February 12

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 6, 1769).

“The following large assortment of GOODS.”

In January and February 1769, Daniel Benezet, John Benezet, and Thomas Bartow attempted to maximize exposure for their advertisement concerning a “large assortment of GOODS” by running it in multiple newspapers. Over the course of several weeks, they first inserted it in the Pennsylvania Journal and then the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Gazette. The iterations in the Gazette and the Journal had strikingly similar appearances, almost as if the compositor for the former referred to an edition of the latter when setting type. The version in the Chronicle, however, looked quite different, even though it featured, for the most part, the same copy.

Rather than a lengthy paragraph of dense text that extended all or most of a column, the advertisement in the Chronicle treated each item separately. To achieve the necessary space for doing so, the compositor allowed the advertisement to extend more than one column. It filled two full columns and overflowed into a third. In addition, the compositor divided each column in half, thus giving the advertisement the appearance of running for four columns. That further underscored the appeal to consumer choice implicitly made within the advertisement, yet the format also made the contents easier to read. Prospective customers interested in particular kinds of merchandise could peruse the advertisement much more quickly and efficiently. The advertisement in the Chronicle left the order of the goods mostly intact, though instead of leading with “Blue, green, scarlet, claret, cinnamon, drab and copper coloured middling and low priced broadcloths” it instead moved “BEST bohea tea, by the chest” from the middle of the advertisement to become the first item.

This advertisement ran in the same issue that William Goddard, the printer, inserted a notice to subscribers and advertisers. In it, he informed advertisers that “due Care will be taken” that their notices would “appear in a correct, fair, and conspicuous Manner.” In addition, he asserted that since some advertisers were “unable to write in a proper Manner for the Press” that he “offers his Assistance gratis.” In other words, Goddard edited advertisements as a free service for his clients. Perhaps the familiar advertisement placed by the Benezets and Bartow demonstrates Goddard’s efforts in that regard. That could explain the significance differences in format when compared to the same advertisement in the Gazette and the Journal. Goddard may have also suggested listing tea first among their merchandise as a means of highlighting a popular product as well as making it immediately clear that the merchants carried grocery items as well as dry goods. Most evidence suggests that throughout the eighteenth century newspaper advertisers generally assumed responsibility for copy and compositors for format, but this advertisement considered in combination with Goddard’s notice suggests that sometimes printers took a more active role in designing advertisements to appeal to readers. In so doing, they anticipated an essential service provided by the advertising industry in the twentieth century.

February 9

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

The following large assortment of GOODS.”

Pennsylvania Gazette (February 9, 1768).

Daniel Benezet, John Benezet, and Thomas Bartow placed an advertisement for a “large assortment of GOODS” that filled an entire column in the February 2, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal. Their advertisement did not appear in that publication the following week, but it did run in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 6 and in the Pennsylvania Gazette on February 9. The iteration in the Gazette featured the same copy as the original in the Journal, but the version in the Chronicle sported revisions to both content and format (which will be examined in a separate entry on February 12).

In addition to identical copy, the format of the advertisement in the Gazette replicated the notice that previously ran in the Journal in many ways. The two advertisements had the same headlines that introduced the merchants and instructed prospective customers where to find their store. Both advertisements concluded with the same nota bene that announced they expected to receive “a very large and compleat assortment of spring and summer GOODS” via vessels from England. The same words were capitalized in both advertisements. Beyond that both advertisements deployed italics for everything except the names of the merchants, even though most other advertisements on the page used italics sparingly, if at all. In the Journal, Philip Wilson’s list-style advertisement also used italics, suggesting that this may have been the format for that type of advertisement selected by the compositor. Alternately, either Wilson or the Benezets and Bartow may have specified that they wanted their advertisement in italics and the compositor chose to give the other the same treatment. Either way, the compositor for the Gazette copied the format from the Journal exactly, almost as if the Benezets and Bartow had cut their advertisement out of the Journal and submitted it to the Gazette. The line breaks were the only noticeable difference, with the Gazette squeezing more items onto each line. As a result, the version in the Gazette did not fill an entire column, but it very nearly did so.

This comparison suggests some likely printing practices when it came to advertisements, but does not present definitive evidence. What it does demonstrate for certain, especially when taken into consideration with the third advertisement in the Chronicle, is that some advertisers contemplated the significance of circulating their advertisements to as many readers and potential customers as possible. The Benezets and Bartow sought to maximize the number of colonists who would encounter their advertisement, so they moved it from newspaper to newspaper. Such a lengthy advertisement would have been a considerable investment. That being the case, the Benezets and Bartow chose not to run it for as many weeks as most other advertisements placed by merchants and shopkeepers appeared in the public prints. It ran once in both the Chronicle and Journal and twice in the Gazette. The Benezets and Bartow sacrificed the duration of their advertising campaign in favor of dissemination to the widest possible audience.

January 23

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

Boston-Gazette (January 23, 1769).

