November 20

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

New-London Gazette (November 20, 1772).

“A curious Assortment of new-fashion’d GOODS.”

One advertisement dominated the final page of the November 20, 1772, edition of the New-London Gazette.  Ebenezer Backus, Jr., ran a notice that filled more than three-quarters of the page, inviting customers to attend a sale of a “curious Assortment of new-fashion’d GOODS” at his store in Norwich.  Although other items appeared at the top of the page, the size of Backus’s advertisement in general combined with the size of font for the word “GOODS” in the middle of the page in particular, drew attention away from everything else.  Readers may have eventually noticed the “POETS CORNER,” a weekly feature on the final page, but the prominence of Backus’s advertisement likely meant they overlooked Thomas Hartshorn’s notice calling on those indebted to him to settle accounts, at least initially.

Backus’s notice may have circulated solely in this format, but that may not have been the case.  He could have also made arrangements with Timothy Green, the printer of the New-London Gazette, to produce additional copies to distribute as broadsides or handbills.  That seems to have been a practice among printers and entrepreneurs in the early 1770s.  Smith and Coit likely did so with a broadside book catalog that also ran in the August 4, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant.  Similarly, John Boyles may have adopted the same strategy with subscription proposals for Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws in the October 19, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.

The inclusion of a colophon suggests that Green printed separate broadsides or handbills for Backus to post around town or give to prospective customers.  Green did not always publish a colophon in the New-London Gazette.  When he did, it sometimes read, “NEW-LONDON: Printed by T. Green,” and other times simply stated, “Printed by T. Green.”  In contrast, the colophon centered at the bottom of the final page of the November 20 edition gave both the place of publication and the printer’s full name, “NEW-LONDON: Printed by TIMOTHY GREEN.”  Printers often placed their colophon on broadsides and handbills they printed for others, giving announcements or advertisements intended for other purposes a secondary purpose as marketing materials promoting the services offered by printers.  The presence of the colophon on the final page of the New-London Gazette does not definitively demonstrate that a broadside or handbill circulated separately, but it does support the possibility that colonizers encountered more advertising in a variety of formats than those preserved in the collections of research libraries and historical societies might suggest.

New-London Gazette (November 20, 1772).

October 9

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

New-London Gazette (October 9, 1772).

“Staffordshire and Liverpool Warehouse, in Kingstreet, BOSTON.”

Ebenezer Bridgham continued his efforts to create a regional market for his “Staffordshire and Liverpool Warehouse” in Boston with an advertisement in the October 9, 1772, edition of the New-London Gazette.  That advertisement featured copy identical to a notice in the October 2 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, though the compositors in the two printing offices made very different decisions about the format of the advertisements.  Bridgham’s advertisement ran a second time in the New-Hampshire Gazette (less the headline announcing “Crockery Ware”) the same day that it first appeared in the New-London Gazette.  He likely dispatched letters to the printing offices on the same day, but, given the distance, the New-London Gazette received its letter later and published his advertisement in the next edition after its arrival.

With advertisements in newspapers in Connecticut and New Hampshire in the fall of 1772, Bridgham continued a project that commenced more than a year earlier with advertisements in the Connecticut Courant, the Essex Gazette, and the Providence Gazette in September 1771.  He added the New-London Gazette the next month.  He placed a subsequent notice in the Connecticut Courant in June 1772, but he did not pursue the same coordinated campaign that he launched in the fall of 1771.  Although his “Crockery Ware” advertisement appeared in both the New-London Gazette and the New-Hampshire Gazette in early October 1772, it did not run in the other newspapers at that time.

That may have been the result of Bridgham learning which advertisements in which newspapers generated orders from country shopkeepers and other customers … and which did not.  His prior experience may have constituted a rudimentary form of market research that guided his decisions about where to focus his advertising efforts.  Alternately, Bridgham may have been delinquent in submitting payment for his advertisements, causing printers not to run them until he settled his debts.  His “Crockery Ware” advertisement eventually ran in Hartford’s Connecticut Courant on November 17.  In February 1772, Ebenezer Watson, printer of the Connecticut Courant, inserted a notice that “No Advertisements will for the future be published in this paper, without the money is first paid.”  The delay in publishing Bridgham’s “Crockery Ware” advertisement may have been due to waiting for payment.  Beyond these possibilities, Bridgham may have been haphazard in submitting his “Crockery Ware” advertisement to various printing offices.  If so, that deviated from the coordination he demonstrated in the fall of 1771.

