August 23

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

Maryland Gazette (August 20, 1772).

“Black Velvet Collars, which are now worn instead of Necklaces, with Danglers.”

In the summer of 1772, M. Evans ran advertisements in the Maryland Gazette to announce to “the Ladies in Annapolis, and the Publick in general” that she stocked a variety of millinery and other items at her shop in Baltimore.  Her merchandise “Lately arrived from London.”  That being the case, she made clear to prospective customers that she carried current styles from the cosmopolitan center of the empire.  Her inventory included “the fashionable Net and Gauze Bonnets” and “fashionable Stomachers and Sleeve-knots with Italian Flowers.”  In addition, Evans listed many other items, including “Hats and long Cloaks in the French gray Queen’s Silk,” “Bonnets and Tippets” for young ladies, and a variety of combs, pins, earrings, and “Danglers.”  She concluded with “&c. &c. &c.” to indicate that she stocked much more than would fit in a newspaper advertisement.

In marketing her wares, Evans presented herself as a guide for prospective customers, not merely a shopkeeper.  She was in a position to offer advice and suggestions as well as keep her clients apprised of the latest fashions.  For instance, she included “black Velvet Collars … with Danglers” among her catalog of merchandise, explaining that they “are now worn instead of Necklaces.”  Some of the “Ladies in Annapolis” may have already been aware of this trend, but Evans apparently believed that many were not yet familiar with it.  Acting as a guide helped incite demand, tantalizing prospective customers with news of the latest styles while simultaneously encouraging them to acquire those styles for themselves.  Shopkeepers, milliners, and others who sold clothing and accessories were in a position to exert considerable influence over the customers they served, provided that those customers considered them well-informed and trustworthy.  Evans aimed to cultivate such relationships, marketing her knowledge of current fashions in her efforts to sell goods imported from London.  Her familiarity with new styles and ability to provide guidance to her customers made her more than a mere purveyor of goods.

July 23

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

Maryland Gazette (July 23, 1772).

“He intends for Annapolis … with a neat Assortment of Fire Dogs.”

In the summer of 1772, Daniel King, a brass founder, attempted to incite anticipation for his wares among consumers in Annapolis.  He had a workshop “At the Sign of the Bell and Brand, in … Philadelphia,” but did not run his operation solely from that location.  Instead, he announced his intention to visit Annapolis in late July or early August.  In an advertisement in the July 23 edition of the Maryland Gazette, he informed prospective customers that they could find him “at Mr. John Warren’s Tavern in Annapolis, where Orders will be received and punctually complied with.”

King hoped to encounter customers eagerly awaiting his arrival in Annapolis.  To increase the chances of that happening, he described his “neat Assortment of Brass Fire Dogs and Fenders, Fire Shovels and Tongs, and Chimney Backs.”  He confidently asserted that the items produced in his workshop “are neater and more to Order than any yet made on the Continent,” including those made by any competitors in Annapolis.  In addition, he considered his brass andirons “equal in Strength to any Iron Fire Dogs, and much easier kept clean.”

Like many artisans who advertised in colonial newspapers, King emphasized his training and experience in England prior to migrating across the Atlantic.  He declared that he “served his Apprenticeship in London, and worked in some of the best Shops in England.”  As a result, he produced andirons, shovels, tongs, and other items of the same quality and low prices as imported alternatives.  The brass founder stated that his consumers would derive “as much Satisfaction” from items form his workshop as any imported from England.

King and his andirons were likely both unfamiliar to “the Ladies and Gentlemen of Maryland” that he wished to attract as customers during an upcoming trip from his workshop in Philadelphia.  He sought to stoke anticipation for his arrival by convincing prospective customers that his wares were superior to any others, whether imported or made in the colonies.  He hoped that readers of the Maryland Gazette would at least visit Warren’s Tavern to examine his wares and compare them to others that merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans made available in Annapolis, giving him an opportunity to engage prospective customers in conversation and make his appeals in greater detail.

June 28

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

Maryland Gazette (June 25, 1772).

“ADVERTISEMENTS, of moderate Length, are inserted the First Time, for 5s.”

Many colonial printers did not regularly publish how much they charged for newspaper subscriptions or advertising, while some included that information in the colophon at the bottom of the final page of each issue.  A few transformed their colophons into extensive advertisements for all sorts of goods and services available at their printing offices.

