January 4

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

Georgia Gazette (January 4, 1769).

“They desire all persons indebted to them … to settle their respective debts.”

Among purveyors of consumer goods in Savannah, the partnership of Inglis and Hall placed the lengthiest advertisements in the Georgia Gazette in the late 1760s. They also advertised more frequently than many of their counterparts, so regular readers of the colony’s only newspaper were probably not surprised that the first issue for 1769 included an advertisement from Inglis and Hall. As a new advertisement, it appeared first among all of the paid notices in that edition.

With the arrival of the new year, the partners took the opportunity to announce that they “HAVE now on hand, A Neat Assortment of Dry Goods, consisting of a great variety of the most useful articles.” In many of their advertisements Inglis and Hall elaborated on this appeal to consumer choice by listing dozens of items included among their inventory. They placed less emphasis on enticing end-use consumers among colonists than cultivating clients who participated in “the Indian Trade.” They did list strouds, an especially popular textile among Indians who bartered with colonial traders, “Trading Guns, Tomahawks, Gunpowder, Ball, &c. &c.” When it came to those items, they offered a discount “to any person taking a quantity” or the entire stock. They began the new year with an attempt to dispose of significant portions of their inventory in large transactions.

Inglis and Hall also seized on the first of the year as an appropriate time to call on customers and associates to settle accounts. Instead of “N.B.” (for nota bene or “take notice”), they used three stars to call attention to that request: “They desire all persons indebted to them by bond, note, or book account, to settle their respective debts on or before the first day of March.” Unlike other advertisers throughout the colonies, they did not allude to the ramifications of neglecting to make payment. That could wait for subsequent advertisements if “persons indebted to them” did not respond to the initial notice.

Although Inglis and Hall’s first newspaper advertisement for 1769 did promote consumer goods, the partners devoted much more space to other business operations: settling accounts and wholesale transactions with colonists involved in “the Indian Trade.” Merchants, shopkeepers, and other purveyors of consumer goods often pursued multiple purposes in their newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, providing an overview of their business practices.

September 30

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

Sep 30 - 9:30:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 30, 1768).

“This Day’s Paper compleats the Twelfth Year, since its first Publication.”

The masthead of the September 30, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included all of the usual information. It gave the full name of the newspaper, The New-Hampshire Gazette, and Historical Chronicle, and advised readers that it “CONTAIN[ED] the Freshest ADVICES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.” It also included information specific to that issue, including the date, “Friday, Sept. 30, 1768,” and volume and number. It was “Vol. XII” and “Numb. 625 Weeks since this Paper was publish’d.” Only in the advertisements did Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, reveal the significance of “Numb. 625.”

“This Day’s Paper,” the Fowles announced, “compleats the Twelfth Year, since its first Publication.” Daniel Fowle had commenced publication on October 7, 1756. Unlike many other colonial newspapers, the New-Hampshire Gazette did not suspend publication during the Stamp Act was in effect, though the Fowles did remove the colophon that identified them as the printers. The New-Hampshire Gazette endured for a dozen years, through both paper shortages and political crises.

Yet the printers did not mark the occasion solely to celebrate their achievement and the impending thirteenth year of publication. They also noted that the current issue “compleats the Year also with a considerable Number of our Customers, especially those in Portsmouth, who are earnestly called upon to pay the same, which will be of great Service at this Time.” Colonial printers frequently placed notices in their own newspapers to encourage both subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts. The Fowles had done so many times before, sometimes at much greater length and with greater ferocity. They had previously advised delinquent customers that by paying their bills they could “prevent unnecessary Trouble,” hinting that legal action was the next step in resolving the situation. They were not so strident when they commemorated a significant milestone in September 1768, perhaps because they did not want to overshadow that event. Still, their livelihood – and the continuation of the New-Hampshire Gazette for another issue or another 625 issues – depended on subscribers and advertisers paying their bills.

July 18

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

Jul 18 - 7:18:1768 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (July 18, 1768).

Those who have Advertisements to insert in this Paper, are desired to send them … to the Printers, by Saturday Noon.”

Most eighteenth-century newspapers did not regularly publish their advertising rates, though several included calls for advertisements (along with subscriptions and job printing) alongside information about the printer and place of publication in the colophon on the final page. For instance, throughout 1768 the colophon for the Georgia Gazette read: “SAVANNAH: Printed by JAMES JOHNSTON, at the Printing-Office in Broughton-Street, where Advertisements, Letters of Intelligence, and Subscriptions for this Paper, are taken in.—Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c. printed at the shortest Notice.” Johnston solicited advertisements for the Georgia Gazette, but did not reveal the costs for advertisers.

Among those who did use the colophon to promote the various services offered at the printing office, a few did indicate advertising rates. Green and Watson, printers of the Connecticut Courant, listed this pricing scheme in the summer of 1768: “ADVERTISEMENTS of not more than ten Lines, are taken in and inserted for Three Shillings, three Weeks, and Six Pence, for each Week after, and longer ones in Proportion.” Green and Watson gave prospective advertisers a sense of how much they could expect to pay to insert a notice in their newspaper.

