October 22

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

Oct 22 - 10:22:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (October 22, 1768).

“The Snow TRISTRAM … WILL be ready to sail in 14 Days.”

In the late 1760s Joseph Russell and William Russell advertised frequently in the Providence Gazette. Unlike most advertisers throughout the colonies, they sometimes ran multiple advertisements in a single issue, a tactic that enhanced their prominence as local merchants and gave their enterprises even greater visibility. Such was the case in October 1768. On October 1 they placed a new advertisement for “a neat and fresh Assortment of GOODS” that they had just imported “in the Ship Cleopatra.” It appeared in all five issues published in October. On October 15 they inserted a new advertisement that solicited passengers and cargo for the Tristram, scheduled to sail for London in fourteen days. In the same advertisement the Russells seized the opportunity to hawk their “stout Russia DUCK, best Bohea TEA, [and] an neat Assortment of Irish LINENS.”

That advertisement appeared in the Providence Gazette on two more occasions, but never with updated copy. It ran in the October 22 edition, still proclaiming that the Tristram “WILL be ready to sail in 14 Days.” Anyone interested in arranging “Freight or Passage” needed to pay attention to the date listed at the end of the advertisement: “October 15, 1768.” The advertisement made one final appearance on October 29 – the day the Tristram was supposed to set sail – still stating that the ship would depart in fourteen days. It may have still been possible to book passage, but unlikely that Captain David Shand took on additional cargo at that time. The Russells, however, continued to peddle textiles and tea along with the assortment of other merchandise promoted in the companion advertisement published elsewhere in the issue.

The Russells provided enough information for prospective clients to determine the sailing date of the Tristram even though they did not revise the copy as the date approached. Listing the date they submitted the advertisement to the printing office was an imperative component because once the type had been set the notice would run without changes until it was discontinued. Very rarely did advertisements undergo any sort of revision in colonial America. Instead, they were eventually replaced with new advertisements comprised of completely different copy, if advertisers wished to continue at all. This meant that advertisements that ran for any length of time might include outdated portions, an aspect that likely contributed to skepticism of marketing efforts by readers.

February 24

GUEST CURATOR: Shannon Holleran

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

feb-24-2241767-south-carolina-gazette
South Carolina Gazette (February 24, 1767).

“For LONDON, DIRECTLY, The Snow JUDITH, JOHN DAVIS Master, FOR freight of skins or indico.”

This advertisement is unique for the Adverts 250 Project because it did not advertise goods or services, but it instead advertised the shipment of raw materials (skins and indigo). Advertisements for this project usually focus on the consumption of goods, not the shipment of goods.   Earlier this week, I posted an advertisement regarding the cultivation and use of indigo in the colonies during the eighteenth century. When indigo appeared in today’s advertisement, I decided to look more closely at its shipment between England and the colonies.

In “Indigo Production in the Eighteenth Century,” Kenneth H. Beeson, Jr., notes major producers of indigo at this time were Guatemala, Venezuela, and Mexico.[1] However, Great Britain preferred to get indigo from its own colonies, exploiting the colonies for their goods and resources. As I mentioned in my post about indigo earlier this week, the most significant producers of indigo in the colonies were Georgia and South Carolina. Once Great Britain collected what they needed from the colonies, they would then ship back British manufactured goods. Many of the advertisements posted in eighteenth-century newspapers mentioned “English goods.” The influx in importation of British goods ultimately resulted in the countless advertisements, seen in part in the Adverts 250 Project.

feb-24-trade-routes
Map showing exportation of indigo and importation of British manufactured goods in the eighteenth century.  Infobase Publishing.

This map depicts the British Empire’s transatlantic trade routes during the eighteenth century. It shows the exportation of indigo from South Carolina to Great Britain. The map also shows the importation of manufactured goods from Great Britain to the colonies. This trade was supposed to benefit the colonies and Great Britain, but Parliament’s attempts to regulate that trade in the 1760s and 1770s led to resistance and eventually independence.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

In preparing the image of today’s advertisement, Shannon and I made a decision to include a header that appeared immediately above it rather than the advertisement alone. That header, in an ornate font and larger than other text on the front page of the South Carolina Gazette, proclaimed “New Advertisements.” Peter Timothy, the printer, intended it guide readers as they examined the contents of the newspaper.

In general, advertisements did not appear according to any sort of classification system during the eighteenth century. Rather than categorize and organize them according to purpose or products, printers instead inserted paid notices in the order received or, depending on length, whatever order deemed necessary to format an issue into columns of equal length. Depending on the preferences of the printer, advertisements could appear anywhere throughout the newspaper. Some printers placed advertisements on the first page. Others exhausted all other content on the first several pages before inserting all of the advertising at the end. In such instances, they sometimes, but not always, inserted a header that simply stated “Advertisements” without revealing which, if any, were new to that issue.

Peter Timothy experimented with providing more guidance to readers of the South Carolina Gazette. To help them navigate the February 24, 1767, issue, he inserted headers for “New Advertisements” and “SALES by the Provost-Marshal” on the first page. The “New Advertisements” header again appeared on the third page, distinguishing nine advertisements from another ten on that page and fourteen on the next that followed an “Advertisements” header and line of printing ornaments that attracted even more attention by dividing the column. Those two dozen advertisements presumably ran in previous editions. Although Timothy inserted a note that “ADVERTISEMENTS unavoidably left out this week, will be in our next,” he also distributed a two-page supplement that included an “Advertisements” header in ornate font for the convenience of readers.

Unlike some newspapers published in smaller colonial cities, the South Carolina Gazette was overflowing with advertisements in the 1760s. Although the printer made little attempt to classify commercial notices and other paid announcements, he did experiment with headers that guided readers to new content. Given that some advertisements ran for weeks or months, such headers were a valuable innovation that likely gave a boost to advertisements running for the first time.

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[1] Kenneth H. Beeson, Jr., “Indigo Production in the Eighteenth Century,” Hispanic American Historical Review 44, no. 2 (May 1964): 214-218.

June 21

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

Jun 21 - 6:20:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (June 20, 1766).

For BRISTOL, THE ship RIALTO, DAVIDE MERIWETHER master.”

The Rialto was scheduled to sail for Bristol in less than two months, but the master of the vessel had only arranged for half of the cargo that the ship could carry.

In addition to shipping tobacco and other freight, the Rialto also provided passage for colonists who wished to travel to Bristol and, from there, on to other places in England or Europe. Such passengers may or may not have intended to return to Virginia or other colonies in the Americas. Many who made such a voyage did not have any plans to return to the New World.

Given the high rates of migration during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, motivated by a variety of push and pull factors that made life in Britain’s vast North American colonies appear filled with opportunities for social and economic improvement, it becomes fairly easy to imagine that Europeans traveled only one direction across the Atlantic. Not all migrants encountered the success they anticipated in the colonies. A good number of them ended up returning to Europe, a process called “return migration.” Thanks to the memoir he published after his own failed venture to the New World, William Moraley may be the most famous of the indentured servants and apprentices who departed from London, couldn’t make a go of it in the colonies, and ended up back in England. How many disillusioned colonists might have been traveling on the Rialto to Bristol 250 years ago?