September 4

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

Maryland Journal (September 4, 1773).

Advertisements omitted, will be inserted in our next.”

William Goddard quickly attracted advertisers when he commenced publication of the Maryland Journal, the first newspaper printed in Baltimore, in August 1773.  Paid notices filled four and a half columns, out of twelve total, in the third issue, but that was not all of them submitted to the printing office.  Goddard included a brief note alerting readers and, especially, advertisers who expected to see their notices in print that “Advertisements omitted, will be inserted in our next.”  Advertising represented an important revenue stream for printers, so Goddard must have been pleased with his initial success in attracting advertisers for the Maryland Journal.

For their part, advertisers from Baltimore and beyond welcomed the opportunity to disseminate information in the new publication.  Eleven of the advertisements in the September 4 edition described runaway indentured servants or runaway convict servants and offered rewards for their capture and return to their masters.  Previously, residents of Baltimore and surrounding towns resorted to the Maryland Gazette, published in Annapolis, the Virginia Gazette, published in Williamsburg, and the several newspapers published in Philadelphia to alert colonizers about runaways and encourage them to participate in surveillance of strangers to assess whether they matched the descriptions in the public prints.  The Maryland Journal buttressed the efforts of certain colonizers to use the early American press to uphold what they considered the appropriate order in their communities.

Other advertisers, including purveyors of consumer goods and services, now had a truly local alternative for promoting their businesses.  In the September 4 edition, Ewing and Hart marketed rum, wine, and spirits at their store on Gay Street, John Flanagan hawked tea, coffee, and sugar at his store on Market Street, and Nicholas Brooks promoted jewelry and prints “at the CROWN and CUSHION, in BALTIMORE.”  In addition, John Hamilton, “TAILOR and HABIT-MAKER, from GLASGOW,” introduced himself to prospective clients with an announcement that he “has opened shop in Gay-street, BALTIMORE-TOWN … where he makes mens and womens clothes in the very newest fashions.”  He highlighted his experience “having wrought for eight years past in the best shops in Britain,” hoping that readers would be impressed enough to give the newcomer a chance to build a reputation in Baltimore.  He promised to make it “his constant endeavour to give, to the utmost of his power, entire satisfaction” to his customers in return for “suitable encouragement from the generous public.”  The Maryland Journal provided an introduction to prospective customers beyond those Hamilton happened to meet in the course of his daily routine.

Other advertisers sought the advantages of placing notices in Baltimore’s first newspaper, some with advertisements that ran on September 4 and others with advertisements delayed until the next edition.  A newspaper, complete with shipping news, prices current, and advertisements, marked the port’s growing size and significance in the region.

July 10

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

Providence Gazette (July 10, 1773).

“At his Shop in Killingly.”

In the early 1770s, the Providence Gazette served readers … and advertisers … in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  At the time that Asaph Wilder published his advertisement for a “general Assortment of English, Scotch and India GOODS” available at his shop in Killingly, Connecticut, about twenty-five miles west of Providence, printers published only three newspapers in his colony, the Connecticut Courant in Hartford, the New-London Gazette, and the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy.  In Massachusetts, five printing offices in Boston and one in Salem printed newspapers, but none to the west or south.  In Rhode Island, John Carter published the Providence Gazette and Solomon Southwick published the Newport Mercury.  That made the Providence Gazette the local newspaper for colonizers like Wilder in Killingly as well as others in towns in all three colonies.

Though Wilder kept shop in the countryside, he wanted prospective customers to know that he maintained an inventory that rivaled what they would find in Providence.  His “general Assortment” included “an Assortment of Cutlery and Hard-Ware Goods” and “a neat and elegant Assortment of Queen’s and Liverpool Ware” as well as coffee, tea, and several grocery items.  Rather than leftovers, his inventory consisted of goods “Suitable for the Season” that arrived in the colonies via “the Ships lately from London.”  Yet customers in Killingly and nearby towns did not have to pay a premium for the convenience of acquiring these items at Wilder’s shop rather than sending away for them or making a trip to Providence or another port.  The shopkeeper pledged that he “will sell at the most reasonable Rates,” either in cash or in exchange for commodities like “Beef, Pork, Butter, white Pine Shingles and Clapboards, and White Oak Staves.”  Wilder offered consumers in the countryside the same sorts of goods available to their counterparts in larger towns and cities, but made accommodations for payment tied to the local economy.  Even if some prospective customers suspected that Wilder’s selection was not as extensive as he suggested, his willingness to deal with them on such terms may have been a factor in winning their business.

January 10

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

Essex Gazette (January 10, 1768).

“THE Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Salem would be glad to bind out a Number of poor Children.”

Colonial newspapers tended to be regional rather than local, as the names sometimes indicated. Consider the newspapers published in 1769. The Georgia Gazette (published in Savannah), the Massachusetts Gazette (published in Boston), the Pennsylvania Gazette (published in Philadelphia), the South-Carolina Gazette (published in Charleston), and the Virginia Gazette (published in Williamsburg) all served their respective colonies and beyond. Other newspapers with names that specified their places of publication also circulated far beyond the towns and cities that appeared in their mastheads. Such was the case for the Boston Evening-Post, the Newport Mercury, and the Providence Gazette. The title of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette summed up the extensive communities served by colonial newspapers. They were simultaneously local and regional publications.

That was the case for advertising as well as news. The majority of paid notices that appeared in any newspaper concerned local affairs, yet a smaller number of advertisements from beyond the city or town where a newspaper was published were interspersed. Artisans and shopkeepers in Albany, for instance, placed advertisements in newspapers published in New York. Colonists in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey as well as towns in Pennsylvania beyond Philadelphia placed advertisements for consumer goods and services, legal notices, estate notices, and other sorts of notices in the newspapers published in Philadelphia. In each instance, they depended on the extensive circulation across a vast geography to place their notices before the eyes of readers in their own communities.

By the end of the eighteenth century, however, the number of newspapers increased dramatically. Especially after the American Revolution, printers established newspapers in smaller cities and towns, eliminating some of the need for newspapers to serve regional audiences. Those new publications allowed advertisers to target local readers more effectively. The process began prior to the Revolution. When Samuel Hall commenced publication of the Essex Gazette in Salem, Massachusetts, in August 1768, he offered his community more than just “the freshest Advices, both foreign and domestic.” As the colophon indicated, he took in subscriptions and advertisements at the printing office. Not just for news but also for advertising, residents of Salem and the surrounding towns now had a local alternative to the several newspapers published in Boston. Residents of Salem could continue to insert advertisements in the Boston Chronicle, the Boston Post-Boy, and their competitors as a means of placing them before larger audiences, yet some advertisers likely considered the local alternative more appropriate and more effective for their purposes, whether selling goods or keeping the community informed about local affairs.