September 25

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

Connecticut Courant (September 25, 1770).

“My Husband has attempted by an Advertisement to ruin my Character.”

Advertisements warning against extending credit to runaway wives were a standard feature in American newspapers in the eighteenth century.  The one that Benoni Griffen, Jr., inserted in the September 10, 1770, edition of the Connecticut Courant resembled so many others that appeared in newspapers from New England to Georgia.  “Whereas Martha the Wife of me the Subscriber,” Griffen proclaimed, “hath for some Tome past, behaved herself in a very Disorderly Manner, by endeavouring to run me in Debt, THESE are Therefore to want all Persons not to Trust of Credit her on my Account, as I will pay no Debt she may Contract after this Date.”  Like Griffen’s notice, most advertisements concerning runaway wives did not provide further details about the alleged “Disorderly” conduct.

Most also did not garner a response.  Usually husbands had the last and only word in the public prints.  Yet Martha objected to how Benoni described her to friends, acquaintances, and strangers in the pages of the Connecticut Courant. She inserted her own advertisement, more than twice the length of his, to set the record straight.  Martha accused Benoni of attempting to “ruin my Character,” but she asserted that she could “produce the fullest Proof that my Conduct has been prudent and blameless, especially with Respect of running my Husband in Debt.”  Furthermore, she had a very different tale to tell about which spouse had treated the other poorly.  Martha complained that Benoni’s “Temper and Conduct and Disposition has been extremely Ill.”  Indeed, he had abandoned her and “a Family of small Children” more than once.  During his most recent escapade, he had been away for almost two years, leaving Martha and the children “in bad Circumstances.”  When he finally appeared again was not a free man but instead “a bound Servant.”  Martha found it irritating that Benoni warned against extending credit to her on his behalf because she and her father had so often paid off his debts.  Benoni’s shenanigans became so notorious that the town’s selectmen intervened.

Martha did not expect that Benoni’s advertisement had influence anyone who actually knew the couple.  “[W]here he and I are known,” she stated, “‘tis beyond his Power to injure my Character.”  Yet not all readers knew Martha and Benoni.  It was for the benefit of “Strangers” that she ran her own advertisement to dispute her husband’s version of events.  He used the public prints to defame her.  In turn, she inserted an advertisement in the same newspaper to defend her reputation.  Martha and other women who absconded from their husbands and became subjects of newspaper advertisements asserted their will in a manner considered unbecoming of their sex, further compounding any offenses they supposedly committed within their households.  Martha’s challenges to her husband’s authority, however, did not end there.  She continued to exercise her own will, publishing an advertisement that portrayed Benoni as an unsavory character incapable of fulfilling his responsibilities as husband and head of the household.

August 28

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

Aug 28 - 8:28:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 28, 1770).

“Still believing the former Piece to be more agreeable to Truth than the latter.”

When Joseph Symonds, Joseph Hobbs, and Joseph Hobbs, Jr., placed an advertisement in the August 28, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette, they depended on readers being familiar with a series of advertisements that previously appeared in that newspaper.  In the first, Addison Richardson accused “an Apprentice Lad, named Samuel Hobbs” of running away and taking a box “containing sundry Articles of Cloathing.”  Richardson had already recovered the box.  He warned others “to be very cautious in having any Concern” with the apprentice.

In an unusual turn of events, Hobbs placed his own advertisement to respond.  Usually runaways either did not have the resources to respond in print or chose not to draw additional attention to themselves by doing so.  Hobbs, however, sought to set the record straight, declaring that he “was not bound” to Richardson or “under any Obligation to live with him any longer than we could agree,” that the box and most of its contents did not belong to Richardson, and that his purported master had not treated him well during “almost five Years Service.”  Symonds, Hobbs, and Hobbs, all relations of the alleged runaway, signed a short addendum stating that they believed the young man’s account to be “real Truth” and encouraged that “the Publick will take no Notice.”

