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).

**********

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