February 15

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

Georgia Gazette (February 15, 1769).

“Proposed to be published.”

As usual, advertising comprised the final page of the February 15, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette. Yet the layout of the rest of that issue differed significantly from the standard order of news followed by advertising. Instead, advertisements appeared on every page, distributed throughout the issue alongside news items.

For instance, the front page was divided evenly between news and advertising. News filled the column on the left and three advertisements filled the column on the right. The first of those advertisements, a subscription notice for “THE ROYAL MERCHANT: A WEDDING SERMON” by Johannes Scriblerius, however, appears to have been a satire rather than a legitimate advertisement. Signed by “The EDITOR,” who otherwise remained unnamed, it advised “Those who chuse to have copies of the Royal Merchant are desired to send in their names to the printer of this paper as soon as possible.” It did not otherwise provide any information concerning a plan of publication commonly incorporated into most subscription notices. Whether inserted by the printer or another colonist, this playful piece masquerading as an advertisement served as a bridge between news and paid notices.

Advertising continued immediately on the second page, filling the entire column on the left and overflowing into the column on the right. News from Savannah, including the shipping news from the custom house, often the final item inserted before advertisements, filled most of the remainder of the column, though two short advertisements did appear at the bottom. More advertisements ran at the top of the column on the left on the third page, but filled only a portion of it. News items reprinted from newspapers from Boston and London accounted for the rest of the content on the page. Advertising filled the final page, not unlike most issues of the Georgia Gazette.

Not including the satirical “advertisement” on the front page, advertising accounted for more than half of the content of the February 15 edition, significantly more than usual for the Georgia Gazette. Perhaps the abundance of paid notices prompted James Johnston, the printer, to think creatively about the layout for the issue, though he would have certainly noticed that other colonial newspapers that he received from counterparts in other cities experimented with the placement of paid notices in relation to other content. Those that did so tended to have more advertising than would fit on the final page. Though they made exceptions on occasion, it appears that colonial printers adopted a general rule when it came to the layout of their newspapers. Reserve the final page for advertising and only distribute paid notices to other parts of an issue if they would not all fit on that last page.

February 8

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

Georgia Gazette (February 8, 1769).

“WRITING PAPER of different sorts to be sold at the Printing-Office for cash.”

James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, peppered the final page of the February 8, 1769, edition with his own advertisements. He inserted three brief advertisements, each of them extending only two or three lines. Two of them offered goods for sale: “WRITING PAPER of different sorts to be sold at the Printing-Office for cash” and “TOBLER’s ALMANACKS, for 1769, To be sold at Messrs. Clay and Habersham’s Store, and at the Printing-Office.” The other announced an opportunity for a young man: “WANTED, An honest, sober, and industrious LAD, as an APPRENTICE to the PRINTING BUSINESS. Such a one will meet with good encouragement by applying to the printer of this paper.” In addition, the colophon at the bottom of the page advertised services that Johnston provided at his printing office: “Advertisements, Letters of Intelligence, and Subscriptions for this Paper, are taken in.—Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c. printed at the shortest Notice.” Like other colonial printers, Johnston took advantage of his access to the press to market his own goods and services as well as post announcements intended to advance his own business interests.

In placing advertisements in his own newspaper, Johnston also testified to his confidence in their effectiveness. He implicitly suggested that he expected to sell almanacs and writing paper as a result of publishing short notices in the Georgia Gazette. Similarly, he expected that inserting an advertisement for an apprentice would yield more and better candidates than relying on word-of-mouth appeals via his friends, neighbors, and associates. To underscore the point that his notices were more than just filler, Johnston distributed the three advertisements to different locations on the final page of the February 8 issue. One appeared one-third of the way down the first column and another two-thirds of the way down. The last appeared near the bottom of the second column. By interspersing them among other advertisements rather than grouping them together at the end of the last column, the savvy printer sought to reduce any impression that his notices primarily served as filler. Instead, he indicated that he had faith in this method of circulating information. Prospective advertisers should exhibit the same confidence when they chose to place notices of their own.