In turn, Richardson published yet another advertisement, this time masquerading as “SA——EL H—BBS.”  That notice paralleled the format of the one placed by Hobbs, offering an alternate version of events that corrected what Richardson considered inaccuracies in the clarifications that Hobbs offered the public.  Richardson-as-H—BBS also pointed out that “two Uncles and a Brother” of the apprentice might not be the most reliable witnesses in the dispute.  In order to continue the parallel format, he concluded the advertisement with a short declaration about having “Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth” and signed it “A. RICHARDSON.”

Two weeks later, Symonds, Hobbs, and Hobbs placed an advertisement of their own accord.  Just in case any readers were confused about whether Samuel Hobbs was responsible for the notice signed by SA——EL H—BBS, they proclaimed that it “was not put in by him, for he did not know any Thing of it.”  They also reported that some accommodation had been reached:  Mr. Richardson hath returned the Box, with what was in it, and offered to cloath [Hobbs] honorably if he will come and live with him again.”  Seeing this as a satisfactory outcome, the uncles and brother decided to “forbear, and say no more,” though they opined that Richardson would “be very cautious how he advertises Runaways for the future.”  As a parting shot, they stated that the advertisement by the real Hobbs was “more agreeable to Truth” than the one by Richardson-as-H—BBS, “and not merely because the Boy told us so neither.”  Even after accommodation had been reached, these three men sought to clarify which version of events was more accurate.

Buying space in the local newspaper gave Richardson, Hobbs, and Hobbs’s relations opportunities to shape the narrative of what transpired between master and apprentice in the summer of 1770.  Rather than working out their disagreements among themselves, they put their dispute on display before the general public, each attempting to convince the community that they were in the right and someone else behaved poorly.  These advertisements amplified gossip and word-of-mouth reports of the discord between Hobbs and Richardson.

August 14

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

Aug 14 - 8:14:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 14, 1770).

“WHEREAS Addison Richardson has advertised me as a Runaway.”

When Addison Richardson advertised Samuel Hobbs as a runaway apprentice in the Essex Gazette in the summer of 1770, Hobbs took the extraordinary step of placing his own advertisement in response.  In most similar situations, “runaways,” whether apprentices, indentured servants, enslaved people, or wives, did not possess the resources to publish their own advertisements or did not wish to call attention to themselves by doing so.  As a result, masters, enslavers, and husbands controlled the narrative in the public prints.  Yet Hobbs did manage to insert an advertisement that contested Richardson’s version of events in the August 7, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette.  His brother and two of his uncles attested to the “real Truth” of Hobbs’s depiction of what transpired with Richardson.

The aggrieved master was not amused by his apprentice’s advertisement.  In the next issue, he ran a new advertisement in which he masqueraded as “SA——EL H—BBS.”  He began by stating that “Addison Richardson has advertised me as a Runaway” and “I have told the Public one Story very contrary to Truth,” but “I now tell them another Story that is very agreeable to Truth.”  Richardson as H—BBS then repeated each detail from Hobbs’s advertisement along with a clarification he considered the actual truth.  For instance, “I told [the public] that I was not bound to him, but I was by the Rules of Justice, which the Public always looks upon as the strongest Obligation whatever.”  In the original advertisement, Richardson accused Hobbs of stealing a box “containing sundry Articles of Cloathing,” but noted that he had recovered it.  In his response, Hobbs stated that the box did not belong to Richardson, that the contents belonged to Hobbs except for “one Pair of Stockings full of Holes, and a Pair of Shirts which [Richardson] gave me,” and that Richardson did not provide him with adequate clothing during “almost five Years Service.”  Richardson as H—BBS contested that narrative, offering this alternative:  “I told the Public, that he had found me but one Shirt, which was very false, for I am very conscious he has found me five new Shirts since I lived with him, and a sufficient Quantity of all other Cloathing.”  Richardson provided for H—BBS even though “I served him but very poorly for almost five Years.”