Such was the case for Anne Catherine Green and Son, printers of the Maryland Gazette.  They did not merely state that they printed their newspaper in Annapolis.  Instead, they declared that “all Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE, at 12s. 6d. a Year” or twelve shilling and six pence annually.  Green and Son published advertisements “of a moderate Length” for five shillings “the First Time” and an additional shilling “for each Week’s Continuance.”  Like many other printers, they charged more for “Long Ones in Proportion to their Number of Lines.”  Some printers gave prices for only subscriptions or for only advertisements.  The more complete accounting from Green and Son demonstrates that a single advertisement that ran for a month generated almost as much revenue as a subscription for an entire year.

In addition to printing the Maryland Gazette, Green and Son also sold “most kinds of BLANKS” or printed forms for legal and financial transactions.  Throughout the colonies, printers hawked blanks.  Green and Son listed “COMMON and BAIL BONDS; TESTAMENTARY LETTERS of several Sorts, with their proper BONDS annexed; BILLS of EXCHANGE; [and] SHIPPING-BILLS.”  They appended “&c.” (an eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to indicate that they had on hand, “ready Printed,” an even greater variety of blanks to meet the needs of their customers.  In addition, they did “All Manner of PRINTING-WORK … in the neatest and most expeditious Manner.”  That included broadsides for posting around town, handbills for distributing on the streets, catalogs for auctions, and other advertising materials.

Each issue of the Maryland Gazette concluded with an extensive advertisement for goods and services available at the printing office.  Green and Son significantly expanded the colophon beyond giving the name of the printer and the place of publication, reminding readers that the printing office offered far more than just copies of the newspaper.

April 2

GUEST CURATOR:  Brian Looney

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Maryland Gazette (April 2, 1772).

“RAN away … a Mulatto Man Slave called Stephen Butler.”

Advertisements offering rewards for enslaved people who freed themselves by running away were common in American newspapers before and after the American Revolution. This advertisement describes Stephen Butler, “a Mulatto Man Slave” who knew that the system was morally wrong and never stopped trying to break it.  Leonard Boarman, the advertiser, stated that Butler worked as a carpenter and “has been pretty well known as a Runaway for these 30 Years.”  He also said that Butler would try to “make his Escape” if anyone caught him.  Boarman knew that Butler was committed to living as a free man.  Many other enslaved people also ran away from their enslavers before and after the colonies fought a war for independence.  That caused Congress to pass legislation to enforce the return of enslaved people. George Washington signed into law the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, further strengthening the Fugitive Slave Clause in the Constitution.  Freedom meant different things to different people during the era of the American Revolution.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Brian has chosen an advertisement that delivers a very rich narrative about “a Mulatto Man Slave called Stephen Butler.”  Boarman claims that Butler “RAN away” from his plantation, but he also suggests that Butler lived independently for three decades.  Butler possessed several skills that may have allowed him to earn a living away from Boarman’s plantation.  He “works at tight coopering, sawing and Wheel-work” and “is by Trade a Carpenter.”  Those skills likely helped him to forge relationships with colonizers who cared more about the contributions he could make to their community than whether an enslaver claimed Butler as his property.

Boarman indicated that very well may have been the case.  He claimed that Butler “has so great a Correspondence” or interaction “amongst many white People, that he never was once taken only by myself.”  Apparently other colonizers accepted Butler as a free man and even aided him in evading Boarman.  The enslaver declared that Butler “has confessed to me and many others where he has been harboured and whose Houses he resorted.”  In addition, Butler “has worked for several by Stealth,” putting his skills as a carpenter to good use.  Boarman declined to name those who had previously assisted Butler, but also threatened that if he could “make Proof either against white or black” accomplices then he would “proceed against them as the Law directs.”

Indeed, the law assessed penalties on anyone who assisted fugitives seeking their freedom.  Butler and others often relied on extended communities to aid them in liberating themselves and maintaining their freedom, but that did not prevent the state from imposing measures intended to return them to enslavement.  As Brian points out, the U.S. Constitution included a Fugitive Slave Clause that Congress later strengthened with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.  Such legislation endangered people like Butler who managed to integrate into communities as free men and women, putting the power of the state behind the demands that enslavers like Boarman made in newspaper advertisements and legal documents.  This advertisement tells an incredible story of resistance in the face of many challenges presented by both aggrieved enslavers and a legal system that privileged enslavement over freedom.

December 29

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

Maryland Gazette (December 26, 1771).

“A Variety of other Goods.”

