April 7

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

Apr 7 - 4:7:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 7, 1770).

“RUN-AWAY … a NEGRO FELLOW, named MONDAY.”

Newspaper coverage of the Boston Massacre in the weeks after it happened resulted in greater dissemination of advertisements entreating surveillance of Black men in South Carolina.  How did the one cause the other?  Following widespread custom, colonial printers did not write original articles about the Massacre but instead reprinted items from other newspapers.  Thus, the same story about the funeral procession for the victims appeared in both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal within a couple of days of each other, copied either from its original source in the Boston-Gazette or another newspaper that reprinted the story from the Boston-Gazette.  Peter Timothy ran it in the April 5, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, exactly one month after the Boston Massacre took place.  The story first appeared in the March 12 edition of the Boston-Gazette.  It took nearly four weeks for it to appear in a newspaper printed in South Carolina.

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, did not allow Timothy, his competitor, to provide the colony’s only coverage of the shocking event.  He had just published his newspaper on April 3.  Given that most colonial newspapers distributed one issue per week, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal was not scheduled for another edition until April 10 … but this news was too momentous to wait that long to take it to press.  Instead, Crouch published a two-page supplement on April 7.  The entire front and much of the back of that broadsheet featured news from Boston, including a woodcut of four coffins that closely replicated the one that accompanied the original article in the Boston-Gazette.  Although other newspapers that reprinted the story included woodcuts, none were as detailed as the one in the Boston-Gazette.  That being the case, Crouch most likely drew his coverage directly from that newspaper rather than another that reprinted it.

The space required for the news from Boston left a column and a half for other content.  Crouch filled that space with advertisements, including two advertisements for enslaved men who escaped from colonists who held them in bondage.  John Marley described “a neg[r]o fellow named GEORGE” who seized his own liberty five months earlier in November.  Humphry Sommers advertised “a NEGRO FELLOW, named MONDAY,” who escaped the day before the Boston Massacre took place hundreds of miles away in Massachusetts.  Both advertisements encouraged readers to engage in careful scrutiny of Black men to determine if they might be George or Monday.  Both Marley and Sommers offered rewards to colonists who helped capture the Black men they claimed as property.  Arguably, these notices received greater attention for having appeared in a supplement devoted to the Boston Massacre than when they ran in the standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Had it not been for Crouch issuing that supplement, these advertisements encouraging the surveillance of Black men would not have circulated as widely.

Apr 7 - Boston Massacre in South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 7, 1770).

December 9

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

dec-9-1291766-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 9, 1766).

“All Stable and Chair Accounts must be paid Quarterly.”

Eighteenth-century wholesalers sometimes advertised discounts for purchasing in volume, but rarely provided particulars rather than promises. In today’s advertisement, John Marley offered discount pricing for a service he provided, caring for horses at his “Stable Yard” in Charleston. Although his notice was addressed to “those Gentlemen who have Horses and Chairs at his Stable Yard” already, it communicated discounts to anyone who happened to read it, including current and prospective customers.

Marley gave customers three options, listing rates “For a Horse by the Quarter,” “For a Horse by the Month,” and “For a Horse by the Night.”(*) A single night cost 10 shillings, while a month cost 11 pounds and 5 shillings (or 225 shillings, which makes the calculations more intuitive to modern readers accustomed to the decimal system for currency). Since an entire month of single nights would have cost 15 pounds (or 300 shillings) when purchased individually, the customer who contracted by the month saved 25%, certainly a significant discount that also benefited Marley because it guaranteed consistent business.

Similarly, stabling a horse by the quarter cost 30 pounds (or 600 shillings) compared to 11 pounds and 5 shillings (or 225 shillings). Paying for each month separately would have amounted to 33 pounds and 15 shillings (or 675 shillings). The discount for stabling by the quarter rather than by the month was a more modest 11%, but a savings nonetheless. It was certainly a deal compared to paying by the night for an entire quarter. That would have amounted to a total of 45 pounds (or 900 shillings). In other words, “those Gentlemen who ha[d] Horses” stabled by John Marley saved 33% when they contracted for an entire quarter rather than by the night. Once again, customers benefited from the discounts while the hostler increased the likelihood of having horses in his stable over long periods.

These prices may seem deceptive to modern readers with less experience converting pounds, shillings, and pence, but eighteenth-century readers would have recognized the discounts much more readily. Marley did not need to state explicitly that he offered discounts for stabling horses over an extended period. Instead, he allowed the prices to speak for themselves.

(*) Keep in mind that there were 20 shillings in a pound. As was common in eighteenth-century bookkeeping, the list of prices or rates in this advertisement includes three columns: pounds, shillings, and pence. Marley used “round numbers” that did not include any pence, which streamlined the calculations. (There were 12 pence in a shilling and 240 pence in a pound.)