Richardson was equally unimpressed with the character witnesses who had testified to the “real Truth” of Hobbs’s advertisement.  “As to the Conduct of the three that signed at the Bottom of my Piece,” Richardson as H—BBS opined, “ they say ‘We the Subsribers have Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth:’—What Reason? says the By-Stander: Why, say they, the Boy that run away from his Master told us so, and so it must be true; and that is all the Evidence they had.”  To cast further doubt on the motives of these witnesses, Richardson as H—BBS requested that “the Public judge for themselves” if that was “sufficient Reason for two Uncles and a Brother to sign such a story.”

This new advertisement ended with a short statement of support by “A. RICHARDSON” for the version of events presented by “SA——EL H—BBS,” replicating the structure of Hobbs’s advertisement and deploying some of the same language.  “I the Subscriber have Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth,” A. RICHARDSON declared before admonishing that he “still hope[s] the Public will hold Runaways in Contempt, and all their Abettors.”

The dispute between Richardson and his (alleged) apprentice played out in the public prints beyond a standard runaway advertisement.  Both parties placed lengthy notices that impugned the honesty and character of the other in their efforts to convince others in their community which of them had indeed been wronged by the other.  Most runaway apprentice advertisements went unanswered, but in this case both apprentice and master made further use of the press to present their version of events to the public.

August 7

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

Aug 7 - 8:7:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 7, 1770).

“Addison Richardson hath advertised me as a Runaway.”

Eighteenth-century newspapers carried advertisements for all sorts of “runaways.”  Those runaways included enslaved people who liberated themselves from enslavers who held them in bondage, wives who “eloped” from their husbands to remove themselves from patriarchal authority (and often mistreatment) in the household, and apprentices and indentured servants who broke the terms of their contracts.  Few of these advertisements garnered responses in the public prints.  Even if they possessed the resources to place advertisements, enslaved people who liberated themselves had no reason to call additional attention to themselves.  Aggrieved husbands usually declared that they would pay no debts on behalf of their absent wives, eliminating their ability to publish notices in response.  Occasionally, some wives did find the means to run their own advertisements.  Apprentices and indentured servants, like enslaved people who escaped, also avoided publishing responses to the advertisements that declared them runaways and requested aid in locating and returning them.

That made a pair of advertisements that ran in the Essex Gazette in the summer of 1770 especially notable.  Addison Richardson first advertised Samuel Hobbs as a runaway on July 24.  He claimed that the “Apprentice Lad” ran away and recommended that others “be very cautious in having any Concern with him.”  Richardson also noted that Hobbs had “carried off a Box, containing sundry Articles of Cloathing,” but Richardson had since recovered the box and the stolen items.  Richardson’s advertisement ran again on July 31.  When it appeared for a third time on August 7, a response from Hobbs accompanied it.  The compositor placed one notice after the other, making it easier for readers to follow the saga as it unfolded.

In an advertisement twice the length of the one that named him a runaway apprentice, Hobbs asserted that he “was not bound” to Richardson not was he “under any Obligation to live with him any longer than we could agree.”  Hobbs suggested that Richardson had not lived up to whatever terms they had set, but if he had “fulfilled his Promise” then Hobbs “should not have left.”  In response to the accusation of theft, Hobbs stated that neither the box nor the contents belonged to Richardson, except for “one Pair of Stockings full of Holes, and a Pair of Shirts, which he gave me.”  Everything else in the box belonged to Hobbs, yet Richardson refused to return any of it.  Hobbs also lamented that in “almost five Years Service” Richardson had not provided adequate clothing as was his responsibility.  In response to Richardson’s advice that others be cautious in their dealings with Hobbs, he turned the tables by warning others to “be very cautious where they put out Children, especially poor fatherless ones, such as I am.”

To strengthen his credibility, Hobbs also included a short note from three men who endorsed his version of events.  Joseph Symonds, Joseph Hobbs, and Joseph Hobbs, Jr., some or all of them probably relations to the alleged runaway apprentice, stated that they “have Reason to believe the Piece above to be the real Truth.”  They asked that “the Publick … take no Notice of the Advertisement.”  Quite possibly these supporters paid to insert Hobbs’s advertisement in the Essex Gazette.

