October 12

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

Oct 12 - 10:12:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 12, 1768).

“INGLIS and HALL, Have just imported, In the INDUSTRY, FURSE, from BRISTOL.”

When Inglis and Hall placed an advertisement in the October 12, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette they adopted formulaic language that often appeared in other advertisements. The partners informed prospective customers that they “have just imported” a variety of goods from London and Bristol. Like many other colonial merchants and shopkeepers, Inglis and Hall reported which ship had transported their goods across the Atlantic: “the GEORGIA PACKET, ANDERSON, from LONDON” and “the INDUSTRY, FURSE, from BRISTOL.” This allowed readers to determine for themselves that Inglis and Hall did indeed stock new merchandise. Many may have been aware of which vessels recently arrived in port, but all could read the shipping news that appeared elsewhere in the newspaper.

Inglis and Hall’s advertisement appeared on the second page of the October 12 issue, opposite the list of ships ‘ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE,” those “ENTERED OUTWARDS,” and others that had “CLEARED” the port. The shipping news indicated that the “Ship Georgia Packet, George Anderson” from London “ENTERED INWARDS” on October 10. The Industry was not listed, but it was still in port, having ‘ENTERED INWARDS” on September 30 according to the October 5 edition.

Given the time required to set the type and print both sides of the newspaper on a hand-operated press, Inglis and Hall must have submitted the copy for their advertisement to James Johnston at the printing office in Savannah immediately upon the arrival of Captain Anderson and the Georgia Packet. The shipping news bolstered their claim that they “have just imported” a variety of goods. In other instances, merchants and shopkeepers ran advertisements for weeks or months, never updating them. The appeal to having “just imported” merchandise became outdated, even if the list of goods available for sale remained accurate. Readers could assess that particular appeal: sometimes an inventory described as “just imported” had been lingering on the shelves for quite some time. Consumers interested in the newest goods, including the current fashions from London, had to be aware that advertisers deployed the phrase “just imported” with little attention to the passage of time over the run of their advertisements. Usually accurate when an advertisement first appeared, that description did not disappear until advertisers discontinued their advertisements.

October 5

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

Oct 5 - 10:5:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 5, 1768).

“Mrs. Cosgreve would undertake to teach young Ladies to sew and read.”

Although several schoolmasters and –mistresses offered their services in Savannah in the late 1760s, James Cosgreve published one of the most extensive advertisements in the Georgia Gazette. The length was due in part to the schoolmaster’s description of his curriculum. Like his counterparts, he taught the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. However, he also delivered lessons in several other subjects not as widely taught by other schoolmasters in Georgia at the time. For instance, Cosgreve indicated that he provided instruction in “Mathematicks, such as the first six books of Euclid, with their application in the theory and practice of Trigonometry, Navigation, Surveying, Gnomicks, Astronomy, Geography, Algebra, and the Use of the Globes.” He also offered two tracks of language instruction to match the abilities and resources of his students. Advanced students learned Latin and Greek, but those who “cannot spend so much time at school as to acquire” those languages “to any degree of perfection” could instead study “the English and French tongues grammatically.” Cosgreve was well qualified to teach all of these subjects, “having acquired a competent skill and communicative faculty … by the laborious study and experience of a long course of years, in the most noted Seminaries, Academies, and Schools in Ireland, England, and America.”

In a short nota bene Cosgreve first noted where he resided and then added that “Mrs. Cosgreve would undertake to teach young Ladies to sew and read.” Mrs. Cosgreve was not nearly as accomplished as her husband, yet she also contributed to their household economy by offering her services as a teacher. She too participated in the marketplace, yet the representation of her activities that appeared in the public prints was dramatically overshadowed by her husband’s lengthy narration of his credentials and subjects he taught. Such was often the case for wives of schoolmasters and others who provided goods and services. If their contributions to family businesses and household finances were acknowledged at all, they tended to be mentioned only briefly in the conclusions to advertisements, almost as an afterthought. Admittedly, James Cosgreve did require a greater amount of space to detail the many and varied subjects he proposed teaching to “young Gentlemen and Ladies,” but that did not mean that Mrs. Cosgreve’s parallel instruction in sewing and reading had to be consigned to a nota bene. The husband could have instead chosen to depict his wife as an assistant or junior partner while still maintaining his status as the head of a well-ordered household. Such an approach was not unknown in eighteenth-century advertisements placed by schoolmasters whose wives made contributions to the enterprise. In this case, however, Cosgreve may have believed that placing any more emphasis on his wife would have distracted from the image of himself, the atmosphere of genteel learning at his school, and the extensive curriculum that he sought to market to prospective students and their parents.

September 28

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

Sep 28 - 9:28:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 28, 1768).

“BOOKS to be sold at the Printing-Office.”

