January 10

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

Jan 10 1770 - 1:10:1770 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (January 10, 1770).


Most advertisements for goods and services in colonial newspapers came from local providers, though local did not necessarily mean close proximity to the printing office. Newspapers served not only the towns and cities where they where they were published but also entire colonies or regions. Newspapers printed in Philadelphia, for instance, served colonists in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland. Similarly, the Georgia Gazette served residents of Savannah and the rest of the colony. In large part this was because it was the only newspaper printed in the colony in 1770. With the exception of subscription notices for books and magazines, very few advertisements in colonial newspapers originated from beyond the region that any particular newspaper served.

Most of the advertisements in the January 10, 1770, edition of the Georgia Gazette came from Savannah, though the partnership of Williams and Mackay did insert a notice concerning “Their Trading House in Augusta.” Merchants and shopkeepers in Sunbury also placed advertisements in the Georgia Gazette on occasion, but the newspaper received few notices from neighboring South Carolina or beyond.

John Sketchley and Company of Gosport, England, placed one of those rare advertisements, addressing it to “their friends in the Carolina Trade.” They informed colonial merchants who traded rice, one of the staple commodities produced in the Lower South, that they made significant additions and improvements to their “THREE COMMODIOUS STOREHOUSES, built with brick and tile.” They further described their wharf in Gosport as “one of the most convenient in England for large ships, as well as small vessels.” Furthermore, Sketchley and Company pledged to serve their clients “with the greatest care, diligence, and dispatch.” By placing an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette, they hoped to divert vessels departing from Savannah to their wharf and storehouses in Gosport rather than sailing for other British ports. Due to the distance, placing their advertisement in the Georgia Gazette required more coordination than most that ran in that newspaper, but Sketchley and Company apparently considered it worth the investment in time and effort. In the process, the colonial press made the British Atlantic world just a little bit smaller with an advertisement that integrated commercial interests in Georgia and southern England.

December 23

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 23, 1766).

“CARVER’S Wharf, at Gosport.”

Most eighteenth-century advertisements – whether promotions of consumer goods and services, legal notices, or other sorts of announcements – tended to be local, which made this advertisement for “CARVER’S Wharf, at Gosport” at the entrance of Portsmouth Harbor in southern England rather unique. Very rarely did advertising in colonial newspapers originate on the other side of the Atlantic.

Merchants and masters of vessels frequently placed advertisements announcing when ships were scheduled to sail for England and other destinations. Half a dozen such advertisements, seeking to contract for “Freight or Passage,” appeared in the December 23, 1766, issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, accompanied by woodcuts of ships to make them easily identifiable at a glance. Such advertisements, however, rarely elaborated on how any cargo would be handled once it arrived at its destination.

This advertisement for “CARVER’S Wharf, at Gosport,” on the other hand, addressed many concerns merchants, planters, and other producers might have had concerning the logistics of getting rice, indigo, hides, and other goods to markets in England. The harbor was deep enough for ships loaded with rice and other cargo to “lay a-float at all Times of the Tide.” In addition, “the Wharf is now covered,” which meant that cargo could be offloaded regardless of the weather. Despite its location about eighty miles south of London, mail service to the capital operated every day, making it convenient to contact business associates. To aid in moving cargoes to market, numerous porters and wagons could be hired at Gosport. These factors numbered among the “many Additions and Improvements lately made,” but the advertisement also promised “many other Advantages attend the Proprietors of Ships and Cargoes too tedious to mention.”

The Adverts 250 Project usually examines advertisements that addressed potential customers in efforts to incite consumption. Today’s advertisement, however, shows portions of the other side of the process by focusing on exporting rice and other goods. Production and distribution of staple crops and other goods helped make it possible for colonists to participate in the consumer revolution. Sometimes producers were the targets of advertisements that offered services to facilitate commerce.