Runaway apprentice advertisements rarely generated responses in print in eighteenth-century America, making this an extraordinary case of an alleged runaway defending his reputation, revealing mistreatment by his master, and marshalling the support of others who advocated on his behalf.  Yet this was not the end of the exchange in the Essex Gazette.  The following week Richardson published a response to Hobbs’s response.  That will be the featured advertisement on August 14.

July 12

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

Jul 12 - 7:12:1770 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (July 12, 1770).

“SIMON FRANKS, by an Advertisement … forth that I, MARGARET-JACOB-ENNER FRANKS, his Wife, eloped for him.”

On July 10, 1770, Simon Franks placed a short advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to warn others not to extend credit to his wife, Margaret.  In it, Simon declared that Margaret “eloped from her said Husband, without any just Cause.”  In turn, he ran the advertisement “to forewarn all Persons from trusting her, as I am determined to pay no Debts of her contracting.”  Such notices frequently appeared in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  Simon’s advertisement followed a familiar formula.

Such advertisements rarely garnered any sort of response in the public prints.  Wives often “eloped” from their husbands, often as a result of abuses they suffered within the household and not, as Simon claimed, “without any just Cause.”  Yet they rarely told their side of the story in newspaper advertisements of their own, in part because husbands exerted control over family finances and put purveyors of goods and services, including printers, on notice not to allow wives to make any charges.  Margaret apparently had access to cash or friends intervened on her behalf.  She did not even wait a week to publish her response in the next issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Instead, two days later her own advertisement, more than twice the length of Simon’s notice, ran in the South-Carolina Gazette.

Margaret referred readers back to her husband’s advertisement “in Mr. CROUCH’s last Paper” and provided a short summary of Simon’s accusations and instructions about cutting off her credit.  She then went about setting the record straight, taking action in a way relative few “runaway wives” did in eighteenth-century America.  She was determined “to shew the Public a true State of my supposed Elopement.”  She explained that “my now being absent from him, was occasioned by his most cruel and inhuman Treatment to me.”  She cataloged a series of abuses that stemmed from “his always getting in Liquor, putting me in Fear of my Life.”  The “severe Threats” led to “Blows” and eventually to “turning me out of Doors, in the Dead of Night.”  Even more shocking, this left Margaret and “a poor helpless Infant” from a previous marriage “exposed to the Inclemency of the Weather.”  Her situation prompted Margaret to seek a “Peace Warrant” from a magistrate in order to “live from [Simon] undisturbed.”

According to Margaret, her husband did not tell the full and complete story.  He attempted to cast her in an unfavorable light when her had been the one who had given “just Cause” for her to depart from his household.  Formulaic runaway wife advertisements hinted at more complicated stories of marital discord; they did not narrate events from the perspectives of the wives.  Margaret Jacob Enner Franks was one of the relatively few women to respond to such an advertisement in the public prints, defending her reputation and providing the community with a more complicated picture of what had occurred in the Franks household.  In so doing, she shifted attention back to the misconduct of her husband.

November 30

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

Nov 30 - 11:30:1769 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (November 30, 1769).

“WHEREAS by an Advertisement in the Philadelphia Papers …”

Did colonists read all of those advertisements that appeared in the pages of early American newspapers? Occasionally some of the advertisements help to answer that question. Consider an advertisement that ran in the November 27, 1769, edition of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy and, later that week, in the November 30 edition of the New-York Journal. The notice acknowledged “an Advertisement in the Philadelphia Papers, of November 2, 1769” that described a runaway named Galloway and offered a reward for apprehending him. According to the notice in the New York newspapers, “a Person answering the Description of the above-named Galloway” had been jailed in the city. The notice instructed Galloway’s master to contact one of the aldermen, “who has the Goods that Galloway had stole, in his Possession.” Someone had indeed read the advertisements, at least those concerning runaway apprentices and indentured servants and their counterparts about enslaved people who escaped from those who held them in bondage. Such advertisements usually included a fair amount of detail, in this case enough to identify Galloway and the stolen goods. In addition to disseminating that information, this advertisement served as a testimonial to the effectiveness of inserting such notices in the public prints.

