September 3

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

Connecticut Journal (September 3, 1773).

“Amos Morrisson, Wigg-Maker & Hair-Dresser.”

“Just published … THE MACARONIE JESTER.”

Amos Morrisson may not have been very happy about where his advertisement appeared in the September 3, 1773, edition of the Connecticut Journal.  The “Wigg-Maker & Hair-Dresser” likely did not appreciate that an advertisement for “THE MACARONIE JESTER” appeared immediately below his notice directed to fashionable ladies and gentlemen.  Eighteenth-century readers would have immediately recognized the derogatory term for a man who took current fashions, both clothing and hair, to absurd and preposterous lengths.  The Oxford English Dictionary explains that this synonym for dandy or fop arose in the second half was especially popular in the second half of the eighteenth century to describe “a member of a set of young men who travelled in Europe and extravagantly imitated Continental tastes and fashions.”  On both sides of the Atlantic, the term broadened to refer to any man whose overindulgence in fashion suggested idleness and vice.

Given such negative associations with too much luxury, Morrisson may have been dismayed by the proximity of his advertisement and one for The Macaroni Jester, “Just published, And to be sold by the Printers.”  The wigmaker and hairdresser promoted “various modes” of wigs and hairstyles for men and women, such as “Bagg Wiggs and Spencer Bobs” and “Ladies Roles and French Curls,” as well as accoutrements to adorn hair, including ribbons.  Furthermore, he confided, “If the above Articles should not happen to suit, Gentlemen can be suited in any Taste whatever, in the best Manner and at the shortest Notice.”  Morrisson catered to his clients, but the advertisement for The Macaroni Jester raised suspicions about the “Macaroni beau,” others who luxuriated in current fashions and consumerism, and the purveyors of goods and services who outfitted them.  According to the staff at the Library of the Society of Friends, the book include “includes a ditty on ‘The Origin of Macaronies,” [but] there’s little else of the Macaroni in it: the word has been used simply as a synonym for humour, satire and above all absurdity.”  The “original stories, witty repartees, comical and original Bull’s, [and] entertaining Anecdotes” promised in the advertisement “poke fun at many stock figures.”  Still, that would not have been apparent to readers of the Connecticut Journal, especially since the advertisement emphasized that “the origin of a Macaroni” was “illustrated with a curious and neat copperplate frontispiece of a Macaroni beau.”

Morrisson almost certainly did not want such associations with the goods and services he provided as wigmaker and hairdresser.  Did he complain to the printing office about the juxtaposition of the two advertisements?  In the next issue, Morrisson’s advertisement ran on the front page, while the advertisement for The Macaroni Jester appeared on the final page.  That may have been the result of the usual sort of reorganization that took place between issues.  Compositors regularly moved around advertisements that ran for multiple weeks.  All the same, nothing prevented Morrisson from voicing his concerns about the unfortunate proximity of the two advertisements.

July 23

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

Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy (July 23, 1773).

WATCHES are restored to their pristine vigour, and warranted to perform well, free of any expence for one year.”

Though dated “Hartford, July 20, 1773,” Thomas Hilldrup’s advertisement in the July 23 edition of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy had been composed much earlier.  The same copy first ran in Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, on May 25.  It appeared in each issue of that newspaper since then, though Hilldrup dropped a short nota bene carried over from his previous advertisement after two insertions.  In this latest advertisement, Hilldrup, a “WATCH MAKER from LONDON,” declared that he had already met with so much success during his brief time in Connecticut, that he had been so “IMbolden’d by the encouragement receiv’d from the indulgent public,” that he “remov’d his shop” to a new location.  Prospective customers could find him at “the sign of the Dial” in the shop formerly occupied by Dr. Neil McLean near the courthouse in Hartford, “where Repeating, Horizontal and plain WATCHES are restored to their pristine vigour, and warranted to perform well, free of any expence for one year.”

After publishing this promotion in the Connecticut Courant for two months, Hilldrup extended that guarantee to readers of the Connecticut Journal.  It was not the first time, however, that the watchmaker took to the pages of a newspaper printed in another town in his efforts to build a large enough clientele to allow him to settle permanently in Hartford.  His advertising campaign commenced in the Connecticut Courant in the fall of 1772, but eventually expanded to the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy and the New-London Gazette during the winter months.  The newcomer ran advertisements in every newspaper published in the colony at the time, making it clear that local watchmakers who already established their reputations among prospective customers faced some new competition.  Placing an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy the first time may have been an experiment for a watchmaker who recently arrived in Hartford.  Opting to place another advertisement in that newspaper six months later, however, indicated that he believed the first one had been effective in generating business beyond clients served primarily by Hartford’s Connecticut Courant.  Even then, he did not consider merely announcing his presence in Hartford sufficient to draw clients to his shop.  Instead, he offered a one-year guarantee on repairs to convince prospective customers to give him a chance over his competitors.