September 25

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

New-London Gazette (September 25, 1772).

“Sold … by Samuel Loudon, in New-York.”

In his efforts to attract customers for the “Ship-Chandlery, Books, and Stationary” he stocked at his shop in New York, Samuel Loudon placed advertisements in the New-London Gazette in the fall of 1772.  For each category of merchandise, he provided a short list, concluding each with one or more “&c.” (the abbreviation for et cetera commonly used in the eighteenth century) to indicate even more choices.  He also stated that he carried “a great Variety of other Books, Divinity[, and] History” beyond the titles in his list.

Although Loudon may have welcomed retail customers for his wares, he most likely intended for his advertisement to capture the attention of masters of vessels who needed to outfit their ships and shopkeepers in New London and other towns in Connecticut interested in augmenting their inventory.  In a note near the end of the advertisement, Loudon stated that “Country Stores are supplied at the lowest Prices with Bibles, Testaments, Common Prayer Books, Spelling-Books, Entick’s Dictionary, Primmers, Bed Cords, Trace Rope, Gunpowder, Brimstone, &c.”  Loudon promised bargains to shopkeepers when they bought popular books and other items usually purchased in quantity.

Loudon could have confined his advertising to any of the three newspapers published in New York at the time.  After all, each of those publications enjoyed circulations far beyond the busy port.  Doing so, however, would have kept him in competition with others who also advertised in those newspapers.  Instead, Loudon sought to expand the market in which he operated by placing advertisements in the nearest newspaper published outside New York.  Although circulation of the New-London Gazette and New York’s newspapers overlapped, this strategy introduced him to new prospective customers.  It also gave his advertisements greater prominence.  All of the newspapers published in New York overflowed with advertising.  The New-London Gazette, a more modest publication, featured significantly less advertising.  It contained much less advertising, giving Loudon’s notice greater visibility.  Even if country shopkeepers in Connecticut perused any of the New York newspapers, they were much more likely to spot Loudon’s advertisement in the New-London Gazette.  Loudon apparently decided that advertising in large newspapers in his own city did not offer the only or even the best route to success.  Advertising in a smaller newspaper in a neighboring colony had its own advantages he considered worth the investment.

September 11

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

New-London Gazette (September 11, 1772).

“SCHEME Of the Second and last CLASS of a LOTTERY.”

An advertisement in the September 11, 1772, edition of the New-London Gazette promoted a “LOTTERY For raising Six Hundred Pounds, to repair and add to the Great Bridge over the Cove at Chelsea” in Norwich, Connecticut.  That was one of several public works projects in New England funded by lotteries in the era of the American Revolution.  The General Assembly passed “an especial Act” and appointed managers to oversee the lottery.  Local agents in half a dozen towns sold tickets.

Rather than hold a single set of drawings, the managers opted to sponsor more than one “class” of tickets and prizes.  Doing so gave colonizers more opportunities to participate, likely making it easier for the managers to meet their fundraising goals.  Winners in one class could reinvest in another, those less fortunate could try again, and others could purchase tickets for the first time.  The notice published in September concerned “the Second and last CLASS” limited to “2000 TICKETS at Fifteen Shillings each; of which 592 are Prizes.”  Tickets sales amounted to £1500, with £1200 paid out in prizes and the remaining £300 for the bridge.

The managers encouraged colonizers to purchase their tickets quickly because “the Tickets in the former Class were sold in less than two Months,” leaving “many people disappointed.”  They aimed to sell all the tickets in time to hold the drawing by the middle of October.  The managers pledged that “Proper Notice will be given of the Time and Place of drawing,” just as a “a List of Prizes will be published in the New London Gazette.”  By the time they encountered the advertisement for the lottery on the final page of the September 11 issue, readers likely saw the “LIST of the NUMBERS which came up PRIZES in Chelsea Bridge LOTTERY, Class the First; drawn August 31, 1772” that dominated the first page.  The printer managed to squeeze one advertisement into the right margin, but otherwise the list of winning numbers and the prizes associated with them was the only content that appeared below the masthead.  Publishing that list served many purposes, including giving a boost to the advertisement for the second class of the lottery that appeared elsewhere in the newspaper.