February 1

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

Georgia Gazette (February 1, 1769).

“TOBLER’s ALMANACKS, for 1769.”

Even as February 1769 arrived, James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, and Messrs. Clay and Habersham, shopkeepers, continued to advertise “TOBLER’s ALMANACKS” for sale. In so doing, they participated in the final stage of advertising almanacs for the new year, a process that would soon cease for several months until it was time to market new almanacs for 1770.

Although some printers announced their plans to publish almanacs as early as July or August, most usually waited until September to place their initial notifications about the titles they intended to print. The earliest advertisements frequently noted that almanacs would soon be going to press, within weeks or a month. Advertisements that ran in November and December, on the other hand, most often reported that almanacs had been printed and were available to purchase from printers, booksellers, and shopkeepers. Those advertisements continued into January, but tapered off as the weeks passed. Relatively few advertisements for almanacs appeared in newspapers in February and March, though some printers did continue their attempts to rid themselves of surplus copies. As time passed, some of the contents became obsolete. By the time Johnston’s advertisement ran in early February, the astronomic calculations for January were outdated.

That being the case, printers and others who advertised almanacs curiously did not pursue marketing innovations that could have aided in selling remaining copies. Unlike modern calendar merchandisers who slash prices, advertisers who continued to sell almanacs in February and March did not offer discounts. Nor did they promote other contents, such as entertaining essays or useful lists of government officials, in an effort to demonstrate that their almanacs contained plenty of valuable information. Many printers and booksellers deployed such strategies earlier in the year, offering reduced rates to customers who bought in bulk and publishing extensive descriptions of the contents, but they did not choose to replicate those methods in the final stage of advertising leftover copies. For whatever reasons, they unevenly applied the strategies they sometimes used to convince customers to purchase their almanacs.

January 25

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

Georgia Gazette (January 25, 1769).

“[NO. 278.]”

Unlike some of its counterparts in other colonies, the Georgia Gazette rarely distributed a supplement with the standard issue in the late 1760s. Occasionally, however, residents of Savannah and its environs submitted sufficient advertisements to James Johnston “at the Printing-Office in Broughton-Street” to merit a truncated supplement, such as the one that accompanied the January 25 edition. That issue did not contain any more news than usual; paid notices accounted for all of the additional space. In other words, Johnston did not fill the standard issue with news, making it necessary to create an advertising supplement. The supplement happened to consist entirely of advertising, but paid notices in the standard issue filled the usual proportion of space.

The truncated supplement consisted of a single page. Most supplements for other newspapers were two pages, half of a broadsheet printed on both sides, though sometimes an entire broadsheet doubled the size of the issue from four to eight pages. Johnston, however, either did not have enough content or sufficient time to expand the supplement to a second page, leaving the reverse side blank. This truncated supplement differed from other supplements in another significant way. Johnston so rarely issued supplements that he did not have a masthead to identify the additional half sheet delivered with the standard issue. Rather than Supplement to the Georgia Gazette running across the top, a single line at the end of the final column said “[NO. 278.]” The January 25 edition was issue number 278, according to the masthead, so this brief notation would have aided in matching the loose sheet with the standard issue.

Johnston sometimes had to deploy especially generous spacing in the advertisements, incorporating significant white space compared to the dense text in other newspapers, to fill the four pages of a standard issue of the Georgia Gazette. That was certainly not the case for the January 25 edition, one of those rare occasions when he had so much content, especially paid notices, that he devised a truncated supplement in order to fulfill his commitments to his advertisers. In the process, he did not sacrifice news items. He could have made room in the standard issue by reducing the amount of space devoted to news, but he instead opted to give readers a substantial amount of both types of content, as they had come to expect of the Georgia Gazette.

January 18

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

Georgia Gazette (January 18, 1769).

“WILLIAM SAUNDERS, Sailmaker, … flatters himself with the hopes of their commands.”