It also demonstrated that newspapers circulated far beyond the cities and towns where they were printed. This notice concerning a runaway described “in the Philadelphia Papers” appeared in two newspapers in New York, describing a suspected runaway jailed in New York. Newspapers from Pennsylvania found their way to New York … and residents of New York had a reasonable expectation that their newspapers circulated in Pennsylvania. Someone considered it effective to respond to an advertisement that originated “in the Philadelphia Papers” by placing a notice in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy and the New-York Journal. Thanks to exchange networks devised by printers and abundant reprinting from one newspaper to another, the news items and editorials in colonial newspapers created a public discourse that extended from New England to Georgia. Yet conversations in those newspapers were not confined to news and editorials selected by printers. Advertisers sometimes engaged in their own conversations that moved back and forth from one newspaper to another, further contributing to the creation of imagined communities among readers in faraway places.

November 13

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

Nov 13 - 11:13:1769 Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (November 13, 1769).

“My Character of an honest and industrious Woman can be asserted to all who may inquire.”

Runaway wife advertisements were a particular genre of paid notices that frequently appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers. In such an advertisement an aggrieved husband reported that his disobedient wife departed from the household without his permission. The husband warned others that he would not pay any debts contracted in his name by his wife. Some advertisements went into greater detail than others in recording the various offenses committed by runaway wives. No matter how elaborate, publishing such advertisements must have been just as embarrassing, if not more so, for husbands than wives. After all, it was a public confession that a husband had not been able to exercise patriarchal authority or maintain order in his own household. Instead, he turned to the community for assistance in disciplining his wife.

In the fall of 1769, John Kennedy repeatedly inserted a runaway wife advertisement in Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy. Dated “Bridgewater, Sept. 29, 1769,” it stated, “WHEREAS Margaret Kennedy, the Wife of me the Subscriber, has left my Bed and Board, and refuses to live with me:— This is to forwarn all Persons from trusting the said Margaret on my Account, for I hereby declare I will not pay one Farthing of her contracting from the Day of the Date hereof.”

Rarely did such notices generate a response, but occasionally wives did publish their own advertisements to address the accusations made by their husbands and defend their reputations. Margaret Kennedy did so in the November 13 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy. In an advertisement dated “Bridgewater, Nov. 10, 1769,” she expressed her dismay that she had been identified in “Green and Russell’s Weekly Paper as an Eloper from the Bed and Board of my Husband.” She did not acknowledge that her husband had placed the advertisement, but instead asserted that “an ill-minded Person” published an account that was “an absolute Falshood.” She also declared that she had never incurred any debt on his behalf, not “one Shilling Lawful Money.” Having been maligned in a newspaper that circulated well beyond Boston, she defended her reputation and references for anyone uncertain about which spouse to believe in the course of this public altercation. “[M]y Character of an honest and industrious Woman,” she declared, “can be asserted to all who may inquire it by a Number of my Friends in Boston, and the Community I belong to.”

Margaret met John’s advertisement with another act of resistance, one exceptionally visible to friends, neighbors, and strangers. His original advertisement continued to run in the November 13 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, appearing on the page following Margaret’s response. Readers now had both sides of the story in a single issue, witnessing the Kennedys’ marital discord play out in print, even if not in person.

October 7

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

Oct 7 - 10:7:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 7, 1768).

“She now has full Liberty to contract any Debts on my Account.”

In the summer and fall of 1768, the Wiggin family of Stratham, New Hampshire, engaged in a domestic dispute that played itself out in the public prints. Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette had their first glimpse of the Wiggins’ trouble when Tuften placed an advertisement in the August 19 edition. He informed the public that his wife, Sarah, “refuses to live with me as an obedient Wife” and instructed others from “giving her Credit on my Account.” In a nota bene, Tuften addressed a short note directly to his wife: “If she returns, she will be kindly received upon reasonable terms.”

