January 1

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

Pennsylvania Packet (December 30, 1771).

“JOHN CARNAN … AT THE GOLDEN LION.”

In its exploration of advertising and daily life in colonial America, the Adverts 250 Project features an advertisement originally published in an American newspaper 250 years ago that day … on most days.  It is not always possible, however, to select an advertisement from the exact date.  Two factors play significant roles.  First, no printers produced newspapers on Sundays, which means that once a week the Adverts 250 Project instead features an advertisement published sometime during the previous week 250 years ago.

Second, most newspapers were weekly publications.  Even though printers staggered the dates they distributed new issues (with clusters on Mondays and Thursdays), at least one newspaper appeared somewhere in the colonies every day of the week (Sundays excepted) throughout most of the late 1760s and early 1770s, the period covered by the Adverts 250 Project.  (I say most of the late 1760s and early 1770s because several newspapers ceased publication while the Stamp Act was in effect in late 1765 and early 1766.  As a result, fewer newspapers appeared on fewer days of the week for several months.)  Even though printers published and disseminated newspapers every day except Sundays, copies of those newspapers have not necessarily survived in research libraries, historical societies, and other collections.  Those still extant have not all been digitized, making them difficult to access for inclusion in the Adverts 250 Project.

January 1, 1772, is one of those days without any digitized newspapers to consider.  The first day of 1772 fell on a Wednesday, a day that printers did indeed publish newspapers.  Yet no newspapers for January 1, 1772, are available in any of the several databases that I consult in producing the Adverts 250 Project.  James Johnston printed the Georgia Gazette on Wednesdays, but that newspaper has not been part of the Adverts 250 Project since May 23, 2020, because the May 23, 1770, edition was the last one digitized.  According to Edward Connery Lathem’s Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, no copies of the Georgia Gazette are extant from 1771 and very few have survived from 1772 and 1773.  Complete or extensive coverage exists for 1774 and 1775, but no copies published after 1770 have been digitized.

Johnston likely published a new edition of the Georgia Gazette on January 1, 1772.  It likely included at least a page of advertisements, including multiple notices about enslaved people for sale and others offering rewards for the capture and return of those who liberated themselves from their enslavers.  Yet no copy is available for examination and inclusion in the Adverts 250 Project, a reminder of one of the many factors that makes the curation of this project incomplete despite efforts to be as extensive as possible.  In addition, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project does not include every advertisement about enslaved people originally published in American newspapers 250 years ago, only those in newspapers that have been digitized.  Such advertisements were even more ubiquitous than the Slavery Adverts 250 Project demonstrates.

All of this means that the Adverts 250 Project does not begin 2022 with an advertisement from 1772.  Instead, I have selected an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Packet on December 30, 1771.  Regular visitors to the Adverts 250 Project will recognize John Carnan’s notice with its distinctive woodcut depicting a golden lion, an image that has appeared on the project’s homepage since its inception.  I previously examined another advertisement placed by Carnan, that one in the Pennsylvania Gazette on August 1, 1771, the first time he included the image in one of his notices.  Tomorrow the Adverts 250 Project will feature its first advertisement from 1772, one selected by a student in my Revolutionary America class in Fall 2021.  We’ll get 1772 and 2022 started with an advertisement seeking a “Journeyman COMPOSITER” that Isaiah Thomas inserted in his own newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy.

August 1

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 1, 1771).

At the GOLDEN LION.”

In the early 1770s, John Carnan, a goldsmith and jeweler, ran a shop at the corner of Second and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia.  He promoted his “GOLD, SILVER and JEWELLERY WORK” in advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette, assuring prospective customers that he made his wares “in the best and newest taste.”  Like many other purveyors of goods, he provided an overview of his inventory in a dense paragraph of text.  Carnan listed everything from “TANKARDS, cans, tea, coffee and cream pots” to “gold, silver, gilt, enamelled, Scotch pebble, moco, chrystal, paste and glass sleeve buttons” to “silver and enamelled snuff-boxes [and] silver mounted decanter corks.”  In addition, he offered customers the opportunity to select among “sundry other articles, too tedious to mention.”  In terms of advertising copy, Carnan’s notice very much resembled others placed by purveyors of goods and services in Philadelphia and other American towns and cities.

The woodcut that adorned Carnan’s advertisement, however, distinguished it from others.  Carnan marked his location with a sign depicting a golden lion.  A woodcut that also depicted a lion appeared in the upper left corner of his advertisement.  (Regular visitors to the Adverts 250 Project will likely recognize this lion as the image that has appeared on its home page since its inception.)  The woodcut in the advertisement may have replicated Carnan’s shop sign, serving as a logo or brand that identified his business.  Even if the woodcut did not resemble the sign, incorporating an image of a lion likely helped consumers associate the regal animal with the goldsmith and jeweler, making his shop all the more memorable.  Unlike the woodcuts depicting ships at sea, the only other images in the August 1, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette beyond the masthead, the woodcut of the lion belonged to the advertiser rather than the printer.  Carnan invested in an image reserved for his sole use.  Over time, he included the image in other advertisements, providing consistency via the image even as he generated new copy for his notices.  Inserting the same woodcut in multiple advertisements also allowed him a greater return on his investment.  Not every advertiser who commissioned unique woodcuts used them more than once.  Carnan, however, recognized the potential for enhancing his marketing efforts with an image that represented his business and attracted attention among prospective customers.