September 23

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

Sep 23 - 9:23:1768 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (September 23, 1768).

I have been informed that some of my customers have been displeased.”

Seth Wales had two purposes for placing an advertisement for his “clothier’s business” in the New-London Gazette in September 1768. He promoted the skills of the workman he now employed while simultaneously recanting and correcting an advertisement that appeared in the same newspaper a year earlier.

That advertisement originally ran in the September 11, 1767, edition of the New-London Gazette. In it, Seth Wales of Norwich and Nathaniel Wales of Windham announced that “every Part and Branch of the Clothier’s Business is carried on” in their towns “under the Direction and Management of one FRANCIS GILDING.” Having recently arrived from London, Gilding was unfamiliar to prospective customers so the Waleses assured them that he is “thoroughly skilled in the Art of a Scowerer and Dyer, and can imitate or strike any Colours (that are dyed in the English Nation).” The advertisement continued to extol Gilding’s skills and abilities at some length, adopting a marketing strategy frequently adopted by artisans in newspapers published throughout the colonies.

Seth Wales ultimately found himself dissatisfied with Gilding’s “Direction and Management” of the business. In an advertisement that first appeared in the September 16 (misdated 15), 1768, issue he implied that Gilding had placed the previous notice. Although Wales did not take responsibility for misleading the public about Gilding’s work, he did acknowledge that he had been “informed that some of my customers have been displeased with some of their work done at my mill.” He indicated that those customers had responded to “Gilding’s pretences” in the earlier notice, but that he had “found by experience he no ways answers to said advertisement.” Wales then savaged Gilding’s skills before declaring that he had “dismissed him.”

In the wake of Gilding’s termination, Wales hired a new “workman at the clothier’s business, that served an apprenticeship at said trade in Europe, and understands every branch of the business.” This new employee had been on the job for six months, sufficient time for Wales to confidently exclaim that his work “shall be done this year much better than it was last.” Perhaps Wales had learned a lesson about advertising the skills of an employee too soon. The trial period gave him better opportunity to assess for himself the abilities of his “present workman” before making promises in advertisements and then finding himself in the position of retracting them.

For his part, Gilding was not pleased with how Wales portrayed him. The following week he placed his own advertisement, which appeared immediately below the second insertion of Wales’s notice. He lamented that he had been “greatly Abused and Injured in my Reputation.” He considered the entire advertisement “a Piece of Malice and Detraction.” He then explained that any shortcomings in his work should be attributed to Wales for not providing proper supplies for the dyeing business. Furthermore, Gilding asserted that Wales attempted to hire him for an additional year. Gilding quit, despite Wales pretending otherwise. Finally, Gilding reported that his former employer and “the Workman he pretends to have had Six Months experience of” had parted ways, once again due to difficulties caused by Wales.

Artisans of various sorts often used newspaper advertisements to promote their skills and training in eighteenth-century America. In this incident, Wales and Gilding did that and more. Each turned to the public prints to defend their own reputation, inserting advertisements that constructed competing narratives. Airing their dirty laundry presented risks, but calculated that the rewards of presenting their own side of the dispute would result in rewards if prospective customers believed their version of events.

September 2

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

Sep 2 - 9:2:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 2, 1768).

“IT is with much Regret I find myself obliged to appear in Print against my Husband.”

A week ago the Adverts 250 Project featured a preview of “Mrs. Sarah Wiggenss APPEAL to the Public representing her Husband’s Advertising her in this Paper.” That preview took the form of a notice inserted by the printers in the final issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette published in August 1768. Upon learning that her husband, Tuften, had placed an advertisement in the previous issue to advise the public that he would no longer pay any debts contracted by her because she had “ELoped from me … and refuses to live with me as an obedient Wife,” Sarah submitted her own advertisement to tell her side of the story. It “came too late” to the printing office to appear in the August 26 edition, but the printers promoted it as a feature that readers should anticipate “in our next.” The printers did not merely acknowledge that they would publish Sarah’s response. Instead, they disclosed that “it will appear how greatly she has been injured and imposed upon” by Tuften. By inciting interest in this domestic dispute laid before the public, the printers likely hoped to increase readership of the New-Hampshire Gazette and reap the benefits of placing their newspaper before the eyes of greater numbers of colonists.

