November 15

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

South-Carolina Gazette (November 15).

“New Advertisements.”


The November 15, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette carried more advertising than news or other content.  Advertisements filled the entire first page, except for the masthead, most of the second and third pages, and all of the final page.  Peter Timothy, the printer, also published a four-page supplement devoted almost exclusively to advertising, though it did feature an essay raising “an ALARM” over the “INTRODUCTION of TEAS into AMERICA, immediately from the East-India Company’s Ware-houses, so that the Duties imposed thereon by the British Parliament, may be paid in America.”  Advertisements comprised twenty-one of the twenty-four columns in the standard issue and supplement.  From legal notices to calls to settle accounts to notices hawking consumer goods and services to descriptions of enslaved men and women who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers, those advertisements delivered news in an alternate format.

Unlike content selected by the printer, most paid notices ran in multiple issues.  Readers likely encountered many of them more than once as they perused the latest edition of the South-Carolina Gazette each week.  To help readers navigate the advertisements, the compositor inserted headers in the standard issue (but not in the supplement).  Headers for “New Advertisements” appeared on the first, second, and third pages.  Another header for “Advertisements” also appeared on the third page, suggesting that anything that appeared below or after it (including in the supplement) had been published in at least one previous issue.  The same headers regularly appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette.  Although the headers usually provided reliable guidance, occasionally advertisements from previous issues found their way into the “New Advertisements,” as was the case with Edmund Egan’s notice promoting “CAROLINA BEER” on the first page of the November 15 edition.  Printers and compositors generally did not classify advertisements by placing those inserted for similar purposes together.  Headers like “New Advertisements” and “Advertisements,” along with “Timothy’s Marine List” introducing the shipping news,” accounted for the first efforts to organize some of the contents and aid readers in navigating the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette.

February 9

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

Massachusetts Spy (February 6, 1772).


Samuel Partridge offered many choices to consumers at his shop on Marlborough Street in Boston.  In an advertisement in the February 6, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Spy, he demonstrated the extent of choices available, listing dozens of items from an “assortment of superfine and low prized Broad-Cloths” and “an assortment of womens and childrens black Cloth coloured and crimson worsted Gloves and Mitts” to “large printed cotton Handkerchiefs” and “a compleat assortment of fashionable Ribbons” to “Cambricks” and “Calamancoes of all colours.”  His inventory was so extensive that his advertisement filled almost an entire column on the final page of the newspaper.

Partridge deployed a marketing strategy common among merchants and shopkeepers in Boston and other colonial cities and towns.  He encouraged prospective customers to imagine themselves purchasing and wearing, displaying, or using his merchandise by presenting them with many options.  Repeatedly inserting the word “assortment” underscored the number of choices.  However, he also differentiated his advertisement from others by using headings to categorize his wares and direct readers to items that most interested them.  He incorporated six headings, each of them in all capitals and centered.  At a glance, readers identified sections for “CLOTHS,” “HOSIERY,” “MANCHESTER GOODS,” “SILKS,” “INDIA GOODS,” and “STUFFS.”  Following a heading for “ALSO,” Partridge named additional items, that part of the advertisement resembling the format of most others placed by his competitors.  He listed most items, however, under the various headings.

Though enmeshed within newspapers rather than printed separately, such advertisements served as catalogs.  For Partridge’s advertisement, the headings made that even more the case.  Those headers helped readers navigate the contents.  Such an innovation suggests that Partridge did not merely announce that he had imported goods for sale but instead consciously considered how to most effectively engage consumers in hopes of inciting demand and convincing them to make their purchases at his shop.

January 21

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

Continuation of the South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1772).

“New Advertisements.”

Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, and Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, both had too much content to fit in the four pages of the standard issues of their newspapers on January 21, 1772.  Crouch distributed a four-page Supplement printed on a smaller sheet, while Timothy doubled the amount of content that he distributed with a Continuation printed on the same size sheet as the standard issue.

Except for the first two columns on the first page, that Continuation consisted entirely of advertising.  In newspapers printed throughout the colonies, it was often the case that printers used supplements for advertising when they ran out of space in their standard issues.  To aid readers in navigating the publication, Timothy inserted a heading for “New Advertisements” in the Continuation.  The first advertisements under that heading, however, also ran on the third page of the standard issue.  They had not previously appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette, so in that sense they were indeed “New Advertisements.”

Why were some advertisements published twice in the South-Carolina Gazette and its Continuation on a single day?  John Marley advertised a house and lot for sale.  Justina St. Leger advised consumers that she stocked an assortment of “MILLINARY GOODS” imported from London.  Katherine Lind and William Burrows, executors for Thomas Lind, asked readers to settle accounts.  All three repeated advertisements were short, so the printer may simply have deployed them as filler to complete the page.  In that case, Timothy may very well have inserted those notices in the Continuationgratis, charging the advertisers only for publishing them in the standard issue.

A heading for “New Advertisements” also appeared in the standard issue.  Few colonial printers used such headings, but Timothy did so regularly.  Perhaps he thought the heading incited interest among readers and prompted them to examine the advertisements more closely.  In turn, that benefited Timothy’s own customers who paid to have their notices run in the South-Carolina Gazette.  The printer also had a heading for “Timothy’s Marine List,” a distinctive means of identifying the shipping news from the customs house.  Even if some advertisements sometimes ran for a second time under the header for “New Advertisements,” Timothy’s use of headers to mark sections for advertising and the shipping news helped to give his newspaper its own look that made it easy to recognize and distinguish from other newspapers.

