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