In an advertisement placed in the January 18, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette, William Saunders, a sailmaker, lead former and prospective customers through a dance in which each move achieved some purpose related to running his business. First, he expressed gratitude to those who had ordered sails from him in the past, stating that he “TAKES this opportunity of returning his sincere thanks to the gentlemen merchants and others of the town of Savannah, for the kind encouragement he has met with at their hands since his arrival at this place.”

The wording suggested that he might have been a relative newcomer to the colony’s most significant port. If that was the case, acknowledging that some “gentlemen merchants and others” in Savannah had already expressed their support for his venture or perhaps even engaged his services would have been particularly important in setting up his next move. He pivoted from a note of appreciation into calling on those same boosters to submit more orders. He pledged that “they may be assured of the strictest dispatch imaginable” when they contracted with him and his partner, Callighan McCarthy, for sails. For prospective customers who had not previously purchased sails from him, Saunders signaled that he was a capable artisan, as demonstrated by his interactions with those “gentlemen merchants and others.”

Only then did the sailmaker become more vigorous. In a final paragraph his called on “those gentlemen who are indebted to him” to settle accounts by the first of March. If they did not, he would “be under the disagreeable necessity of putting their accounts into the hands of an attorney at law.” That was a last resort, a step that Saunders wished to avoid. Compared to another advertisement in the same issue, his initial movements softened the warning that followed. Thomas Morgan inserted a notice for the sole purchase of informing his debtors “that they will find their accounts in the hands of an attorney at law to be sued for without distinction” if they did not pay by the first of March. Saunders and Morgan issued the same threat, but Saunders did so only after nurturing his rapport with customers and other readers of the Georgia Gazette.

January 11

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

Georgia Gazette (January 11, 1769).

“Just imported … and to be sold by JOHN HIGGIN.”

In January 1769, John Higgin advertised a variety of goods “Just imported, from Liverpool and Corke, and to be sold … At Mr. Moore’s Store opposite the Exchange.” Unlike Inglis and Hall, whose advertisement from the previous week appeared in the Georgia Gazette once again, Higgin did not regularly insert advertisements for consumer goods in the colony’s only newspaper. The shipping news suggests that may have been because Higgin was not a resident of Savannah but instead a ship captain who sometimes did some trading on his own.

According to the shipping news in the January 4 edition of the Georgia Gazette, the “Snow Ann,” captained by John Higgins “ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE” from Montserrat and St. Martin’s that very day. A week later, Higgin published an advertisement for “IRISH linens,” “Cheque, silk, and muslin handkerchiefs,” “Tin saucepans,” and an assortment of other textiles, garments, and housewares. Like many other advertisements, it ran in three consecutive issues (January 11, 18, and 25) before being discontinued. Higgin, however, did not disappear from the pages of the Georgia Gazette. The following week, the “Snow Anne, John Higgin,” headed for Montserrat was listed among the vessels “ENTERED OUTWARDS” at the customhouse. Preparations for departure took some time. Higgin and his vessel remained on that list for nearly two months. In the March 29 edition, the shipping news reported that the “Snow Anne, John Higgin” had “CLEARED” on March 23.

While it is possible that the John Higgin who commanded the Anne and the John Higgin who sold imported goods were two different people, the evidence in the Georgia Gazette suggests otherwise. That the advertisement stated Higgin’s goods came from Liverpool and Cork likely indicated their origins rather than suggesting that they had been transported directly from the British Isles to Georgia. Higgin would have had plenty of opportunities to pursue side ventures on his own while sailing the Anne in the Caribbean. When competing against other purveyors of imported goods in Savannah, he would have been at a disadvantage if he reported that his merchandise from Liverpool and Cork made a detour to the sugar islands first. After all, colonial consumers demanded the newest fashions when it came to clothing and housewares. Selling his wares “At Mr. Moore’s Store” rather than a shop of his own would have been appropriate for someone only in Savannah briefly.

Higgin’s advertisement occupied more space than most advertisements for consumer goods and services that ran in the Georgia Gazette. Although this suggested the array of choices available to prospective customers, Higgin likely envisioned an additional strategy when he composed the advertisement. Unlike Inglis and Hall and other local merchants and shopkeepers already familiar to residents of the colony, Higgin was unknown and in port for a limited time. Especially if he wished to acquire new wares for further trading before departing, he needed to sell as quickly as possible. An advertisement of such length certainly made his presence known.