In the final edition of the Maryland Gazette published in 1771, Alexander Ogg informed readers that he carried a “VERY large and general Assortment of European, East and West India Goods, suitable for the Season.”  To demonstrate to consumers that he did indeed offer an array of choices, he listed scores of items in an advertisement that extended more than half a column.  He stocked all kinds of fabrics, including “Sagathies, Durants, Tammies, Camblets and Cambletees, Calimancoes, flowered Queen Stuffs, Velvets and Velverets, Taffaties and Persians.”  He also had “Mens, Womens and Childrens Worsted Hose” as well as “Silk Mittens” and “Mens and Womens Beaver Gloves.”  Beyond textiles and clothing, he listed housewares, saddlery, patent medicines, and a variety of other items.  Customers could acquire “a large Assortment of white Stone Ware, consisting of Dishes, Mugs, Teacups and Saucers, [and] Sauce Boats” or “Silver Buckles both Shoe and Knee” or “Horse and Chair Whips” at his shop.

Ogg’s inventory seemed to rival that of any merchant or shopkeeper in the major ports.  His catalog of goods included the same items that appeared in advertisements in newspapers published in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, yet he did not serve prospective customers in an urban center.  Instead, he imported these items from London to sell at his shop “at Hunting-Town in Calvert County,” about thirty miles south of Annapolis.  He advertised in the Maryland Gazette, the only newspaper published in the colony at the time.  As such, the Maryland Gazette served as a regional newspaper rather than a local one, so Ogg expected that prospective customers in his area would encounter his advertisement.  The length of the list, as well as references to a “VERY large and general Assortment” and assurances of “a Variety of other Goods,” may have been intended to underscore that he did indeed offer as many choices as merchants and shopkeepers in Annapolis … or Charleston or Philadelphia.  His advertisement also demonstrates that the consumer revolution did not occur solely in urban ports.  Enterprising merchants and shopkeepers advertised and distributed imported goods to rural communities as well.

August 4

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

Maryland Gazette (August 1, 1771).

“Has been regularly bred to the tailoring Trade in the most capital house for that Business.”

James Logan, a tailor, was an outsider when he arrived in Annapolis.  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, he introduced himself to his new community (and prospective clients) in a newspaper advertisement that included an account of his credentials.  Until he had an opportunity to establish a reputation in his new home, he relied on his training and experience to recommend him to potential customers.

Logan’s advertisement ran in the August 4, 1771, edition of the Maryland Gazette.  He informed readers that “not only has [he] been regularly bred to the tailoring Trade in the most capital House for that Business, in the City of Cork, but also worked for a considerable Time with much Applause, with most eminent Masters in England and Ireland.”  Having worked with “eminent Masters” enhanced his training, but also testified to a competence that others who followed his occupation recognized in Logan.  Those experiences prepared him to pursue “his Trade in all it’s various Branches,” capable of completing any task requested by clients in his new city “to give the utmost Satisfaction.”  He also leveraged his connections to “the most capital House” in Cork and “eminent Masters in England and Ireland” to suggest a certain amount of cachet associated with hiring him.

The tailor also sought to convince prospective customers of his commitment to his craft combined with his desire to serve them.  He trumpeted his “superior Ability” and in the same breath promised “constant Adherence to the due Assiduity highly necessary in the Execution” of his new undertaking.  Even more verbose than many artisans who advertised in colonial newspapers, Logan aimed to make himself memorable to readers not yet familiar with the garments he made.  For the moment, words by necessity substituted for the reputation that he hoped to cultivate in Annapolis as he built his clientele.

July 25

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

Maryland Gazette (July 25, 1771).

“Sundry Books, on Painting, and a Number Prints being sent him.”

Colonists placed newspaper advertisements for a variety of purposes.  Some aimed to incite demand for consumer goods and services.  Others published legal notices or called on customers to settle accounts.  Enslavers offered Africans and African Americans for sale or offered rewards for the capture and return of Black people who liberated themselves by running away.  Aggrieved husbands warned against extending credit to recalcitrant wives.  Clubs informed members of upcoming meetings.  A good number of advertisements concerned lost or stray livestock.  Colonists also inserted other sorts of lost-and-found notices.

When a shipment of “sundry Books, on Painting, and a Number of Prints” from England got misdirected in the summer of 1771, Charles Willson Peale ran an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette, hoping that “Any Gentleman” among the readers who had come into possession of his books and prints would forward them to him or inform him so he could make arrangements to collect them.  He promised that anyone who helped him acquire the missing items “shall be well rewarded for his Trouble.”  Peale had “received Letters” alerting him about the books and prints “being sent him, but by what Ship, or to what Part of Virginia or Maryland they were sent, he is totally at a Loss to find out.”  When he placed the advertisement, Peale was simultaneously frustrated and hopeful.

At the time, Peale had already gained some renown as a painter having studied under John Singleton Copley in the colonies and, for three years, under Benjamin West in England.  He eventually became one of the most influential American painters of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, known especially for his portraits of prominent leaders now remembered as founders of the nation.  A naturalist and inventor in addition to an artist, Peale established one of the first American museums.  He often harnessed these endeavors to promoting the new nation.  Today, historians and other scholars recognize and continue to examine his contributions to early American politics and culture.

