December 16

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

Dec 16 - 12:16:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 16, 1767).

“The SOUTH-CAROLINA & GEORGIA ALMANACK, FOR THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1768.”

During the final months of the year colonial newspapers published advertisements for almanacs with increasing frequency. Throughout the fall and into the winter they became a standard feature in newspapers as printers and booksellers first encouraged colonists to acquire their almanacs before the new year commenced and later attempted to sell surplus copies before too much of the new year passed.

In Savannah, James Johnston, Messrs. Clay and Habersham, and Mr. Zubly advertised the “SOUTH-CAROLINA & GEORGIA ALMANACK, FOR THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1768” in the Georgia Gazette. Like their counterparts who sold almanacs in other colonies, they provided readers with a volume specifically intended for the local market. The calculations were “Fitted for the Latitude of 33 Degrees North,” but that was not the only reference material unique to local conditions. The contents also included “a Tide Table for the Bar and Harbour of Charlestown” as well as “Tables of Roads” to facilitate travel and commerce in the region.

Just as John Holt had done in promoting Freeman’s New-York Almanack in the New-York Journal earlier in the same week, the booksellers in Savannah enticed customers with a preview of the contents, concluding with a poem that introduced readers to the verses they would find in the South-Carolina and Georgia Almanack. Also like Holt, they informed prospective customers that the almanac contained a mixture of useful (“an Interest Table at Eight per cent”) and entertaining (“Remarkable Sayings”) entries, though they did not provide such elaborate detail as their counterpart in New York. A relative lack of competition may have explained the difference: readers in New York could choose among many almanacs printed and advertised there, but colonists in Georgia had far fewer options. Still, the local booksellers apprised customers that the South-Carolina and Georgia Almanack was well worth nine pence because it included so much valuable content “besides what is common in Almanacks,” including “a curious Preface, containing Nostradamus’s Prophecy.” For colonists who had not yet obtained almanacs for the coming year, such hints were intended to pique their interest and convince them to make their purchases. This was an early modern version of the current practice of giving consumers access to the table of contents when advertising books online.

December 9

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

Dec 9 - 12:9:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 9, 1767).

“A NEAT SECOND HAND CHAIR … hams, gammons, jowls, and bacon.”

Many colonists placed newspaper advertisements for a particular reason. The December 9, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette, for instance, included several real estate notices that focused exclusively on the properties for sale. Other advertisements cautioned against runaway slaves or described employment opportunities. Some marketed imported goods to consumers. Mary Hepburn’s short advertisement announced that she intended to depart from Georgia and wished to settle accounts.

In contrast, certain advertisements had more than one purpose. If colonial printers and compositors had practiced any sort of system of classification to organize the paid notices in their newspapers, such advertisements would have likely been divided into shorter notices and grouped with similar ones. Instead, the contents of individual advertisements sometimes seemed as haphazard as the assortment of notices printed in the same column or on the same page.

Such was the case with John Morel’s advertisement. In the course of two short paragraphs Morel, a prominent merchant, switched from hawking a used carriage, a “NEAT SECOND HAND CHAIR … with very good harness,” to selling pork products, including “hams, gammons, jowls, and bacon.” In the process, he addressed two very different sorts of readers. Due to the expense, only the most affluent colonists would have been in the market for a carriage, whether new or “SECOND HAND.” However, “any family” would have needed hams and bacon for sustenance.

The dual purposes of Morel’s advertisement, like the hodgepodge of content throughout the rest of the newspaper, testify to habits of intensive reading in the eighteenth century. Given that far more colonists would have been interested in purchasing pork than a used carriage, Morel depended on careful attention to his advertisement. He assumed that readers would not pass over the remainder of the advertisement when they noticed the carriage at the beginning but instead continue reading to the end, including the portion that marketed hams and bacon. Certainly not every reader actually read every word of the newspaper, but the lack of organization made it imperative for readers to cast more than a casual glance to find the content they desired.

December 2

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

Dec 2 - 12:2:1767 Georgia Gazette“A FOUR SHEET MAP of SOUTH-CAROLINA and PART of GEORGIA”

This advertisement for a “FOUR SHEET MAP of SOUTH-CAROLINA and PART of GEORGIA” would have been quite familiar to regular readers of the Georgia Gazette. It had been appearing in the pages of that newspaper for more than a year. While James Johnston, the printer of the newspaper and purveyor of the map certainly wanted to sell copies he still had on hand after all that time, the advertisement also served another important purpose. In a publication that sometimes lacked sufficient content to fill its pages, Johnston frequently inserted the advertisement as filler.

