January 12

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

Jan 12 - 1:12:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 12, 1768).

“For further particulars enquire of the Printer.”

Charles Crouch received so many advertisements for the January 12, 1768, issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he simultaneously published a two-page supplement devoted exclusively to advertising. Between the standard issue and the supplement, subscribers received six total pages of content, though four entire pages – two-thirds of the entire issue – consisted of paid notices. This advertisement for a “Collection of BOOKS” to be sold “very cheap” appeared among the other advertisements, but it may or may not have been a paid notice. Readers interested in the books were instructed to “enquire of the Printer” for further information. Who placed this advertisement?

Many colonial printers supplemented their revenues by acting as booksellers; they peddled both titles they printed and, especially, imported books. Crouch may have inserted this advertisement in his own newspaper, though the collection of books could have been a private library offered for sale by someone who preferred to remain anonymous in the public prints. After all, the list included several novels that critics sometimes claimed entertained rather than edified readers. The owner may not have wished to publicize reading habits that some considered lowbrow and chose instead to have the printer act as broker in selling the books.

The placement of the advertisement also suggests that may have been the case. Crouch boldly promoted an almanac he published and sold in an advertisement that appeared as the first item in the first column on the first page of the issue, making it impossible for readers to overlook. He included his name and the location of his printing office “in Elliott-street, the Corner of Gadsden’s Alley.” The notice concerning the “Collection of BOOKS” for sale, on the other hand, appeared near the bottom of the middle column on the third page. Printers often gave their own advertisements privileged places in their newspapers. Given that Crouch was not shy about deploying that strategy elsewhere in the issue increases the possibility that he was not hawking the books in this notice but instead facilitated an introduction between seller and prospective buyers.

Eighteenth-century advertisements often included instructions to “enquire of the Printer” for additional information. Printing offices served as brokerages and clearinghouses for information that did not appear in print, allowing colonists to initiate sales in newspaper advertisements while also remaining anonymous. They harnessed the power of the press without sacrificing their privacy when they resorted to directing others to “enquire of the Printer.”

December 22

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

Dec 22 - 12:22:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 22, 1767).

“He most earnestly intreats the Favour of all Persons indebted to him, to discharge their Arrears.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, marked the completion of the second year of publication with an advertisement that called on subscribers and other “Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts so he, in turn, could pay down his own debts. His notice first appeared in the December 15, 1767, issue. It ran for four weeks, appearing immediately below the masthead as the first item in the first column on the first page in the final three issues of 1767 and the first issue of 1768. Crouch invoked his privilege as the printer to determine his advertisement’s placement on the page, choosing the spot likely to garner the most notice by those he wished to see his message and follow through on his request for payment.

The printer resorted to several tactics to encourage his debtors to “discharge their Arrears.” He emphasized that he assumed “great Expence” in publishing such a “useful and entertaining” newspaper “with Credit and Punctuality.” He offered a service to the public, and did so with competence, but that potentially put “himself and Family” at risk of “very bad Consequences” if those who owed him money did not pay as soon as possible. He also sought to downplay the amount of any particular debt, asserting that if many made small payments that the total would be sufficient for him “to discharge those Demands” against him. Considering these various appeals together, Crouch implicitly argued that the value of his newspaper amounted to much more than the small costs subscribers, advertisers, and others incurred when they did business with him.

Crouch also addressed advertisers in particular, attaching a nota bene about inserting advertisements in subsequent issues of his newspaper. First, he underscored their efficacy, assuring those who contemplated placing notices that advertising in his gazette “will certainly answer their End, as it has a very extensive Circulation.” The South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal was one of three newspapers published in Charleston at the time, so Crouch needed to convince advertisers to select his newspaper instead of, or along with, the others. He also made a request for new advertisers to “be so kind as to send the CASH” when they submitted their copy, though this was not necessary if he already happened to have “an open Account.”

The continuation of advertising, along with the inclusion of other “useful and entertaining” content, depended in part on an advertisement published by the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Even as he instructed potential advertisers that inserting notices in his gazette “will certainly answer their End,” Crouch depended on that being the case for his own advertisement, trusting that it would induce his debtors to settle their accounts.

March 10

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

Mar 10 - 3:10:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 6
This is the orientation of these advertisements in the Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 10, 1767).

“A Parcel of good large Parchment Skins, for for Vessels Registers, to be sold by the Printer hereof.”

Advertising supplements were a fairly common feature of newspapers in the 1760s, especially publications printed in the largest American cities. Between news items, commercial notices, and paid announcements of various sorts, printers frequently ran out of space in the standard four-page issue. It made a lot of sense to distribute two-page supplements comprised solely of advertisements since it was advertising, rather than subscription fees, which really paid the bills.

Still, printers had to be careful in allocating resources to the advertising supplements. They had to weight the labor, time, and supplies they would expend against how quickly for frequently they published advertisements. Sometimes printers had more material than would fit in the standard issue but not enough to justify devoting an entire half sheet to a supplement. In such instances, they could opt to print the supplement on smaller sheets.

Such appears to have been the case with the Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal from March 10, 1767. It is impossible to say so definitively based solely on digitized images of the newspaper from Accessible Archives. No provider of digital surrogates of eighteenth-century newspapers includes metadata concerning the dimensions of the page or columns relative to individual images. Doing so would be time consuming and prohibitively expensive, resulting in scholars and others having significantly less access to digitized sources at all.

Although I do not have access to original copies of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal from 1767, the layout of the March 10 supplement contains all the indications of a smaller sheet that I have been able to confirm when working between digital surrogates and original copies of other newspapers. The regular issue contains three columns, but the supplement has two columns along with a third column of advertisements rotated to fit in the remaining space. The rotated advertisements are the same width as the others, indicating that type had not been reset, nor would it need to be reset to move any of the advertisements back into future editions of the regular issue.

Mar 10 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 5
First page of Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 10, 1767).

In this instance, however, Charles Crouch engaged in even greater economy of space than his counterparts who adopted this trick in other newspapers. Rather than provide space between the rotated advertisements in the third column, he squeezed them together in order to fit in very short advertisements. On the front of the supplement, this resulted in a two-line advertisement oriented in a different direction than the others in the third column. On the other side, where he did not have to take space for the masthead into consideration, Crouch found room for two advertisements rotated in the same direction as the others in the additional column.

Mar 10 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 6
Second Page of the Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 10, 1767).

Charles Crouch worked to fill the March 10 supplement of his newspaper with as much advertising as he could possible fit on its pages. In so doing, he made room to promote products he sold (“WASTE Paper” and “good large Parchment Skins”) that otherwise would not have fit in the regular issue or the supplement.