January 10

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

South-Carolina Gazette (January 7, 1773).

A great Number of NEW ADVERTISEMENTS … shall be inserted in a Paper that will be published early on MONDAY next.”

The South-Carolina Gazette might better have been named the South-Carolina Gazette and Advertiser.  That was especially true for the January 7, 1773, edition of the newspaper since advertising constituted the vast majority of the content.  The printers, Thomas Powell and Company, distributed a standard four-page edition and a two-page supplement.  Advertising comprised fifteen of the eighteen columns.

Except for the masthead, the front page consisted entirely of advertising.  A banner that announced “New Advertisements” appeared at the top of the first column.  Similarly, the second page consisted entirely of advertising with a banner for “New Advertisements” once again running at the top of the first column.  Readers encountered the first news items on the third page.  The first column carried local news from Charleston.  Near the bottom, “Timothy’s Marine List,” a feature that retained the name of the former printer, provided news from the customs house about the arrival and departure of ships in the busy port.  It overflowed into the second column, filling most of it.  Another banner for “New Advertisements” described the rest of the page.  The final page did not feature any news items, only advertisements.

In the supplement, the first page column of the first page contained “NEWS from the Continent of Germany” and a short essay denigrating the “CHARACTERS of some of the crowned Heads od EUROPE.”  The second and third columns as well as all three columns on the second page featured advertisements exclusively.  That does not mean, however, that those portions of the newspaper did not deliver important information to readers.  Some of those advertisements included a proclamation from the governor concerning the “Boundary Line” with North Carolina and legal notices about court proceedings.

In addition to all that advertising, a note that ran at the end of news from Charleston and just above “Timothy’s Marine List” indicated that Powell and Company did not have sufficient space to publish all of the advertisements received in the printing office.  “A great Number of NEW ADVERTISEMENTS,” the note stated, “now left out for Want of Room, shall be inserted in a Paper that will be published early on MONDAY next.”  In addition, “Advertisements sent before that Time, shall (if desired) make their Appearance in it.”  Four days later, Powell and Company published a two-page Postscript to the South-Carolina Gazette on January 11.  It devoted more space to news than the previous issue and its supplement combined!  Advertising filled only two and a half of the six columns, though “New Advertisements” accounted for the first column on the first page.  The banner for “New Advertisements” once again appeared halfway down the second column on the second page.

The South-Carolina Gazette was certainly a delivery mechanism for advertising, sometimes more than a delivery mechanism for news.  That meant that readers gleaned information via a variety of formats, not just articles that reported on recent events.  It also meant significant revenues for the printers, underwriting the dissemination of news articles when Powell and Company made space for them.

October 13

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 13, 1772).

“He continues to carry on the PAINTING and GLAZING BUSINESS.”

Colonial printers often resorted to publishing advertising supplements to accompany their weekly newspapers that featured both news and paid notices.  This was especially true for newspapers in the largest port cities, Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.  Each standard issue consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  When printers had sufficient additional content to justify the resources required to produce additional pages, they printed two- or four-page supplements.  Although news sometimes appeared in those supplements, additions, and extraordinary editions, they most often consisted of advertising.

That was not the case for the October 13, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and the Addition that Charles Crouch distributed on the same day.  The bulk of the news appeared in the two-page Addition after Crouch devoted ten and a half of the twelve columns in the standard issue to paid notices, including more than a dozen that offered enslaved people for sale or offered rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from those who held them in bondage.  Paid notices filled the entire first page below the masthead.  They also filled the entire third and fourth pages.  A short note, “For more London News, see the Addition,” appeared at the bottom of the first column of the second page, the only full column of news.  Halfway down the next column, a header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” alerted readers to the content on the remainder of the page.

The two-page Addition gave three times as much space to news compared to the standard issue.  News that arrived via London, most of it extracts from letters composed in various cities on the European continent, filled the first page and overflowed onto the second.  A short proclamation from the governor of the colony ran as local news midway through the second column on the other side of the sheet.  Crouch managed to squeeze in a few more advertisements, including one that promoted a “COMPLETE GERMAN GRAMMAR” that he sold at his printing office.  Instead of an advertising supplement that accompanied the newspaper, the Addition amounted to a news supplement that accompanied an advertising leaflet.  In many instances, colonial newspapers were vehicles for delivering advertising.  That was especially true of the October 13 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its Addition.

June 24

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 23, 1772).

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

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, had far more content than would fit in a standard issue on June 23, 1772.  Like other newspapers printed throughout the colonies, his weekly newspapers consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  On that particular day, Crouch devoted two pages to news and two pages to advertising.  That left out a significant number of advertisements of all sorts, including legal notices, catalogs of goods sold by merchants and shopkeepers, and notices that described enslaved people who liberated themselves and offered rewards for their capture and return.  Since advertising represented significant revenue for printers, Crouch did not want to delay publishing those advertisements, especially since his newspaper competed with both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette to attract advertisers.

