October 17

GUEST CURATOR: Daniel Carito

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

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).
“A likely Negro Fellow named PRINCE … he is a Spaniard.”

In the fall of 1771, Robert Donald, an enslaver in Virginia, advertised a reward of forty shillings for Prince, “a likely Negro fellow” who liberated himself by running away.  The advertisement sparked my interest because Donald mentioned that not only did Prince come from Spanish descent but also was “an excellent swimmer, and dives remarkably well” and labeled as a “water Negro.”  My interest grew even further because in “Eighteenth Century ‘Prize Negroes’: From Britain to America,” Charles R. Foy explains how many Black sailors on Spanish vessels were captured by British and North American mariners, labeled as commodities and sold into slavery: “Between 1721 and 1748 at least one hundred and thirty-five black mariners were condemned as prize goods…  Overall, the number of Prize Negroes in North America from 1713 to1783 is estimated to exceed 500.”[1] Also, Foy argues that enslaved Black mariners were sometimes the main instigators when it came to revolting against their enslavers: “Spanish Prize Negroes often were leaders in resisting slavery in British North America.”[2]

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Enslaved men and women who liberated themselves often left few traces in the archival record.  The advertisements that encouraged colonists to engage in surveillance of Black people to determine if they matched descriptions of runaways in the newspapers and offered rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people may have been the only documents that recorded any aspect of their lives.  In such instances, enslaved people seeking freedom did not tell their own stories, but instead had their experiences mediated through the perspectives of the enslavers who composed the advertisements.

If Prince, as he was called by his enslaver, were indeed a Spanish “Prize Negro” then other kinds of documents may have recorded some of his experiences.  Additional archival work might uncover additional traces of Prince’s life before he arrived in Virginia.  Even if we managed to locate Prince in other sources, his wife and children would likely remain elusive, their stories even more fragmented and obscured than that of their husband and father.  Donald suspected that Prince “took the Road to Charles City, where he had a Wife and Children at Mr. Acrill’s.”  That brief reference to Prince’s family raises more questions than it answers.  How long had Prince and his wife been a couple?  How many children did they have?  How old were the children at the time?  How long had it been since the rest of the family had seen Prince?  Were his wife and children still in Charles City?

Donald recorded several characteristics to identify Prince, including his height, his clothing, and his manner of speaking (“fast and thick”).  The enslaver described Prince as an “excellent Swimmer” and diver who “had on such Clothes as Watermen generally wear.”  Prince’s wife and children in Charles City were just one more detail to Donald and colonists who read the advertisement, but they were not just another detail to Prince or his family.  Donald’s brief narrative about Prince certainly did not match how the enslaved man would have described himself or the most important people in his life.

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[1] Charles R. Foy, “Eighteenth Century ‘Prize Negroes’: From Britain to America,” Slavery and Abolition 31, no. 3(September 2010): 381.

[2] Foy, “Eighteenth Century ‘Prize Negroes,’” 384.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 17, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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New-York Journal (October 17, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

October 16

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

“JOSEPH ATKINSON … HAS imported a new and general ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN MANUFACTORIES.”

Joseph Atkinson’s advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal almost certainly caught the attention of readers.  After all, it comprised nearly two-thirds of the front page of the October 15, 1771, edition.  Immediately below the masthead, it filled the first two columns before news from London in the remaining column.  In addition, Atkinson’s name served as a headline, printed in larger font than even the name of the newspaper in the masthead.

Other graphic design elements also demanded notice.  Atkinson’s name and an introduction to the imported goods available at his store near the New Exchange in Charleston ran across two columns, making that portion of the advertisement even more distinctive.  Most of the notice, however, was divided into two columns that matched the width of others throughout the rest of the issue.  In those columns, Atkinson listed his merchandise.  Instead of dense paragraphs of text common in many advertisements of the period, he placed only one or two items on each line.  That left a significant amount of white space, having the simultaneous effects of making the list easier to read and separating it visually from other content.  A line of ornamental type ran between the two columns, an additional flourish.