That distinguishes Peale from most of the other colonists who placed advertisements or who were the subjects of advertisements in the Maryland Gazette.  For good reason, the name “CHARLES W. PEALE” at the end of his advertisement draws the attention of modern readers familiar with the era of the American Revolution.  Yet that advertisement by a notable historical figure tells only one story among the many significant narratives contained within advertisements that ran in the same issue, a story in many ways less important than others despite the famous name attached to it.  William Rooke’s advertisement for “a great Variety of GOODS,” for instance, testifies to the consumer revolution that played an important role in colonists participating in politics through their decisions in the marketplace.  Thomas Gassaway Howard’s advertisement offering a reward for the capture and return of “a Negro Man named Harry” demonstrates the tension between liberty and enslavement present at the founding of the nation.  Colonists of all sorts, elites and the lower sorts, enslaved and free, made history in the eighteenth century.  In the twenty-first century, we have a duty to examine their many different stories and incorporate their diverse experiences and perspectives into a more complete narrative of the past.

July 14

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

Maryland Gazette (July 11, 1771).

“He further proposes to engage his Performance for One Year.”

In the summer of 1771, Thomas Morgan announced to “the Publick” that he “has opened a Shop” in Annapolis, “WHERE he intends to carry on the Business of Watch and Clock-making, in all its various Branches.”  In an advertisement that ran in the Maryland Gazette for five weeks, he assured “Gentlemen that will please to favour him with their Custom” that they would receive attentive and efficient service when they visited his shop.  Most artisans, as well as many other purveyors of goods and services, made similar promises about customer service in their newspaper advertisements.

In addition to making clocks and watches, Morgan also cleaned and repaired them.  To entice prospective patrons to give him a chance to demonstrate his skill, he proclaimed that he performed those services “in the best Manner.”  Furthermore, he offered a guarantee, a marketing strategy commonly adopted by watch- and clockmakers.  John Simnet, a watchmaker who set up shop in New Hampshire, in the late 1760s and migrated to New York in the early 1770s, declared in one of his advertisements that “Such Watches as have been repaired by me, if become foul, or require Alteration, may be clean’d, &c. gratis.”  Similarly, Morgan asserted that he would “engage his Performance for One Year, provided the Owner don’t abuse the same.”  Patrons who experienced difficulty could return their timepieces to his shop for additional repairs and cleaning free of charge, though Morgan assessed whether the problems originated with any sort of misuse on the part of owners.

While such guarantees protected the interests of clients, they also testified to the confidence watch- and clockmakers had in their abilities.  Artisans like Morgan and Simnet would not have offered guarantees if they anticipated that they would have to expend significant time and resources in fulfilling them.  Guarantees also communicated to customers that even though Morgan and Simnet would address any problems that arose, they strove to do the job right the first time.

June 22

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

Providence Gazette (June 22, 1771).

“ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length (accompanied with the Pay) are inserted in this Paper three Weeks for Four Shillings Lawful Money.”

Today marks two thousand days of production for the Adverts 250 Project.  Every day for two thousand consecutive days, I have examined an advertisement originally published in an eighteenth-century newspaper.  Students enrolled in my Colonial America, Revolutionary America, Public History, and Research Methods classes at Assumption University have also contributed to the Adverts 250 Project as guest curators.

This milestone seems like a good opportunity to address two of the questions I most commonly encounter.  How much did a subscription to an eighteenth-century newspaper cost?  How much did an advertisement cost?  Most printers did not regularly publish subscription rates or advertising rates in their newspapers, but some did include that information in the colophon at the bottom of the final page.  Of the twenty-two newspapers published during the week of Sunday, June 16 through Saturday, June 22, 1771, that have been digitized and made available for scholars and other readers, seven listed subscription rates and six indicated advertising rates.  Four of those, the Essex Gazette, the Maryland Gazette, Purdie and Dixon’s Virginia Gazette, and Rind’s Virginia Gazette, included both subscription rates and advertising rates in the colophon. That nearly as many identified advertising rates as the cost of subscriptions testifies to the importance of advertising for generating revenue.

Here is an overview of subscription rates and advertising rates inserted in the colophons of colonial newspapers during the last week of spring in 1771.