July 17

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

New-London Gazette (July 17, 1772).

“Articles of JEWELLERY.”

John B. Brimmer stocked an array of goods at his store in Norwich Landing, Connecticut, in the summer of 1772.  In an advertisement in the New-London Gazette on July 17, he promoted a “great Variety of English and Hard Ware Goods,” but claimed to have “too great a Variety to be enumerated in an Advertisement.”  That differed from his marketing efforts the previous summer, but perhaps Brimmer determined that he did not wish to incur the expense of inserting lengthy lists of his goods in the newspaper.  He did list a couple of dozen items in a dense paragraph that included “best London Pewter,” “Brass Kettles,” “Iron Tea-Kettles,” concluding with “&c. &c. &c.”  In repeating the abbreviation for et ceterathree times, he suggested to prospective customers that they would discover much more when they visited his store.

Brimmer also informed the public that he carried many “Articles of JEWELLERY.”  Those items he did choose to enumerate, listing “Cypher Drops,” “Brilliants for Rings,” “Cyphers for Buttons,” “Brilliant Drops,” and “Sparks and Garnets.”  To draw attention to this merchandise, Brimmer arranged it in two columns with only item on each line.  Decorative type separated the two columns, giving the advertisement a unique visual component compared to any other notice in that issue of the New-London Gazette.  Only the “POETS CORNER,” a weekly feature at the top of the final page, featured anything similar, lines of decorative type appearing both above and below its headline.

Like most eighteenth-century advertisers, Brimmer relied on the copy to do most of the work in marketing his goods.  He made appeals to consumer choice, invoking the word “variety” more than once, and promised low prices.  However, he also introduced a bit of graphic design to engage readers of the New-London Gazette.  The decorative type enhanced the visibility of his advertisement, distinguishing it from others.

May 15

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

New-London Gazette (May 15, 1772).

“A STAGE-WAGGON … from Sagharbour on Long-Island, to New-York.”

Newspaper advertisements documented some of the transportation infrastructure established in the colonies in the early 1770s.  The May 15, 1772, edition of the New-London Gazette, for instance, carried an advertisement for a “STAGE-WAGGON” that operated between New York City and Sag Harbor, a village on Long Island, and an advertisement for “Passage-Boats” that connected New London and Norwich.

Samuel Stockwell and John Springer informed readers who needed to travel or transport goods along the Thames River between New London on the coast and Norwich in the interior of the colony that their boats “Continue to ply every Day, Wind and Weather permitting.”  They pledged to keep to their schedule as faithfully as possible.  Stockwell and Springer included images of two vessels in their advertisement, simultaneously suggesting their industriousness and the destinations they served.

A more extensive advertisement for the wagon between New York and Sag Harbor explained that the route “will greatly facilitate the travelling between the New England and Southern Provinces.  That was made possible by combining travel on the wagon with sailing on “a Passage-Boat kept by James Wiggins” that crossed Long Island Sound between Sag Harbor and New London twice a week.  The wagon service departed from both New York and Sag Harbor on Monday mornings.  When they met, they exchanged passengers.  Travelers arrived at their destination by Wednesday evening.  Conveniently, the boat for New London departed “every Thursday Morning, and returns again … on Saturdays.”  Passengers sailing that direction arrived in time to catch a wagon headed to New York on Monday morning.

These two advertisements provided sufficient information for readers to plan trips between Norwich and New York, their journey involving two boats and two wagons in a little less than a week.  In an advertisement for his own stagecoach service in the Connecticut Journal, Nicholas Brown asserted that “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces, travelling to Boston … generally go by Water from New-York to Providence.”  The advertisements in the New-London Gazetteillustrate other routes available to travelers in New England and New York.

April 24

GUEST CURATOR: Turner Pomeroy

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

New-London Gazette (April 24, 1772).

“All Kinds of Goldsmith, Silversmith, and Jewelry Work.”