May 28

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

Connecticut Journal (May 28, 1773).

“Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife.”

When Richard Tidmarsh arrived in town in the spring of 1773, he published “An Address to the Inhabitants of New-Haven, and the Public in general” to offer his services as “Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife.”  Like others who provided medical care and placed newspaper notices, he included an overview of his experience and credentials in hopes of convincing prospective patients otherwise unfamiliar with him that he was indeed qualified.

Tidmarsh asserted that he “was regularly bred in London” to all three “Branches” of medicine.  In other words, he received formal training in the largest city in the empire.  Furthermore, he had the “Advantage of being Pupil and Dresser in one of the most considerable Hospitals” in London.  He eventually migrated to Jamaica, where he “practised some Years with good Success,” but ultimately decided to relocate to mainland North America because of what he considered an “unhealthy Climate” in the Caribbean.

The “Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife” did not arrive in New Haven directly from Jamaica.  Instead, he “lately practised ay Hartford in this Colony.”  Tidmarsh attempted to bolster his reputation by declaring that “his Abilities are well known” in Hartford, especially since “he was particularly successful in several dangerous Cases, where the Patients were gave over and deemed incurable.”  Given the relative proximity, he likely believed that prospective patients and “the Public in general” were more likely to hear of those successes in Hartford through other sources than they were to learn about his training in London or his work in Jamacia.  Even if they did not, Tidmarsh may have believed that including the local angle made his entire narrative more credible.

Given his background and experience, Tidmarsh hoped that residents of New Haven and nearby towns would consider him a “useful Member of Society” and seek medical care from him.  To encourage them to do so, he stated that he “proposes to practice as reasonable as any Gentleman of the Faculty” at the college (now Yale University).  His services did not come at higher prices than those of other physicians, surgeons, and man-midwives (though Tidmarsh conveniently overlooked female midwives who cultivated relationships and provided care to patients in the area).  As a newcomer in New Haven, he recognized the importance of sharing a short biography and assuring prospective patients about the quality and cost of his services.

May 21

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

Connecticut Journal (May 21, 1773).

(The Particulars will be in our next.)

Several shopkeepers advised readers of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy that they recently acquired new merchandise. William Sherman advertised a “compleat Assortment of English & India Goods” and a “general Assortment of Hard-Ware.”  Thomas Gelstharp stocked a “Small Assortment of the neatest Silk, Thread, Cotton & Worsted HOSE” and other garments, while Daniel Lyman carried a “fresh Assortment of GOODS,” including nails, wines, shoes, and “sundry Articles, too tedious for Advertisement.”

Joseph Smith promoted his own “fresh and neat Assortment of GOODS, suitable for the Season,” but, unlike Lyman, he did wish to provide a more complete catalog of his wares to entice prospective customers to visit his shop.  His brief advertisement, however, ended with a note that “(The Particulars will be in our next.)”  A more extensive advertisement did indeed appear in the May 28, 1773, edition of the Connecticut Journal, filling more than half a column and listing dozens of items.

What explained the note appended to Smith’s initial advertisement?  Had his new merchandise “just come to Hand” so recently that he did not have an opportunity to compose a list of items in time to submit his advertisement to the printing office for the next edition of the Connecticut Journal?  Had that been the case, he may have believed that a short notice with few details was better than no advertisement at all.  When readers encountered the advertisements from Sherman, Gelstharp, and Lyman, they also saw Smith’s notice.

On the other hand, the printers, Thomas Green and Samuel Green, may have revised Smith’s advertisement and inserted the note about “The Particulars” appearing in the next issue because they did not have sufficient space to run all of the copy.  They could have strategically selected which advertisement to truncate when they set type for the May 28 edition. In that case, how did they handle the accounting and customer service?  Did the abbreviated version run gratis, the note about “The Particulars” intended for the advertiser rather than readers?  Did Smith pay a reduced rate for it?  Did the printers make any other effort to alert Smith that they would print his advertisement in its entirety but did not have enough space in the current issue?