Like other printers throughout colonial America, James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, often used his own publication to promote books, pamphlets, and other printed materials that he sold. Although printers sought to generate additional revenues as a result of running their own advertisements in their newspapers, Johnston frequently had an additional motive. Short advertisements for books or advertisements also served as filler to complete an otherwise short column in the Georgia Gazette. Such was the case for a two-line advertisement at the bottom of the first column on the third page of the September 28, 1768, edition of that newspaper. The notice, which Johnston inserted frequently, read in its entirety: “A FEW COPIES of the ACTS of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY passed last session to be sold by the printer of this paper.” Johnston had another slightly longer advertisement, that one for printed blanks (or forms), which he also inserted regularly. It appears that the type for both remained set so the compositor could simply insert them as necessary when an issue ran short of other content.

Given those circumstances, a lengthier advertisement for “BOOKS to be sold at the Printing-Office” that filled half a column (or one-quarter of a page) departed from the usual format for advertisements placed by the printer of the Georgia Gazette. The advertisement divided the column, creating two narrower columns that listed dozens of books by title. A price, neatly justified to the right, accompanied each title. For instance, “Revolutions in Portugal” sold for three shillings and six pence. “Gullivers travels, 2 vols.” sold for eight shillings. In that regard Johnston’s advertisement differed from those placed by other printers and booksellers. Most merely listed titles; very few informed prospective customers in advance what they could expect to pay. Although Johnston rarely published such an extensive catalog of books he sold, when he chose to do so he made a significant innovation to the standard method deployed by printers and booksellers who advertised in other newspapers published in other colonies. If he had sought only to fill remaining space in an issue that lacked sufficient content, a list of “BOOKS to be sold” would have served the purpose. Including the prices, as well as the format for doing so, required additional time, effort, and creative energy in writing the copy and setting the type.

September 21

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

Sep 21 - 9:21:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 21, 1768).

“Whoever is inclinable to purchase the said sloop may treat with Mrs. Germain at her house in Savannah.”

The September 21, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette included several estate notices. The executors of Robert Adams’s estate informed readers about the sale of “ALL THE HOUSEHOLD GOODS” scheduled to take place at the end of October. Similarly, the executors of James Love’s estate announced an auction of “A LARGE QUANTITY of MAHOGANY, RED BAY, and WALNUT PLANK, an ASSORTMENT of CABINET-MAKERS and JOINERS TOOLS, and SOME HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE” to be held in early November at the shop he formerly occupied. Another estate notice described a “SLOOP called the BUTTERFLY, lately the property of Mr. Michael Germain, deceased.”

Each of these estate notices identified a female executor. “ANN ADAMS, Administratrix,” was presumably the widow of Robert Adams, given that the notice advised that the sale would take place “at the house of Mrs. Adams in Savannah.” The notice concerning the Butterfly did not formally specify that Michael Germain’s widow was an executor, but it did advise that “Whoever is inclinable to purchase the said sloop may treat with Mrs. Germain at her house in Savannah.” The notice concerning James Love’s estate does not reveal the relationship connecting “ELIZABETH WHITEFILED, Executrix,” and the deceased cabinetmaker, but she may have been a daughter or sister. In each instance, a woman assumed important legal and financial responsibilities and turned to the public prints to carry them out.

Yet they did not do so alone. “ANN ADAMS, Administratrix,” fulfilled her duties in coordination with “JAMES HERIOT, Administrator.” “ELIZABETH WHITEFIELD, Executrix,” worked with “PETER BLYTH, Executor” to settle Love’s estate. Mrs. Germain had a male counterpart as well. Those interested in purchasing the Butterfly had the option of negotiating “with Hugh Ross” instead of the widow. None of these advertisements reveal the division of labor undertaken by the executors, but they do demonstrate that colonial women were not excluded from these important duties. Their male counterparts may have provided oversight, but wives and other female relations likely possessed more knowledge about family finances and the commercial activities of deceased men than just about anybody else. Even when adult sons or former business partners also served as executors, women made invaluable contributions in the process of settling estates.

September 14

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

Sep 14 - 9:14:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 14, 1768).

“A negroe fellow called CATO … and his wife JUDY … had a written license … to come to town.”

James Bulloch’s advertisement concerning an enslaved man and woman who tricked him into issuing them a pass so they could hire themselves out in Savannah for a month and then ran away became a regular feature in the Georgia Gazette in 1768. Dated July 6, it first appeared in the July 13 edition. It then ran every week, with the exception of August 3, for the next six months, making its final appearance on January 4, 1768, in the first issue of the new year. Overall, Bulloch inserted this advertisement in the Georgia Gazette twenty-five times. It would have been impossible for regular readers to remain unaware of Cato and Judy’s subterfuge and flight, but Bulloch published the notice often enough that even those who read the Georgia Gazette only occasionally were likely to encounter the story of the runaway cooper and laundress.