John Champlin, a goldsmith, advertised in the New-London Gazette on April 24, 1772.  He advertised “all Kinds of Goldsmith, Silversmith, and Jewelry Work.”  He considered being skilled in all three areas very useful, but working with silver was the most prestigious. According to Frances Gruber Saddord, silversmiths worked in “towns up and down the eastern seaboard” in the eighteenth century, but “the three leading cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia remained the major centers of silver production throughout the colonial period, for the trade flourished primarily in a thriving urban environment.”  In addition, “colonial craftsmen relied for their success on a network of family and business ties” since “there were no guilds” in the colonies.  As a result, “[i]ntermarriage within the craft was common and many apprentices were related to their masters.”[1]  Working as a goldsmith or silversmith could be very profitable.  Sometimes families involved in the trade rose in the social ranks.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

The advertisement that Turner selected provides evidence of the network of business ties that provided support to artisans in early America.  Although Champlin promoted “all Kinds of Goldsmith, Silversmith, and Jewelry Work” that he produced in his shop, that was not his primary purpose in placing an advertisement in the New-London Gazette.  Instead, he wanted readers and prospective customers to know that an employee in his shop did “Clock and Watch making, mending, cleaning and repairing in the very neatest Manner.”  Champlin offered assurances to “Any Gentlemen favouring him with their Custom” that they “may firmly rely on its being done with Alacrity and Dispatch.”  The goldsmith, silversmith, and jeweler likely believed that diversifying the services available in his shop by adding clock- and watchmaking “in its several Branches” helped in cultivating a larger clientele and generating additional revenue.

Champlin pursued that strategy over the course of several years.  In December 1769, James Watson, a clock- and watchmaker “late from London,” placed an advertisement in the New-London Gazette to inform prospective customers that he “removed from Mr. Robert Douglass, silver smith’s shop, to Mr. John Champlin, silver smith’s shop.”  Watson acknowledged that he was “a stranger” to the community, one who relied on Champlin to vouch for him.  The silversmith did so, “strongly recommend[ing] him to all his customers.”  Champlin also stated that he “will warrant [Watson’s] ability and fidelity in any thing he shall undertake in said business” of watch- and clockmaking.  A couple of years later, Champlin once again formed a partnership with a fellow artisan, leveraging his resources – his reputation and his shop – for the benefit of both.  Former customers who had previously employed Watson could decide for themselves how much stock they put in Champlin’s endorsement of a new clock- and watchmaker.  For his part, the smith seemed confident that he had established a good record in that regard.

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[1] Frances Gruber Safford, “Colonial Silver in the American Wing,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41, no. 1 (Summer 1983): 8.

March 27

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

New-London Gazette (March 27, 1772).

“To teach reading, and all Kinds of Needle-Work.”

As spring arrived in 1772 advertisements for boarding schools for girls and young women appeared in several newspapers in New England.  Mary Homans took to the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform readers that “she shall open a BOARDING SCHOOL for Misses, the first of April.”  Her pupils would “be taught any Sort of Needle Work,” but that was not the extent of the curriculum.  She concluded her advertisements with “Likewise Reading and Spelling.”

Elizabeth Hern’s advertisement in the New-London Gazette suggested a similar course of study for young ladies.  Although she stated that she “would take Children from other Towns, and Board and School them, at a very reasonable Rate,” her description of her curriculum made it clear that she taught skills intended for female students.  Like Homans, she planned to open her school on April 1.  She listed reading first, but then added “all Kinds of Needle-Work, viz. working on Pocket-Books and Samplars, Embroidery on Canvass or Muslin.”  Hern further elaborated that her pupils would “also learn Wax Work, or to paint on Glass.”

Reading and some forms of needlework were practical skills, but Homans and Hern sought students whose families desired more than just a practical education for their daughters.  They wished for those young ladies to become proficient in feminine activities associated with gentility and leisure that would testify to their social standing.  Notably, they did not open schools in Boston or New York or any of the other major urban ports.  Instead, they served students in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and New London, Connecticut, and “other Towns.”  Just as colonizers throughout the countryside participated in the consumer revolution, acquiring the various imported goods so often advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette and the New-London Gazette, they also cultivated manners and learned skills intended to enhance their status.  For young women, that sometimes meant that learning “to paint on Glass” had as much cultural significance as learning to read.

February 14

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

New-London Gazette (February 14, 1772).