January 4

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

Georgia Gazette (January 4, 1769).

“They desire all persons indebted to them … to settle their respective debts.”

Among purveyors of consumer goods in Savannah, the partnership of Inglis and Hall placed the lengthiest advertisements in the Georgia Gazette in the late 1760s. They also advertised more frequently than many of their counterparts, so regular readers of the colony’s only newspaper were probably not surprised that the first issue for 1769 included an advertisement from Inglis and Hall. As a new advertisement, it appeared first among all of the paid notices in that edition.

With the arrival of the new year, the partners took the opportunity to announce that they “HAVE now on hand, A Neat Assortment of Dry Goods, consisting of a great variety of the most useful articles.” In many of their advertisements Inglis and Hall elaborated on this appeal to consumer choice by listing dozens of items included among their inventory. They placed less emphasis on enticing end-use consumers among colonists than cultivating clients who participated in “the Indian Trade.” They did list strouds, an especially popular textile among Indians who bartered with colonial traders, “Trading Guns, Tomahawks, Gunpowder, Ball, &c. &c.” When it came to those items, they offered a discount “to any person taking a quantity” or the entire stock. They began the new year with an attempt to dispose of significant portions of their inventory in large transactions.

Inglis and Hall also seized on the first of the year as an appropriate time to call on customers and associates to settle accounts. Instead of “N.B.” (for nota bene or “take notice”), they used three stars to call attention to that request: “They desire all persons indebted to them by bond, note, or book account, to settle their respective debts on or before the first day of March.” Unlike other advertisers throughout the colonies, they did not allude to the ramifications of neglecting to make payment. That could wait for subsequent advertisements if “persons indebted to them” did not respond to the initial notice.

Although Inglis and Hall’s first newspaper advertisement for 1769 did promote consumer goods, the partners devoted much more space to other business operations: settling accounts and wholesale transactions with colonists involved in “the Indian Trade.” Merchants, shopkeepers, and other purveyors of consumer goods often pursued multiple purposes in their newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, providing an overview of their business practices.

December 28

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

Georgia Gazette (December 28, 1768).

“Proposes carrying on the BAKING BUSINESS.”

When Elizabeth Anderson went into business in December 1768, she placed an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette. In a short notice she informed the residents of Savannah that she now occupied “the house where the late Mrs. Pagey lived” and “proposes carrying on the BAKING BUSINESS.” Although the enterprise was a new one for Anderson, she aimed to benefit from depicting it as a continuation of the services previously offered by Pagey. She encouraged “the customers of Mrs. Pagey to continue their favours” at the same location but with a new baker. In addition to attracting new customers, she hoped that the clientele already cultivated by Pagey would seamlessly transfer their business to her.

Anderson did not provide further details about her venture. Perhaps she intended to replicate Pagey’s hours and services as closely as possible. Sticking to a system successfully deployed by the late baker increased the likelihood of maintaining her former customer base. She certainly expected that readers of the Georgia Gazette, whether or not they had been “customers of Mrs. Pagey,” were familiar with the house where the baker had resided before her death.

In each of the issues that carried her advertisement, Anderson was the lone woman who promoted consumer goods and services. She was not the only woman to place a notice in the Georgia Gazette that month. “REBECCA FAUL, Executrix,” ran her short advertisement calling on “ALL persons indebted to the ESTATE of GEORGE FAUL, blacksmith, … to make immediate payment” for the final time in the December 14 issue. In the December 21 and 28 editions, “AVE MARIA GARDNER, Administratrix,” ran a similar notice directed to “THE creditors of George Gardner, deceased.” Enslaved women were the subjects of several other advertisements, though they did not place those notices themselves.

