July 10

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

Jul 10 - 7:10:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 10, 1770).

“All Persons indebted to him, to discharge the same.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, wanted to make sure that readers saw his notice calling on “all Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts before August 1, 1770.  He inserted that notice in his newspaper multiple times in June and July 1770, sometimes interspersing it with other advertisements.  That was not the case in the July 10 edition.  Instead, it was the first item on the first page, making it nearly impossible to overlook.  With the exception of the masthead, that page consisted entirely of advertisements, most of them notices that others paid to have inserted.  Even if readers opted to skip the first page in favor of seeking out the news items on the second, they were most likely to read at least a portion of Crouch’s notice.

The printer meant business.  He meant it in exercising his power over the publication to give his notice a privileged place on the page.  He also meant it in the organization of the notice.  Like many other eighteenth-century advertisements, it had more than one purpose.  Crouch called on others to discharge their debts, but he also informed the public that he “has plenty of Hands, and will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work, which will be executed with the greatest Care and utmost Dispatch, and on reasonable Terms.”  He sought orders for job printing to increase revenues (though customers may have requested credit when submitting some of those orders), but simultaneously made it clear that that collecting on debts was his primary purpose in placing the notice.  This also made it clear to new customers that he expected them to make payment in a timely manner.  He warned those who were already in arrears that if they did “not pay a due Regard to this Notice” that they “must expect he will take proper Steps to obtain Payment, tho’ the Circumstance will be disagreeable to him.”  In others words, they could expect legal action.  Crouch did not make this subtle threat out of spite or malice.  Instead, he wished “to PAY his own DEBTS” and depended on his former customers to make that possible.

The news in the July 10 edition consisted mostly of items from London along with a brief description of raising a statue of William Pitt in Charleston.  To get to that news on the inside pages, readers first had to glance at front page.  Crouch increased the likelihood that even a casual glance would include his notice by making it the lead item on the first page.

June 26

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

Jun 26 - 6:26:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 26, 1770).

“BLANK QUIRE BOOKS … for the Benefit of Merchants and Shopkeepers.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, frequently distributed advertisements for his own goods and services throughout the newspaper.  Readers regularly encountered those notices as they perused the others.  The June 26, 1770, edition, for instance, featured four advertisements promoting Crouch’s business.  At least one appeared on every page that included advertising.  Two were short notices, one advising readers that Crouch sold blanks (printed forms) and writing paper and the other announcing “A new CATECHISM for CHILDREN” for sale “by the Printer hereof.”  A lengthier advertisement called on “all Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts or risk facing legal action.  In it, Crouch also noted that he “has plenty of Hands, and will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work.”

The printer aimed all or part of each of those advertisements to all readers.  His other advertisement, however, offered products of particular interest to merchants and shopkeepers.  For their recordkeeping needs, he provided “BLANK QUIRE BOOKS, ruled and unruled” as well as “Blank Receipt Books.”  In addition, he also sold “an Abstract of An Act for regulating and ascertaining the Rates of Wharfage of Ships and Merchandize, and also for ascertaining the Rates of Storage in Charles-Town, passed the Twelfth Day of April, 1768.”  Published “for the Benefit of Merchants and Shopkeepers,” such reference material would aid them in making decisions related to their businesses.  Crouch likely wished to bundle the blank books and the “Abstract of An Act,” increasing sales by selling them together.  Introducing the idea in the newspaper advertisement set the stage for making the suggestion when customers visited his printing office. Those who already contemplated purchasing both yet remained undecided when they arrived at the printing office might have been more susceptible to a recommendation offered at the point of sale.  Given how Crouch sprinkled short advertisements for his own goods and services throughout the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, he could have created two shorter advertisements, one about blank books for recordkeeping and the other about the “Abstract of An Act.”  Instead, he chose to advertise them together, associating each with the other in the minds of prospective customers.

May 29

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

May 29 - 5:29:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 29, 1770).

“ALL Kinds of Blanks used in this Province, and good Writing Paper, to be sold by the Printer hereof.”