Atkinson’s advertisement served as a catalog for prospective customers.  Indeed, the size and format suggest the possibility that it did not appear solely in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Instead, the merchant may have hired Charles Crouch, the printer, to produce handbills or broadsides to distribute or post around town.  In that case, Crouch would have streamlined his efforts in creating marketing materials for Atkinson, choosing to set type just once in a format that fit the newspaper but also lent itself well to printing handbills and broadsides.  Unfortunately, such items were more ephemeral than newspapers, making them much less likely to have survived to today.

October 15

GUEST CURATOR:  Colleen Barrett

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

Essex Gazette (October 15, 1771).

“Apothecary’s SHOP, AT THE Head of Hippocrates.”

On October 15, 1771, Nathanael Dabney advertised his apothecary shop in the Essex Gazette. Dabney sold “Drugs, Medicines, AND Groceries” in Salem, Massachusetts. This is one of many examples of advertisements for medicines in the newspapers of the period. Dabney sold medicines and other items imported from London, including “Patent Medicines of every sort from Dicey & Okell’s Original Wholesale Warehouse.”  According to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, patent medicines, like those mentioned in the advertisement, “are named after the ‘letters patent’ granted by the English crown.” Furthermore, the maker of any of these medicines had “a monopoly over his particular formula. The term ‘patent medicine’ came to describe all prepackaged medicines sold ‘over-the-counter’ without a doctor’s prescription” in later years.  Dabney also mentioned the services he provided at his shop, letting customers know that he “will wait on them at all Hours of the Day and Night.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

As Colleen notes, customer service was an important element of Nathanael Dabney’s marketing efforts.  He concluded his advertisement with a note that “Family Prescriptions” were “carefully put up, and Orders from the Country punctually obeyed.”  A manicule helped to draw attention to these services.  That Dabney “put up” prescriptions suggests that he was an apothecary who compounded medications at his shop rather than merely a shopkeeper who specialized in patent medicines.  He likely possessed a greater degree of expertise about the drugs and medicines he sold than retailers who included patent medicines among a wide array of imported goods.

Prospective customers did not need to visit Dabney’s shop “AT THE Head of Hippocrates” in Salem.  Instead, the apothecary offered the eighteenth-century equivalent of mail order service for clients who resided outside of town.  He assured them that they did not have to worry about receiving less attention than those who came into his apothecary shop.  Instead, he “punctually obeyed” their orders, echoing the sentiments of other advertisers who provided similar services.

In addition to customer service, Dabney attempted to entice potential customers with promises of quality, declaring that he imported his drugs “from the best House in LONDON.”  He made a point of mentioning that he received “Patent Medicines of every Sort from Dicey & Okell’s Original Wholesale Warehouse,” an establishment well known in London and the English provinces.  According to P.S. Brown, newspaper advertisements published in Bath in 1770 referred to “Dicey and Okell’s great original Elixir Warehouse.”[1]  Dabney may have hoped to benefit from name recognition when he included his supplier in his advertisement.

The apothecary promised low prices, stating that he sold his wares “at the cheapest rate,” but he devoted much more of his advertisement to quality and customer service.  He waited on customers whenever they needed him “at all Hours of the Day and Night,” compounded medications, and promptly dispatched orders to the countryside, providing a level of care that consumers did not necessarily receive from shopkeepers who happened to carry patent medicines.

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[1] P.S. Brown, “Medicines Advertised in Eighteenth-Century Bath Newspapers,” Medical History 20, no. 2 (April 1976):  153.

Welcome, Guest Curator Colleen Barrett

Colleen Barrett is a senior at Assumption University. She is a double major in History and Political Science with a Minor in Law, Ethics and Constitutional Studies. Her interests in history primarily focus on ancient civilizations, particularly ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Outside of the classroom she regularly competes on her horses. Colleen made contributions to the Adverts 250 Project when enrolled in HIS 400 Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2021.