Printers who published newspapers depended on revenue from advertising as much as revenue from subscriptions.  In addition, they likely had more contact with most advertisers than they had with most subscribers, especially considering that advertisements usually ran for only three or four weeks.  Renewing advertisements or placing new ones required contacting the printing office once again.  Both resulted in additional entries in the ledgers.  Printers likely had to exert more effort in managing their relationships with their advertisers than their relationships with their subscribers.  The note at the end of Smith’s advertisement may have been part of the Greens’ effort to manage their relationship with a local shopkeeper they hoped would continue to place notices in their newspaper.

May 7

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

Connecticut Journal (May 7, 1773).

ALL Persons indebted for this Paper, whose Accounts have been above 12 Months standing, are requested to make immediate Payment.”

It was the only decorative type in the May 7, 1773, edition of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy.  It had been the only decorative type in the previous issue of that newspaper.  It would be the only decorative type in the following issue.  Thomas Green and Samuel Green, the printers, used decorative type sparingly.  What prompted them to deploy it in three consecutive issues in the spring of 1773?  They wished to call attention to their own notice that called on “ALL Persons indebted for this Paper, whose Accounts have been above 12 Months standing … to make immediate Payment.”  Such notices appeared frequently in newspapers throughout the colonies.  Printers often gave them privileged places to help direct readers to them.  Less often, they used decorative type to distinguish their notices from other advertisements.

Connecticut Journal (April 23, 1773).

The Greens enclosed their notice within an ornate border, enhancing its visibility no matter where it appeared on the page, whether near the bottom of the last column on the third page when it first ran on April 30 or as the last item on the last page in subsequent issues on May 7 and May 14.  No other advertisements in those issues featured decorative type, nor did the remainder of the contents.  In the previous issue published on April 23, a single line of printing ornaments that separated news items comprised the extent of decorative type.  After the Greens discontinued their notice, printing ornaments depicting skulls and bones appeared above a death notice for “Mrs. MARY LOTHROP, the agreable Consort of Mr. John Lothrop, of this Town,” in the May 21 edition.  No other decorative type appeared among the news or advertisements.

Connecticut Journal (May 21, 1773).

The Greens certainly had printing ornaments among their type.  They apparently believed that decorative type had practical value, that it could draw attention to an advertisement they considered important.  While they recognized the potential for adorning advertisements and other content, they did not embrace all the possible uses of printing ornaments in their newspaper in the eighteenth century.  That innovation came later.  Like other colonial printers, the Greens produced pages rather conservative in appearance compared to the vibrant use of printing ornaments in advertisements in many nineteenth-century newspapers.

April 23

Who was the subject of advertisements in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today?

Connecticut Journal (April 23, 1773).

“TO BE SOLD … A likely Negro Man … Enquire of the Printers.”

TO BE SOLD, A Negro Boy … Enquire of the Printers.”

Timothy Green ran a busy printing office in the early 1770s.  In addition to publishing the New-London Gazette, he sold books, some that he printed but most of them imported.  In the April 23, 1773, edition of his newspaper, Green advertised one of his own imprints, informing readers that “A Faithful HISTORY OF REMARKABLE OCCURRENCES, IN THE Captivity and Deliverances OF Mr. JOHN WILLIAMS, Minister of the Gospel in DEEERFIELD” was “Just Published, and to be Sold.”  Green also did job printing, including broadsides, handbills, and blanks (or forms).  Similarly, Thomas Green and Samuel Green oversaw a bustling printing office where they published the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy.  In the spring of 1773, they distributed subscription proposals for a new edition of “A Discourse on Justification by Faith alone. BY THE REVEREND JONATHAN EDWARDS.”  Those proposals also appeared in the April 23 edition of the New-London Gazette, part of a network of printers and others who cooperated in collecting the names of subscribers who reserved copies.

New-London Gazette (April 23, 1773).

Among their many other responsibilities, all three printers also served as slave brokers.  The same day that they promoted important historical and theological works, they also advised readers to “Enquire of the Printers” to learn more about enslaved people advertised for sale in their newspapers.  In the Connecticut Journal, a brief advertisement announced, “TO BE SOLD, (for no Fault, but for want of Employ,) A likely Negro Man, about 26 Years old, fit for Town or Country. Enquire of the Printers.”  An even shorter, but equally insidious, advertisement in the New-London Gazette stated, “TO BE SOLD, A Negro Boy, about 13 Years old, lately brought into the Country.  Enquire of the Printer.”  In both cases, the advertisers declined to identify themselves, instead instructing interested parties to contact the printers for more information.  In turn, the printers facilitated the sales of enslaved people twice over and generated revenue from the advertisements in the process.  First, they disseminated the notices, undertaking the labor required to print and distribute the advertisements and the rest of the newspapers.  Then, they actively participated in the sale of the “likely Negro Man” and the “Negro Boy, about 13 Years old,” responding to messages they received in the printing office and colonizers who visited to learn more.  As these advertisements demonstrate, printers in New England participated in perpetuating slavery during the era of the American Revolution, alongside their counterparts in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and other colonies with greater numbers of enslaved people.  Such advertisements underwrote the production and dissemination of the news, while those that required readers to “Enquire of the Printers” further enmeshed printers in the slave trade as brokers for sales.