SUBSCRIPTION RATES:

  • Essex Gazette (June 18): “THIS GAZETTE may be had for Six Shillings and Eight Pence per Annum, (exclusive of Postage) 3s. 4d. (or 3s. 6d. if sent by Post) to be paid at Entrance.”
  • Maryland Gazette (June 20): “Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE, at 12s. 6d. a Year.”
  • Massachusetts Spy (June 20): “Persons may be supplied with this paper at Six Shillings and Eight Pence, Lawful Money, per Annum.”
  • Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 17): “Subscriptions, (at TEN SHILLINGS per Annum) Advertisements, Articles and Letters of Intelligence are gratefully received for this Paper.”
  • Pennsylvania Journal (June 20): “Persons may be supplied with this Paper at Ten Shillings a Year.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 20): “ALL Persons may be supplied with this PAPER at 12s. 6d. a Year.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 20): “All Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE at 12s6 per Year.”

ADVERTISING RATES:

  • Essex Gazette (June 18): “ADVERTISEMENTS not exceeding eight or ten Lines are inserted for Three Shillings.”
  • Maryland Gazette (June 20): “ADVERTISEMENTS, of a moderate Length, are inserted for the First Time, for 5s. and 1s. for each Week’s Continuance.  Long Ones in Proportion to their Number of Lines.”
  • New-York Journal (June 20): “Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth are inserted for Five Shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after, and larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.”
  • Providence Gazette (June 22): “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length (accompanied with the Pay) are inserted in this Paper three Weeks for Four Shillings Lawful Money.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 20): “ALL Persons may … have ADVERTISEMENTS (of a moderate Length) inserted in it for 3s. the first Week, and 2s. each Week after.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 20): “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length are inserted for 3s. the First Week, and 2s. each Time after; and long ones in Proportion.”

Those newspapers that specified both subscription rates and advertising rates demonstrate the potential for generating significant revenue by publishing advertisements.  The competing newspapers in Williamsburg, Virginia, each charged twelve shillings and six pence per year for a subscription and collected three shillings for the first insertion of an advertisement and two shillings for every subsequent insertion.  William Rind declared that he set rates “in Proportion” for longer advertisements.  An advertisement that ran for six weeks cost more than an annual subscription.  Anne Catherine Green set the same price, twelve shillings and six pence, for a subscription to the Maryland Gazette, but charged five shillings the first time an advertisement ran.  Samuel Hall charged six shillings and eight pence for a subscription to the Essex Gazette and three shillings for each appearance of an advertisement of “eight or ten Lines.”  Some significantly exceeded that length, costing as much as a subscription for a single insertion.  Other printers presumable set similar rates, a pricing structure that meant that advertising played a substantial role in funding the dissemination of the news even in the colonial era.

June 2

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

Maryland Gazette (May 30, 1771).

“The newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”

In the spring of 1771, Peter Sinnott, a “TAYLOR, from Dublin,” introduced himself to the residents of Annapolis in an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette.  He advised prospective clients, both “Gentlemen” and “Ladies,” that he “carries on his Trade in all its Branches.”  The tailor also pledged that his customers “may depend on having their Cloaths well made.”  Like many other artisans, Sinnott incorporated the combination of quality, skill, and expertise into his newspaper notices.

He also included an appeal to fashion, another common marketing strategy for tailors, milliners, and others who made garments.  Sinnott proclaimed that he produced clothing “in the newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”  In so doing, he demonstrated that he expected anxieties about wearing the latest styles resonated even in smaller ports.  Simultaneously, he attempted to stoke those anxieties.  Annapolis was not nearly as large as Boston, Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but that did not mean that consumers there could not be as cosmopolitan in their appearances as their counterparts in those major urban ports.  Yet that was not the extent of the promise that Sinnott made.  His clients in Annapolis could not only keep pace with fashionable gentlemen and ladies throughout the colonies but also with trendsetters on the other side of the Atlantic.

Sinnott realized that it would take time to establish his reputation and cultivate a clientele for his garments.  In order to earn a living while he did so, he also promoted an ancillary service, declaring that he “scours and cleans Cloaths in a superior Manner than has hitherto been done in this Place.”  Furthermore, he had perfected a method for “taking Spots and Stains out of Scarlet Cloth.”  Each time he interacted with clients who hired him to clean their garments, Sinnott had an opportunity to offer his services as a tailor.  One branch of his business supported the other, possibly resulting in new commissions.

In a short advertisement, Sinnott presented “the PUBLICK” with several reasons to him.  He emphasized his skill and the quality of his garments while reassuring prospective clients that he would outfit them in the latest styles.  He also provided additional services for the benefit of his clients.  As Sinnott’s advertisement demonstrates, eighteenth-century newspaper notices did not merely announce the availability of consumer goods and services.  Instead, advertisers constructed appeals intended to incite demand and convince readers to visit their shops.