Sarah detailed response to her husband’s short advertisement made for lively reading. First, she apologized for even having to place a notice in the public prints. “IT is with much Regret,” she lamented, “I find myself obliged to appear in Print against my Husband.” However, she was stunned that Tuften had even placed an advertisement and, in the process, implied that she had committed adultery. She had been betrayed by her husband, “one whose Duty it is to be my Virtue’s Guard and preserve it from every stain.” That was only one way in which Tuften had failed as a husband, but it was sufficient for Sarah to defend herself in view of the entire community. Given “how base I have been and still am treated by him,” Sarah proclaimed, “my Resentment rises at his Folly, and in justice to my injur’d Reputation, I am bound to vindicate it.” She then revealed that Tuften had courted her for some time. She initially refused his advances, but eventually consented to marry him in January 1767, “though greatly against the Advice of my Friends.” At that point Tuften apparently became more interested in the property Sarah brought into the marriage than in his bride herself. He stole her “Marriage Settlement” out of her chest, depriving her of the legal document that offered financial protection in the event that she became a widow. Having surrendered her “Right of Dower” to Tuften’s estate, Sarah now had “nothing left me.” This provoked a heated argument that culminated in her departure, but “with his consent.” According to Sarah, she took some clothing with her and Tuften “promised to send all my other Things by any Body I sent for them.” When she sent a man named Kenniston to collect her belongings, Tuften became enraged and refused to hand over anything. Instead, he placed the advertisement accusing Sarah of departing without his permission and refusing to heed his authority as head of the household. Most upsetting to Sarah, the advertisement implied she committed adultery. In the wake of Tuften demanding that others not to extend credit to his wife, she relied on sympathy to overcome those instructions. She bemoaned her current condition: “I have one small Child of six Months old at my Breast, and we are exposed to the wide World, having no prospect of a Reconciliation with my Husband.” She concluded with one more apology for making a private matter so public, asking “Pardon of the Public, for the Trouble I have given them to read the Circumstances of my Misfortunes.” That Sarah found herself in the position to make such an apology painted an even more unflattering portrait of perfidious husband.

Extending three-quarters of a column, Sarah Wiggin’s “APPEAL” rivaled news items printed elsewhere in the issue for length. If the printers charged to insert this response, they certainly increased their advertising revenue for the week. Even if they did not charge but instead treated her response as a letter intended to inform the public of interesting news, they still stood to generate additional revenue. Printing such a salacious story likely captivated readers, perhaps even drawing the attention of some who did not regularly peruse the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette but took a prurient interest in observing this drama unfold. More readers, for whatever reason, meant wider circulation and the potential to sell even more advertising space.

August 26

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

Aug 26 - 8:26:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 26, 1768).

“Mrs. Sarah Wiggenss APPEAL … will be in our next.”

The August 26, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included a notice from the printers concerning two advertisements, one that had been published and one that had not. “Mrs. Sarah Wiggenss APPEAL to the Public, representing her Husband’s Advertising her in this paper,” the printers explained, “came too late, but will be in our next.” The printers encouraged readers to acquire the next issue and peruse it carefully in order to learn how gros[s]ly she has been injured and imposed upon by him.” The Wiggins resided in Stratham, but their marital squabbles became common knowledge far beyond their own town.

Readers did not need to look any further than the next page to witness (once again, since it also appeared in the previous issue) the quarrelsome advertisement that had elicited Sarah Wiggin’s “APPEAL.” Her husband, Tuften, announced to the residents of Portsmouth and its hinterland that his wife had “ELoped from me … and refuses to live with me as an obedient Wife.” Given that turn of events, he resorted to the same measures as many other spurned husbands, stating that he placed his notice in the public prints in order “to forbid any Person, giving her Credit on my Account” because “I will not pay any Debt by her contracted from the ninth of August last, 1768.” In a nota bene he magnanimously, from his perspective at least, counseled that “If she returns, she will be kindly received upon reasonable terms.”