“John Nazro, At his Shop in Cornhill, BOSTON.”

To increase the chances that prospective customers would see his advertisement for a “Fresh Assortment of English and India GOODS,” John Nazro inserted it in more than one newspaper during the week of January 23, 1769. His options included the Boston Chronicle, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, the Boston Post-Boy (co-published with Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette) and the Boston Weekly News-Letter (co-published with Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette). Occasionally advertisers sought to maximize the exposure for their advertisements by placing them in all or nearly all of the newspapers printed in Boston in the late 1760s, but Nazro was more modest in his approach. He selected only two, the Boston-Gazette and the Boston Post-Boy.

Finances may have played a role in his decision. Once he determined to limit the number of publications he likely took into account his impression of the circulation of each newspaper as well as the day of the week they were published. The Evening-Post, the Gazette, and the Post-Boy were all published on Mondays. The Weekly News-Letter was published on Thursdays. Earlier the month the Chronicle had moved to semi-weekly publication, expanding from Mondays to both Mondays and Thursdays. Nazro did not spread his advertisements throughout the week by choosing one newspaper published on Monday and another on Thursday. Perhaps he considered Monday the best day to introduce consumers to his merchandise. Alternately, he may have considered the circulation of the Gazette and the Post-Boy so superior to any of the newspapers published on Thursday that he would receive a better return on his investment by advertising in them.

Due to the culture of reprinting in eighteenth-century America, many newspapers often featured the same content when it came to news items. For instance, on January 23, the Evening-Post, the Gazette, and Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette (co-published with the Post-Boy) all included “The Humble Address of the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled” from November 8, 1768, as well as “The Humble ADDRESS of the HOUSE of COMMONS to the KING.” By then, those items had already appeared in the January 19 edition of Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette (co-published with the Weekly News-Letter). Only the Chronicle did not run them.

As these news items and Nazro’s advertisement demonstrate, colonial readers often encountered the same content in multiple newspapers, though for different reasons. Printers reproduced news items that appeared in other newspapers or arrived by ship, but advertisers paid to have their notices populate the pages of colonial newspapers.

January 1

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

Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (December 29, 1768).
“Choice Fresh Lemmons.”

Readers of the December 29, 1768, edition of Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette encountered two advertisements placed by John Crosby. One appeared at the bottom of the center column on the first page, the other at the top of the center column on the final page. In both, Crosby directed prospective customers to his shop “at the Sign of the Basket of Lemmons” in the South End of Boston. Placing two advertisements in a single issue was an innovative strategy. It became common practice by the end of the eighteenth century, but by then daily newspapers provided much more space for advertising than the weeklies published prior to the American Revolution. Advertisers who attempted to saturate the marketplace instead opted to insert the same advertisement in multiple newspapers rather than a series of advertisements in a single issue.

Crosby adopted that more familiar strategy as well. On December 26, the Boston-Gazette and Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette carried advertisements that announced “JOHN CROSBY, Lemmon Trader, at the Sign of the Basket of Lemmons” sold “CHOICE good and fresh Lisbon LEMMONS” that were as large and as a good as any sold in Boston. The same advertisement appeared in the January 2, 1769, edition of the Boston Chronicle. The typography of the advertisements varied according to the discretion of the compositors in each printing office, but the advertising copy was consistent across all three newspapers. Crosby presented himself, his shop sign, and his merchandise to readers of multiple newspapers, increasing the likelihood that prospective customers would see his advertisement and reinforcing his marketing messages for those who happened to read more than one of Boston’s newspapers.

Yet neither of Crosby’s two advertisements in Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette was the one that ran in the other newspapers. The shorter one, similar in length, hawked oranges and potatoes. The lengthier one, complete with a headline that proclaimed “Choice Fresh Lemmons,” listed a variety of other merchandise available at Crosby’s shop. In addition to lemons, limes, and oranges, he also sold “stone Necklaces,” “small tooth fine Tortoiseshell Combs,” and “labell’d Decanters with the Word MADEIRA on them.” Crosby may not have considered it necessary to insert the same advertisement that ran in the other newspapers. Although this lengthier advertisement lacked the appeals to quality, it did specify the same prices. It also presented a greater array of choices to consumers, an alternate means of attracting customers. Instead of following an established practice of placing the same advertisement in every newspaper, Crosby experimented with running one advertisement in several newspapers while simultaneously inserting more than one advertisement in yet another newspaper. He did not rely on a single method for enhancing his visibility in the colonial marketplace.

August 8

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

Aug 8 - 8:8:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (August 8, 1768).

“RUN away … a Welch Servant Man, named WILLIAM WALTERS.”

John Gifford was not happy when “a Welch Servant Man, named WILLIAM WALTERS” ran away in the summer of 1768. The aggrieved master reported that Walters, a mason, had departed with his wife, a woman described as “very remarkable in her Talk.” Gifford may have been commenting on her dialect, but given that he described both husband and wife as “much given to Drink” he may have meant that she resorted to crude speech that made her particularly easy to identify.

