August 17

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

Aug 17 - 8:17:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 17, 1768).


When readers of the Georgia Gazette perused the August 17, 1768, edition they encountered an advertisement for “AN ASSORTMENT of MEDICINES, and sundry other Articles” that may have looked familiar. Lewis Johnson had placed his notice listing an extensive array of goods as soon as they arrived in his shop. The shipping news in the June 29 issue indicated that the “Ship Charming Sally, Peter Rainier” from London had “ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE” on June 28. Johnson’s advertisement listing merchandise “just imported for Sale from LONDON, By the CHARMING SALLY, Capt. RAINIER” appeared in the Georgia Gazette the following day. It ran for three consecutive weeks, a standard length of time according to the fee structure for advertising in many colonial newspapers.

Johnson’s advertisement then disappeared from the next four issues before returning in the August 17 issue. Why did Johnson suddenly decide to insert his advertisement again? Just as its initial run coincided with the shipping news that confirmed the Charming Sally had just arrived with a cargo of goods imported from London, its return to the pages of the Georgia Gazette occurred when the shipping news reported the vessel’s departure. Among the other entries from the Customs House, the “Ship Charming Sally, Peter Rainier” had “CLEARED” and sailed for Martinique. For the past three weeks, the Charming Sally had been listed with those that had “ENTERED OUTWARDS” in preparation of leaving Savannah. Either from the shipping news or his interactions with the captain, Johnson would have known when the ship that transported his goods was leaving. The August 17 issue would be the last issue that carried information about the Charming Nancy provided by the Customs House. It was also Johnson’s last chance to underscore that he had indeed “just imported” his wares on a ship that had recently arrived in port.

His advertisement did not appear the following week, nor did the shipping news mention the Charming Nancy. Johnson had seized the opportunity when it presented itself, but withdrawn his advertisement when the news items printed elsewhere in newspaper made one of the appeals in his advertisement look outdated.

August 10

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

Aug 10 - 8:10:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 10, 1768).


Several advertisements in the August 10, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette offered slaves for sale. Some concerned individual slaves (“A VERY HANDY YOUNG COUNTRY BORN WENCH”) or small groups of slaves (“Four Prime Negroes” and “ONE NEGROE WENCH, and TWO CHILDREN”) to be sold by their owners, but colonists who made their livelihood from trading in human property placed other advertisements for larger quantities of enslaved men, women, and children. The latter included a brief notice inserted by John Graham and Company announcing the sale of “A PARCEL OF NEW NEGROES” slated for sale at Yamacraw Bluff, the site where James Oglethorpe landed when he founded the Georgia colony in 1733. The place named for and formerly inhabited by the Yamacraw, a group of Creek Indians, became the point of arrival in North America for Africans involuntarily transported across the Atlantic.

Yet Georgia was not the first colony where these captives from Africa entered port on the western side of the Atlantic. Graham and Company’s advertisement indicated that these “NEW NEGROES” from Gambia were “Part of the Cargo of the Schooner Fortune.” Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database provides more information about the experiences of the human cargo aboard the Fortune. After acquiring 121 Africans in Gambia, James Baird and his crew set sail for Barbados. Only 109 of the captives survived the Middle Passage to disembark at some point after the Fortune arrived at an unspecified port in Barbados on June 25, 1768. The Fortune returned directly to Africa to trade for more slaves.

Some of the slaves who disembarked in Barbados then experienced what Gregory E. O’Malley has termed transshipment. Surviving the Middle Passage was not the end of their journey. Instead, lacking sufficient buyers at their original port of arrival in the Americas, they were loaded aboard other vessels and shipped between colonies to other markets for purchase. Graham and Company’s advertisement does not indicate how many of the 109 “NEW NEGROES” who disembarked in Barbados then made another journey to Georgia, nor does it indicate how many friends and relatives who survived the Middle Passage to the island colony only then found themselves separated from each other by slave traders who dispersed them to even more distant places in hopes of finding buyers.

August 3

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

Aug 3 - 8:3:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 3, 1768).


The shipping news in the August 3, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette reported that five ships had “ENTERED OUTWARD” from the customs house at Savannah in the previous week, including the “Snow Pitt, [captained by] John Copithorn” bound for London. That was not, however, the only mention of the Pitt in that issue of Georgia’s only newspaper. As Copithorn and his crew prepared for their departure, local merchants sold the recently imported goods transported from Bristol aboard the Pitt. They also wrote copy for advertisements and submitted their notices to James Johnston’s printing office on Broughton Street.

The partnership of Inglis and Hall, prominent merchants and slave traders, stocked a variety of goods delivered to the colony by Copithorn and the Pitt. Their inventory included an assortment of textiles as well as “Ironmongery, of all kinds; … Saddlery; … Glass Ware of most kinds; … With many other Articles.” As tall as it was wide, their substantial advertisement occupied a fair amount of space on the page, especially compared to many of the other paid notices comprised of only two to five lines.

