November 19

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

Nov 19 - 11:19:1767 New-York Journal Supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (November 19, 1767).

“New fancied Goods too tedious to mention.”

Upon importing a “Large Assortment of MILLENARY,” M. Philips turned to the pages of the New-York Journal to advertise her wares. Unlike many other shopkeepers, she did not attempt to incite demand by indicating particular items in her inventory. In the two advertisements immediately above, for instance, Garrat Noel and James Nixon both listed dozens of items they peddled. Compared to Philips, both made a more significant investment in marketing. The newspaper’s colophon indicated that “Advertisements of a moderate Length are inserted for Five shilling, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after.” Printer John Holt did not specify what qualified as moderate length, but he almost certainly charged Noel and Nixon more for their notices. Nixon’s advertisement occupied twice as much space as Philips’s relatively brief advertisement. Noel’s was five times as long. Featuring two columns of merchandise, it also involved much more complicated typography (though the advertising rates in the colophon do not indicate any additional fees for such services).

Even though Philips did not attempt to entice potential customers with an extensive list of the items on her shelves, she aimed to convince them that they would encounter an array of choices in her shop. First she stated that she had imported a “Large Assortment.” Then she described her inventory as a “great Variety.” It was such a “great Variety” that the particulars were “too tedious to mention” in an advertisement. In making that claim, Philips resorted to a strategy sometimes deployed by other merchants and shopkeepers, though some placed the phrase at the end of a list as a means of assuring readers that they had not exhaustively enumerated their wares. Prospective customers could still encounter some surprises in their shops.

Philips may have also benefited from the proximity of her advertisement to Noel’s. At the top of the column, Noel announced that he had imported goods from London via Captain Lawrence and the New-York. Philips also reported that she had “just imported” her millenary supplies and fancy goods “in the Ship New-York, Captain Lawrence, from London.” As a result, some readers may have associated the types of goods listed by Noel with the “newest and genteelest” merchandise in Philips’s shop. Noel’s advertisement primed readers to think of particular items. Philips then allowed them to conjure images of those and other “fancied Goods” at her store on Smith Street.

October 29

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

Oct 29 - 10:29:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (October 29, 1767).

“The Medley of Goods.”

Gerardus Duyckinck, a prolific advertiser in New York’s newspapers in the 1760s, introduced consumers to an innovative advertisement for his “UNIVERSAL STORE” in the October 29, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal. His new advertisement enclosed most of the copy within an ornate rococo cartouche, a design suggestive of the frames for the “Pictures [and] Looking-Glasses” he sold. Visually, his advertisement was unique. Nothing else of the sort appeared in that issue of the New-York Journal, nor in any newspaper published in the colonies.

Several other advertisements included images, but all of them were comparatively crude woodcuts of ships, houses, slaves, and horses. These widely used yet generic images belonged to the printer, a standard part of the type acquired by anyone who printed a newspaper. They could be used to spruce up any relevant advertisement. Occasionally some merchants and shopkeepers commissioned woodcuts for their exclusive use, images often tied to the shop sign that marked their location. In such instances, the image appeared at the top of the advertisement before any copy, not enclosing the text, as was the case for Duyckinck’s notice.

That visual element also distinguished this advertisement from others. In general, eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements did not have borders that set them apart from other items on the same page. Printers usually inserted a line between advertisements to help readers identify where one ended and another began. Sometimes they used decorative ornaments to add some visual appeal, but borders surrounding entire advertisements were exceptionally rare. Jolley Allen experimented with rudimentary borders for his advertisements in Boston’s newspapers the previous year, but they looked primitive compared to the genteel frame that enclosed Duyckinck’s advertisement.

It would have been impossible for readers not to notice Duyckinck’s advertisement. Noticing likely led to reading and examining the advertisement in greater detail, taking in the novelty of a form both new and sophisticated. In addition, the use of an elaborate cartouche introduced a common feature of eighteenth-century trade cards, each printed on its own sheet, into colonial newspapers. The form of one influenced the other, perhaps to the delight of readers. Such an extraordinary advertisement might have also enflamed potential customers’ curiosity about the “Medley of Goods” that Duyckinck sold at his “UNIVERSAL STORE.”

October 1

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

Oct 1 - 10:1:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (October 1, 1767).


The list-style advertisement placed by Henry Remsen, Jr., and Company in the October 1, 1767, issue of the New-York Journal concluded with two numbers that seemed to have no connection to the content of the notice: “91 93.” Of the seventeen other advertisements printed on the third page, fourteen included similar numbers. Why?

These numbers were not intended for readers. Instead, they were aids for the compositor to determine whether to continue inserting each advertisement in subsequent issues. According to the masthead, the October 1, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal was also issue “NUMB. 1291.” In the case of Remsen and Company’s advertisement, “91 93” indicated that it originated in issue 1291, continued for a total of three issues, and concluded with issue 1293. From consumer goods to real estate to runaway slaves, most of the other advertisements on the same page concluded with “91 94,” suggesting that John Holt, the printer, often sold advertising space for four consecutive issues.

