June 16

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (June 13, 1771).

Advertisements … are by him translated gratis.”

When printer Henry Miller (Johann Heinrich Müller) moved to a new location in the spring of 1771, he placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal to alert current and prospective customers.  He also used the opportunity to advise them of specialized services he provided, proclaiming that he performed “all Manner of PRINTING-WORK, in English, German, and other Languages.”  In particular, Miller noted “English and German ADVERTISEMENTS done on the shortest Notice; and a German NEWS-PAPER published every Tuesday.”  A migrant from Germany himself, Miller granted prospective advertisers greater access to the sizable German community in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Miller commenced printing the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote in 1762, making it well established by the time he ran his advertisements in the colony’s English newspapers in 1771.  The final line of those advertisements in those newspapers echoed a note that appeared in the masthead of his own newspaper, usually the only portion printed in English rather than German.  “All ADVERTISEMENTS,” it read, “to be inserted in this Paper, or printed single by HENRY MILLER, Publisher hereof, are by him translated gratis.”  In offering his services as a translator and not charging for it, Miller sought to generate revenue by increasing the number of advertisers who placed notices in the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote.

The printer also produced other forms of advertising.  Items “printed single” likely included broadsides, handbills, trade cards, billheads, and catalogs.  Like their counterparts printed in English, those advertisements were ephemeral compared to the newspapers and almanacs that came off of Miller’s press.  Few survive today, but Miller’s newspaper advertisements and masthead suggest that various kinds of advertisements in German enhanced the vibrant advertising culture that emerged in Philadelphia in the decades before the American Revolution.  As newspapers, handbills, and other items printed by Miller circulated in Philadelphia and beyond, colonists encountered marketing in more than one language, underscoring global networks of commerce and migration in vast early America.

February 17

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

Wöchentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote (February 12, 1771).

All ADVERTISEMENTS … translated gratis.”

Henry Miller (Johann Heinrich Muller) printed the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote from January 1762 through May 1779, serving the German-speaking community in Philadelphia and its hinterlands.  Reflecting the reach of the publication, Miller changed the name to the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote in January 1768.  The newspaper began as a weekly, like most others published in colonial America.  It temporarily became a semi-weekly from May 1775 through July 1776, but reverted to a weekly after that.

While intended primarily for German speakers, the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote also aided other colonists in disseminating information, including legal notices and advertisements for consumer goods and services, to broader audiences than they otherwise would have reached via the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Pennsylvania Gazette, Pennsylvania Journal, and other English-language newspapers published in Philadelphia.  Miller encouraged such submissions in the masthead with a nota bene in English, usually the only portion of the newspaper not in German.  “AllADVERTISEMENTS,” the printer proclaimed, “to be inserted in this Paper, or printed single by HENRY MILLER, Publisher hereof, are by him translated gratis.” Placing the nota bene about translating advertisements in the masthead at the top of the first page made it much more visible than nestling it in the colophon at the bottom of the final page.  Miller wanted to increase the likelihood that prospective advertisers would become aware of this service.  To make it even more enticing, he did the translations for free rather than applying an additional charge.  Any advertisements “printed single,” such as broadsides, handbills, and trade cards, yielded even wider circulation of information among German-speaking colonists.

The Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote served a particular community, but not in an insulated fashion.  The printer offered a means for English-speaking colonists to share information and seek customers among the German-speaking community.  For purveyors of goods and services, this presented opportunities to enlarge the market for their wares.  This was good business for everyone involved, including German speakers who gained access to more information, English speakers who attracted customers to their businesses, and the printer who generated revenues from each advertisement he translated and published.

January 24

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

Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote (January 24, 1769).

All ADVERTISEMENTS to be inserted in this Paper … are by him translated gratis.”

The Adverts 250 Project does not often feature advertisements placed in the Wochentliche Pennsylvania Staatsbote, not because they were any less prevalent in that newspaper than others but because I do not possess sufficient German language skills to incorporate that publication into the larger project. As a result, the overall project is indeed truncated because it rarely includes advertisements that ran in the newspaper published by Henry Miller (Johann Heinrich Müller) in Germantown, just outside of Philadelphia.

Miller sought to serve residents of the busy urban port and the surrounding region, whether or not they happened to speak or read German. He published the Wochentliche Pennsylvania Staatsbote almost entirely in German, with the exception of the final line of the masthead: “ALL ADVERTISEMENTS to be inserted in this Paper, or printed single by HENRY MILLER, publisher hereof, are by him translated gratis.” Miller made it possible for English-speaking merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans to promote consumer goods and services to their German-speaking neighbors, as well as others to publish paid notices that covered a range of purposes, from legal notices to advertisements about stray livestock. In addition to inserting their notices into the Wochentliche Pennsylvania Staatsbote, they could also have them “printed single” as broadsides, handbills, trade cards, billheads, or other ephemera that came off printing presses in eighteenth-century America. To better encourage prospective advertisers to take advantage of this opportunity, Miller did not charge for an important part of the service. He did all of the translations for free.