Beyond the information provided in colophons and occasional notices calling on subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts, eighteenth-century printers rarely published other instructions that revealed the mechanics of advertising. Occasionally, however, some did insert additional guidance for advertisers. In the lower right corner of the first page of the July 18, 1768, edition of the Connecticut Courant, Green and Watson specified the deadline for submitting advertisements in order for them to appear in the next issue, published each week on Mondays. “Those who have Advertisements to insert in this Paper,” the printers advised, “are desired to send them (accompanied with the Pay) to the Printers, by Saturday Noon.” Green and Watson required two days notice to insert advertisements in their newspaper, allowing sufficient time for setting type and printing the next issue on a press operated by hand. Their notice indicated how quickly advertisements could be incorporated into their newspaper, yet also cautioned that advertisers needed to submit their copy in a timely fashion of they did not wish for it to be delayed by a week between issues.

December 13

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

Dec 13 - 12:10:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (December 10, 1767).

“As the most certain method to have goods from England on the best terms, said Wilson applies immediately to the manufactories and importers there, for his.”

In December 1767, Philip Wilson placed a list-style advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette to promote an assortment of imported goods “for Sale at his Store in Front-street, at the Chinese Balcony” in Philadelphia. Although his inventory consisted primarily of textiles and garments, he also carried housewares and other items, hinting at an even more extensive variety with “&c. &c. &c.” (etc. etc. etc.) at the conclusion of the list.

Yet Wilson’s advertisement did not end there. Instead, he appended a nota bene that instructed readers about his means of obtaining imported merchandise and why his particular business practices benefited his customers. “As the most certain method to have goods from England on the best terms,” the shopkeeper proclaimed, “said Wilson applies immediately to the manufactories and importers there, for his; which he will sell on the lowest terms.”

Some of Wilson’s competitors who also advertised in the December 10 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette and its supplement made appeals to price. Neave and Harman stated that they sold their wares “on the most reasonable Terms.” Magdalen Devine sold her “large and general Assortment of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS … on the lowest terms.” Neither Devine nor Neave and Harman, however, commented on how they had acquired the goods they imported and sold. Wilson, in contrast, made it clear that he kept prices low by removing the middlemen, dealt directly with the producers of English goods rather than merchants who charged commissions or otherwise increased wholesale prices eventually passed along to retail customers. When it came to goods not produced in England, such as “EAST-INDIA GOODS” that passed through London before being shipped to the colonies, Wilson purchased his stock directly from the importers before they were exchanged in the English market. In so doing, he kept prices low by cutting out of the process those merchants who aimed to earn profits by immediately exporting such goods at higher rates to colonial retailers.

Wilson sought to attract customers by demonstrating that his supply chain had as few links as possible. With fewer exchanges and fewer intermediaries attempting to earn profits during each exchange, he could “sell on the lowest terms” to colonial consumers. Thanks to his shrewd arrangements with “the manufactories and importers” in England, Wilson assured potential customers that they paid only what was necessary rather than contributing to the wealth of faraway merchants.

October 19

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

Oct 19 - 10:19:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (October 19, 1767).

“We are oblig’d to give a SUPPLEMENT.”

Edes and Gill placed their own announcement immediately before the “New Advertisements” in the October 19, 1767, edition of the Boston-Gazette. In it, they explained that within the last three days three ships had arrived in port from London. The captains brought with them the “Prints to the 19th of August,” which they passed along to the printers. In other words, Edes and Gill had just obtained recent (or as recent as could be expected given the time required to cross the Atlantic) newspapers. As was common practice in the eighteenth century, their method of reporting involved reprinting items directly from other publications.

Edes and Gill did not have much time to scan the London newspapers, choose which items to reprint, set the type, and operate the presses before distributing the Boston-Gazette on Monday, its usual publication day. They might have been able to include news that had arrived the previous Friday, if they were industrious, but it would have been impossible to insert anything delivered by the captain who arrived on Sunday night. Setting type and operating the press by hand required more time, even if they quickly identified which items to reprint in their own newspaper.

Still, they wanted to get recently arrived news in print and distributed to their subscribers as quickly as possible. To that end, they determined “to give a SUPPLEMENT at Three o’Clock this Afternoon” and instructed their customers “to call or send for them” at that time if they wished to know the “Articles of Intelligence” delivered on the recently arrived vessels. The Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy both also published supplements that day. None of the local newspapers usually published on Mondays allowed the others to scoop them.

Edes and Gill offered an additional explanation for their decision to limit the amount of news from London in the standard issue in favor of filling the supplement with those “Articles of Intelligence.” They reasoned that they needed “to give our Advertizing Customers a good Place.” They considered this a favor and a service to their advertisers, but it also suggested that they realized that even though readers might often be eager to peruse the advertisements that at the moment they prioritized the news, especially since the Townshend Acts were scheduled to go into effect in just a month. Subscribers might (or might not) call or send for a supplement filled with advertisements later in the day, but they would certainly retrieve a supplement that included the most recent political news from London. Edes and Gill implicitly acknowledged that they had a responsibility to place their advertisers’ notices in front of as many eyes as possible rather than consigning them to a separate supplement, distributed at a later time, that might not be read. This was good business that promoted loyalty among their advertisers and encouraged others to consider placing their advertisements in the Boston-Gazette.