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.