Women were more likely to appear in the advertisements than anywhere else in colonial newspapers. Among the advertisements they placed, white women most often appeared in their capacity as executors when husbands or other male relations died. Yet other women did sometimes insert their names in the public prints for other reasons. Entrepreneurs like Elizabeth Anderson did not rely solely on personal relationships and word-of-mouth to promote their businesses. Instead, they used advertising as a means of expanding their participation in the market as providers of goods and services, not merely as consumers.

December 21

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

Georgia Gazette (December 21, 1768).

“The gentlemen of this town would be so kind as to come to his shop to be dressed.”

In December 1768, John Roques, a wigmaker and hairdresser in Savannah, informed current and prospective clients that he wished to scale back one of the services he provided. Rather than visit “the gentlemen of this town” at their homes, he requested that they instead “come to his shop to be dressed.” Roques did not apologize or express apprehension about eliminating a service that clients previously found valuable. Instead, he offered an explanation that portrayed his business as thriving and justified his decision.

Roques asserted that he could no longer visit the homes of his clients due to “the great fatigue he was obliged to undergo every day.” The hairdresser was so popular, his services so in demand, that he was being run ragged all over town. He insisted that keeping such a routine had been “very pernicious to his health,” but that was not his primary reason for changing his terms of service. Being away from his shop meant that he “could not give satisfaction” to all of his clients; he did not mean that he provided shoddy assistance but rather that he had to decline to wait on some clients because they sent for him “three or four at once,” making it impossible for him to attend all of them in their homes. Instructing clients to visit his shop allowed Roques to focus his time and energy on dressing hair rather than traveling from home to home around Savannah.

His story of woe, whether or not exaggerated for effect, was also a story of success, one that implicitly testified to his skill. Clients would not have been sending for him “three or four at once” if he had not competently aided them. He did not make appeals to gentility or fashion, as many other wigmakers and hairdressers did in their advertisements. That so many clients simultaneously demanded his services suggested that he more than adequately fulfilled those requirements. In effect, Roques created a narrative about his services that served as an eighteenth-century equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Prospective clients should hire him because so many of their peers already did.

December 14

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

Georgia Gazette (December 14, 1768).

“STOLEN out of the subscriber’s shop, A SILVER LANCET CASE.”

Readers of the Georgia Gazette encountered several means for acquiring consumer goods in the December 14, 1768, edition. They could make choices from among the inventory of merchants and shopkeepers. William Belcher, for instance, advertised a variety of textiles, housewares, and hardware imported from London and Boston. For those inclined to purchase secondhand goods rather than new, David Moses Vallotton, the administrator of the estate of Paul Dubois, offered “HOUSEHOLD GOODS, WEARING APPAREL, some TOOLS and TANNED LEATHERS, and sundry other articles.” Several others executors also announced estate sales and auctions.

Lewis Johnson’s advertisement, however, testified to other ways of obtaining goods in colonial America: theft and purchase of stolen goods. “STOLEN out of the subscriber’s shop,” his advertisement proclaimed, “A SILVER LANCET CASE with five lancets. Ten shillings will be given for returning it, and no questions will be asked. If it should be offered for sale he begs it may be stopt.” Similar advertisements regularly appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies, reporting thefts and describing stolen items in hopes of recovering them. Most offered rewards. Many expressed interest in punishing the perpetrators, though Johnson seemed more interested in recovering the stolen lancet case.

Such advertisements encouraged readers to engage in surveillance of other colonists and their belongings. In particular, they called on the community to be on the lookout for particular items and to assess the possessions of others to determine if they matched those described in the public prints and thus might have been acquired in an unscrupulous fashion. Advertisements for stolen goods cultivated attitudes and behaviors similar to those encouraged in many advertisements that encouraged readers to purchase goods.   Both prompted colonists to evaluate the character and status of others by taking into account the goods they possessed, their comportment, and other factors. Both suggest that consumer goods played an integral role in shaping interactions between colonists. Whether the new textiles sold by Belcher, the secondhand housewares from Dubois’s estate, or the lancet case stolen from Johnson, consumer goods were more than mere things. They possessed meaning that played into the appraisals colonists made of others.