March 30

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

Mar 30 - 3:30:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (March 30, 1768).

“BLANKS of several sorts to be sold at [t]he Printing-Office.”

James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, regularly inserted an advertisement indicating that he sold “blanks” at his printing office in Savannah. These printed forms, a mainstay of eighteenth-century job printing, came in many varieties for commercial and legal use. Although Johnston’s notice in the March 30, 1768, edition simply announced “BLANKS of several sorts to be sold at [t]he Printing-Office,” he usually ran a longer advertisement that listed the many forms readers could purchase: “bonds, bills of sale, mortgages, powers of attorney, bonds of arbitration, indentures, bills of lading, articles of agreement between masters of vessel and seamen, summonses, warrants, and attachments, for the court of conscience, summonses before justices of the peace, executions for the use of magistrates, [and] indico certificates.” Johnston concluded the list with “&c.” (the abbreviation for et cetera commonly used in eighteenth-century America), suggesting that he stocked or could print other blanks. The revenue generated from these forms supplemented the fees for subscriptions and advertisements for the newspaper as well as income from job printing the “Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c.” promoted in the colophon of every issue of the Georgia Gazette in the 1760s.

While Johnston certainly hoped that readers would respond to his notice by purchasing “BLANKS of several sorts,” that may not have been the only reason he published this abbreviated notice in the March 30 edition. It ran on the final page as the last item in the first column, wedged between an estate notice for “Nicholas Cassiel, late of Augusta, merchant, deceased,” and the colophon. Johnston (or the compositor) may have ended up just shy of having enough content to fill the page and complete the issue. Given the printing technologies of the period, the most efficient solution would have been to set type for a one-line advertisement. This had the additional benefit of potentially enticing readers to become consumers of other printed goods beyond the newspaper in which Johnston printed the advertisement.

December 2

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

Dec 2 - 12:2:1767 Georgia Gazette“A FOUR SHEET MAP of SOUTH-CAROLINA and PART of GEORGIA”

This advertisement for a “FOUR SHEET MAP of SOUTH-CAROLINA and PART of GEORGIA” would have been quite familiar to regular readers of the Georgia Gazette. It had been appearing in the pages of that newspaper for more than a year. While James Johnston, the printer of the newspaper and purveyor of the map certainly wanted to sell copies he still had on hand after all that time, the advertisement also served another important purpose. In a publication that sometimes lacked sufficient content to fill its pages, Johnston frequently inserted the advertisement as filler.

That seems to have been the case in the December 2, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette. The issue consisted of three pages of news and a final page devoted to advertising. A variety of articles densely filled the first three pages, yet the final page featured significant amounts of white space as part of each advertisement. Notice the amount of space between the body of the advertisement and the lines that separated it from the advertisements printed before and after. That had not been part of the design two weeks earlier when Samuel Douglass and Company’s advertisement that extended more than an entire column forced the compositor to squeeze all of the other paid notices together, eliminating any hint of negative space. The text on the two pages given over to advertising in that issue appeared just as dense as the text of the news items.

In addition to Johnston’s perennial advertisement for a map of South Carolina and Georgia, many other advertisements in the December 2 issue previously ran in other issues (though none of them nearly as many times). Each had been modified to include white space before and after the body of the advertisement, stretching them out in order to fill the entire page. This did not require completely resetting the type, but it did transform portions of each advertisement into filler that helped the printer deliver a complete issue to subscribers. Beyond the revenues they generated, newspaper advertisements served other purposes for colonial printers.

July 29

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

Jul 29 - 7:29:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 29, 1767).

“To be leased for Twelve Months, THE PLANTATION and HOUSE.”

John Graham and John Oates offered a lease on Smithfield, the plantation and house of the deceased William Smith. James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, gave their notice space in his newspaper, but he also used it to serve his own needs (beyond collecting the advertising fees). Johnston needed to fill out the first page of the July 29, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette; this advertisement was just the right length to do so (though several others in the same issue would have fit the bill and could have been inserted interchangeably in the same spot).

Unlike many colonial newspapers that clustered advertising on one or two pages, paid advertisements appeared on every page of this issue of the Georgia Gazette. The notice concerning Smithfield was the sole advertisement on the first page, filling the small space left by a satirical political essay on what was “RIGHT, WRONG, and REASONABLE, with regard to America” from the British perspective, a sarcastic list of lamentations that anticipated many of the grievances against George III eventually included in the Declaration of Independence. The second page included a letter reprinted from the London Chronicle as well as extensive news from New York and shorter updates from Newport, Rhode Island; Charleston, South Carolina; and several Caribbean colonies. Two advertisements – one concerning stray horses and the other seeking “a QUANTITY of GOOD BEES-WAX” – completed the page. Local news occupied the third page. Given that advertisements appeared at the top of the first column, the printer likely left space in anticipation of including additional news from across the Atlantic and from other colonies, continuing from the previous page, but ran out of content. An extended legal notice took up one of the two columns on the final page; advertisements, including two final advertisements placed by the printer, accounted for the remainder.

Printers and compositors valued advertising not only because of the additional revenue generated. Advertising yielded content of varying lengths that could be manipulated to complete the pages of a newspaper when news items were not available. To that end, the Georgia Gazette incorporated advertising throughout the July 29 issue, even inserting two notices from the printer in order to fill the space.