and Pains to supply themselves with as great a Variety of articles as can be found in any one Store in New-England.” Lest potential customers miss their meaning, the partners explicitly stated, “As their Assortment is so large they hope to save their Customers the Trouble of going through the Town to supply themselves with the Necessaries they may want.” Others emphasized the locations of their shops, noting that patrons could visit them more easily and expend less time and energy than traveling to other shops. Such was the case when James Brown and Benoni Pearce informed readers of the Providence Gazette that “Customers coming form the Westward may save both Time and Shoe-Leather by calling at their aforesaid Shops” rather than crossing the Great Bridge to the other side of the city. Some advertisers invited customers to send orders by mail. Peter Roberts, who sold imported “Drugs & Medicines,” advertised in the Boston-Gazette that “Orders by Letters from Practitioners and others, in Town or Country, will be as faithfully complied with as if they were present.”

John Jent provided another form of convenience to customers, sparing them the time and resources necessary to bake “Pies, Puddings, &c.” on their own. Instead, they could go about the rest of their daily business and pick up meals ready to eat at times that fit their own schedules.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 8, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8A
South- Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).
May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8B
Continuation of previous advertisement from South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 10
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 11
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

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May 8 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 12
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 8, 1767).

 

March 25

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 25 - 3:25:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (March 25, 1767).

“HENRY SNOW, Distiller from London, MAKES and SELLS … FINE Georgia Geneva.”

Henry Snow distilled many different spirits, including “Georgia Geneva,” “Orange Shrub,” and “Mulberry Brandy.” Many of the spirits he distilled could probably be found in local taverns.

Taverns were very important gathering places in colonial and Revolutionary America. An article about the Queen’s Head Tavern (now more commonly known as Fraunces Tavern) in New York City states, “Taverns were centers of community in the 18th century.” They were where people came to stay as well as just come in for a drink and learn of what was going on in the area. Imported spirits sometimes did not come fast enough to keep up with their popularity in taverns and households, thus American produced spirits were needed to help provide taverns and other consumers with the alcoholic beverages they desired. That’s where American products, like Henry Snow’s spirits, came into play. Because it was expensive to even import these goods, the domestic products were that much better.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Henry Snow walked a fine line in his advertisement for a variety of spirits “Distilled and sold at his shop” in Savannah. As Ceara notes, he produced an array of cordials, brandies, and other liquor to compete with imports at affordable prices. Yet he wanted to assure potential customers of the quality of the spirits he distilled. To do so, he adopted a strategy deployed by many artisans who placed advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers: he indicated his place of origin along with his occupation.

In this case, Snow was not merely a distiller but instead a “Distiller from London.” This imbued him and his products with greater cachet by suggesting connections to the cosmopolitan center of the empire and perhaps even specialized training compared to his local competitors. It also served as a recommendation for the dozen or so different types of spirits he distilled, suggesting that they were among the most popular among consumers in the metropole. Just as tailors implied their familiarity with the latest fashions by stating they were “from London,” Snow hinted that he distilled spirits currently in vogue rather than backwater alternatives to the beverages enjoyed by “gentlemen” on the other side of the Atlantic.

Doing so also meant making assurances about the quality of his locally produced liquors, describing some of them as “fine” or “superfine.” (The layout of the advertisement suggests that the distiller may have intended for “FINE” to describe all of the spirits in the first column and all or most in the second.) As far as Snow’s brandy was concerned, “Any gentlemen who may be pleased to favour him with their orders” could depend on it being “equal to French” brandy. His usquebaugh, however, was an exception. It was merely “little inferior to Irish.” It appears that Henry Snow knew better than to suggest that his whiskey was equal or superior to any produced and imported from Ireland. “Little inferior to Irish” was exceptionally high praise indeed!

October 15

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-15-10151766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 15, 1766).

“Goods, suitable for the season.”

Cowper and Telfairs’ store had just received a large assortment of items imported from London. After the lengthy list of items that they sold, the partners added that “they shortly expect other articles from England and Scotland to make a complete assortment of goods for this country and season.” It was good to add that they would be receiving other items so customers would come back and purchase more from their store.

This advertisement was in the newspaper in October; colonists would soon need items for the winter that was coming, even if it would not be as cold as in New England or even Virginia. The advertisement states the supplies and clothing were “suitable for the season,” making potential buyers aware that this store had goods that would help them get through the winter. Throughout the colonies, settlers made preparations. According to David Robinson, “Mothers taught daughters how to card wool and coax soft fibers from the hard stems of flax; how to spin fibers into threads; how to stitch and mend the heavy coats and hooded cloaks that soon must ward off the biting winds.” Cowper and Telfairs’ store had “a variety of other ready-made cloaths” that colonists could purchase as well as an assortment of textiles they could use to make coats, cloaks, and warmer clothing that they would need for winter weather, even if winter in Georgia was not as extreme as in colonies further north.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Not long ago guest curator Nicholas Commesso examined an advertisement from the Massachusetts Gazette in which William Palfrey marketed “Articles suitable for the approaching Season.” He noted that colonists in Boston and its hinterland needed to take into account that fall had commenced and winter would arrive soon. Palfrey attempted to sell his goods by reminding colonists that it was time to start making preparations.