In that regard, Bulloch’s advertisement did not differ from many other notices about runaway slaves in the Georgia Gazette and other newspapers printed throughout the colonies. The account of Cato and Judy’s escape appeared alongside other advertisements for runaway slaves that also ran for months at a time, including one about “THREE NEW NEGROE MEN, called NEPTUNE, BACCHUS, and APOLLO … and ONE STOUT SEASONED FELLOW, called LIMERICK” who ran away from a plantation near Pensacola, Florida, and were suspected of making way “through the Creek nation.” Bulloch and others made significant investments as they attempted to reclaim runaway slaves. In addition to the “reward of ten shilling sterling, beside all other necessary and common charges” that he offered for the capture and return of Cato and Judy, Bulloch financed an advertising campaign that lasted for six months.

Why did these advertisements cease on January 4, 1769? Had Cato and Judy been captured? Or had they successfully made their escape, at least for the moment, having used the “written license” they finagled from Bulloch to move freely and as far away as possible before he even realized they were gone? The slaveholder may have decided to cut his losses by suspending the advertisements. By then, however, colonists throughout Georgia and beyond would have been familiar with Cato and Judy’s story because they saw it repeated in the Georgia Gazette so many times. Even though the advertisements did not continue, the runaways were not safe. Bulloch had used the power of the press for months to encourage others to engage in the surveillance necessary to bring and end to Cato and Judy’s flight for freedom.

September 7

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

Sep 7 - 9:7:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 7, 1768).

“THE subscriber WILL OPEN A SCHOOL FOR DANCING.”

Compared to bustling cities like Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, the more recent settlement at Savannah was a relatively small port with significantly fewer residents in 1768. Yet it was not so small that dancing masters thought it futile to attempt to cultivate a market for their services among the local elite and those who aspired to join their ranks. John Revear, for instance, placed an advertisement in the September 7, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette to announce that he would “OPEN A SCHOOL FOR DANCING” on the following day.

Revear welcomed various types of pupils. The majority of his advertisement focused on his lessons for children, but a brief nota bene indicated that he took “grown persons” as pupils as well. The dancing master offered daytime classes for children on Thursdays and Fridays “from the hours of ten to twelve, and from three to five.” This allowed him time to provide private lessons throughout the rest of the week. Such lessons could take place at the school, but Revear advised that “Any gentleman or lady may be taught at their own house” if they preferred. In addition, he kept “an evening school … from six to nine” for adults who did not have leisure time during the day for private lessons.

In crafting his advertisement, Revear played on the anxieties of parents who might send their children to his dancing school. He noted that he taught “all the celebrated dances that are used in polite academies,” signaling that young people needed his instruction or they risked public embarrassment when they displayed their lack of familiarity with this genteel pastime. Yet Revear likely intended that this warning resonate with others besides parents attending to the best interests of their children. Adults who had concerns about whether they had mastered the latest steps could ease their minds by signing up for lessons themselves. The option for private instruction in the home further reduced the possibility of awkward comportment in public spaces. Once students had mastered the steps they could gracefully display their skills.

Revear encouraged a sense of uneasiness even as he provided a means for relieving it. He prompted prospective pupils to imagine “polite assemblies” and the many sorts of “celebrated dances” that were part of their gatherings. He leveraged existing worries, realizing that some residents of Savannah did not wish to think of themselves as any less sophisticated than those who participated in the “polite assemblies” in Charleston or Philadelphia or other cosmopolitan American ports (just as residents of those cities constantly strove to demonstrate that they were as fashionable and genteel as if they lived in London).

August 24

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

Aug 24 - 8:24:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 24, 1768).

“He HATH OPENED A WRITING OFFICE.”

James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, regularly inserted advertisements for the blanks (or forms) that he printed and sold to supplement the revenues from operating the colony’s only newspaper. The purposes of those blanks ranged widely, including “bonds, bills of sale, mortgages, powers of attorney, bonds of arbitration, indentures, bills of lading, articles of agreement between masters of vessels and seamen, [and] indico certificates.” Making use of printed blanks allowed colonists to enter into a variety of commercial and legal agreements on their own.

Some colonists, however, did not wish to enter into such arrangements without consulting someone with greater expertise in drawing up agreements and other legal devices, especially when the complexity of their situation exceeded the circumstances anticipated on the standardized forms. In those instances, Benjamin Prime offered his services.

In the summer of 1768, Prime inserted advertisements in the Georgia Gazette to announce that he “HATH OPENED A WRITING OFFICE” conveniently located near the Assembly House in Savannah. There he drew up a variety of “Instruments,” including “Wills, Deeds, Mortgages, Leases, Letters of Attorney, Articles of Agreement,” and much more, as indicated by “&c. &c.” (invoking the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera twice). Prime’s services paralleled many of those achieved by the printed blanks sold at the printing office on Broughton Street.

Yet contracting Prime’s services conferred additional value for his clients, as he underscored in the introductory remarks in his advertisement. He explained that he “hath been bred to the Law, and hath been a practitioner for several years in the province of North Carolina.” He contributed experience and expertise to the transactions and agreements he oversaw, according greater peace of mind to clients who may have been hesitant to rely on printed blanks alone. Given that he had only recently opened his office in Savannah, he publicized his credentials as a means of assuring prospective clients that they could depend on his competence in serving them.