Welcome, guest curator Colleen Barrett!

Slavery Advertisements Published October 15, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Connecticut Courant (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

October 14

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 14, 1771).

“PROPOSALS FOR PRINTING BY SUBSCRIPTION, A WEEKLY NEWS-PAPER.”

Philadelphia was the most populous city among Britain’s mainland colonies in the early 1770s, large enough that John Dunlap determined that the market could support an additional newspaper in the fall of 1771.  Local readers already had access to the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Pennsylvania Journal, and the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote, but in early October Dunlap began distributing subscription notices for another weekly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet and General Advertiser, to commence on November 25.

Like subscription notices for other publications, whether books, magazines, or newspapers, Dunlap’s notice included both an overview of the purpose and a list of conditions.  Those conditions specified subscription prices and advertising fees that many printers rarely published after launching their newspapers, though some regularly incorporated one or both into their colophon alongside other details of publication.  “The Price to Subscribers,” Dunlap informed readers, “will be Ten Shillings per year.”  In addition, “Advertisements, of a moderate length, will be inserted at Three Shillings each for one week, and One Shilling for each continuance.”  In that regard, Dunlap deviated from the standard pricing structure; most printers set the base price to include inserting advertisements for either three or four weeks before charging for “each continuance.”    Dunlap did adopt the familiar practice of charging more for longer advertisements, stating that “those of greater length” would appear “at such proportionable prices as may be reasonable.”

As was the case for other newspapers, advertisements for the Pennsylvania Packet were relatively expensive compared to subscriptions.  Three advertisements running for just one week cost nearly as much as a single subscription.  Paid notices represented significant revenue for most colonial printers who published newspapers.  That may have influenced Dunlap to list advertising fees ahead of subscription prices in the conditions in his subscription notice.  Although the advertisement ended with a list of local agents who accepted subscriptions on Dunlap’s behalf in several towns, he sought advertisers for his new endeavor as well as subscribers.  He needed both kinds of support for the Pennsylvania Packet to become a successful enterprise.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 14, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Boston-Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 14, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 14, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 14, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 14, 1771).

October 13

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

New-York Journal (October 10, 1771).

“Painters and Limners Colours, / Dyers and Fullers Articles, / Window Glass of all Sizes.”

Gerardus Duyckinck regularly advertised the “UNIVERSAL STORE” in the New-York Journal in the early 1770s, his notices readily recognizable by the ornate cartouche that surrounded most of the copy.  Advertisers who adorned their notices with visual images usually selected woodcuts that appeared either in the upper left corner or above the text.  Most visual images were fairly simple, but Duyckinck invested in perhaps the most elaborate woodcut that enhanced an advertisement in an American newspaper prior to the American Revolution.  The rococo flourishes that composed the border extended more than half a column.  The upper portion featured a depiction of Duyckink’s shop sign, the Looking Glass and Druggist Pot.  Unlike any other advertisement in the New-York Journal or other colonial newspapers, this one resembled the trade cards that circulated in London and, to a lesser extent, the largest ports in the colonies.

Even when he did not incorporate that woodcut into his advertisements, Duyckinck often sought to create visually distinctive notices.  Such was the case for an advertisement in the October 10, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal.  An advertisement featuring his elaborate woodcut ran on the additional half sheet, as it had for many weeks, but the shopkeeper supplemented it with another advertisement, the first among the new notices following the news on the third page.  His new advertisement started with a dense block of text, similar to the format in so many other advertisements for consumer goods and services, but approximately half of that copy directed prospective customers to his new location.  A large portion of his advertisement, however, listed many of the items available at the Universal Store.  Duyckinck apparently arranged for the compositor to include only a couple of items on each line and center them in order to introduce a significant amount of white space.  Doing so gave the copy in that portion of the advertisement a unique shape that distinguished it from others in the same issue.  Duyckinck did not need an elaborate woodcut to make a memorable impression.  He devised other means of being a showman in his supplemental advertisement.