“SUBSCRIPTIONS … will be received by T. & J. Fleet, in Boston, T. Green in New-London, and by the other Printers in Connecticut.”

When a “Gentleman in England, of Distinguished character for many munificent deeds to the Publick,” supposedly wished to sponsor publication of “a second Volume of Collection of Papers relative to the History of Massachusetts Bay” in 1772, Thomas Fleet and John Fleet, printers of the first volume, set about promoting the project.  Advertisements initially appeared in newspapers published in Boston, but eventually ran in other newspapers as well.

An advertisement nearly identical to one in the January 23, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter appeared in the New-London Gazette on February 14.  It featured the same introduction that gave the story of the “Gentleman in England” and cautioned that “None will be printed for Sale” except those reserved by subscribers in advance.  It also included the primary justification intended to persuade colonizers to support the project: “As most of these Papers will, probably, be irrecoverably lost in a few Years, unless preserved by Printing, it is hoped that a sufficient Number of Subscribers will soon appear, from a regard to the Public.”  Readers had a duty “for the Benefit of Posterity,” the advertisement underscored, to participate in the preservation of important documents through printing them so widely that they would always remain accessible.

The version of the advertisement that ran in the New-London Gazette did have some variations.  Timothy Green, the printer of that newspaper, reserved space for other content by significantly reducing the list of local agents who worked with the Fleets.  “SUBSCRIPTIONS to encourage the Printing of this Collection,” the advertisement instructed, “will be received by T. & J. Fleet, in Boston, T. Green in New-London, and by the other Printers in Connecticut.”  The original version listed local agents in nearly a dozen cities and towns in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.  It also concluded with a note that “A few of the first Volumes of Collection of Papers, may be had at the Heart and Crown.”  Compared to readers of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, readers of the New-London Gazettewere less likely to know that a sign depicting a heart and crown marked the location of the Fleets’ printing office.  Green edited that final note to advise readers of his newspaper that “A few of the first Volume of Collection of Papers may be had of T. & J. Fleet, in Boston.”

Green participated in an extensive network of local agents, comprised primarily of printers, who accepted subscriptions for the proposed “second Volume of Collection of Papers relative to the History of Massachusetts Bay.”  His responsibilities included marketing as well as collecting names of colonizers who wished to reserve copies.  He published advertisements consistent with those distributed by the printers in charge of the project, but edited them to suit his own purposes and to provide clarifications for readers of his newspaper.  That resulted in an advertising largely consistent from newspapers in one town to another, but with minor variations.

January 17

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

Connecticut Journal (January 17, 1772).

“All Persons Indebted to said Sherman, are desired to make immediate Payment, to prevent Trouble.”

John Sherman had two purposes in placing an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy in January 1772.  He aimed to attract customers for the “large Quantity of GOODS” available at his shop, but he also wished to collect on debts.  As was often the case in colonial newspapers, he pursued both goals in a single advertisement rather than placing multiple notices with distinct purposes.  This may have been a strategy to avoid paying for more than one notice, depending on how the printer set advertising rates, but it also suggests that advertisers expected readers to closely examine the content of advertisements as well as news articles, letters, and editorials that appeared elsewhere in newspapers.

In a slightly longer advertisement, Roger Sherman addressed three different purposes.  Like John, he marketed textiles and “a general Assortment of other GOODS.”  He also demanded that “those indebted to him by Book or Note … make immediate Payment to avoid Trouble.”  That threat of legal action echoed the language deployed in John’s advertisement. Finally, he made a much more specific request: “The Person who has his Province Law-Book is desired to return it.” Rather than place a separate advertisement solely about returning the book, he expected that readers would peruse his entire notice.

Such was the case among colonizers who placed advertisements in other newspapers.  On the same day that these advertisements ran in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, Samuel Noyes, a jeweler, ran a notice in the New-London Gazette.  He devoted the vast majority of it to listing items available at his shop, including shoe and knee buckles, rings, and lockets.  At the very end, he also announced that he “Wanted a likely Boy as an Apprentice to the Goldsmith’s Business.”  Not completely trusting readers to closely examine the conclusion of the advertisement, the compositor used a slightly larger font to draw attention, but that was not usually the case in advertisements with multiple purposes.  Neither of the notices in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy featured variations in font size except for the names of the advertisers (which also served as headlines).