June 21

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (June 21, 1771).

For other new Advertisements, see Supplement.”

Most colonial newspapers consisted of four pages published once a week, though a few printers experimented with publishing multiple issues each week or regularly providing an additional half sheet that expanded an issue to six pages.  Even printers who did not regularly supply additional pages sometimes found themselves in the position of doing so, calling them supplements, postscripts, continuations, additions, and extraordinaries.  Those various sorts of supplements sometimes contained news, sometimes advertising, and sometimes both.  They usually accompanied the standard issue, but sometimes appeared in the middle of the week, especially when printers received word of events that merited immediate coverage.  The repeal of the Stamp Act, for instance, occasioned midweek supplements in several cities and towns.  Most often, however, supplements did not carry such momentous news.  Instead, advertising dominated.

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among those who rarely distributed supplements.  By varying the font sizes for both news and advertising, they usually managed to fit all of their content within the four pages of their weekly standard issue.  That was not the case, however, for the June 21, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Immediately below Mendum Janvrin’s advertisement for rum, sugar, and other commodities, the Fowles inserted a short note that instructed, “For other new Advertisements, see Supplement.”  That note appeared two-thirds of the way down the final column on the third page, some of the last type set for that issue since printers typically prepared the first and fourth pages, printed on the same side of a broadsheet, and then the second and third, printed on the other.  By the time the Fowles got nearly to the end of that last column, they knew that they did not have space for all of the paid notices intended for the June 21 edition.  Presumably, the supplement accompanied the standard issue for the convenience of subscribers and other readers.

No supplement for the June 21 edition has been digitized and included in America’s Historical Newspapers.  The Fowles may have been more ambitious in planning for a supplement than time and other resources allowed.  They might not have printed the supplement at all.  In this case, however, it appears that they instead delayed publication of the supplement by a week, dating it June 28, and distributed it with the standard edition for June 28.  The Fowles used only the amount of paper necessary, printing solely paid notices that generated revenue and eschewing any additional news items.  They selected a smaller sheet, one that accommodated only two columns per page instead of the usual three.  In making those choices, they fulfilled their commitments to their advertisers, but minimized their own expenses for publishing the supplement.  Some advertisers had to wait a week for their notices to appear in print because the savvy printers avoided driving up the costs of producing the additional sheet.

Supplement to the New-Hampshire Gazette (June 28, 1771).

June 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette (June 6, 1771).

“A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS … will be inserted in a CONTINUATION.”

The South-Carolina Gazette was a delivery mechanism for advertising, often devoting more space to paid notices than to news.  The printer, Peter Timothy, must have generated significant revenues, assuming advertisers paid their bills.  Like other colonial newspapers, a standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Some printers reserved advertising for the final pages, but other distributed advertisements throughout an issue, including on the front page.

Consider the contents of the June 6, 1771, edition.  News from London comprised most of the first and third columns, but several advertisements filled the entire column between them.  In addition, a single advertisement appeared at the bottom of the first and third columns, each with a header proclaiming “New Advertisements.”  Local news and a poem filled most of the second page, but an advertisement appeared at the bottom of the last column.  It also bore a header for “New Advertisements,” leading into the facing page.  Advertisements accounted for the first two columns and a portion of the third on that page, though it concluded with “Timothy’s Marine List,” the shipping news from the customs house.  Paid notices filled the entire final page.  In total, advertising comprised seven of the twelve columns in the standard issue.

In addition, Timothy distributed a half sheet supplement, two more pages that contained nothing except paid notices.  Printers who ran out of space for the content they wished to print – or needed to print to satisfy agreements made with advertisers – often resorted to supplements.  In this instance, a header for “Advertisements” appeared at the top of the first column on the first page.  Timothy also inserted a notice in the standard issue to explain that “A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS, which we could not get into this Day’s Paper, will be inserted in a CONTINUATION, to be published on Monday next.”  That meant even more advertising, though the printer’s notice may have been misleading. Timothy may or may not have printed and distributed another supplement on Monday.  The supplement dated June 6 may have been that supplement, taken to press earlier than anticipated at the time Timothy composed his notice and printed the standard issue.

Even without a midweek Continuation in addition to a Supplement that accompanied the June 6 edition, advertising constituted the majority of content delivered to subscribers.  Paid notices filled thirteen of the eighteen columns in the standard issue and supplement, amounting to more than two-thirds of the space.  Revenues generated from that advertising supported the production and distribution of the news, even in the colonial era.

April 24

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

Detail of supplemental page from the South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

“His STOCK of GOODS.”

Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, had more content than would fit in the standard issue on April 24, 1771.  Wells devoted more than a fifth of the issue to “EUROPEAN INTELLIGENCE,” spread over two columns on the front page and continuing on the second page.  The remainder of the second page consisted of “AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE,” news drawn primarily from Boston and Newport, Rhode Island, as well as limited coverage of local events.  The shipping news from the customs house spilled over, occupying a portion of the first column of the third page.  Paid notices constituted the rest of that edition, filling just shy of ten of the sixteen columns.  Even as he gave more space to advertising than to news, Wells did not have room for all of the paid notices submitted to his printing office.

To address that problem, Wells did what many other early American printers did in similar circumstances.  He distributed an additional sheet that consisted entirely of advertisements, more than two dozen of them.  One in four of those advertisements described enslaved men and women for sale or offered rewards for the capture ad return of those who liberated themselves.  While digital images of the standard issue and the supplementary pages do not indicate precise dimensions, they do reveal that Wells used a smaller sheet (and fewer columns per page) for the additional notices.  Wells depended on revenue generated from advertising to continue publication of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, but he also carefully budgeted how much paper he used in printing advertisements.  Rather than distribute an additional half sheet that would have allowed him to print more news reprinted from other newspapers Wells instead selected a smaller sheet with room for the paid notices and nothing else.  He carefully balanced the proportion of news and advertising as well as the revenues garnered from adverting and the costs of publishing those notices.

January 16

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

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 14, 1771).

“Said Morton has to dispose of, a large and very neat assortment of gilt and plain frame looking-glasses and sconces.”

Hugh Gaine, “Printer, Bookseller, and Stationer, at the Bible and Crown, in Hanover-Square,” printed the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, one of several newspapers published in the city in the early 1770s.  On many occasions, Gaine devoted more space to disseminating advertising than news articles, letters and editorials, prices current, and shipping news from the customs house.  Such was the case for the January 14, 1771, edition.

Like other eighteenth-century newspapers, that issue consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half.  Some printers reserved advertising for the final pages, but Gaine distributed paid notices throughout his newspaper.  The first two columns on the first page of the January 14 edition contained advertising.  News accounted for most of the third and fourth columns, but five short advertisements concluded the fourth column.  News filled the first three columns of the second page before giving way to advertising in the final column.  On the third page, readers encountered news in the first two columns and advertising in the last two.  The final page consisted entirely of paid notices.  Overall, nine of the sixteen columns, more than half of the issue, delivered advertising to readers.

Yet that was not all.  Gaine had so many advertisements that did not fit in the standard issue that he also published a two-page supplement to accompany it.  With the exception of the masthead, that supplement contained nothing but paid notices, another eight columns of advertising.  Considered together, this amounted to seventeen of the twenty-four columns in the standard issue and supplement.  More than two-thirds of the content that Gaine delivered to subscribers and other readers that week consisted of advertising.

For many newspaper printers in eighteenth-century America, advertising generated revenues that rivaled or surpassed subscription fees.  For Gaine, that was almost certainly the case, thought the volume of advertising also suggests impressive circulation numbers.  Advertisers would not have chosen to insert their notices in his newspaper if they were not confident that they would reach the general public.

November 20

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 20, 1770).

“DOUBLE BEER, fine ALE, TABLE and SMALL BEER.”

Robert Wells, the printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, had too much news and advertising to include all of it in a standard four-page issue on November 20, 1770.  Like other printers who found themselves in that position, he distributed a supplement with the surplus content.  Both news and advertising appeared in the standard issue, but the supplement consisted entirely of advertisements.

Taking into account the number of advertisements that did not make it into the standard issue, Wells used a smaller sheet for the supplement.  That decision led to an unusual format for the supplement.  Each page of the standard issue featured four columns, but each page of the supplement had only three columns.  Two of those ran from top to bottom of the page, as usual, but Wells printed the final column perpendicular to the others.

Why such an awkward format?  It saved time while also maximizing the amount of content Wells could squeeze onto the page.  Most of the advertisements ran in previous issues.  The type had already been set.  Wells wished to use it again rather than investing time in resetting type to fit a page of a different size.  The smaller sheet allowed him to insert two columns of the usual width.  With the remaining space, he rotated the advertisements and formed columns that ran perpendicular to the others.  Wells managed to fit three of these perpendicular columns, but that left a small space at the bottom of the page.

Rather than waste that remaining space by leaving it blank, Wells finally opted to set type for a narrower column.  On one side of the page this permitted him to include two more short advertisements, one for beer and ale and the other for candles.  On the other side he inserted a notice from the Charleston Library Society calling on members to return books.  Engaging with these advertisements required active reading and further manipulation of the page by subscribers.