Apparently Sarah had no desire to reconcile with her husband at that time. The next issue included a brief notice from the printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, that her “APPEAL to the Public representing her Husband’s Advertising her in this Paper, came too late, but will be in our next.” The Fowles reinforced the discord, reporting that this appeal would demonstrate “how greatly [Sarah] has been injured and imposed upon by [Tuften].” In so doing, they signaled to readers that the pages of the next issue would contain gossip that they would not want to miss. A public argument between husband and wife certainly could not hurt circulation of their newspaper. The September 2 edition included Sarah’s advertisement, extending three-quarters of a column. The aggrieved wife delivered a detailed account of the many abuses she had suffered at the hands of her husband.

For three consecutive weeks readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette glimpsed a new scene of the Wiggins’ marital difficulties. Most eighteenth-century runaway wife advertisements did not garner responses in print, but occasionally a wife or one of her friends or relatives did attempt to present the story from her perspective. Even more rarely, a subsequent advertisement advised the public that a couple had resolved their altercation. Tuften Wiggin placed such an advertisement in the October 7, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. He advised “THE PUBLICK” that “the Breach between us is now made up; and I do hereby REVOKE that Advertisement in every Part.” Sarah now had “full Liberty to contract any Debts on my Account … if she should be so inclined.” The new notice did not mention how the Wiggins had arrived at their accord, only that they had made peace. Now that Sarah was back in Tuften’s good graces, the Fowles benefited from another windfall from the couple’s dispute: one more advertisement that generated revenues for the newspaper. The printers made money each time the Wiggins decided that they would continue to publish their saga in the public prints.

September 23

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

Sep 23 - 9:23:1768 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (September 23, 1768).

I have been informed that some of my customers have been displeased.”

Seth Wales had two purposes for placing an advertisement for his “clothier’s business” in the New-London Gazette in September 1768. He promoted the skills of the workman he now employed while simultaneously recanting and correcting an advertisement that appeared in the same newspaper a year earlier.

That advertisement originally ran in the September 11, 1767, edition of the New-London Gazette. In it, Seth Wales of Norwich and Nathaniel Wales of Windham announced that “every Part and Branch of the Clothier’s Business is carried on” in their towns “under the Direction and Management of one FRANCIS GILDING.” Having recently arrived from London, Gilding was unfamiliar to prospective customers so the Waleses assured them that he is “thoroughly skilled in the Art of a Scowerer and Dyer, and can imitate or strike any Colours (that are dyed in the English Nation).” The advertisement continued to extol Gilding’s skills and abilities at some length, adopting a marketing strategy frequently adopted by artisans in newspapers published throughout the colonies.

Seth Wales ultimately found himself dissatisfied with Gilding’s “Direction and Management” of the business. In an advertisement that first appeared in the September 16 (misdated 15), 1768, issue he implied that Gilding had placed the previous notice. Although Wales did not take responsibility for misleading the public about Gilding’s work, he did acknowledge that he had been “informed that some of my customers have been displeased with some of their work done at my mill.” He indicated that those customers had responded to “Gilding’s pretences” in the earlier notice, but that he had “found by experience he no ways answers to said advertisement.” Wales then savaged Gilding’s skills before declaring that he had “dismissed him.”

In the wake of Gilding’s termination, Wales hired a new “workman at the clothier’s business, that served an apprenticeship at said trade in Europe, and understands every branch of the business.” This new employee had been on the job for six months, sufficient time for Wales to confidently exclaim that his work “shall be done this year much better than it was last.” Perhaps Wales had learned a lesson about advertising the skills of an employee too soon. The trial period gave him better opportunity to assess for himself the abilities of his “present workman” before making promises in advertisements and then finding himself in the position of retracting them.

For his part, Gilding was not pleased with how Wales portrayed him. The following week he placed his own advertisement, which appeared immediately below the second insertion of Wales’s notice. He lamented that he had been “greatly Abused and Injured in my Reputation.” He considered the entire advertisement “a Piece of Malice and Detraction.” He then explained that any shortcomings in his work should be attributed to Wales for not providing proper supplies for the dyeing business. Furthermore, Gilding asserted that Wales attempted to hire him for an additional year. Gilding quit, despite Wales pretending otherwise. Finally, Gilding reported that his former employer and “the Workman he pretends to have had Six Months experience of” had parted ways, once again due to difficulties caused by Wales.