Sarah apparently had no intention of returning to Tuften. Instead, she submitted a detailed defense of her flight to the printers for presentation to the public, a defense so lengthy that the compositor did not have sufficient time or space to include it in the August 26 edition by the time it arrived in the printing office. When it did appear the following week it occupied three-quarters of a column (more on that in a subsequent entry). Public awareness of domestic strife in the Wiggin household expanded as husband and wife each placed advertisements and the printers inserted notices concerning those advertisements.

The printers did not merely note that a response from Sarah would soon appear in the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Instead, they offered colorful commentary about “how gros[s]ly she has been injured and imposed upon” by her husband. Perhaps they found her response convincing and felt sympathy for her, but their own notice that another chapter in the saga would soon become available had the added benefit of provoking additional interest among readers. The printers leveraged these advertisements about an unhappy marriage to bolster circulation of their newspaper. It was not the first time that they capitalized on disputes made public in this manner.

July 8

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

Jul 8 - 7:8:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette Extraordinary (July 8, 1768).

“Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith looks upon himself to be greatly abused.”

Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith was not pleased with a “scandalous anonimous Piece” that appeared on the front page of the July 1, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Although the author did not explicitly name Griffith, it did not take much deduction to determine that “a Man of this abandoned Character, named – N–th–el S––fe G–fi–th, of Hampton” was none other than Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith. The article purported that Griffith had “descended into some Sink for Human Excrements, (from whence it was wished he could never have gotten out, as it was the most proper Place for his Abode)” and then “proceeded to the Meeting-House in Hampton, and in a dirty, filthy and polluted Manner discharged the same upon the Linings and Cushings of a Gentleman’s Pew.” The article went into further detail about how Griffith had not only befouled the pew but, more generally, a house of worship shared by the entire community. It then attributed various moral failings to the perpetrator of this “atrocious and sacrilegious Insult.”

Horrified by this account, Griffith placed an advertisement in the next issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Although Griffith could not control the editorial decisions made by the printers, he did exercise greater latitude when it came to paid notices. He wanted the printers to give him equal time and an opportunity to redeem himself in the face of the “scandalous anonimous Piece.” To that end, his advertisement addressed the printers directly, insisting that they “acquaint the Public in [their] next Paper that he shall the next Week publickly acquit himself to their Satisfaction of the scandalous and sacrilegious Acts he is in that Piece charged with.” For the moment, this advertisement did not allow the tale from the previous week to go unanswered. It informed the community, in addition to the printers, that Griffith did not accept the account as presented in the most recent issue. Griffith’s advertisement also made the case that the printers must allow him a more extensive answer, not as an advertisement at his own expense but as a news item, not unlike the “scandalous anonimous Piece.” Perhaps Griffith also believed that by ramping up interest in the dispute among readers that the printers would be more likely to publish his rebuttal.

The next issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, however, did not feature any items signed by Griffith, neither as news items or advertisements. Griffith may have agonized too long over his response to submit it in time for publication. The issue did include a anonymous piece addressed “To the PRINTERS” that expounded on fourteen “RULES AGAINST SLANDER.” Perhaps Griffith submitted those rules to lay the groundwork for his own response. Perhaps the printers, disappointed not to have Griffith’s response in hand, inserted the “RULES AGAINST SLANDER” themselves as a means of keeping the controversy fresh and encouraging readers to look for more developments in subsequent issues. Perhaps other members of the community, disgusted by the entire exchange, took it upon themselves to provide their own commentary about how to treat one another.

The plot thickened two weeks after Griffith’s advertisement appeared in the July 8 edition. A response from Griffith attributed the “cruel Piece” to “the circumstantial Evidence known to all the Inhabitants of Hampton, to have the Character of as infamous a Liar, as ever existed on this Globe, the scandalous Author of the defamatory Piece, only excepted.” Furthermore, Griffith described the alleged witness as “A Girl who for Ten Dollars more, and another green Gown, may perhaps be induced to swear as roundly & plumply to the Point, as the Author could wish or desire.” Griffith met the attacks against his character with provocative accusations of his own.