In my additional commentary I noted that “suitable to the season” was a stock phrase deployed in newspaper advertisements in Philadelphia and, more generally, in New England the Middle Atlantic colonies. I have not worked as extensively with advertisements from the Chesapeake or the Lower South, so I was uncertain if that was the case in those locales or if regional differences existed. I suggested that this merited further investigation.

Jordan turned her eye to that question today, identifying the same language in an advertisement from a newspaper printed in the Georgia Gazette. While one advertisement does not demonstrate a pattern or widespread usage of “suitable for the season,” it does indicate that the phrase was not unknown in the area. Cowper and Telfairs likely meant something a bit different – or had somewhat different merchandise in mind – than William Palfrey did when they described their wares as “suitable for the season.” Each advertiser would have taken into account local conditions.

As Jordan notes, the shopkeepers concluded by describing the items “from England and Scotland” they intended to have in stock soon as “goods for this country and season.” In addition to attempting to lure customers back to their store for subsequent visits, Cowper and Telfairs also signaled that they knew exactly what kind of merchandise would be arriving on ships expected in port soon. Most likely they had negotiated with their contacts on the other side of the Atlantic and placed orders for specific goods. London merchants sometimes tried to pawn off surplus inventory, expecting colonial retailers to accept and sell whatever was sent to them, but Cowper and Telfairs suggested that their customers would be pleased with the selection they offered because their wares had been chosen with Georgia and its climate in mind.

September 24

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

sep-24-9241766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 24, 1766).

“May be had at the Printing-Office … A SERMON.”

James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, advertised the second edition of “A SERMON Preached in the Meeting at Savannah in Georgia, June 25th, 1766.” Although he did not specify the topic of this sermon, the four lines from Galatians that concluded the advertisement suggested that it addressed the uneasy relationship between the colonies and Great Britain that had been occasioned by Parliament’s attempts to regulate commerce within the empire, especially within its North American colonies. “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty,” the biblical verses began, but concluded with a warning to “take heed that ye not be consumed one of another.” Johnston apparently presumed that potential customers/readers were so familiar recent political events, in general, and this sermon, in particular, that he did not need to state explicitly that it addressed the Stamp Act.

Johnston was certainly advertising John Joachim Zubly’s “The Stamp Act Repealed: A Sermon.” The title page of the second edition of that thirty-page duodecimo pamphlet included the same verses and other information that also appeared in the advertisement, including the assertion that it had been “First published at the Request and Expence of the Hearers.” The second edition was simultaneously published in Charleston by Peter Timothy and in Philadelphia by Heinrich Miller.

sep-24-pamphlet-cover
John Joachim Zubly, The Stamp-Act Repealed:  A Sermon (Savannah, GA:  James Johnston, 1766).  American Antiquarian Society.

In an introduction to the “Sermon,” Randall M. Miller notes that Zubly “captured the feelings of other prominent Georgians in 1766 who had recoiled from the strong words and threats of the Stamp Act crisis but also who had resented Parliament’s encroachment on American rights.” The sermon “stressed obedience to law and the reciprocal obligations of both Christian rulers and subjects to honor law and order.”[1]

By the time the second edition was published, colonists had known for several months that the Stamp Act had been repealed (which had led to Zubly preaching this sermon for a day of thanksgiving). One crisis had been averted, but colonists continued to grapple with their relationship to Britain, especially in the wake of the Declaratory Act. Still, few colonists were prepared at that time to sever ties with Britain. Johnston marketed a sermon that might assist readers in maintaining their identity as Britons while acknowledging that they had been slighted by Parliament. “We seemed like people that had been apprehensive of being shipwrecked and happily made a harbour,” Zubly proclaimed.[2] In publishing, marketing, and selling a second edition of the sermon, Johnston and his counterparts in Charleston and Philadelphia amplified that message to greater numbers of colonists.

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[1] Randall M. Miller, “A Warm & Zealous Spirit”: John J. Zubly and the American Revolution, A Selection of His Writings (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1982), 31.

[2] John Joachim Zubly, The Stamp-Act Repealed: A Sermon (Savannah, GA: James Jonhnson, 1766), 28.

September 14

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

sep-14-9131766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (September 13, 1744).

“Likewise to be sold at the same Place …”

Most readers of the Providence Gazette in 1766 probably would not have paused to question if this constituted one advertisement or two separate advertisements. For historians of printing and/or advertising interested in quantifying and analyzing the number of advertisements that appeared in colonial newspapers, on the other hand, it raises a conundrum.

