August 2

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

Aug 2 - 8:2:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 2, 1769).

“THE subscribers being desirous to close all their concerns, in the dry good business.”

Inglis and Hall were among the most prolific advertisers in the Georgia Gazette in the late 1760s. They frequently inserted lengthy advertisements listing goods imported from Britain, the Caribbean, and other faraway places. They also participated in the transatlantic slave trade, advertising enslaved men, women, and children.

In the summer of 1769, the partners placed an advertisement announcing that they intended to “close all their concerns, in the dry good business.” Like other merchants and shopkeepers, Inglis and Hall extended credit to their customers. In preparation for going out of business, they asked their “friends” to pay any debts incurred prior to January 1. Those who made purchases since then presumably had more time to settle accounts. Despite their amicable description of their customers as “friends,” Inglis and Hall expressed exasperation that some of them “have given little or no attention to their repeated calls” to submit payment.   This was the last warning, the partners proclaimed, because those who did not “settle to their satisfaction” in one month’s time “may depend on being sued without further notice.” After first dispensing with that important piece of business, Inglis and Hall promoted their remaining merchandise, advising prospective customers that they still had “a variety of the most useful articles” in stock.

For several years Inglis and Hall provided residents of Savannah and the rest of the colony with vast assortments of goods, encouraging them to participate in the consumer revolution that was taking place throughout the British Atlantic world and beyond. During that time they were also important customers for James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette. For eighteenth-century newspaper printers, selling advertisements was often more lucrative than selling subscriptions. Most advertisements that ran in the Georgia Gazette were fairly short, extending three to fifteen lines. At fourteen lines, Inglis and Hall’s advertisement announcing the end of their dry goods business was short compared to many others that they placed in the Georgia Gazette, advertisements that filled half a column or more. Although Johnston did brisk business when it came to advertisements, he must have been disappointed to lose such an important customer and all of the revenue Inglis and Hall contributed to the operations of the Georgia Gazette.

May 17

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

May 17 - 5:17:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 17, 1769).

“HANDCUFFS and CHAINS … and sundry other Stores proper for the African trade.”

The business of slavery was apparent throughout the Georgia Gazette and other colonial newspapers in the 1760s, especially in the advertisements. While some newspapers certainly published more advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children than others, none excluded such content. From New Hampshire to Georgia, advertisements looking to buy or sell slaves or capture those who managed to escape from colonists who held them in bondage appeared among the other advertisements in the public prints. Even if they were not slaveholders themselves, colonial printers facilitated and profited from the trade in enslaved men, women, and children.

Even more so than usual, this was the case for James Johnston, printer of the Georgia Gazette, in the May 17, 1769, edition. In addition to the sorts of advertisements that ran week after week in his newspaper, this issue included an advertisement promoting supplies for slavers involved in “the African trade.” Some of these goods could have been sold to purchasers involved in a variety of endeavors, such as the “FORTY IRON BOUND PUNCHEONS” (or barrels) and “a TON of GUINEY RICE.” Yet the other items offered for sale were not so prosaic: “HANDCUFFS and CHAINS,” “SIX SOLDIERS MUSKETS,” and “FOUR CARRIAGE GUNS.” These were not merely supplies for transatlantic voyages; they were tools of violence and subordination required for trafficking in human cargo.

Elsewhere in the same issue auctioneers Ewen and Bolton advertised a “NEW NEGROE WENCH,” a woman who was not “country born” in Georgia or elsewhere in mainland North America. In another advertisement, William Coachman described “SARAH, a tall Guiney wench” who had escaped a month earlier. Both had survived the middle passage from Africa to the American colonies. As women, they were less likely than their male counterparts to spend the voyage in “HANDCUFFS and CHAINS,” but, at the very least, they most certainly saw other captives so restrained during the ordeal. Both had been subject to the violence of the slave trade and ongoing exploitation upon arriving in Georgia.

All of that was part of a system that played a significant role in sustaining newspapers like the Georgia Gazette. Eleven advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children ran in the May 17 issue, making Johnston complicit in “the African trade.” The advertisement for “HANDCUFFS and CHAINS” and other equipment for participating in the transatlantic slave trade did not make the printer any more complicit. Instead, it underscored the depravity of the enterprise that appeared so prominently in the pages of his newspapers week after week.

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.

November 16

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

Nov 16 - 11:16:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 16, 1768).

“About THIRTY VERY LIKELY SLAVES.”