Remsen and Company’s notice appeared under the heading “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.” That seems to have been an accurate representation of the advertisements on that page. Each that included numbers to guide the compositor started with 91. On the following page, the advertisements included lower numbers, indicating that they had been published in earlier issues. For instance, a notice calling on “ALL Persons that have any Demands against the Estate of John Leversage” to settle accounts with the executor first appeared in 1289 and was slated to continue through issue 1292, according to the “89 92” printed on the final line. In the two-page supplement that accompanied the October 1 issue, some of the advertisements featured numbers whose range deviated significantly from the current issue. Gerardus Duyckinck’s familiar advertisement for his “UNIVERSAL STORE,” for example, concluded with “67 70.” These numbers provided a guide for the minimal number of insertions paid for by the advertiser, but also suggest that printers and compositors sometimes published older advertisements, perhaps free of charge, in order to fill space.

Bookkeeping and keeping track of which advertisements must appear in any given issue could be difficult tasks for colonial printers and compositors. John Holt relied on a system that inserted some of that information directly into the advertisements in order to streamline the process.

September 17

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

Sep 17 - 9:17:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 17, 1767).

“The Coach-making Trade is carried on in all its different Branches.”

Elkanah and William Deane incorporated multiple marketing appeals into their advertisement for carriages slated for sale at auction the following week. Just as modern car dealerships do today, the coachmakers stocked several models so potential customers could choose the one that best fit their needs, tastes, and budgets. They may have also offered choices between new and used carriages. Other coachmakers, including Adino Paddock in Boston, advertised used carriages in the 1760s. The Deanes explicitly described both their “Post-Chariot, and Harness” and “one Horse-Chaise, with Steel-Springs and Iron Axeltree neatly finished with Harness complete” as “new,” but not their “Curricle and Harness.” That they instead described as “good.” If the curricle did indeed have a previous owner, it made sense to focus on its condition to reassure skeptical customers.

The Deanes also proclaimed that they pursued their trade “in all its different Branches” to the same standards as in London and Dublin. They had previously advertised that they “made and finished” coaches, harnesses, saddles and accessories “in the genteelest taste” and that employees in their workshop had been “regularly brought up to the different Branches of Trade.” Establishing connections to London and Dublin elaborated on that appeal. Consumers did not need to import carriages from workshops across the Atlantic. Instead, local artisans possessed the same skills and expertise and followed the same styles as in the most cosmopolitan cities in Britain and Ireland. Their coaches rivaled any built elsewhere in the empire.

Finally, the Deanes inserted a nota bene that informed prospective customers that they “warrant their Work for Twelve Months.” The coachmakers regularly included this guarantee in their advertisements, having previously stated in an earlier notice that the items they sold were “warranted for Twelve Months. They did not offer false promises about the craftsmanship of their carriages; instead, they were so confident that they backed up their appeals to quality with guarantees valid for an entire year after purchase.

Buying a carriage was a major purchase for any customer, even the most affluent. Some colonists spared no expense when they imported carriages from workshops in London, yet local coachmakers sought their own place in the market. Elkanah and William Deane underscored the virtues associated with the carriages they made and sold, promising customers the same cachet as well as services, including repair work during the first year, that faraway competitors could not provide.

September 13

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

Sep 13 - 9:10:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 10, 1767).

“Hughes’s Night School, Commences on the 14th Instant.”

In early September 1767, Hughes turned to the New-York Journal to advertise the opening of his night school in the middle of the month. His entire notice consisted of only eight words: “Hughes’s Night School, Commences on the 14th Instant.” Given the brevity of this advertisement, especially in comparison to those placed by other schoolmasters throughout the colonies, Hughes must have assumed that the general public was already aware of all the important details, everything from the curriculum to the hours of instruction to the location.

What Hughes’s advertisement lacked in relaying information it made up for in experimenting with layout designed to attract the attention of potential students. John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal, and the compositor had developed a fairly standard visual appearance for advertisements inserted in that newspaper. They used a single font size for news items and most of the text included in advertisements, but headlines for advertisements (most often an advertiser’s name) appeared in a significantly larger font, regardless of the length of the advertisement. The first line of the body of the advertisement often featured a font only slightly larger than that used for the remainder. Advertisements by Philip Livingston and Peter Remsen that appeared in the same column as Hughes’s advertisement fit the general pattern when it came to the graphic design of paid notices in the New-York Journal.

Sep 13 - Extra Adverts from New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 10, 1767).

Every word and every line of Hughes’s advertisement appeared in larger font sizes. The size of “Commences on the 14th instant,” the smallest in this advertisement, paralleled that of headlines in other advertisements throughout the standard issue and the supplement. The size of “Night School” rivaled the size of the newspaper’s title in the masthead. The size of the schoolmaster’s name far exceeded anything else printed in the issue or the supplement. Hughes’s message to potential students was short and straightforward, but the visual aspects had been designed to distinguish it from everything else on the page.

