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.”

June 28

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

Jun 28 - 6:28:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 28, 1768).

“TO BE SOLD, EXCEEDING good Rhenish WINE, in BOTTLES.”

The proportion of news to advertising varied among eighteenth-century newspapers. Some carried relatively few advertisements, but others, especially those published in the largest port cities, often devoted significant portions of each issue to advertising. Many of those seemed to strike a balance between the two types of content, designating two of the four pages of a standard issue to each. Some, however, received so much advertising that they regularly issued two-page supplements comprised solely of advertising. Such was the case for the Pennsylvania Gazette in the late 1760s. In such instances, advertising accounted for two-thirds of the content delivered to readers, which helps to explain why many printers considered advertisements rather than subscriptions better for generating revenues. Some printers acknowledged this by including “Advertiser” in the title of the newspaper. The masthead of the Boston Post-Boy, for instance, read “The Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser.”

Charles Crouch’s South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal ran more advertising than most other American newspapers in the late 1760s. Indeed, advertising sometimes seemed to crowd out other content, especially news. For instance, consider the four-page standard issue and the two-page supplement distributed on June 28, 1768. Not surprisingly, the supplement consisted entirely of advertisements, except for the masthead. With twelve woodcuts of horses, houses, slaves, and even a mirror on a stand for “WEYMAN’s Looking-Glass Shop” distributed across two pages, this advertising supplement featured far more images to break up the otherwise dense text than appeared in the vast majority of newspaper during the period.

Advertising also comprised most of the standard issue. Except for a proclamation by the lieutenant governor that filled one-third of a column on the third page, the final two pages consisted entirely of advertising. Advertisements filled the entire first column on the first page. In other words, seven of twelve columns in the regular issue (in addition to all six columns in the supplement) delivered advertising to readers. The remainder of the issue was rather short on news. After eliminating poetry and amusing anecdotes, just a little more than two columns featured news and editorials, including “DEFENCE of the AMERICANS,” reprinted “From the Gentleman’s Magazine, for January 1768.”

In this case, Crouch’s publication operated as an advertiser rather than as a newspaper. While it is extremely difficult to determine what readers thought about the advertisements delivered to them in newspapers of all sorts, this balance of news and advertising suggests that at least some readers expected and desired to read advertisements. Perhaps more significantly, the collective decision of advertisers to continue placing notices in publications that provided as much (if not more) advertising as news suggests that advertisers felt confident that readers would indeed peruse their notices. Although they did not engage in market research as we understand it today, anecdotal evidence likely suggested that newspaper advertising achieved some positive return on their investment.

June 21

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

Jun 21 - 6:21:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 21, 1768).

Just published in Pamphlets, and to be sold by CHARLES CROUCH.”

In an advertisement that appeared in the June 14, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Charles Crouch announced an auction of “A COLLECTION of LAW BOOKS” scheduled to occur in just over a week. He offered a brief description of the books, arguing that they were “valuable” and “rarely to be found.” He also pledged to insert a catalog in the next issue of the newspaper, a promise that he fulfilled in the June 21 edition. The catalog provided an additional description of the books up for bid: “the best Editions, well bound, and in good Condition.”

As the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Crouch exercised considerable discretion when it came to the placement of his advertisements in that publication. The original announcement about the auction appeared first among the paid notices, immediately under a header that marked “New Advertisements.” The catalog occupied an even more privileged place in the next edition. Except for the masthead, it was the first item on the first page. The catalog comprised more than half the page, filling the entire first column as well as more than two-thirds of the second. Other advertisements for Crouch’s interests also appeared on the front page, including one seeking a tenant for “THE front STORE and CELLAR, in the House I now live in.” In another short notice, he announced that he sold “THE FARMER’s LETTERS to the Inhabitants of the BRITISH COLONIES,” a pamphlet that collected and reprinted John Dickinson’s series of essays that appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies. In yet another advertisement, Crouch alerted readers that he had just received a shipment of “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous Great American BALSAM,” a patent medicine made in New York. A lengthy description of the remedy and its uses extended nearly half a column. Finally, Crouch inserted a short advertisement for printed blanks and stationery, the last item on the first page.

Advertising accounted for three of the four pages of the June 21, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Paid notices generated significant revenue for Crouch, making it possible to distribute the newspaper as well as give over space to his own advertisements. It hardly seems a coincidence that so many of his advertisements were clustered on the first page of the June 21 issue. As the proprietor of the newspaper, he likely instructed the compositor to give his advertisements prominence of place, thereby increasing the number of readers likely to examine them.

Jun 21 - 6:21:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 1
Charles Crouch placed five of his own advertisements on the front page of the newspaper he published. (South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, June 21, 1768).

June 14

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

Jun 14 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 14, 1768).

A Catalogue of which will be in our next.”

In advance of an auction of “A COLLECTION of LAW BOOKS” to be held on June 22, 1768, Charles Crouch placed an advertisement in the June 14 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He attempted to incite enthusiasm by informing potential bidders that the collection included several “valuable Articles; many of which, are now rarely to be found.” Anyone potentially interested would not want to miss this sale since auctions often yielded bargain prices, even for rare items that might otherwise cost significantly more when they exchanged hands through other sorts of transactions.

Crouch did not expect prospective buyers simply to trust his assertions about the value and rarity of the books up for auction in just over a week. Instead, he advised them that “A Catalogue … will be in our next” edition, a promise that Crouch could confidently make since he was the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Publishing a catalog, whether in a newspaper or as a separate pamphlet or broadside, provided a preview of the auction. It allowed interested parties to contemplate the merchandise in advance; as they anticipated the auction they likely imagined themselves bidding and acquiring some of the items, perhaps increasing the chances they would do so once they found themselves at the auction.