Inglis and Hall’s advertisement for “About THIRTY VERY LIKELY SLAVES” ran in the Georgia Gazette for a second time on November 16, 1768. It briefly noted that more than two dozen slaves had “Just arrived from the West-Indies” and were “To be sold on reasonable Terms.” The notice included a crude woodcut that depicted two adults and a child, though this did not necessarily reflect the composition of the human cargo hawked by the prominent merchants. It appeared in three consecutive issues before being discontinued.

Unlike most advertisements that ran for multiple weeks, it included a slight revision to the copy, the addition of a date: “Nov. 9, 1768.” That date indicated when the notice first appeared in the Georgia Gazette, not the date Inglis and Hall wrote the copy. Given the production time required for setting type and operating the printing press by hand, the merchants would have submitted their advertisement at least a day before the publication date of the issue in which it first appeared. According to the shipping news in the November 9 edition, the slaves likely arrived in Savannah aboard the “Schooner Friendship” from Grenada on November 4 or aboard the “Ship Industry” from Antigua on November 8, the same day that the “Schooner Liberty” arrived from Charleston.

Why add a date to the advertisement? That may have been done at the behest of Inglis and Hall, especially if they wished to make clear to prospective buyers that the slaves they offered for sale had not languished in Savannah for an extended period. John Graham and Company placed an advertisement for “A Parcel of Choice Healthy GUINEY and GOLD COAST NEW NEGROES” in the November 16 issue. Perhaps aware of the competition, Inglis and Hall did not want their advertisement mistaken as one that had appeared for weeks or even months. After all, the notices concerning runaway slaves included some dated July 6 and August 11. Alternately, the compositor may have simply neglected to include the date in the first insertion and rectified the error for the next issue. The updated advertisement, however, at least raises the possibility that Inglis and Hall made an intervention based on new information that came into their possession after it first appeared in the Georgia Gazette.

October 26

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

Oct 26 - 10:26:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 26, 1768).

“WHITE, green, and blue plains, London duffils, shags, white and striped flannels, striped linsies.”

In the fall of 1768, Rae and Somerville promoted their “Compleat ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS” in an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette. The partners listed dozens of items in a notice that extended approximately one-third of a column. Compared to list-style advertisements that appeared in newspapers printed in other cities, especially the busiest ports, this advertisement may have seemed relatively short. Compared to other advertisements for consumer goods in the Georgia Gazette, however, Rae and Somerville’s notice was extensive.

Advertisements of a similar length did appear in the colony’s only newspaper, but they usually had other purposes. Many fell in the category of legal notices. Elsewhere in the same issue, advertisements of a similar length included a notice from the provost marshal concerning the sale of lands taken “under execution” and a notice from the surveyor general warning against fraudulent methods of delineating boundaries. Estate sales, especially when they included real estate, also tended to occupy as much space in the Georgia Gazette.

The length of Rae and Somerville’s advertisement made it particularly noticeable, especially considering that the Georgia Gazette featured only two columns per page. That meant that the extensive list of merchandise accounted for one-sixth of a page in the standard four-page issue. It was twice the length of any other advertisement for consumer goods in the same edition, with only one exception. Inglis and Hall once again inserted their advertisement for goods recently imported on the Industry and the Georgia Packet. Longer than most, it was not as lengthy as Rae and Somerville’s notice, neither by the number of items listed nor by the column inches. Inglis and Hall had listed only one item per line rather than a dense block of text that crowded as many items as possible into the space Rae and Somerville had purchased.

In addition, Inglis and Hall frequently advertised in the Georgia Gazette. When it came to presenting notices to local consumers via the newspaper, Inglis and Hall were the colony’s most prominent merchants. Readers were accustomed to seeing their lengthy advertisements. Rae and Somerville, on the other hand, had not previously made the same investment in advertising in the public prints. That made their extensive advertisement all the more noteworthy to those who regularly read the Georgia Gazette. In the range of newspaper advertisements for consumer goods published throughout the colonies in the 1760s, Rae and Somerville’s notice fits somewhere in the middle in terms of the number of items listed and how much of a column it occupied. Compared to others in the Georgia Gazette, the barometer most readers would have used, it was an exceptionally extensive advertisement. Its intended impact must be considered relative to experiences of the audience who would have read it.

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.

August 3

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

Aug 3 - 8:3:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 3, 1768).

“A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH.”

The shipping news in the August 3, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette reported that five ships had “ENTERED OUTWARD” from the customs house at Savannah in the previous week, including the “Snow Pitt, [captained by] John Copithorn” bound for London. That was not, however, the only mention of the Pitt in that issue of Georgia’s only newspaper. As Copithorn and his crew prepared for their departure, local merchants sold the recently imported goods transported from Bristol aboard the Pitt. They also wrote copy for advertisements and submitted their notices to James Johnston’s printing office on Broughton Street.