That seems to have been the case in the December 2, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette. The issue consisted of three pages of news and a final page devoted to advertising. A variety of articles densely filled the first three pages, yet the final page featured significant amounts of white space as part of each advertisement. Notice the amount of space between the body of the advertisement and the lines that separated it from the advertisements printed before and after. That had not been part of the design two weeks earlier when Samuel Douglass and Company’s advertisement that extended more than an entire column forced the compositor to squeeze all of the other paid notices together, eliminating any hint of negative space. The text on the two pages given over to advertising in that issue appeared just as dense as the text of the news items.

In addition to Johnston’s perennial advertisement for a map of South Carolina and Georgia, many other advertisements in the December 2 issue previously ran in other issues (though none of them nearly as many times). Each had been modified to include white space before and after the body of the advertisement, stretching them out in order to fill the entire page. This did not require completely resetting the type, but it did transform portions of each advertisement into filler that helped the printer deliver a complete issue to subscribers. Beyond the revenues they generated, newspaper advertisements served other purposes for colonial printers.

November 25

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

Nov 25 - 11:25:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 25, 1767).

“LOAF SUGAR, BOHEA TEAD, MENS SADDLES.”

The typography of John Rae’s advertisement distinguished it from others that ran in the November 25, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette. Most of the items for sale in his list-style advertisement appeared in capital letters, a style deployed sparingly elsewhere among the paid notices. This indicates that the advertiser sometimes exercised some influence over the format of advertisements in the eighteenth century, even though standard practice dictated that the advertisers write copy but leave it to the discretion of printers and compositors to determine the layout and other typographical aspects of advertisements.

Rae’s advertisement suggests collaboration between advertiser and compositor. Compared to newspapers printed in other colonies, especially in the largest port cities, the Georgia Gazette featured relatively little innovative typography in its advertisements. The compositor generally adhered to a particular format in order to achieve speed and efficiency when setting type. Rae may not have specifically instructed that his goods appear in capital letters; instead, he may have merely requested some unique attribute to attract the attention of potential customers. The compositor, less imaginative than counterparts in printing offices in other colonies, may have considered the capital letters an adequate solution.

The headline – “The Subscriber has for Sale” – in an ornate font also may have been an attempt to create a distinctive visual style for Rae’s advertisement. Four other advertisements in the November 25 issue included headlines: “Wanted to Hire,” “Wanted on Hire,” “To be Hired by the Month or Year,” and “Brought to the Work-house.” Each of these introduced advertisements concerning servants or slaves, again hinting that the compositor devised particular methods for setting type for specific kinds of advertisements. Rae may have disrupted that system by requesting that his headline appear in that font. Alternately, when pressed to spruce up Rae’s advertisement, the compositor may have resorted to a familiar method that did not require excessive creativity. The compositor may have been capable of only limited innovation.

The visual aspects of Rae’s advertisement raise many questions about the process that went into creating it. It may be tempting to dismiss its format as arbitrary or haphazard, but comparing it to others on the same page reveals that someone – advertiser, compositor, or the two in collaboration – made deliberate choices in creating an advertisement that differed from all others in the same issue.

November 18

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

Nov 18 - 11:18:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 18, 1767).

“Several other articles too tedious to mention.”

Samuel Douglass and Company did not want prospective customers to merely take them at their word that they stocked “A COMPLEAT ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS.” To demonstrate their extensive inventory they published a newspaper advertisement that listed hundred of items available at their shop. That advertisement began at the bottom of one column and entirely filled the next, making it rather unique among advertisements in the Georgia Gazette in the 1760s. Other merchants and shopkeepers in Savannah sometimes placed list-style advertisements, but the longest typically extended one-quarter or one-third of a column.

Due to its length, Douglass and Company’s advertisement was one of the most prominent items in the November 18, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette. It accounted for slightly more than one of the eight columns of content in the issue, certainly a significant investment for Douglass and Company and a windfall for printer James Johnston. The Georgia Gazette sometimes struggled to attract advertisers, as demonstrated by the generous white space that separated paid notices in other issues, but in this instance shorter advertisements had an even more compact appearance as the result of efforts to make them all fit within the standard four-page issue.

Although an advertisement of such length was rather extraordinary in the Georgia Gazette, it would not necessarily have looked out of place to colonists. Regular readers would have certainly noticed it because it deviated from the advertisements that usually appeared in that newspaper, but newspapers printed in other colonies circulated so widely that readers likely would have encountered similar lengthy advertisements in other publications. Douglass and Company may have figured that if shopkeepers in other colonial ports found the method effective enough that they repeatedly placed notices that filled an entire column that it might be worth trying the same strategy in their local newspaper as a means of distinguishing themselves from their competitors.