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, regularly inserted advertisements for goods available at his printing office into his newspaper.  Consider the May 29, 1770, edition.  Under a heading for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” on the second page, Crouch ran a notice that called on “all Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts.  It further advised that he “has plenty of Hands” employed in his printing office and “will undertake any kind of Printing-Work, which will be executed with the greatest Care and utmost Dispatch, and on reasonable Terms.”  On the fourth page, Crouch ran an advertisement for “BLANK QUIRE BOOKS, ruled and unruled, and Blank Receipt Books” as well as a pamphlet concerning “An Act for regulating and ascertaining the Rates of Wharfage of Ships and Merchandize.”  That notice was interspersed among others that advertisers paid to have inserted.

Several other advertisements merit notice for their particular placement on the page.  One briefly informed readers: “JUST PUBLISHED and to be sold by the Printer hereof, A new CATECHISM for CHILDREN.”  Another advised prospective customers that “A Second EDITION of THOMAS MORE’s ALMANACK, for the present Year, may be had at Crouch’s Printing-Office in Elliott-street.”  A third, similarly short, announced, “ALL Kinds of Blanks used in this Province, and good Writing Paper, to be sold by the Printer hereof.”  These three advertisements were particularly noticeable because they concluded the first three pages of that issue.  The advertisement for the “CATECHISM for CHILDREN” appeared at the bottom of the final column of the first page.  It was the only advertisement on that page, conveniently placed to bring the third column to the same length as the first two.  The advertisement for the almanac and the advertisement for the blanks and paper appeared in the lower right corners of the second and third pages, respectively.  Only the fourth page did not conclude with one of Crouch’s advertisements.  Instead, the colophon occupied that space.  Arguably, it served as an advertisement as well.  Crouch used the colophon to promote the services he provided: “CHARLES-TOWN: Printed by CHARLES CROUCH, in Elliott-Street; where all Manner of Printing Work is performed with Care and Expedition.”  As readers perused the newspaper, the last item they encountered on every page was a short advertisement that promoted some aspect of Crouch’s business.  Both the placement and the repetition likely made them more memorable.

Eighteenth-century printers frequently used their newspapers to promote other aspects of their business, including books, stationery, and blanks for sale as well as job printing.  Their access to the press allowed them to place their notices in advantageous places to garner additional attention from readers.

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.

March 18

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

Mar 18 - 3:15:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 15, 1770).

“His past Offences will be forgiven.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, generated significant revenue from publishing advertisements for “runaways.”  Most of those runaways were actually enslaved men and women who escaped from those who attempted to hold them in bondage.  These included “a negro fellow named LONDON, this country born” and “a negro man named ISAAC” who spoke “tolerable good English” even though he came from “the Guinea country” and survived the Middle Passage.  Both men were subjects of advertisement that ran in the supplement published on March 15, 1770.

Apprentices, indentured servants, convict servants, and even recalcitrant wives were sometimes the subjects of other runaway notices, though not nearly in the same numbers as enslaved people in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers published in Charleston.  In newspapers published in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, however, the number of runaway notices for apprentices and servants rivaled or often exceeded the advertisements for enslaved men and women who escaped.  Still, notices calling on colonists to help identify and return enslaved people to those who purported to be their masters appeared in every newspaper from Georgia to New England.

Crouch not only published advertisements concerning a variety of runaways but on occasion found himself in the position of placing them.  In the same supplement that carried notices about London and Isaac, Crouch ran a notice directed to his own apprentice, William Way, who “hath absented himself from my Service, for two Months past.”  Addressing Way or anyone who would pass along the message, Crouch pledged that if the wayward apprentice “will return of his own Accord, and behave himself well in future, his past Offences will be forgiven.”  Enslavers occasionally, though rarely, made similar proposals when they attempted to recover people they treated as property.

Crouch’s advertisement told a truncated story about his disobedient apprentice.  It told Crouch’s side of the story.  In the advertisement, Crouch blamed Way for “absent[ing] himself” and accused him of “past Offences” that the printer would generously forgive, but he did not comment on anything that he might have done to exacerbate the situation.  It did not indicate if the master had mistreated or abused the apprentice.  Every runaway notice told only a partial story, one constructed by someone who possessed significantly more power and authority than the subject of the advertisement. Such notices aimed to reassert order in the face of apprentices, servants, and enslaved people exercising agency and seizing power away from those who usually wielded it.  These skirmishes played out in advertisements that appeared in the public prints throughout the colonies.