The partnership of Inglis and Hall, prominent merchants and slave traders, stocked a variety of goods delivered to the colony by Copithorn and the Pitt. Their inventory included an assortment of textiles as well as “Ironmongery, of all kinds; … Saddlery; … Glass Ware of most kinds; … With many other Articles.” As tall as it was wide, their substantial advertisement occupied a fair amount of space on the page, especially compared to many of the other paid notices comprised of only two to five lines.

Read and Mossman placed one of those other advertisements. In it, they announced: “JUST IMPORTED by the subscribers, in the Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol, A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH.” In comparison to such brevity, Inglis and Hall listed twenty different textiles as well as “suitable Trimmings” to adorn them according to the latest fashions. Current tastes did not matter nearly as much, if at all, when outfitting slaves for domestic labor or work in the fields. The “WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” sold by Read and Mossman would have been osnaburg or a similarly rough fabric, one valued more for its durability than its comfort or attractiveness.

The “Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol” delivered a variety of goods to the Georgia marketplace. Some merited more marketing efforts than others. Inglis and Hall’s extensive list of textiles and other goods conjured images of vast consumer choices for those who would purchase and use the items themselves. On the other hand, Read and Mossman realized that “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” required no additional marketing, especially since those who would be wearing garments made of the cloth would not make the choice when it came to purchasing it. Although both partnerships focused primarily on fabrics imported on the same ship, Inglis and Hall advertised consumer goods while Read and Mossman advertised commodities.

June 8

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

Jun 8 - 6:8:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 8, 1768).

“A CHOICE CARGO OF 250 PRIME SLAVES.”

In early June 1768 merchants Alexander Inglis and Nathaniel Hall advertised the sale of “A CHOICE CARGO OF 250 PRIME SLAVES, Just arrived, in the Ship Constantine, Thomas Gullan Commander, after a short Passage, directly from Angola.” Their advertisement provides various details about a particular slave trading voyage, enough to identify it as Voyage 17665 in Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

According to the database, the Constantine departed Bristol on April 21, 1767, and sailed to West Central Africa and St. Helena to purchase slaves. The database does not include entries for “Date trade began in Africa” or “Date vessel departed Africa,” but it does specify the “Date vessel arrived with slaves” in Savannah: June 1, 1768, the same day that Inglis and Hall’s advertisement first appeared in the Georgia Gazette. The merchants allowed just over a week before selling their slaves on June 9, allowing them two opportunities to advertise their human cargo in the colony’s only newspaper.

Given that more than a year passed between the beginning of the voyage and the ship’s arrival in Savannah, it appears that the Constantine spent quite some time on the African coast. The voyage for some of the enslaved Africans likely consisted of more than just the Middle Passage between Africa and North America, especially if Inglis and Hall accurately reported a “short Passage” across the Atlantic. Given the notoriously high mortality rates and deterioration of health experienced by survivors of the Middle Passage, Inglis and Hall may have exaggerated the length of the voyage across the ocean. Even so, some of the Africans among the human cargo likely spent weeks or months imprisoned aboard the Constantine before the vessel even departed for Georgia.

The database indicates that Gullan intended to purchase 400 slaves but only embarked approximately 275. According to Inglis and Hall, only 250 disembarked in Savannah. Nearly one in ten died during the Middle Passage. Unfortunately, the known records do not reveal the percentages of men and women or the ages of the enslaved Africans who arrived in the colonies via the Constantine.

The entry for Voyage 17665 does not list the advertisement in the Georgia Gazette as one of the sources, but I suspect that it was incorporated into the secondary source listed in the entry, David Richardson’s Bristol, Africa, and the Eighteenth-Century Slave Trade to America. Other entries do list advertisements from colonial American newspapers, highlighting their role in reconstructing the transatlantic slave trade.

May 25

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

May 25 - 5:25:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 25, 1768).

“MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM WARES, daily expected from Bristol.”

In an advertisement they placed in the May 25, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, merchants Inglis and Hall promoted merchandise they already had on hand. In addition, they attempted to stoke anticipation for inventory that would be available soon but had not yet arrived at their store in Savannah.

Inglis and Hall proclaimed that they “have just imported” an assortment of goods “from London.” They named the ships and captains that had transported that “QUANTITY of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS” across the Atlantic so readers could consult the shipping news or their own memories to confirm that they did indeed sell wares that had recently arrived in the colony.