In placing this advertisement, Douglass and Company announced to the residents of Savannah and its hinterland that even though they resided in the most recently established colony they still had access to the same variety of consumer goods sold in Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere throughout the colonies. To underscore that point, they concluded their list by asserting that they also carried “several other articles too tedious to mention.”

November 4

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

Nov 4 - 11:4:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 4, 1767).

“They … carry on the ART of SURVEYING.”

In the November 4, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette, James Anderson and Samuel Savery placed an advertisement “to inform the Publick” that they had formed a partnership and “carr[ied] on the ART of SURVEYING in all its branches.” While Anderson and Savery referred to their work as an art, it was also a technical skill that required both expertise and special equipment. Surveyors needed to understand trigonometry and other mathematics more advanced than most colonists mastered. Given the stakes involved in their work, they also needed to cultivate trust. Anderson and Savery asserted that they drew up plans that were “neatly and accurately done” and did so “with punctuality and dispatch.” They sought to convince potential clients that they were dependable and professional.

Anderson and Savery offered their services to “Gentlemen who desire plans of their islands or estates,” but many other surveyors worked for the colonial government. Their work was essential in transferring land from the crown to the private owners. From the founding of the colony in 1732 until 1752, a Board of Trustees governed Georgia. Throughout most of the period the Trustees designated a public surveyor. On the recommendation of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, George II placed the colony under royal authority and established a civil government that consisted of a governor, an assemble, and other necessary offices. This included the surveyor general, an official responsible for administering land grants and public land surveys. According to Ferris W. Cadle, “In time, the duties of this office increased to such an extent that the surveyor general performed very little of the actual surveying, the office having become primarily administrative with the fieldwork left to deputies.”[1]

Anderson and Savery may have worked on behalf of the colonial government at some point in their careers, but in the late 1760s they advertised a different service. They offered to help landholders gain an even better understanding of their property beyond whatever initial surveys had been conducted. Like other surveyors in colonial America, they contributed to imposing order on a frontier.

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[1] Ferris W. Cadle, Georgia Land Surveying History and Law (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991), 29.

October 28

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

Oct 28 - 10:28:1767 Georgia Gazette
Advertisements for slaves dominated the final page of the October 28, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette.  Twelve advertisements that explicitly mentioned slaves are identified with red.  An additional advertisement, identified with blue, sought an overseer who would have presumably managed enslaved laborers.

“TO BE SOLD, A Likely Young NEGROE WENCH.”

Advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children dominated the notices published in the Georgia Gazette in the 1760s. Of the thirty-six advertisements in the October 28, 1767, edition, twelve concerned slaves. Nine offered slaves for sale or to be “hired out by the Month or Year.” One described a runaway slave and offered a reward to anyone who captured him and delivered him “to the Warden of the Work-house in Savannah.” Another described a fugitive “with an iron on his right leg” who had been detained at the workhouse. One slaveholder announced that “AN OVERSEER is wanted to take charge of about 20 negroes to be employed in the planting of rice.” In addition, four other advertisements offered employment to overseers but did not explicitly mention slaves, yet any overseer “well acquainted with plantation business” most certainly would have expected to manage slaves as part of the job.

In addition to indicating how extensively Georgians incorporated slavery into the commerce and culture of their colony, these advertisements reveal an important aspect of operating a printing business, including publishing the only newspaper in the province, during the decade before the American Revolution. Few colonial newspapers attracted sufficient subscribers to generate profits or even continue publication. Instead, the printers relied on advertising for revenues. Given that one out of three paid notices in the October 28 issue explicitly mentioned slaves and another four sought overseers, James Johnston depended on advertisements concerning the bondage of men, women, and children to fund the publication of the Georgia Gazette. This was neither unique nor extraordinary to this particular issue. The Adverts 250 Project previously examined the high proportion of advertisements about slaves in another issue published four months earlier. Advertisements for slaves regularly dominated the paid notices in the Georgia Gazette.

Yet it was not just Johnston, the printer, who relied on the revenue from these advertisements to continue publishing and distributing the Georgia Gazette. The residents of the colony also depended on advertisements about slaves to bring them other news, foreign and domestic, including the list of taxes to be assessed on various commodities when the Townshend Act went into effect on November 20. That excerpt from “An Act for granting certain Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America” was printed on the other side of the page that featured the twelve advertisements for slaves in the October 28 edition. Those advertisements not only contributed to the livelihood of the printer and the continuation of the newspapers, they also made possible the dissemination of news throughout the colony. Advertisements about slaves funded an important civic institution in colonial Georgia.