December 13

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 13, 1768).

“Be early in sending their Advertisements for Insertion, and not to exceed Monday Noon.”

Just as Mein and Fleeming marked the first anniversary of publishing the Boston Chronicle by placing a notice in their own newspaper, a day later Charles Crouch celebrated three years of publishing the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal with his own advertisement. Like his counterparts in Boston, Crouch addressed advertisers as well as subscribers, encouraging them to place notices in his publication. In the process, he provided details about the mechanism for publishing advertisements that did not often appear in the pages of eighteenth-century newspapers.

To entice advertisers, Crouch first underscored the popularity of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country, a necessary step considering that it competed with Peter Timothy’s South-Carolina Gazette and Robert Wells’s South-Carolina and American General Gazette. Crouch did not mention either by name, but when he addressed “the Friends to this Gazette” he did note that their “Number are as great as any other in the Place.” In other words, his newspaper had as many subscribers and advertisers as the others. Advertisers could not go wrong by placing notices in his South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal “as the Circulation of his Papers are very numerous.”

Crouch distributed the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on Tuesdays. To keep to that schedule, he requested that advertisers “be early in sending their Advertisements for Insertion, and not to exceed Monday Noon.” Despite the time required to set type and print the newspaper on a hand-operated press, advertisers could submit their notices as late as a day prior to publication, though Crouch probably limited the number of last-minute submissions out of practicality. He aimed to keep to his schedule for the benefit of his readers, but also to adhere to what seems to have been an informal agreement among Charleston’s printers to stagger publication throughout the week. Until recently, the South-Carolina Gazette appeared on Mondays, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on Tuesdays, and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette on Thursday. Crouch asserted that he was “fully determined to CONTINUE always punctual to his Day,” perhaps rebuking other printers in the city for recently deviating from the usual schedule and potentially infringing on his circulation and sales as a result.

Crouch did not offer much commentary on the other contents of his newspaper, other than noting that “Letters of Intelligence, Speculative Pieces, &c. are kindly received” and considered for publication. In promoting the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal as it “begins the fourth Year of its Publication,” he called on subscribers to pay their bills and assured prospective advertisers that he could place their notices before the eyes of numerous readers. He asserted that his circulation was as large as that of any other newspaper printed in South Carolina, making it the ideal venue for advertising.

December 6

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

Dec 6 - 12:6:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 6, 1768).

“A List of the Person’s Names may be seen affixed to the Directions.”

According to their advertisements, eighteenth-century printers and booksellers often carried at least some merchandise not related to the book trades. Throughout much of 1768 Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, attempted to supplement the revenues gained from subscriptions, advertisements, and job printing by also selling a patent medicine he imported from Long Island, New York, “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous GREAT American BALSAM.” He placed lengthy advertisements about this patent medicine in the summer; as winter arrived, he inserted shorter notices to remind readers that they could purchase this elixir “at his Printing Office in Elliott-street.”

In case prospective customers suspected that Crouch sought to clear out leftovers that had been sitting on the shelves for several months, he proclaimed that he had “A FRESH SUPPLY.” That was only the first of several appeals he made in the abbreviated version of his advertisement. He also offered a bargain, pledging that customers could acquire the nostrum for “Five Shillings cheaper than any yet sold here.”

The price did not matter, however, if the patent medicine was not effective. Crouch assured consumers that “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous GREAT American BALSAM” was “superior by Trial, for its Use and Efficacy, to any imported from Europe.” Readers did not even need to consider any of those more familiar remedies produced in London and other places on the far side of the Atlantic, not when they had access to a product produced in the colonies that was even better. Crouch did not expect prospective customers to simply take his word that others had found the potion “superior by Trial.” Instead, he reported on “surprising Cures” in both New York and South Carolina, stating that “a List of the Person’s Names may be seen affixed to the Directions.” Even if local customers did not recognize the names of any of the patients cured in New York, they were likely to be familiar with colonists from South Carolina who had benefited from “this very famous BALSAM.” In providing directions that also listed satisfied customers, Crouch deployed printed materials beyond newspaper advertising to market this patent medicine to consumers.

October 18

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

Oct 18 - 10:18:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 18, 1768).