Yet Crouch did not yet direct readers to such visualizations: the list of rare and valuable books would not appear in the newspaper until the following week. He mentioned the catalog, however, as an invitation to potential bidders to peruse the next issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, perhaps assuming that their eagerness would make them more inclined to select items that they did indeed wish to buy at the auction. Alternately, he ran the risk that the catalog would merely disappoint some readers if its contents did not include books they considered interesting or particularly valuable or rare. Crouch gambled that mentioning the catalog in advance would make readers more disposed to examining it and attending the auction.

April 5

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

Apr 5 - 4:5:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 5, 1768).

“BALL’s ALMANACKS for the Year 1768, to be sold by the Printer.”

Published in the lower right corner of the first page of the April 5 issue, this advertisement for “BALL’s ALMANACKS for the Year 1768” made an unseasonably late appearance in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Readers throughout the colonies were accustomed to a certain rhythm when it came to printers advertising almanacs in newspapers. Some commenced as early as September, seeking to gain an advantage over competitors by announcing that their almanacs would soon go to press.  They peddled the promise of a product that did not yet exist, but primed consumers to contemplate the version they offered before encountering any others.  The number and frequency of advertisements for almanacs increased throughout the fall as the new year approached.  The advertisements usually continued for the first few weeks of January but then tapered off by the time February arrived. After all, more and more of the contents became outdated every week.  Yet Charles Crouch still opted to publish an advertisement for almanacs in his newspaper in early April 1768.  More than a quarter of the year had passed, but Crouch tested whether he could create a market for leftover copies that he had not managed to sell.

Many eighteenth-century printers sought to generate revenues beyond job printing, newspaper subscriptions, and advertising fees by publishing and selling almanacs.  Doing so was a savvy investment of their time and resources since colonists from the most humble households to the most grand acquired these popular periodicals each year … but only if printers accurately estimated the market for almanacs.  Not printing a sufficient number meant turning customers away. Even worse, it could mean losing their business in future years if they purchased another almanac and developed loyalty toward its contents, author, or printer.  On the other hand, printing too many almanacs could undermine any profits if a printer ended up with a significant surplus.  That Crouch was still advertising “BALL’s ALMANACKS for the Year 1768” in April suggests that he did indeed have an unacceptable surplus crowding the shelves or storage space at his printing shop.  Indirectly, it also testifies to the utility of almanacs in the eighteenth century.  Prospective customers may not have dismissed the almanacs simply because a portion of the calendar and astronomical calculations had already passed. Instead, some may have instead focused on the other information contained within the pages of almanacs, information that remained useful throughout the year.  Among their many contents, almanacs typically contained lists of colonial officials, dates for holding courts ands fairs, cures and remedies for various maladies, and amusing anecdotes.  That being the case, Crouch took a chance that he might find buyers for some of his remaining almanacs even if readers did not expect to see them advertised at that time of the year.

March 8

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

Mar 8 - 3:8:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
Addition to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 8, 1768).

“They carry on the Taylors Business in all its Branches.”

David Maull and John Wood’s advertisement was one of nearly a dozen that appeared in the two-page Addition to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal published by Charles Crouch on March 8, 1768. It accompanied the regular four-page issue of that newspaper and a two-page Supplement. Crouch distributed supplements so often that many readers may have come to expect them as standard, made necessary by the number of advertisements submitted to the printing office. Indeed, the supplements usually contained advertising exclusively, even when advertisements accounted for nearly half of the space in regular issues.

The Addition, however, did not follow this pattern. Only two of the six columns (three on each side of the halfsheet) were filled with advertising. The ninth of John Dickinson’s “LETTERS from a FARMER in PENNSYLVANIA, to the Inhabitants of the BRITISH COLONIES” occupied nearly the entire first page. In it, the “FARMER” explained the necessity of local representation in firmly established assemblies. The Addition also included news from Boston and Philadelphia as well as a poem, “The Batchelor’s Reasons for taking a Wife.”

What Crouch termed an Addition his counterparts in other cities and towns usually called an Extraordinary in their efforts to distinguish such publications from the more common supplements often distributed with the standard issues of their newspapers. Whatever the nomenclature, Crouch’s Addition of March 8, 1768, further establishes a pattern. During the period of the imperial crisis between the imposition of the Stamp Act in 1765 and the outbreak of military hostilities in 1775, the colonies alternately experienced periods of intense discord with Britain and periods of relative calm. In early March 1768 the Townshend Act had been in effect for just over three months. Colonists had commenced non-importation agreements at the beginning of the year. From New England to Georgia, newspapers reported discontent and political outrage, often in supplements and extraordinary issues that proliferated during those times that the imperial crisis intensified.

At most times advertising, especially the revenue it generated for printers, facilitated the dissemination of news and editorial items. Supplements devoted to advertising made delivering the news and other content possible. During periods of conflict, however, publishing the news sometimes led to the broader or more frequent distribution of advertising. Such appears to have been the case with Crouch’s Addition from March 8, 1768. As he went about publishing Dickinson’s “LETTER IX” and news from Boston and Philadelphia, the printer needed to fill an entire halfsheet. The poem took up half a column. Two of the advertisements promoted the printer’s own wares, but the others had previously appeared as paid notices. Perhaps those who placed them paid for this insertion as well. Even if that were the case, the Addition upended the usual relationships between news and advertisements in colonial newspapers. In this case, publishing the news led to readers being exposed to more advertising rather than the usual situation of advertising bringing the news.

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.”