October 13

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 13, 1772).

“He continues to carry on the PAINTING and GLAZING BUSINESS.”

Colonial printers often resorted to publishing advertising supplements to accompany their weekly newspapers that featured both news and paid notices.  This was especially true for newspapers in the largest port cities, Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.  Each standard issue consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  When printers had sufficient additional content to justify the resources required to produce additional pages, they printed two- or four-page supplements.  Although news sometimes appeared in those supplements, additions, and extraordinary editions, they most often consisted of advertising.

That was not the case for the October 13, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and the Addition that Charles Crouch distributed on the same day.  The bulk of the news appeared in the two-page Addition after Crouch devoted ten and a half of the twelve columns in the standard issue to paid notices, including more than a dozen that offered enslaved people for sale or offered rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from those who held them in bondage.  Paid notices filled the entire first page below the masthead.  They also filled the entire third and fourth pages.  A short note, “For more London News, see the Addition,” appeared at the bottom of the first column of the second page, the only full column of news.  Halfway down the next column, a header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” alerted readers to the content on the remainder of the page.

The two-page Addition gave three times as much space to news compared to the standard issue.  News that arrived via London, most of it extracts from letters composed in various cities on the European continent, filled the first page and overflowed onto the second.  A short proclamation from the governor of the colony ran as local news midway through the second column on the other side of the sheet.  Crouch managed to squeeze in a few more advertisements, including one that promoted a “COMPLETE GERMAN GRAMMAR” that he sold at his printing office.  Instead of an advertising supplement that accompanied the newspaper, the Addition amounted to a news supplement that accompanied an advertising leaflet.  In many instances, colonial newspapers were vehicles for delivering advertising.  That was especially true of the October 13 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its Addition.

April 25

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (April 25, 1771).

“Many other Advertisements for want of Room must be deferred till next Week.”

On April 25, 1771, Richard Draper, the printer of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, faced the same conundrum that Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General, navigated the previous day.  He had more content than would fit in the standard four-page issue of his newspaper.  Wells opted to distribute a supplement that consisted entirely of advertising.  To conserve resources and minimize expenses, he printed that supplement on a smaller sheet.  Draper, on the other hand, inserted a note alerting readers (and advertisers who expected to see their notices in that issue) that “Many other Advertisements for want of Room must be deferred till next Week.”

In the end, Draper did print a supplement.  Like Wells, he printed it on a smaller sheet.  His supplement, however, did not include any advertising.  Instead, it relayed “Fresh London Articles,” news that just arrived in Boston via theThomas from London.  The placement of Draper’s notice about the delayed advertisements suggests the sequence of events.  Like other printers, het set the type and printed the first and fourth pages first, leaving the second and third pages for later.  As a result, the most current news usually appeared on the second page, inside the standard four-page issue, rather than on the front page.  For the April 25 edition, the first page included news from “BOSTON, April 19” as well as news from other towns from earlier in April.  The fourth page contained advertisements.  The second page included news from “BOSTON, April 25,” the same day Draper printed the issue, as well as shipping news from the customs house news from Hartford, an item reprinted from a London newspaper, and advertisements.  Like the fourth page, the third page consisted entirely of paid notices, with the addition of the printer’s note about delayed advertisements at the bottom of the final column.

When news from London arrived via the Thomas, however, Draper decided to print a supplement rather than get scooped by his competitors.  Most newspapers published before the American Revolution appeared weekly rather than daily, meaning that waiting for the next issue to print breaking news meant a significant delay.  Draper managed to take news from London to press first.  Four days later, the Boston Evening-Post and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy each carried the same news, but in both cases that news ran on the front page as a result of the printers having it in their possession longer.  The introductory comments in the Post-Boy explained, “Monday last arrived here the ShipThomas, Capt. Davis, from London, by whom we have Papers to the 1st of March; from which we have the following Advices.”

The Thomas arrived in port on Monday, April 22.  Either it took a couple of days for Draper to come into possession of the London newspapers that Davis delivered or the printer decided to create a supplement to call special attention to that news, underscoring that the News-Letter reported it before any competitors.  In both scenarios, Draper selected a smaller sheet and devoted the entire supplement to the “freshest advices,” as so many printers described the news in their publications.  Advertising, Draper determined, could wait a week.  News from London could not.  Given that newspaper printers depended on advertising revenue, Draper could not always make the same call.  After all, colonists who submitted paid notices were familiar with advertising supplements, a regular feature of many newspapers.  In this instance, however, Draper apparently figured that advertisers would be forgiving of the delay, provided it did not continue indefinitely.  Like other printers, he sought a balance between news and advertising that would satisfy both subscribers and advertisers.

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.