October 29

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).


As was often the case, the October 29, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal overflowed with advertising.  The first page consisted of the masthead and more than a dozen advertisements, but no news items.  The second page did include those “freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic,” promised in the masthead.  The shipping news from the customs house continued on the third page, but two dozen advertisements filled the vast majority of it.  Nearly two dozen more appeared on the final page, along with a brief column identifying Charles Crouch as the printer at the bottom of the last column.  Crouch received so many advertisements at his printing office on Elliott Street that he issues a two-page supplement that contained about three dozen more advertisements, including Joseph Atkinson’s oversized notice that spread over more than half a page.  Thirteen advertisements about enslaved people ran among the other notices.

To help readers navigate the contents of the newspaper, Crouch inserted headers to identify “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”  The first appeared at the top of the first column on the first page.  When advertising commenced once again on the third page, the “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” header ran once again, directing readers to notices they did not encounter in previous issues.  Midway through the page, however, Crouch transitioned to advertisements already inserted at least once without providing a different header.  Newspapers of the era tended to feature relatively few headlines and headers, so an effort to identify “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” made Crouch’s publication distinctive even though he did not devise other markers to aid readers as they perused the advertising.  Similarly, neither Crouch nor any other printer in the colonies organized advertisements according to purpose or genre.  Instead, advertisements for consumer goods and services, legal notices, advertisements offering rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves, real estate advertisements, and a variety of other kinds of notices ran alongside each other in an undifferentiated amalgamation.  A header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” provided some guidance for readers, but it was a rudimentary classification system.

February 24

GUEST CURATOR: Shannon Holleran

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

South Carolina Gazette (February 24, 1767).

“For LONDON, DIRECTLY, The Snow JUDITH, JOHN DAVIS Master, FOR freight of skins or indico.”

This advertisement is unique for the Adverts 250 Project because it did not advertise goods or services, but it instead advertised the shipment of raw materials (skins and indigo). Advertisements for this project usually focus on the consumption of goods, not the shipment of goods.   Earlier this week, I posted an advertisement regarding the cultivation and use of indigo in the colonies during the eighteenth century. When indigo appeared in today’s advertisement, I decided to look more closely at its shipment between England and the colonies.

In “Indigo Production in the Eighteenth Century,” Kenneth H. Beeson, Jr., notes major producers of indigo at this time were Guatemala, Venezuela, and Mexico.[1] However, Great Britain preferred to get indigo from its own colonies, exploiting the colonies for their goods and resources. As I mentioned in my post about indigo earlier this week, the most significant producers of indigo in the colonies were Georgia and South Carolina. Once Great Britain collected what they needed from the colonies, they would then ship back British manufactured goods. Many of the advertisements posted in eighteenth-century newspapers mentioned “English goods.” The influx in importation of British goods ultimately resulted in the countless advertisements, seen in part in the Adverts 250 Project.

Map showing exportation of indigo and importation of British manufactured goods in the eighteenth century.  Infobase Publishing.

This map depicts the British Empire’s transatlantic trade routes during the eighteenth century. It shows the exportation of indigo from South Carolina to Great Britain. The map also shows the importation of manufactured goods from Great Britain to the colonies. This trade was supposed to benefit the colonies and Great Britain, but Parliament’s attempts to regulate that trade in the 1760s and 1770s led to resistance and eventually independence.



In preparing the image of today’s advertisement, Shannon and I made a decision to include a header that appeared immediately above it rather than the advertisement alone. That header, in an ornate font and larger than other text on the front page of the South Carolina Gazette, proclaimed “New Advertisements.” Peter Timothy, the printer, intended it guide readers as they examined the contents of the newspaper.

In general, advertisements did not appear according to any sort of classification system during the eighteenth century. Rather than categorize and organize them according to purpose or products, printers instead inserted paid notices in the order received or, depending on length, whatever order deemed necessary to format an issue into columns of equal length. Depending on the preferences of the printer, advertisements could appear anywhere throughout the newspaper. Some printers placed advertisements on the first page. Others exhausted all other content on the first several pages before inserting all of the advertising at the end. In such instances, they sometimes, but not always, inserted a header that simply stated “Advertisements” without revealing which, if any, were new to that issue.

Peter Timothy experimented with providing more guidance to readers of the South Carolina Gazette. To help them navigate the February 24, 1767, issue, he inserted headers for “New Advertisements” and “SALES by the Provost-Marshal” on the first page. The “New Advertisements” header again appeared on the third page, distinguishing nine advertisements from another ten on that page and fourteen on the next that followed an “Advertisements” header and line of printing ornaments that attracted even more attention by dividing the column. Those two dozen advertisements presumably ran in previous editions. Although Timothy inserted a note that “ADVERTISEMENTS unavoidably left out this week, will be in our next,” he also distributed a two-page supplement that included an “Advertisements” header in ornate font for the convenience of readers.

Unlike some newspapers published in smaller colonial cities, the South Carolina Gazette was overflowing with advertisements in the 1760s. Although the printer made little attempt to classify commercial notices and other paid announcements, he did experiment with headers that guided readers to new content. Given that some advertisements ran for weeks or months, such headers were a valuable innovation that likely gave a boost to advertisements running for the first time.


[1] Kenneth H. Beeson, Jr., “Indigo Production in the Eighteenth Century,” Hispanic American Historical Review 44, no. 2 (May 1964): 214-218.