Advertisements sometimes entertained colonists because they contained scandal. Runaway wife advertisements, for instance, reflected as poorly on the husbands who placed them as the wives who fled. Sometimes the scandal played out in greater detail when wives or relatives placed responses. In other instances, colonists turned to advertisements to pursue their feuds with rivals they believed had wronged them in some way. News items sometimes presented tabloid accounts of certain people and events, but colonists also made room among the advertisements for a good bit of gossip. On occasion, scandal flowed back and forth between news items and paid notices in eighteenth-century America.

May 18

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

“If propagating injurious reports be at all commendable …”

May 18 - 5:18:1768 Response Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 18, 1768).

Whether or not advertisements achieved the intended purposes of those who placed them in colonial newspapers, they did generate revenue for the printers who published them. At least that was the case once advertisers paid for their advertisements; colonial printers frequently inserted their own notices calling on subscribers and advertisers alike to settle accounts long overdue.

If his clients did indeed pay, James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, generated significant revenue by publishing two series of advertisements between feuding colonists in the spring of 1768. It began with the dispute between Lachlan McGillivray and John Joachim Zubly. Over the course of several lengthy advertisements, the two men published point and counterpoint among the advertisements in the Georgia Gazette. They spilled so much ink making accusations and defending their reputations that Johnston even published a two-page supplement devoted entirely to their quarrel because including their notices in the regular issue would have crowded out both news and other advertisements. That they thrust and parried in the pages of the Georgia Gazette week after week over the course of a month likely provided entertainment for some readers not involved in their disagreement.

That exchange had barely died down before another found its way into the Georgia colony’s only newspaper. Upon receiving a letter from John Mullryne informing her of his intention to publish “a short dissertation upon Slanders” and “the danger of envenomed tongues,” Heriot Crooke opted to promptly place her own advertisement in the Georgia Gazette for public view rather than respond privately to her correspondent. In so doing, she preempted Mullryne and shaped the narrative by suggesting that she had had nothing to hide when it came to his accusations about how she had comported herself when discussing the candidates standing for election to become “Member of Assembly for Vernonburgh.” Crooke’s advertisement ran in the May 11 edition of the Georgia Gazette. It appeared again the following week, but by then Mullryne had composed a lengthy response. In it, he accused Crooke of being a pawn who acted “under the influence of a prompter or prompters.” He then defended himself against accusations leveled in an affidavit that had been included in Crooke’s original advertisement.

Together, the two advertisements filled approximately two-thirds of a column, a significant amount of space in a newspaper comprised of only eight columns. Assuming that Johnston, like many other printers, charged by the length of the advertisement, he stood to profit from the feud that unfolded among the advertisements in his newspaper. This also benefited the advertisers who wished to draw attention to the legal issues they litigated in their notices. By paying to have their advertisements inserted, Crooke and Mullryne (as well as McGillivray and Zubly) sidestepped the editorial process involved in selecting which news items to publish. In publishing advertisements, they made sure the content they wanted to see in the Georgia Gazette was indeed available for consideration by the public.

May 18 - 5:11:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 11, 1768).

April 27

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

Apr 27 - 4:27:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 27, 1768).

“The proposal made in the letter published against me in your last.”

When last we saw Lachlan McGillivray and John Joachim Zubly the rivals had composed such extensive advertisements accusing each other of misconduct in their real estate enterprises and interactions with one another that James Johnston published a supplement to the Georgia Gazette that consisted entirely of their dispute. Zubly had concluded his lengthy retort by stating, “Nothing shall ever be wanting on my part to shew that with a me a law-suit was not a matter of choice, but painful necessity; and whatever you may think or say of me, or do against me, I shall be glad of every opportunity to approve myself your real wel[l] wisher, till then I bid you right heartily FAREWELL.”

Yet it was not time for farewell quite yet. Two weeks after the supplement carried all three advertisements so far published by the adversaries, McGillivray inserted yet another notice in the April 20, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette. He could not pass up responding to Zubly’s “very elaborate performance.” Indeed, Zubly’s most recent advertisement had extended more than a page (or one-quarter of the length of a standard issue of the newspaper that carried it). McGillivrary described Zubly’s “very elaborate performance” as “such a piece of scurrility, (truly worthy of the author)” that it “does not deserve an answer in the Gazette.” Yet McGillivray published a response that extended more than half a column, not for his own benefit but in order to defend the reputation of McGillivray’s associate (who had so far declined to inject himself into the argument unfolding among the advertisements in the Georgia Gazette). McGillivray concluded his newest public missive by echoing Zubly: “I will thank you for your kind wishes when I think them sincere. In my turn bid you farewell.”