For an extended consideration of such advertisements, see Jordan E. Taylor, “Enquire of the Printer: Newspaper Advertising and the Moral Economy of the North American Slave Trade, 1704-1807,” Early American Studies 18, no. 3 (Summer 2020): 287-323, and the companion website.

April 2

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

Connecticut Journal (April 2, 1773).

They shall be under the necessity of reducing it to its original size and price, unless the Subscribers for it, are more punctual in their payments.”

On April 17, 1772, Thomas Green and Samuel Green began printing the Connecticut Journal on larger sheets.  That allowed them to deliver more content to their subscribers, meeting the demand of “many of our Customers, and others, … desirous of having [the newspaper] enlarged.”  When they did so, they also noted that the previous edition “completed Four Years and an Half since the first Publication” of the newspaper, yet many of the subscribers “paid not a single Farthing” during that time and others were “indebted for Two or Three Year’s Papers.”  The printers called on anyone who owed for newspapers, advertisements, printed blanks, or anything else “to make speedy Payment.”

Almost a year later, the Greens made similar pleas.  On April 2, 1773, they declared, “The Printers are sorry, they can with truth inform the Public, That they have not for this year past, received from all the Customers for this Journal, so much money as they have expended for the blank paper, on which it has been printed.”  Colonial printers often lamented that subscribers and others did not pay their bills, but few did so in such stark terms.  The Greens noted that the “next week’s paper … completes one year since its enlargement,” a benefit to subscribers that accrued even greater expenses for the printers.  That benefit would not continue, the Greens warned, if subscribers did not settle accounts.  They proclaimed that “they shall be under the necessity of reducing it to its original size and price, unless the Subscribers for it, are more punctual in their payments.”  Other printers often threatened to take legal action against recalcitrant subscribers to force them to pay what they owed.  The Greens, on the other hand, threatened other consequences that would have an impact on all readers, not just those taken to court.

Whether it involved suing subscribers or publishing the names of those who refused to pay, printers usually did not follow through on their threats.  Whether or not the Greens’ notice prompted some subscribers to submit payment, the printers did not opt to revert to the original size of the newspaper.  Through experience, many readers likely believed that they could ignore such notices from the printers without suffering any consequences.  Printers wished to maintain robust circulations so they could sell advertising, a factor that played a role in their decisions about how to handle difficult subscribers.

March 23

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

Connecticut Courant (March 23, 1773).

“A motive to Gentlemen in Business to give orders for the Papers.”

As he prepared to launch a new newspaper, “RIVINGTON’s NEW-YORK GAZETTEER; OR THE CONNECTICUT, NEW-JERSEY, HUDSON’s-RIVER, AND QUEBEC WEEKLY ADVERTISER,” James Rivington continued to expand his advertising campaign in newspapers in New York, New England, and Pennsylvania.  He placed a notice in the Connecticut Courant on March 23, 1773, a full month after his first notices appeared in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 22.  Except for the brief advertisement in the Newport Mercury, the much more extensive subscription proposals in the other newspapers all provided an overview about how Rivington envisioned that his newspaper would include content that distinguished it from others.  In many ways, he proposed a hybrid of a newspaper and a magazine, a publication that “will communicate the most important Events, Foreign and Domestic” as well as the “State of Learning” with the “best modern Essays,” a “Review of New Books,” and coverage of “new Inventions in Arts and Sciences, Mechanics and Manufactories.”

