What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“A small warehouse … in Baltimore.”
The Pennsylvania Chronicle, like other American newspapers published prior to the American Revolution, served a large region. Published in Philadelphia, it circulated in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York. Some copies certainly made their way to even more distant places, but it was residents of those colonies that considered the Pennsylvania Chronicle a local newspaper in terms of subscribing and advertising.
Such was the case for James Clarke, a woolen manufacturer in Baltimore, when he wished to inform “all Merchants and Traders, that he has just imported … A NEAT assortment” of merchandise “which he purposes to dispose of by wholesale.” He invited “any merchant or tobacco planter” to contact him or visit his warehouse “at the sign of Pitt’s Head, in Baltimore.” When he placed his advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle in July 1771, Baltimore did not yet have its own newspaper. Just over two years later, William Goddard, the printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, would commence publishing the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, but for the time being Clarke and others in Baltimore read and advertised in newspapers published elsewhere. In addition to the Pennsylvania Chronicle, they had several options, including the Maryland Gazette published by Anne Catherine Green in Annapolis, the Pennsylvania Gazette published by David Hall and William Sellers in Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Journal published by William Bradford and Thomas Bradford in Philadelphia. Henry Miller also published a German-language newspaper, the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote, in Philadelphia. By the end of 1771, John Dunlap launched yet another newspaper in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Packet, giving Clarke and others in Baltimore another option for a regional newspaper in the absence of one printed locally.
Advertisements like those placed by Clarke testified to the regional character of the Pennsylvania Chronicle and other newspapers. Many of them included datelines that helped readers navigate the notices and determine which were most relevant to them, such as “Baltimore, July 1, 1771” at the top of Clarke’s advertisement. The woolen manufacturer understood that the publication circulated widely and expected that prospective customers in Baltimore and the surrounding area would see his notice among the greater number of advertisements placed by merchants, shopkeepers, artisans and others who ran businesses in Philadelphia.