To reduce the chances of Walters and his unnamed wife successfully making their escape, Gifford placed notices in multiple newspapers. The New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy both published his advertisement on Monday, August 8. The same advertisement first appeared the previous Thursday in the August 4 edition of the New-York Journal (number 1335). The notation “35 38” intended for the compositor indicated that Gifford made arrangements for his advertisement to run for four consecutive weeks. He intended to place it before as many eyes as possible in hopes of capturing the runaway mason.

To that end, Gifford immediately inserted a similar advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, printed in Philadelphia. Like the New York publications, it was distributed to subscribers and other readers far beyond the city. Gifford suspected that the couple might be more readily identified in New York and would attempt to make their way to another busy port before continuing their flight via ship to somewhere even more distant. Gifford’s advertisement ran in the Pennsylvania Chronicle the same day it first appeared in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy, simultaneously informing widely dispersed readerships to be on the lookout for a Welch mason and his wife. Gifford must have quickly dispatched copy for the advertisement to William Goddard’s printing office on Market Street in Philadelphia in order for his notice to appear in print so quickly. He revised it only slightly, acknowledging local conditions by offering “Forty Shillings Reward” rather than “TWO POUNDS REWARD.” He also added a nota bene that demanded “All masters of vessels and others are hereby forbid to carry them off,” a standard warning in advertisements for runaway servants and slaves.

When it came to enlisting the aid of the public prints in capturing a runaway servant, Gifford spared little expense. In addition to the reward and “all reasonable Charges” he offered to “Whoever secures [Walters], so that his master may have him again,” he also invested in advertisements in four newspapers published in two cities. The New-York Journal was the only one that listed its advertising rates: “Five shillings, four Weeks.” Others most likely charged similar fees, indicating that Gifford spent at least twenty shilling (or one pound) on advertising intended to increase surveillance and lead to the capture and return of his runaway servant. Creating imagined communities via simultaneous readership was not just a project undertaken by printers who selected content from among possible news items, often reprinting from one newspaper to another. Advertisers made their own contributions to that project when they paid to have notices printed in multiple newspapers in multiple locations.

February 15

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

Feb 15 - 2:15:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 15, 1768).

“She continues to sell … the genuine flour of mustard.”

Mary Crathorne advertised the mustard and chocolate she “manufactured” at “the Globe mill on Germantown road” in more than one newspaper published in Philadelphia in February 1768. She inserted one notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette on February 11 and another in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 15. Although they featured (mostly) the same copy, the visual aspects of the tow advertisements distinguished one from the other.

A headline consisting of her name, “Mary Crathorne,” introduced the advertisement in the Chronicle. Such design was consistent with that in other advertisements placed by purveyors of goods and services, including Robert Bass and John Lownes. It added readers in identifying the advertisement, but did not call special attention to it. In contrast, her advertisement in the Gazette featured a woodcut depicting a seal for her company flanked by a bottle of mustard on one side and a pound of chocolate on the other. It was the only advertisement in that issue of the Gazette (including the two-page supplement devoted entirely to advertising) that incorporated a visual image, distinguishing it from all others. On the other hand, Crathorne’s advertisement in the Chronicle ran on the same page as four advertisements that included woodcuts (a house, a ship, a male runaway servant, and a female runaway servant). In addition to those stock images that belonged to the printer, elsewhere in the issue Howard and Bartram’s advertisement featured a woodcut of dog with its head in an overturned bucket. The “Copper-Smiths from London” ran a shop at “the sign of the Dog and Golden Kettle, in Second-Street.” They effectively deployed the visual image in multiple media, the newspaper advertisement and the shop sign, to create a brand for their business.

Crathorne attempted something similar with her own woodcut in the Gazette, noting that “All the mustard put up in bottles, has the above stamp pasted on the bottles, and also the paper round each pound of chocolate has the said stamp thereon.” She had to revise the copy, however, for inclusion in the Chronicle without the woodcut. “All the mustard put up in bottle has a stamp” (rather than “the above stamp”) “pasted on the bottles, and also the paper round each pound of chocolate has the same stamp thereon.”

Apparently Mary Crathorne (or her late husband who previously ran the business) had commissioned only one woodcut of this trademark image. That made it impossible to publish advertisements featuring the same image in multiple newspapers simultaneously. The aspect that most distinguished her advertisement in the Gazette was completely missing in the Chronicle, where other advertisers treated readers to a series of woodcuts that dressed up their notices. Crathorne engaged in innovative marketing efforts by associating a specific image with her products to distinguish them from the competition, but she did not consistently advance that campaign by inserting the image in all of her advertisements that appeared in print. She recognized that branding could be useful in selling her wares, but she did not apply the strategy to full effect. That required further experimentation by other advertisers.