Having previously “bid you right heartily FAREWELL” to McGillivray, Zubly chose not to engage him directly when he decided to publish yet another advertisement. He could not let the notice from April 20 pass unremarked, but he addressed his new response to “Mr. Printer” and made an appeal to readers of the Georgia Gazette to review the series of advertisements and judge for themselves that he was the aggrieved party who had been abused by McGillivray. He ended his advertisement by returning to the real estate dispute that had launched the entire exchange, issuing instructions that he “forbids all persons to trespass on or plant any of his lands, especially those on Augustin’s Creek.”

This exchange was a windfall for James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette. At the very least, it generated significant advertising revenue that supported the newspaper, but it may have yielded other benefits. Readers who had no stake in the real estate dispute may have been entertained, amused, or infuriated by the antics of McGillivray and Zubly as their dispute played out in a series of advertisements. As a result, readers may have anticipated new issues to find out what happened next. Non-subscribers may have made greater efforts to obtain copies of the new issues in hopes of encountering more advertisements that prolonged the feud. In the process, they would have been exposed to the remainder of the news and advertising, benefiting both the printer and the advertisers. McGillivray and Zubly produced their own serial in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Apr 27 - 4:20:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 20, 1768).

April 6

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

Apr 6 - 4:6:1768 Georgia Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Georgia Gazette (April 6, 1768).

“WHEN I saw myself attacked again by your advertisement …”

In the spring of 1768 John Joachim Zubly and Lachlan McGillivray litigated a dispute over real estate via a series of advertisements.  It began when an “advertisement was stuck up” by McGillivray and George Galphin “at divers places at Augusta and New-Windsor” in Georgia in early March.  Zubly responded by placing an advertisement in the March 16 edition of the Georgia Gazette.  The same advertisement ran in the following issue.  After that, the dispute escalated as Zubly and McGillivray published additional advertisements attacking each other.

Zubly’s advertisement ran for a third time in the March 30 edition, but by then McGillivray had composed a response of a similar length that ran on another page.  They were the longest advertisements in the issue, each occupying significantly more space than any of the other paid notices.  This windfall for the printer continued the following week when Zubly submitted a response to McGillivray’s response. Zubly meticulously addressed McGillivray’s counterattack, moving through his assertions charge by charge.  He did so in such detail that his new advertisement extended more than a page.

James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, did not have sufficient space to publish this war of words in a regular issue.  Like most other colonial newspapers, a standard issue of the Georgia Gazette consisted of four pages printed on a broadside folded in half.  Johnston filled the April 6 edition with news and other advertisements.  He simultaneously distributed a two-page supplement that consisted entirely of the advertisements that so far comprised the Zubly-McGillivray dispute (with the exception of the broadsides that had been “stuck up at diverse places at Augusta and New-Windsor”).  The advertisements no longer ran on separate pages; instead, the printer gathered them together chronologically in order to present a coherent story for readers.

Throughout the colonies the number of supplements to weekly editions of newspapers increased in the first months of 1768.  Most of those supplements carried news about deteriorating relationships with Great Britain or selections from John Dickinson’s series of “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania” or they carried advertisements that did not fit in the regular issue because the news and “Letters” had crowded them out.  The supplement to the April 6 edition of the Georgia Gazettewas different.  It was not the ongoing dispute between the colonies and Parliament that prompted it but instead a personal dispute between two colonists who disagreed about a real estate transaction.  For Zubly and McGillivrary – and perhaps some readers of the Georgia Gazette– this drama was as compelling as the unfolding feud with Parliament.  Each considered it important enough to make a handsome investment in publishing it for all to see among the advertisements in the colony’s only newspaper.

Apr 6 - 4:6:1768 Page 1 Georgia Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Georgia Gazette (April 6, 1768).

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Apr 6 - 4:6:1768 Page 2 Georgia Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Georgia Gazette (April 6, 1768).