Wells was simultaneously ingenious and frugal in designing the format for the advertising supplement that accompanied the November 20 edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  His competitor, Charles Crouch, found himself in a similar position when it came to supplements for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, choosing to eliminate white space between columns in order to make the content fit the page without having to reset the type.  Publishing advertisements generated important revenues for newspaper printers, but they were not so lucrative to prevent printers from carefully managing the additional expenses of producing advertising supplements.

November 13

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

Continuation to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 13, 1770).

“CONTINUATION to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal.”

Like other newspapers published in colonial America, a standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Charles Crouch occasionally had more news, editorials, and advertisements than would fit in a standard issue, prompting him to distribute a supplement with the additional material.  Some newspapers so often had surplus items, especially advertisements, that supplements themselves became practically standard.

November 13, 1770, was one of those days that all of the news and all of the advertising for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal would not fit on four pages.  Six pages did not provide enough room either.  Crouch filled a two-page supplement and still had advertisements remaining.  Advertisements generated important revenue for any printer.  In this case, Crouch determined that they generated enough revenue to merit the additional expense of producing and distributing a four-page Continuation to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in addition to the supplement.  The Continuation consisted entirely of advertisements.

The Continuation, however, was not printed on the same size sheet as the standard issue or the supplement.  Digital remediations of eighteenth-century newspapers usually do not include metadata that includes dimensions, but differences in the sizes of sheets are often apparent even without knowing the precise measurements.  The standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal featured three columns per page.  When printed on an 8.5×11 sheet of office paper, the type is relatively small.  In contrast, the Continuation had only two columns per page.  When printed on an 8.5×11 sheet, the type is relatively large.  The sizes of the original broadsheets were obviously different.  Furthermore, white space divides the columns in standard issues, but the columns nearly run together in the Continuation, separated by a line running down the middle.  Rather than reset the type of advertisements that ran in previous issues, a time-consuming task, Crouch instead made them fit on the smaller sheet.  The Continuation had four pages, but they did not double the size of that standard issue.

Still, subscribers and other readers encountered far more content than usual when they perused the November 13 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal along with its Supplement and Continuation.  Close examination of the digital surrogate also suggests that Crouch printed the supplement on a smaller sheet than the standard issue, though one large enough to retain three columns with white space separating them.  For most newspaper printers, advertisements represented significant revenues.  Paid notices often accounted for a significant portion of the content in any given issue. In this instance, devoting a page to advertising was not sufficient.  Crouch devised additional sheets to accompany the standard issue, incurring expenses yet generating revenues while simultaneously exposing readers to greater advertising content.

November 7

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

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 5, 1770).

“The Co-partnership of Stanton and Ten Brook, is by mutual Consent dissolved.”

Hugh Gaine, the printer of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, had too much news and advertising to fit in a standard issue of his newspaper on November 5, 1770, so he resorted to a solution common among printers throughout the colonies.  He published a two-page supplement to accompany the standard issue.  In this case, he used a smaller sheet with only three columns per page (instead of four), filling both sides with advertisements.

Some of the advertisements in the supplement also appeared in the standard issue, including a notice about the partnership of Stanton and Ten Brook dissolving “by mutual Consent” and calling on associates to settle accounts, a notice seeking Elizabeth Hancock and informing her that “she will be inform’d of something greatly to her advantage” is she contacted Jacob Le Roy, and a list of books that Gaine himself offered for sale.  Like many other printers, Gaine was also a bookseller.

Why did these advertisements run twice on the same day, first in the standard issue and again in the supplement?  This suggests that the two placed by Le Roy and the partnership of Stanton and Ten Brook may not have generated additional revenue for the printer.  Instead, he may very well have used them as filler to complete the page.  All three appeared at the bottom of the third column, suggesting they were the last notices incorporated into the supplement.  Gaine probably hoped that running his own advertisement a second time would yield greater sales for the bookselling segment of his enterprise, but it does not seem likely that he would have charged the others for an additional insertion of their advertisements.

Were any of the other advertisements in the supplement included to complete the page rather than because the advertisers instructed Gaine to run them again and agreed to pay for the service?  Advertisements crowding the pages of colonial newspapers and overflowing into supplements usually represented significant revenues for printers, but this example suggests that was not always the case for every advertisement.  Although including an advertisement twice on a single day was relatively rare, Gaine and other printers did run some notices sporadically and for far longer than advertisers may have requested.  In some cases, it seems that printers valued advertisements as filler just as much as they valued them for the fees they earned.

September 10

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

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (September 10, 1770).

“To be SOLD … Best PORTER.”