Read and Mossman placed one of those other advertisements. In it, they announced: “JUST IMPORTED by the subscribers, in the Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol, A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH.” In comparison to such brevity, Inglis and Hall listed twenty different textiles as well as “suitable Trimmings” to adorn them according to the latest fashions. Current tastes did not matter nearly as much, if at all, when outfitting slaves for domestic labor or work in the fields. The “WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” sold by Read and Mossman would have been osnaburg or a similarly rough fabric, one valued more for its durability than its comfort or attractiveness.

The “Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol” delivered a variety of goods to the Georgia marketplace. Some merited more marketing efforts than others. Inglis and Hall’s extensive list of textiles and other goods conjured images of vast consumer choices for those who would purchase and use the items themselves. On the other hand, Read and Mossman realized that “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” required no additional marketing, especially since those who would be wearing garments made of the cloth would not make the choice when it came to purchasing it. Although both partnerships focused primarily on fabrics imported on the same ship, Inglis and Hall advertised consumer goods while Read and Mossman advertised commodities.

July 27

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

Jul 27 - 7:27:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 27, 1768).

“THE subscribers … take this method of informing the publick, That they carry on the TAYLOR’S BUSINESS.”

Many colonial printers often had more content, especially advertising, than they could fit in the pages of their newspapers. A standard issue consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half. Although newspapers published in the largest American cities achieved daily publication by the end of the eighteenth century, newspapers published before the Revolution were generally limited to one issue per week. That meant that subscribers and other readers expected one four-page issue every seven days. Excess content, however, sometimes prompted printers to publish additional material in a supplement, a postscript, or an extraordinary. The most successful newspapers, those published in the largest and busiest port cities, regularly distributed two-page supplements along with their standard four-page issues in the 1760s. Often those supplements consisted entirely or almost entirely of advertising. When they acquired news that could not wait on the weekly publication schedule, printers issued separate supplements. Advertisements appeared less prominently in those publications.

James Johnston, printer of the Georgia Gazette in the 1760s, did not often find himself in the enviable position of having to issue an advertising supplement, but even in the relatively small port of Savannah he sometimes received sufficient paid notices that made doing so necessary. Such was the case during the week of July 27, 1768. Johnston’s advertising supplement had a rather different appearance than its counterparts that accompanied other newspapers. It did not feature a masthead that identified it as an additional publication affiliated with the Georgia Gazette. Instead, “No. 252” appeared at the bottom of the page, indicating that it belonged with the rest of the issue published on July 27. Like other supplements, it was only half of a broadsheet. Unlike other supplements, it was printed on only one side, creating one page rather than two. Given the price and scarcity of paper, this was notable for not using the available resources to their capacity. It indicates that even though Johnston had so many paid notices that demanded he publish an untitled supplement that either he did not have sufficient content, neither news nor advertising, to fill a second page or he did not have ample time to print the second side of the supplementary half sheet.

Printers in larger cities were better prepared to issue supplements, in large part because doing so was such a regular occurrence that they incorporated the necessary workers and other resources into their business practices. The revenues from a steady stream of advertising helped make that possible. For Johnston and others, however, the flow of advertising was much more uneven, justifying an occasional advertising supplement but not so many that they were always equipped to distribute full supplements that replicated those issued by their counterparts in the busiest urban ports.

July 20

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

Jul 20 - 7:20:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 20, 1768).

“Said Winter has all sorts of garden seeds to dispose of.”

Robert Winter advertised “all sorts of garden seeds” almost as an afterthought in a notice he placed in the July 20, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette. Winter served as the caretaker for several gardens – Pleasant Oak, Mulberry Hill, and Spring Gardens – that belonged to Dr. James Cuthbert. In the course of performing his duties he noticed a series of robberies committed by “several very indiscreet persons.” In turn, the caretaker took measures to prevent further thefts on the premises. He also turned to the public prints to warn fellow colonists about those measures, proclaiming that “he has guns, dogs, and other snares laid for such as may trespass there for the future.” Furthermore, should he catch anyone defacing any of the gardens Winter was “resolved to bring them to justice. The caretaker imagined a variety of possible suspects, including “apprentices, servants, and negroes.” He requested that “masters will caution” them “against the like errors.”

Only after signing his name to this notice did the caretaker insert an additional line that deviated from his primary purpose of preventing further robberies: “Said Winter has all sorts of garden seeds to dispose of.” Compared to extensive advertisements placed by others who specialized in selling seeds, this portion of Winter’s notice was exceptionally short. He did not elaborate on any of the varieties he offered for sale. He assumed that potential customers were already familiar with the gardens he tended and did not need further explanation. Indirectly, the series of robberies indicated a certain level of demand for the plants that sprang from his seeds.

Winter put virtually no effort into marketing his garden seeds. He merely made an appeal to choice by noting that he sold “all sorts.” Yet he did follow another convention common to many eighteenth-century advertisements. Often colonists placed notices with two purposes. In many cases, the primary purpose revolved around some sort of announcement, such as estate notices, calls to settle accounts before advertisers left town, or, in this instance, cautioning robbers against further attempts. Having purchased space in the newspaper, some advertisers opted to pursue a secondary purpose: selling consumer goods and services. Having attracted attention for their primary purpose, but not wishing to distract from it too much, they appended short invitations for readers to make purchases, whether the contents of the rest of the notice applied to them or not.