To solve the problem, Crouch printed and distributed a supplement comprised entirely of advertising.  From New England to South Carolina, printers often resorted to supplements when they found themselves in Crouch’s position.  Even as he devised the supplement to accompany the June 23 edition, Crouch carefully considered his resources and the amount of the content he needed to publish.  He selected a smaller sheet than the standard issue, one that allowed for only two columns instead of three.  That could have resulted in wide margins, but Crouch instead decided to print shorter advertisements in the margins, rotating type that had already been set to run perpendicular to the two main columns.  That created room for four additional advertisements per page, a total of sixteen over the four pages of the entire supplement.  With a bit of ingenuity, Crouch used type already set for previous issues or that could easily integrate into subsequent issues rather than (re)setting type just to accommodate the size of the sheet for the June 23 supplement.  Crouch managed to meet his obligation to advertisers who would have been displeased had he excluded their notices while simultaneously conserving and maximizing the resources available in his printing office.

December 24

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

The other NEW ADVERTISEMENTS are in the additional Sheet.”

Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, did a brisk business in advertising in the early 1770s.  He often had to distribute supplemental pages devoted exclusively to advertising when he did not have sufficient space to publish all the paid notices in the standard edition.  Such was the case on December 24, 1771.  Wells inserted a note at the bottom of the final column on the third page, complete with a manicule to draw attention to it, to inform readers (and advertisers looking for their notices) that “The other NEW ADVERTISEMENTS are in the additional Sheet.”

Wells was savvy in the production of that supplement, refusing to commit more resources than necessary.  The “additional Sheet” differed in size from the standard issue.  Unfortunately, digitized copies of eighteenth-century newspapers usually do not include dimensions; without examining the original, I cannot say with certainty that Wells adopted a particular strategy, but I can describe what seems likely based on both the visual evidence and common practices among eighteenth-century printers.

Let’s start with a description of the standard issue.  Like other newspapers of the era, it consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Most newspapers published in the early 1770s had three columns per page, for a total of twelve columns in an issue, but the South-Carolina and American General Gazettehad four columns per page, bringing the total to sixteen per issue.  In this instance, the “additional Sheet” also consisted of four pages, two on each side of a folded broadsheet, but the format differed from the standard issue.  Three shorter columns filled most of the page, but a fourth column featured advertisements rotated perpendicular to the rest of the text in order to for on the page.  Printers often deployed this technique to maximize the amount of space they filled while still using the same column width to prevent breaking down and resetting type multiple times for advertisements that ran for several weeks.  The “additional Sheet” had four columns in each of the perpendicular columns.  It appears that the “additional Sheet” was actually a half sheet that Wells turned on its side.

Why did he do that?  On the same day, Charles Crouch distributed an advertising supplement with the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  He also used a half sheet, though he did not adjust the format.  As a result, that supplement consisted of only two pages rather than the four that Wells created by folding a half sheet in half once again.  Compared to Crouch’s approach, the most common one throughout the colonies, Well’s method did not reduce the amount of paper required to print the supplement.  It did, however, yield a greater number of pages and gave the impression that advertisements overflowed into the margins.  This may have been Wells’s intention, a visual suggestion to both subscribers and prospective advertisers concerning the popularity of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

September 23

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

Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (September 23, 1771).

A large and compleat Assortment of ENGLISH, INDIA, and SCOTCH GOODS.”

Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, had more content than would fit in the standard issue on September 23, 1771.  Like other newspapers published during the colonial era, an issue of the Boston-Gazette consisted of four pages.  Edes and Gill printed two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folded it in half.  On occasion, however, they had sufficient content to merit publishing a supplement to accompany the standard issue.  They did so on September 23.  Hugh Gaine, printer of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, did so as well.

Both supplements consisted of two pages.  Both contained advertisements exclusively.  Despite these differences, Gaine adopted a slightly different strategy in producing the supplement for his newspaper than Edes and Gill did.  The standard issue of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury featured four columns per page.  The supplement did as well.  Gaine used a half sheet that matched the size of the standard issue; all six pages were the same size.  Edes and Gill, on the other hand, did not.  A standard issue of the Boston-Gazette had three columns, but only two columns for the supplement.  The printers chose a smaller sheet to match the amount of content and conserve paper.  They generated revenue from the advertisements in the supplement, but kept costs down in producing it.

The relative sizes of the supplements compared to the standard issues would be readily apparent when consulting originals, but not when working with digitized images.  As a result of remediation, digital images become the size of the screen and change as readers zoom in and zoom out.  The size of the page of a digital image is not permanent, unlike the size of the page of the original newspaper.  In the process of remediation, information about originals gets lost if those creating new images do not record and make metadata accessible.  In this case, modern readers consulting digitized images can deduce that Edes and Gill used a different size sheet for the supplement, but have a much more difficult time imagining the experience of eighteenth-century subscribers who received sheets of two different sizes.

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.