At first glance, it appears to be a single advertisement, especially since the phrase “Likewise to be sold at the same place” functions as a transition from a list of books for sale to a more elaborate description of a particular book sold by the same advertiser. However, the two halves of this advertisement appeared separately, in different columns, in the previous issue. The list of books appeared at the bottom of a column and the advertisement for the pamphlet on making pearl ashes was at the top of the next column. This would have had the effect of presenting them sequentially to anybody who read the newspaper from first page to last, even through they were spatially separated. The printer likely intended them to be distinct, yet related advertisements. Still, the absence of a line separating them when they appeared one above the other (the same sort of line that defined the boundaries of other advertisements that appeared in the issue) serves as a visual cue indicating a single advertisement.

For the most part, it doesn’t much matter if this was one advertisement or two, though it does demonstrate that printers were able to leave some content (namely advertisements) in their forms and move them around to fit their needs from issue to issue.

Still, this presents a frustrating situation for certain research questions. For other projects I have attempted to count the number of advertisements placed by members of the book trade as a proportion of total advertisements. This example, if counted only once, downplays the influence of printers and booksellers on eighteenth-century advertising, especially considering its length relative to other advertisements in the same issue. This suggests that tabulating column inches would be a better method for making such assessments, but that method would be much more labor intensive (not necessarily a good justification for not doing it) as well as impossible to do with microfilmed and/or digitized sources that do not include measurements among the metadata (a better explanation for not measuring column inches). For researchers that do not have access to the original newspapers, tabulating column inches simply would not be possible. Counting how many advertisements appeared, while flawed, at least allows for some sort of metrics when working with surrogates rather than original sources.

August 28

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

Aug 28 - 8:28:1766 Maryland Gazette
Maryland Gazette (August 28, 1766).

“In your Paper of the 15th ult. I Advertised a Conditional SALE of my Houshold Furniture, &c.”

John Evitts packed so much into his open letter to Jonas Green, the printer of the Maryland Gazette, a letter reprinted in its entirety as an advertisement, that it is difficult to know where to start.

Let’s start by having a look at the genre of this advertisement. Although advertisements were not grouped together with other similar advertisements in the eighteenth century (legal notices with other legal notices; runaway slaves with other runaway slaves; consumer goods with other consumer goods), they did fall into several broad categories easily recognizable by readers. Advertisers occasionally played with form and genre by dividing the advertising space they purchased into two sections and submitting copy that pursued two different purposes, but within the distinct sections of such advertisements they usually relied on standard or formulaic wording.

To some extent, John Evitts departs from that practice, perhaps as the result of his advertisement originating as a letter (itself an interesting transformation of genre). His notice combines aspects of standard advertisements for vendue sales with aspects of standard advertisements for runaway wives (although it does not name his wife), but those elements comprised only the last two of four paragraphs. Either or both of the third and fourth paragraphs would not have appeared out of place as standalone advertisements.

Evitt’s letter-cum-advertisement, however, included much more. In the second paragraph he provided details about his ongoing dispute with his wife. While it might have seemed questionable to air private affairs in the public prints, Evitts may have felt that he had nothing to lose. After all, he was certain “that many of yours” were already aware of “the unhappy Difference subsisting between my Wife and me.” Annapolis was not a big town. Word got around. Perhaps Evitts felt he was better served to address gossip directly in the newspaper. It also gave him an opportunity to score some points. Despite the personal embarrassment he may have experienced from making a public acknowledgment about the disharmony in his household, his letter was calculated to diminish the reputation of his wife (at least from his rendition of events, which may or may not have matched what actually happened). Evitts stated that he had “endeavoured for a Reconciliation,” but that his wife “absolutely refused.” Furthermore, she responded with “insulting Language,” hardly becoming of a woman in the eighteenth century. In addition, he ahd been “insulted by her Friends.” Most advertisements for runaway wives were as formulaic as the third paragraph, but Evitts provided more details elsewhere in his advertisement.

It seems that Evitts was preparing to sell his house and his “Houshold Furniture, &c.” as a result of the discord with his wife. He had advertised this sale several weeks earlier, but, unfortunately for him, it “has not succeeded to my Wish and Expectation.” One of the most difficult parts of studying eighteenth-century advertising concerns the reception and effectiveness of commercial notices. Did they work? Very rarely did advertisers give any sort of indication about the results their marketing efforts generated. In this case, however, Evitts did report a rather disappointing result. It was possible that his advertisement was not especially effective, but, given the very public nature of the squabble with his wife, it was also possible that neighbors and other residents did not want to insert themselves into the Evittses’ domestic antagonisms. Whatever the explanation, Evitts retained hope that advertising could yield successful results. He sent the subsequent advertisement, the fourth paragraph of his open letter, desiring that it “may prove more effectual” than the first.