March 8

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

Mar 8 - 3:8:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
Addition to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 8, 1768).

“They carry on the Taylors Business in all its Branches.”

David Maull and John Wood’s advertisement was one of nearly a dozen that appeared in the two-page Addition to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal published by Charles Crouch on March 8, 1768. It accompanied the regular four-page issue of that newspaper and a two-page Supplement. Crouch distributed supplements so often that many readers may have come to expect them as standard, made necessary by the number of advertisements submitted to the printing office. Indeed, the supplements usually contained advertising exclusively, even when advertisements accounted for nearly half of the space in regular issues.

The Addition, however, did not follow this pattern. Only two of the six columns (three on each side of the halfsheet) were filled with advertising. The ninth of John Dickinson’s “LETTERS from a FARMER in PENNSYLVANIA, to the Inhabitants of the BRITISH COLONIES” occupied nearly the entire first page. In it, the “FARMER” explained the necessity of local representation in firmly established assemblies. The Addition also included news from Boston and Philadelphia as well as a poem, “The Batchelor’s Reasons for taking a Wife.”

What Crouch termed an Addition his counterparts in other cities and towns usually called an Extraordinary in their efforts to distinguish such publications from the more common supplements often distributed with the standard issues of their newspapers. Whatever the nomenclature, Crouch’s Addition of March 8, 1768, further establishes a pattern. During the period of the imperial crisis between the imposition of the Stamp Act in 1765 and the outbreak of military hostilities in 1775, the colonies alternately experienced periods of intense discord with Britain and periods of relative calm. In early March 1768 the Townshend Act had been in effect for just over three months. Colonists had commenced non-importation agreements at the beginning of the year. From New England to Georgia, newspapers reported discontent and political outrage, often in supplements and extraordinary issues that proliferated during those times that the imperial crisis intensified.

At most times advertising, especially the revenue it generated for printers, facilitated the dissemination of news and editorial items. Supplements devoted to advertising made delivering the news and other content possible. During periods of conflict, however, publishing the news sometimes led to the broader or more frequent distribution of advertising. Such appears to have been the case with Crouch’s Addition from March 8, 1768. As he went about publishing Dickinson’s “LETTER IX” and news from Boston and Philadelphia, the printer needed to fill an entire halfsheet. The poem took up half a column. Two of the advertisements promoted the printer’s own wares, but the others had previously appeared as paid notices. Perhaps those who placed them paid for this insertion as well. Even if that were the case, the Addition upended the usual relationships between news and advertisements in colonial newspapers. In this case, publishing the news led to readers being exposed to more advertising rather than the usual situation of advertising bringing the news.

February 20

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

Feb 20 - 2:20:1768 New-York Journal Supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (February 20, 1768).

“SAMUEL BROOME, And COMPANY, Have just imported … a beautiful assortment of European and India Goods.”

In general, printers published three types of newspaper supplements in eighteenth-century America: advertising supplements delivered the same day as the regular issue, news supplements distributed sometime during the week between issues, and mixed supplements published on the day of the regular issue.

The first were the most common, especially in the largest port cities. A standard issue consisted of four pages, created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. Given the size of the population in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, printers often found that they had too much content, especially advertisements, to squeeze everything into just four pages. In such cases they simultaneously distributed a two-page supplement comprised exclusively of advertising. Such was the case with the February 18, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Space in the standard issue was almost evenly divided between news and advertisements, but paid notices alone filled the pages of the supplement. Hugh Gaine charted a similar course for the February 22, 1768, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, though the standard issue contained nearly three full pages of advertising. No news items appeared in the supplement.

On February 20, 1768, John Holt distributed a Supplement to the New-York Journal, two days after the regular issue made its usual weekly appearance. This supplement consisted of four pages rather than two, but otherwise followed the pattern for midweek supplements. It contained mostly news items with very few advertisements. What little advertising did appear, including Samuel Broome and Company’s notice, served as filler that completed the supplement. Two days earlier, James Parker issued a two-page New-York Gazette Extraordinary as a midweek supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Post-Boy. Like the Supplement to the New-York Journal, it contained mostly news items with very few advertisements.

During the same week, Richard Draper included a supplement with the Massachusetts Gazette on the day of its usual publication. The supplement balanced news items and advertisements. On the same day, John Holt issued a Supplement to the New-York Journal that accompanied the regular issue, not to be confused with the midweek supplement released two days later. (All three publications bore the same issue number, 1311, but the regular issue and the first supplement were dated February 18 while the second supplement was dated February 20.) This supplement also devoted significant space to both news items and advertisements; neither eclipsed the other.

Supplements from the latter two categories became more common during periods that the imperial crisis intensified. The number of commercial notices and other types of advertisements had been sufficient justification for publishing supplements to accompany the regular issues during times of relative harmony between colonists and Parliament. During periods of unrest, however, the volume of advertising no longer served as the determinative factor in whether or when printers published supplements. The proliferation of supplements certainly disseminated more advertisements to colonists, but the understanding of the purpose of supplements likely shifted as both publishers and readers conceived of them as more than just mechanisms for circulating advertising. The revenues collected from advertisements made possible the publication of supplements in times of political turmoil. In turn, these extraordinary issues may have stoked demand for newspapers – featuring news items – published more frequently. Printers soon experimented with semiweekly and triweekly publication. Not long after the American Revolution, newspapers in the largest cities commenced daily publication.