At the same time, Inglis and Hall reported that they had ordered a “GENERAL ASSORTMENT of LINENS, WOOLENS, MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM WARES” that they expected to add to their stock soon since the vessel carrying them was “daily expected from Bristol.” Given that the Georgia Gazette, like every other newspaper published in the American colonies in 1768, appeared only once a week, it was quite possible that Inglis and Hall would make those goods available for sale before the next issue scheduled for publication on June 1. Previewing the merchandise might have drawn customers into the store for an initial visit to see what was available as well as a return visit to check for new arrivals, increasing foot traffic and potential sales.

This strategy also conditioned some prospective customers to read the weekly list of ships “ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE” printed elsewhere in the Georgia Gazette as an extension of Inglis and Hall’s advertisement. The merchants created the possibility that anyone reading that a vessel had arrived from Bristol would associate that news with their advertisement trumpeting a much more extensive inventory. Although they did not have any authority over the other content in the newspaper, Inglis and Hall harnessed the shipping news as an auxiliary component of their own advertisement.

August 26

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

Aug 26 - 8:26:1767 Photo Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 26, 1767).

“INGLIS and HALL have just imported …”

Inglis and Hall were among the most frequent advertisers of consumer goods in the Georgia Gazette in 1767. Their multiple advertisements, however, remain hidden when relying on certain technologies, especially keyword searches in online databases, to uncover them.

Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers database makes the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project possible. In many ways, it is an invaluable resource, but no database is perfect. Current technologies, as cutting edge as they may be compared to previous methods of conducting historical research, sometimes constrain or skew the process. In some instances, for example, keyword searches of newspapers uncover far fewer results than examining individual issues page by page, column by column, in chronological order. Inglis and Hall’s advertisement makes for an interesting case study.

As part of the research process for the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project, I download a copy of every American newspaper published 250 years ago that day. This already requires a clarification: I only download those that have been digitized. Some are not yet available in digital format for online consultation; others have not survived into the twenty-first century and will never be available for consultation, neither original copies nor digital surrogates.

The most efficient way to download this material from America’s Historical Newspapers involves downloading an entire issue all at once. This process results in a multipage PDF of the newspaper. It transforms the digital photo seen in the online database into a format that can sometimes be more difficult to read. Note how the photo of Inglis and Hall’s advertisement above differs from the PDF rendering below. It is possible to download photos of individual pages. Given that most newspapers were four pages, but many were six when they included an advertising supplement, this method would take at least four times as long. For the purposes of this project, it is not practical to download photos rather than PDFs of the newspapers.

Aug 26 - 8:26:1767 PDF Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 26, 1767).

Next I print hard copies of every page of every newspaper so I can mark on them and more easily consult them than if they remained strictly in digital format. Despite the comparatively poor visual quality of the PDF version, once I have printed hard copies I can work back and forth between the PDF and the more clear (but not always crisp) photos in the database when necessary.

In the case of Inglis and Hall’s advertisement, I can make out what it says in the PDF version, but I consider the photo easier to read (and more attractive and accessible for readers of the Adverts 250 Project). Still, I have to work at decoding the advertisement. Given that this takes me some effort, imagine how confusing it must be for OCR software. In fact, OCR cannot accurately read Inglis and Hall’s advertisement, not even the slightly clearer photo.

I assumed that would be the case. To test my suspicions I ran a keyword search for Inglis and Hall, limiting the year to 1767. The database turned up only two instances of Inglis and Hall advertising in the Georgia Gazette in 1767. One appeared in the January 21 issue. The database also flagged an earlier iteration of today’s advertisement in the August 19 issue, one that was much easier to read. The keyword search did not, however, identify the August 26 advertisement, yet I knew it existed because I had a hard copy originally drawn from the database sitting next to my computer. I also knew from experience reading the Georgia Gazette that Inglis and Hall advertised more than twice in 1767.

Aug 26 - 8:19:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 19, 1767).

This means that there are certain questions that keyword searches cannot address given current technological constraints. For instance: How frequently did Inglis and Hall advertise in the 1760s? Determining the answer to that question requires an older method of research, examining the newspaper page by page. The online database certainly facilitates that process, eliminating the need to consult original copies of the Georgia Gazette in archives, yet the keyword search does not always eliminate portions of the research process it was intended to streamline. Researchers cannot depend on keyword searches to be exhaustive.

As an historian, I regularly consult original copies of newspapers at the American Antiquarian Society and other archives, microfilms of newspapers, digital surrogates in databases like Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers, and hard copies that I have generated from my own photos and the materials available via databases. Each of these formats is unique and has its virtues, as well as its shortcomings. None of them replaces the others. Instead, historians must recognize the limitations and devise strategies for effectively and efficiently utilizing the various resources available to them.