What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Ratteen, / Wiltons, / Sagathees, / Ducapes, / Lutestrings.”
James King and Jacob Treadwell each advertised a variety of consumer goods in the June 1m 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. King’s advertisement took the more standard form. After a brief introduction that included his name and location, the remainder of the advertisement consisted of a dense paragraph of text. King listed dozens of items available at his shop, from textiles to “a Variety of Necklaces” to hardware.
Treadwell also published a catalog of the goods he sold, but his advertisement had a less common format. Rather than a single paragraph, Treadwell’s notice divided the goods into three columns, listing only one item on most lines. Given the space constraints, some items overflowed onto additional lines, such as “Shoe and Knee / Buckels,” “Wool and Cot- / ton Cards,” and “Silk, Lamb, and / Worsted Gloves / and Mitts.” Creating columns also produced white space within the advertisement; the combination made Treadwell’s advertisement easier to peruse than King’s. It likely helped prospective customers more fully appreciate Treadwell’s extensive assortment of merchandise. That columns required more space also communicated the range of consumer choice, though Treadwell paid to make that part of the appeal he presented to readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette. In the eighteenth century, advertisers paid by the amount of space their notices occupied on the page, not the number of words.
To provide further visual distinction, some goods in Treadwell’s advertisement appeared in italics: “BRoad Cloths,” “Furniture Check,” “Damask Napkins,” “Laces of all sorts,” “Shoemakers Tools,” and “Breeches patterns.” Why these particular items is not readily apparent today … and may not have been in 1770 either. Did Treadwell believe they were in high demand? Did he have surplus inventory? Did Treadwell even instruct that those items appear in italics or did the compositor independently make the decision to provide even greater variation in the advertisement? Whatever the reason, the graphic design elements of Treadwell’s advertisement likely garnered greater attention for it than King’s notice in standard format that ran on the same page.