Artisans of various sorts often used newspaper advertisements to promote their skills and training in eighteenth-century America. In this incident, Wales and Gilding did that and more. Each turned to the public prints to defend their own reputation, inserting advertisements that constructed competing narratives. Airing their dirty laundry presented risks, but calculated that the rewards of presenting their own side of the dispute would result in rewards if prospective customers believed their version of events.

September 15

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

Sep 15 - 9:15:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (September 15, 1768).

“OBSERVING an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 2064.”

Paying for advertisements to appear in newspapers gave colonists access to public forums to air grievances and engage in disputes. Those disputes sometimes extended over several issues and included advertisements responding to other advertisements. Such was the case for Andrew Crawford and Robert Scott in 1768. The two placed an advertisement in the August 25 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette in rebuttal to “an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 2064, setting forth that Andrew Crawford and Robert Scott, had escaped from the constable and gone off.”

The accused fugitives referred to an advertisement that first appeared in the July 14 edition and then again in the supplements that accompanied the July 21 and August 4 issues. It announced “TEN POUNDS Reward” for two men, Crawford and Scott, who had “ESCAPED from the Constables, some Weeks ago.” In addition to physical descriptions, the advertisement described the two as “Both apt to be drunk, ant to swear, generally work together, and commonly reside in London Britain Township, near Newark; but now are supposed to be gone to Maryland, to Harvest.” It concluded by promising a reward to “Whoever secures the said Fellows, and delivers them to Mr. JOSEPH THOMAS, Goal-Keeper, of Chester County, in Pennsylvania.”

Crawford and Scott took exception to that advertisement. In their response, they acknowledged the reward, but claimed the notice did not indicate any “person obliged to pay it, nor is there any signer to said advertisement.” The accused fugitives seemed to be perpetrating the eighteenth-century version of trolling the original advertiser. Even though the advertisement announcing their escape did not feature a final line listing the name of the advertiser, the final sentence made it reasonably clear that “Mr. JOSEPH THOMAS, Goal-Keeper, of Chester County, in Pennsylvania” sought to recover Crawford and Scott and would pay the reward.

Crawford and Scott, on the other hand, chose to ignore that plain reading of the notice. Instead, they insisted that “it must be the product of some secret, evil, and malicious mind.” They further taunted Thomas by stating that they resided “at the house of Joseph Ralston, near Newark, where any person may meet with, and take us if they please.” In an even more brazen move, they offered a reward of their own: “FIVE POUNDS, to any person or persons that will make evidence, or information, who was the author of the aforesaid advertisement.” In addition to its original appearance on August 25, their response ran in the supplements for September 1 and 15.

Apparently nobody successfully attempted to capture Crawford and Scott after they first announced their whereabouts, but Thomas did see their advertisement and published a response of his own. It first appeared in the supplement to the September 15 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, one column over and almost immediately beside Crawford and Scott’s advertisement. Thomas left the first half of his original advertisement alone, but revised the second half to take into account the new information that Crawford and Scott had published. He reported that “they generally make their home at one Ralston’s, near Newark.” He also adjusted the final line to include a signature, indicating that the reward would be “paid by JOSEPH THOMAS, Goaler.” He repeated the physical description without change and continued to describe the two as “apt to swear, and get drunk,” but he also added “very quarrelsome,” perhaps out of exasperation with their thick headed and impudent response to his first advertisement.

Although advertisements for runaway wives sometimes elicited responses from women who defended their actions in the face of abusive or overbearing husbands, very few runaways of other sorts – servants, slaves, prisoners – published responses to advertisements that offered rewards for their capture and return. They usually attempted to keep a low profile to evade detection. Crawford and Scott, on the other hand, were cheeky or stupid or both, choosing to place an advertisement intended to make Thomas appear foolish and incompetent. As an alternative to pursuing their dispute in person, the jailer and the fugitives resorted to advertisements in the public prints to antagonize each other.