Colonial printers often devoted as much space to advertising as news, editorials, and other content in their newspapers.  Advertisements often overflowed from standard issues into supplements devoted entirely to paid notices.  Consider, for instance, Hugh Gaine’s New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Gaine published a standard issue once a week in 1770.  It consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Those standard issues usually included a significant proportion of advertisements in relation to news.  In addition, a two-page supplement often accompanied the standard issue.  Such was the case on September 10.  This did not, however, increase the contents by half since Gaine used a smaller sheet for the supplement.  Still, the supplement accounted for a considerable amount of additional material disseminated to readers.

Notably, the supplement contained advertisements and nothing else, with the exception of the masthead.  Gaine inserted more than three dozen advertisements that did not fit in the standard issue.  This was not a case of separating news from advertising, saving the latter for the supplement.  Instead, paid notices appeared throughout the standard issue as well.  One advertisement ran at the bottom of the first page.  Every other page featured a greater number of advertisements:  nearly two of the four columns on the second page, a column and a half on the third page, and the entire fourth page.  Before turning to the supplement, advertising filled nearly half of the standard issue.

Advertising generated revenues for Gaine, making publishing the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury a viable enterprise.  Then, as now, advertising revenues contributed to the dissemination of the news, though sometimes their volume may have seemed to overwhelm the other content of the newspaper.  Joseph Lawrence’s advertisement for “Best PORTER” in the supplement, one example among many, helped to underwrite news from London and Constantinople on the first page and news from other colonies on the second and third pages.

May 22

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

May 22 - 5:22:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

“A Few Bales of well bought WHITE PLAINS.”

When he prepared to go to press with the May 22, 1770, edition, Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, found that he had too much content to fit into a standard four-page issue.  To remedy the situation, he also produced a two-page supplement comprised entirely of advertisements.  That was not unusual, but one of the decisions Crouch made about the format of that supplement differed from the approach usually taken by printers and compositors throughout the colonies.  In an effort to fill every square inch of space on the page, Crouch included three advertisements that deviated from the standard width for columns in his newspaper.

Understanding this strategy first requires a closer look at the entire supplement.  Crouch did not have enough material to fill two sides of a half sheet, the most common format for supplements.  Instead, he used a smaller sheet, one that was wide enough for only two columns with generous margins.  Regular issues had three columns.  To take advantage of the empty space, Crouch selected shorter advertisements to rotate perpendicular to the rest of the text.  Those he inserted in several columns.  This was a common trick for printers and compositors.  It saved the time and effort of resetting type by arranging in a different configuration several advertisements that previously appeared in the newspaper.

Crouch could have left space on either side of these advertisement.  Instead, he positioned them with margins as narrow as if they appeared in the regular columns.  This left empty space at the bottom of the page, but it was not wide enough for an advertisement of the same width.  Here Crouch’s method departed from the usual practice.  Rather than adjust the margins, he instead inserted advertisements that were narrower than any of the other columns throughout the standard issue or the supplement.  Doing so required resetting type for advertisements that previously ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Crouch chose to expend the time and effort rather than surrender the otherwise empty space.  He made use of every last inch of the smaller half sheet when he published this particular advertising supplement.

May 1

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

May 1 - 5:1:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 1, 1770).

“NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”

As usual, the masthead for the May 1, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal proclaimed that it contained “the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic.”  The front page featured news from Boston, including reports that a committee had been formed to gather testimonies from colonists who witnessed the Boston Massacre.  That issue also included news reprinted from newspapers published in Providence, Newport, Hartford, New York, and Philadelphia, though those items were often themselves republished from English newspapers or letters received from correspondents in faraway places like Gibraltar and Jamaica.  A couple of items of local news as well as the shipping news from the customs house rounded out the “freshest Advices.”

Yet news of the Boston Massacre was not the first item that readers encountered, even though it was on the first page.  Instead, a legal notice filled the upper half of the first two columns.  Assorted advertisements appeared below the legal notice.  News from Boston ran in the third column.  Elsewhere in that issue, news items comprised the entire second page and most of the first column on the fourth, but advertisements filled the third page and two of the three columns on the final page.  The standard issue consisted of five columns of news and seven columns of paid notices … and that was not even the end of the advertising disseminated in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on May 1.  Charles Crouch, the printer, issued a two-page supplement, another six columns, that consisted entirely of paid notices. Advertising accounted for more than two-thirds of the content delivered to subscribers in the May 1 edition and its supplement.  Like many other printers, Crouch touted the “freshest Advices” that appeared in his newspaper, but the publication was also (and on many occasions primarily) a vehicle for distributing advertising.