“Those who intend to encourage this Work are requested to send their Names to Peter Valton, Mr. Peter Timothy, or Mr. Robert Wells.”

When it came to publishing newspapers, Peter Timothy, Robert Wells, and Charles Crouch were competitors. All three operated printing shops in Charleston, where Timothy published the South-Carolina Gazette, Wells published the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, and Crouch published the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. This did not, however, preclude their cooperation when it came to other ventures.

In the fall of 1768, Peter Valton circulated a subscription notice that announced his intention to publish “SIX SONATAS For the HARPSICHORD or ORGAN, WITH An Accompanyment for a VIOLIN.” Valton intended for the subscription notice to incite demand. For instance, he highlighted the quality of the paper, promised to print the names of subscribers in recognition of their support for this genteel endeavor, and offered to provide a seventh copy free to anyone who pledged to purchase six. Valton also used the subscription notice to gauge interest in the project. He needed to know if he could attract enough subscribers to make it a viable venture and, if so, how many copies to print without ending up with an unprofitable surplus. To that end, he instructed, “Those who intend to encourage this Work are requested to send their Names to Peter Valton, Mr. Peter Timothy, or Mr. Robert Wells.” When Valton inserted the advertisement in the October 18 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, its appearance brought together all three of Charleston’s newspaper publishers.

All three stood to profit from the venture, either directly or indirectly. According to Odai Johnson, Wells was the intended printer.[1] Robust sales of the prospective publication would certainly benefit him. Yet all three printers generated revenues by publishing Valton’s subscription notice in their newspapers. Timothy further lent support for the project by collecting the names of subscribers. Promoting a culture of consumption contributed to their livelihoods, even if they were not the producers or purveyors of the printed materials advertised in their newspapers.

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[1] Odai Johnson, London in a Box: Englishness and Theatre in Revolutionary America (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2017), 167.

July 5

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

Jul 5 - 7:5:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 5, 1768).

“EDWARD JOYCE’s famous Great American BALSAM.”

Like many other colonial American printers, Charles Crouch sold patent medicines to supplement his income from newspaper publishing and job printing. The featured advertisement from just a few days ago, for instance, listed a variety of popular patent medicines – Anderson’s Pills, Bateman’s Drops, Godfrey’s Cordial, among them – that Timothy Green, printer of the New-London Gazette, sold. Given that each of these remedies represented a brand familiar to colonists, Green devoted little space to describing their use or the symptoms they cured. Crouch, on the other hand, stocked a patent medicine that was not nearly as well known among his prospective customers: “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous Great American BALSAM.” Placing it in the hands of readers required more promotion than usually accompanied the most established patent medicines.

Crouch first acknowledged the origins of Joyce’s Balsam, but stressed that should not cause concern. Even though it was “made in Long-Island” and shipped from New York, this remedy was “superior by Trial, for its Use and Efficacy, to any imported from Europe.” Wary readers did not have to trust solely in Crouch’s word on that count. He concluded his advertisement by stating that Joyce’s Balsam had “cured a Number of People in New-York, whose Names are affixed to the Directions.” Skeptics could examine that evidence for themselves. Furthermore, Crouch reported that a bottle had been “brougth into this Province the latter End of last Winter” and “it cured several Persons of violent Coughs, &c. which were of a long standing.” The printer suggested that potential customers could receive local confirmation of the claims transmitted from afar.

Colonists already knew the uses for patent medicines imported from England, which ones supposedly alleviated which symptoms. Since Joyce’s Balsam was much less familiar, Crouch needed to educate readers about which maladies it relieved. To that end, he devoted the vast majority of the advertisement to describing how to take Joyce’s Balsam for colds, swelling, wounds, sprains, and an assortment of other concerns. According to Crouch’s account, Joyce’s Balsam was a cure-all that could replace any variety of imported patent medicines, though he did offer a warning that it had its limits: “I don’t say that it is an infallible cure.”

Given the number of apothecaries, shopkeepers, and printers who regularly advertised patent medicines, a market for familiar imported brands already existed. Crouch, however, wanted to create a local market for a remedy produced in the American colonies. That required more extensive copy than usually accompanied the most popular patent medicines. This included not only reviewing the uses of Joyce’s Balsam but also asserting its effectiveness as a legitimate competitor “to any imported from Europe.”