This presents a new trajectory that scholars of advertising in early America could examine: how many advertisers that placed notices in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal inserted the same notices in the Wochentliche Pennsylvania Staatsbote? Were any types of notices most likely to appear in both English and German newspapers? For instance, did legal notices run in both English and German newspapers more frequently than advertisements for consumer goods and services? One of the pleasures of working on the Adverts 250 Project is that it often just as many new questions as existing questions that it answers.

April 12

GUEST CURATOR:  Sean Sullivan

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

Apr 12 - 4:12:1768 Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote
“An apprentice is needed for this well and fin occupation. Those interested should inquire of the publisher of this paper.” Wochenlichte Philadelphische Staatsbote (April 12, 1768).

“Es Verlangt Jemand Einen Lehrburschen.”

In contemporary America where all those of European descent are typically simply labeled under the moniker of ‘white,’ we can forget that the diversity of European cultures present during the colonial period was often a defining aspect of people’s lives. Settlers from different places in Europe brought their own traditions, aesthetics, Christian denominations, and, most importantly, languages to the colonies they considered a new world. In Pennsylvania, Germans left an indelible mark on colonial culture. Such was the scope of German immigration to the British colonies that newspapers such as the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote sprung up to cater to the large German-speaking population.

The advertisement shown above asked for an apprentice, likely one for the paper itself. The very act of putting out such an advertisement indicates that there was a large enough German-speaking population (of youths in particular, as apprentices would themselves be in their teenage years) that an advertisement in this newspaper would be worth the cost and would likely ensure a response. This advertisement also implies that business was good enough between the newspaper and job printing that the printer needed more assistance, a likely case given the sheer magnitude of the number of Germans in Pennsylvania in this period.

For more information, see “German Settlement in Pennsylvania:  An Overview” from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.



Today Sean introduces the first advertisement from a German-language newspaper featured on the Adverts 250 Project, noting that a substantial population of German migrants to Pennsylvania established their its own newspapers and participated in shaping colonial culture and commerce.  The Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbotewas not the only German-language newspaper that served that community in 1768.  The Germantowner Zeitungalso disseminated news and advertising to colonists who spoke German rather than English.

Yet those titles represent only a fraction of the more than two dozen German-language newspapers published in Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century.  See the list below, compiled from Clarence Brigham’s monumental History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, for a complete census of known German-language newspapers founded prior to 1800.  Nine were founded prior to the American Revolution, another four during the years of the war, and the remaining thirteen after independence had been achieved. The Harrisburger Morgenröthe Zeitung continued publication well into the nineteenth century, demonstrating that German migrants and their descendants continued to maintain their own language and some aspects of their culture even as they participated in creating a distinctive American identity in the era of the early republic.  This series of newspapers testifies to the presence of German migrants in colonial America.  German settlers in Pennsylvania were among the many ethnic groups other than the English that made a home in England’s North American colonies.

  • Philadelphische Zeitung, 1732
  • [Germantown] Hoch-Deutsch Pensylvanische Geschicht-Schreiber, 1739-1746
  • [Germantown] Pensylvanische Berichte, 1746-1762
  • Philadelphier Teutsche Fama, 1749-1751
  • Lancastersche Zeitung, 1752-1753
  • [Philadelphia] Hoch Teutsche und Englische Zeitung, 1751-1752
  • Germantowner Zeitung, 1762-1777
  • [Philadelphia] Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote, 1762-1779
  • [Germantown] Wahre und Wahrscheinliche, 1766
  • [Philadelphia] Pennsylvanische Staats-Courier, 1777-1778
  • [Lancaster] Pennsylvanische Zeitungs-Blat, 1778
  • Philadelphisches Staatsregister, 1779-1781
  • [Philadelphia] Gemeinnützige Philadelphische Correspondenz, 1781-1790
  • Germantauner Zeitung, 1785-1799
  • [Lancaster] Neue Unpartheyische Lancaster Zeitung, 1787-1797
  • [Reading] Neue Unpartheyische Readinger Zeitung, 1789-1802
  • [Philadelphia] General-Postbothe, 1790
  • [Chestnut Hill] Chesnuthiller Wochenschrift, 1790-1796
  • [Philadelphia] Neue Philadelphische Correspondenz, 1790-1812
  • [Easton] Neuer Unpartheyischer Eastoner Bothe, 1793-1805
  • [York] Unpartheyische York Gazette, 1796-1804
  • [Philadelphia] Pensylvaniche Correspondenz, 1797-1800
  • [Lancaster] Deutsche Porcupein, 1798-1799
  • Lancaster Wochenblatt, 1799
  • [York] Volks-Bericher, 1799-1803
  • Harrisburger Morgenröthe Zeitung, 1799-1820+