Winter’s story of “guns, dogs, and other snares” intended to ward off the “several very indiscreet persons” who “made a practice of robbing the gardens” he tended likely garnered interest among readers solely because it was so different that the rest of the contents among the advertisements in the Georgia Gazette. The caretaker seized that opportunity to encourage sales of his seeds.

July 13

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

Jul 13 - 7:13:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 13, 1768).

“A negroe fellow called CATO … and his wife JUDY … have not been seen or heard of.”

James Bulloch, a slaveholder, regretted trusting “a negroe fellow called CATO … and his wife JUDY.” The two took advantage of that trust, at least from Bulloch’s perspective, when they decided to run away after he had issued them a pass to go to Savannah. Cato and Judy, for their part, likely had little sympathy when it came to betraying the trust of a man who held them in bondage. Bulloch briefly told their story in an advertisement he inserted in the July 13, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette.

Cato and Judy were both skilled workers. Bulloch described Cato as “a cooper by trade” and Judy as “a washer-woman.” Cato had apparently practiced his trade in the colony’s largest port town; Bulloch indicated that he was “well known in Savannah.” That being the case, it may not have been difficult for Cato to find work when he wished, providing that Bulloch allowed him to participate in the hiring out system. Judy also possessed a skill often in demand, especially in ports. Hiring out his slaves accrued certain benefits for Bulloch, especially if he did not have sufficient work to keep them occupied. By hiring out the cooper and laundress, allowing them to seek their own employment for a specified period, Bulloch reduced his responsibilities for providing food and shelter. He also generated additional income since their wages belonged to him. Slaveholders who thought of themselves as generous sometimes gifted a small portion of the wages to the enslaved men and women who earned them, but usually little more than a token.

Bulloch apparently had no misgivings about this system, at least not as far as Cato and Judy were concerned. Perhaps they had cultivated his trust over time, anticipating when they might have an opportunity to make their escape. Bulloch issued he couple “a written license … to come to town, and thee to work for a month from the 13th day of June last.” He expected them to return after a month, with their wages to hand over to him. To Bulloch’s dismay, however, Cato and Judy “have not been seen or heard of since.” Apparently the couple did not make any pretense of arriving in Savannah and seeking work. Instead, they fled at the earliest opportunity in order for their disappearance to go unnoticed as long as possible, increasing their chances for making good on their escape. Bulloch eventually discovered the subterfuge and offered a reward for their capture and return.

Although filtered through the perspective of slaveholders, advertisements for runaway slaves present striking stories of survival and resistance by enslaved men and women. The same issue of the Georgia Gazette that first provided an account of Cato and Judy’s escape also included three other advertisements for runaway slaves: Pedro “of the Angola country,” who “has the upper part of his right ear cut off,” possibly as a disciplinary measure; Chloe, who “has her country marks on both her cheeks” and spoke little English; and Ben, who “has been for some time sickly.” The advertisements do not provide as much information about any of these fugitives, making it more difficult to reconstruct their stories. Still, these advertisements demonstrate that enslaved men and women did not meekly accept their fate but instead sought to change their condition.

July 6

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

Jul 6 - 7:6:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 6, 1768).


Except for the mononym, this advertisement by Evans in the July 6, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette was not flashy. Nor was it particularly lengthy. Yet despite the economy of prose, Evans, a “TAYLOR, HABIT and CLOAK-MAKER,” managed to work several appeals into his short advertisement. In that regard, he met the standards for advertising established by many of his contemporaries throughout the colonies.

Like many other artisans, especially those in the garments trades, he first informed prospective clients of his origins. Evans was “from LONDON,” though he did not indicate how long it had been since he had lived there or how long he had pursued his trade in that city. Still, establishing a connection to the cosmopolitan center of the empire likely afforded him some cachet among the residents of Savannah and its environs.

Asserting that connection also provided a foundation for one of his other appeals. He promised potential customers that “he makes every article in the above branches after the newest fashion.” It went without saying that he meant the newest fashion in London. The tailor played on colonists’ anxieties that they lived in a provincial backwater, one separated from the metropole not only by distance but also by taste and style. Evans assured them that when they wore his clothing that they donned the current trends not only in the largest and most sophisticated urban ports on this side of the Atlantic but also the fashions in London. Yet it was not prohibitively expensive to rival the styles in those places. Evans pledged that he charged “the most reasonable rates” for the garments he made.

The tailor incorporated a brief employment advertisement at the end of his notice: “Wanted, Several Men and Women who can sew neatly.” Doing so communicated to readers that his services were in such demand that he needed more help in his shop, not just a single assistant but instead several to handle the volume of clients he served. Just as prospective clients desired to keep up with “the newest fashion” they also derived status from having their apparel made by a popular tailor.

Evans’s advertisement may seem sparse at first glance, but the savvy tailor inserted several appeals that recommended his services to customers. Without going into great detail, he played on several currents in consumer culture already quite familiar to eighteenth-century readers.