For readers of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, Rivington also attempted to incite interest through noting that “the Merchants and Traders of New-York, have universally patronized this Design, and their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.”  Given New Haven’s proximity to New York, Rivington apparently believed that consumers and retailers there would find such advertisements by merchants and shopkeepers in the bustling port as interesting and as useful as the rest of the content.  He made a similar pitch to residents of Hartford in his notice in the Connecticut Courant.  Following the paragraph describing the news and essays he planned to include in the newspaper, the printer expressed his hope that the “general support and promise of Mr. Rivington’s Friends, to Advertise in his Gazetteer … may be a motive to Gentlemen in Business to give orders for the Papers, which will be very regularly sent to the Subscribers.”  Rivington envisioned that advertising, in addition to coverage of “the Mercantile Interest in America, Departures and Prices Current, at Home and Abroad,” would facilitate commerce between New York and smaller towns in neighboring Connecticut.  He suggested to prospective subscribers in Hartford and New Haven that they consider advertisements placed by “Merchants and Traders” in New York as valuable sources of information, as newsworthy and practical in their own right as reports about current events.

February 26

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

Connecticut Journal (February 26, 1773).

“Their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.”

Four days after James Rivington first published advertisements promoting a new newspaper, Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer; or the Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson’s-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser, a new notice appeared in yet another newspaper.  The bookseller, printer, and stationer commenced advertising in the Newport Mercury and the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 22, 1773.  Two days later, he inserted advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal.  His next notice ran in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy on February 26.

That advertisement replicated, for the most part, the notices that ran in the Philadelphia newspapers.  Rivington included lengthy copy explaining how his newspaper differed “in its Plan from most others now extant,” describing how the “State of Learning shall be constantly reported” in addition to “the most important Events, Foreign and Domestic, the Mercantile Interest in Arrivals, Departures and Prices Current, at Home and Abroad.”  He also included a list of three local agents who accepted subscriptions in New Haven.  As he had in most other notices, Rivington stated that the “first Number shall make its Appearance when the Season will permit the several Post-Riders to perform their Stages regularly.”  The printer wanted subscribers to know when they could expect to receive the first issue.

Rivington added one short paragraph to his advertisement in the Connecticut Journal that did not appear in any of the other newspapers.  “The Gentlemen, the Merchants and Traders of New-York,” he asserted, “have universally patronized this Design, and their Advertisements will constantly appear in the Gazetteer.”  That reiterated what he said elsewhere in the advertisement about receiving “Encouragement from the first Personages in this Country” to publish the newspaper, but it also added a detail about the advertisements the newspaper would carry.  Rivington expected that readers in New Haven and nearby towns would be interested in advertisements for consumer goods as well as legal notices concerning New York, more interested than readers in Newport and Philadelphia.  That made sense since New Haven was much more within the commercial orbit of New York than the other two towns where he previously promoted his newspaper.  After all, Newport and Philadelphia were both thriving ports.  Residents of New Haven, on the other hand, had closer connections to New York, especially given the proximity.  Advertisements relevant to New York and nearby towns may not have been of much interest to most prospective subscribers in Newport and Philadelphia, but Rivington considered them a selling point when marketing his newspaper to readers in New Haven.

January 22

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

Connecticut Journal (January 22, 1773).

“By Reason of an ill State of Health, and other Misfortunes, he has been for some Time unable to attend his Business.”

Joseph Hopkins, a goldsmith and jeweler in Waterbury, took to the pages of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy to raise interest in his business in January 1773. He pledged that he “will supply those who may want any Articles in either the Goldsmith or Jewelry Way, on the most reasonable Terms.”  Such appeals, however, were not the primary focus of his advertisement.

Instead, Hopkins sought to generate sympathy among prospective customers.  He reported that he reopened his shop after having been closed, stating that “by Reason of an ill State of Health, and other Misfortunes, he has been for some Time unable to attend his Business.”  The goldsmith did not go into detail about any of those “Misfortunes,” though some readers may have already been familiar with his situation.  He did declare that he “has of late, in some good Measure recovered his Health” and was ready to serve clients once again.

Hopkins offered other news to entice readers into his shop.  He announced that he “engaged an approved Workman,” presumably someone with training and experience as either a goldsmith or jeweler, to provide assistance.  He likely hoped that employing an associate would help alleviate any concerns about what kinds of service customers would experience now that his shop opened again.  Yet Hopkins did not want the public to have the mistaken impression that he merely entrusted orders to his new assistance.  He asserted that he gave “constant Attendance himself.”

In his efforts to attract customers to his shop, Hopkins balanced pleas for sympathy with assurances of competence.  He hoped that recovering from poor health and other unspecified “Misfortunes” would prompt prospective customers to give him their business, but he also realized that sympathy alone might not win them over.  Accordingly, he maintained that both he and his new assistant were qualified to produce “any Articles in either the Goldsmith or Jewelry Way” for customers who gave his shop a chance.