What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
As usual, the masthead for the May 1, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal proclaimed that it contained “the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic.” The front page featured news from Boston, including reports that a committee had been formed to gather testimonies from colonists who witnessed the Boston Massacre. That issue also included news reprinted from newspapers published in Providence, Newport, Hartford, New York, and Philadelphia, though those items were often themselves republished from English newspapers or letters received from correspondents in faraway places like Gibraltar and Jamaica. A couple of items of local news as well as the shipping news from the customs house rounded out the “freshest Advices.”
Yet news of the Boston Massacre was not the first item that readers encountered, even though it was on the first page. Instead, a legal notice filled the upper half of the first two columns. Assorted advertisements appeared below the legal notice. News from Boston ran in the third column. Elsewhere in that issue, news items comprised the entire second page and most of the first column on the fourth, but advertisements filled the third page and two of the three columns on the final page. The standard issue consisted of five columns of news and seven columns of paid notices … and that was not even the end of the advertising disseminated in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on May 1. Charles Crouch, the printer, issued a two-page supplement, another six columns, that consisted entirely of paid notices. Advertising accounted for more than two-thirds of the content delivered to subscribers in the May 1 edition and its supplement. Like many other printers, Crouch touted the “freshest Advices” that appeared in his newspaper, but the publication was also (and on many occasions primarily) a vehicle for distributing advertising.