Newspapers published in colonial America’s largest cities in the 1760s often had a surplus of advertising, so much that they often had to print supplements to accommodate all of them. Space was limited, causing printers and compositors to standardize some of the visual aspects, including limiting the size of most text in advertisements. On occasion, however, they experimented with other formats that would have had a much different effect on readers accustomed to a particular style. Hughes’s relatively short advertisement for his “Night School” certainly stood out on the page.

September 6

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

Sep 6 - 9:3:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 3, 1767).


Colonists lived in an era of intense geographic mobility. In the decade before the Revolution, the flow of immigrants from across the Atlantic accelerated. Even colonists born in North America moved from place to place as they searched for economic opportunities. Many residents of cities and towns up and down the Atlantic coast could not claim to be from the place they now lived. For various reasons, some continued to emphasize their origins even as they became members of new communities.

This was often the case with tailors, cabinetmakers, and other artisans, especially as newcomers attempting to promote their livelihoods in local newspapers. They needed customers, yet determined that maintaining some aspects of their outsider status would effectively attract patrons who were unfamiliar with them and the goods they produced. Artisans who placed advertisements frequently asserted their connections to cosmopolitan centers in Europe. This gave them a certain cachet, suggesting that they made and sold items that were particularly fashionable. In some instances connections to London and other European cities also implied specialized training superior to any undertaken in the colonies.

In the September 3, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal, Blanch White introduced himself to potential customers as an UPHOLSTERER FROM LONDON.” In the same issue, readers also learned of the services of “Charles Le Frou, From PARIS, Perriwig-maker and hair Dresser.” Recent arrivals often used such designations to identify and distinguish themselves, though many advertisements obscured precisely how much time had elapsed since the artisan had lived and worked in London or another cosmopolitan center of fashion and commerce.

White’s advertisement provided some clarification. Even though he pronounced that he was “FROM LONDON,” he also indicated that he “has followed the Business for many Years past in Philadelphia.” Apparently his connection to London was not recent, yet the upholsterer still considered it a selling point worth mentioning to prospective customers. Some advertisers would have been content not to provide additional information about any extended interim between departing London and setting up shop locally, but White sensed an opportunity in acknowledging the time he spent in Philadelphia. Given that he seemed to specialize in martial supplies, he believed that he “must be known to some Gentlemen of the Military in this City.” He extended a direct appeal to former customers and acquaintances that served as an indirect endorsement.

Years after migrating across the Atlantic, Blanch White continued to identify himself as “FROM LONDON,” at least for the purposes of promoting his business in print. Yet he also found value in underscoring the work he had done and the clients he had served for “many Years” in the largest city in the colonies.

August 27

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

Aug 27 - 8:27:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

“The Subscribers are desired to send for ther Books as soon as possible.”

In 1767 Lambertus de Ronde, “Minister of the Protestant Dutch Church, at New-York,” inserted an advertisement in the New-York Journal to announce that he had finally published True Spiritual Religion, Or Delightful Service of the Lord. The minister had previously solicited subscriptions to gauge the market for his book, but the anticipated date of publication had been delayed due to “the Pre-engagement of the Printer in other Work.”

This actually worked to the author’s benefit – and to the benefit of subscribers, according to de Ronde. He took advantage of the extra time to “enlarge” the volume, drawing up an “alphabetical Table of the Contents.” In other words, he created an index “for the greater Usefulness and Conveniency of the Reader, who now can readily know on what Page the Words and Things are to be found.” Such a helpful addition to the original manuscript, de Ronde insinuated, certainly excused the delay in publishing the book!

The author also suggested that this must make his book more attractive to additional customers, not just the original subscribers. He indicated that he had “a few more to dispose of than were subscribed for.” In effect, his advertisement did not merely announce publication of True Spiritual Religion and call on subscribers to retrieve their copies. Instead, what masqueraded as an announcement actually marketed the book to other readers. In addition to promoting the utility of the index, de Ronde also praised the material qualities of the volume. It was “printed on a good Paper” and “also neatly bound” (as opposed to being sold in sheets for buyers to have bound on their own). In addition, the printer had set the book with “new large Letter” that readers would find “very Easy for the Eyes.” Even though these various enhancements made the book “more expensive,” de Ronde parted with it at “the lowest Rate” he could charge “without the Author’s Loss.” This was a bargain for potential customers!

Although Lambertus de Ronde addressed subscribers more than once in his advertisement, he did not merely inform them that True Spiritual Religion was ready for delivery. Instead, he used that as a pretext for marketing surplus copies to additional readers who had not participated in the first round of subscriptions. To some extent, he also marketed the book to the original subscribers, especially those who had not paid in full. For any who wavered in their commitment to acquire (and pay for) True Spiritual Religion, he provided multiple reasons for following through on their commitment.