March 17

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

South-Carolina Gazette (March 14, 1771).

“New Advertisements.”

Colonial American newspapers were vehicles for disseminating advertising.  Some newspapers published in the largest port cities frequently included supplements devoted entirely to advertising, even when advertising filled more space than news accounts in the standard issues.  Peter Timothy, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, did not bother with an advertising supplement to accompany the March 14, 1771, edition, but neither did he print much news.  Paid notices filled more than three quarters of the twelve columns spread over four pages.

When readers perused that issue, they first encountered “New Advertisements” immediately below the masthead. Advertisements filled the first two columns of the first page, but Timothy have over the third column to news accounts and a letter to the editor.  That column concluded with a note to “Turn to the last Page” to continue reading the news.  Indeed, advertising consumed all three columns on the second page and all three columns on the third page.  A bit more news appeared in the first column of the fourth page as well as two regular features, the “Charles-Town Price Current, Of South Carolina Produce and Manufactures” and “Timothy’s Marine List.”  The printer branded the shipping news from the customs house.  In this instance, the extensive list of vessels filled the better part of a column, overflowing into the second column.  More “New Advertisements” immediately followed “Timothy’s Marine List.”  While Timothy did not organize the advertisements according to purpose or genre, he did distinguish among those that previously appeared in the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and those that readers had not previously seen.

Timothy had two competitors, the South-Carolina and American General Gazette printed by Robert Wells and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal printed by Charles Crouch.  That same week, those newspapers published similar proportions of news and advertising.  Apparently, Timothy did not need to worry about his subscribers expressing discontent that they received less news in their newspapers compared to others.  They may have considered the news accounts that the printer did insert along with the information contained in the advertisements sufficient for staying informed until another edition devoted more space to news accounts rather than paid notices.

July 25

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

Jul 25 - 7:25:1770 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 25, 1770).

“JOHN HATFIELD, TALLOW-CHANDLER and SOAP-BOILER … CARRIES on the said Business as usual.”

Among the three newspapers published in Charleston in 1770, readers encountered far more advertising than news in the final week of July.  On Wednesday, July 25, Robert Wells distributed the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Like most newspapers published in eighteenth-century America, it consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Wells divided each page of his newspaper into four columns, yielding sixteen columns of content for subscribers and other readers.  Advertising comprised eleven of those sixteen columns, slightly more than two-thirds of the issue.  Three of the four columns on the first page contained news.

Yet it was the South-Carolina and American General Gazette that delivered the most news that week.  The following day, Peter Timothy published the weekly edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  It also consisted of four pages, but featured only three columns per page.  Of the twelve columns in the July 26 issue, advertising comprised ten.  Timothy devoted just two columns to news, including “Timothy’s Marine List,” the shipping news from the customs house.  The first item on the first page was a proclamation from the acting governor calling the colonial assembly into session on August 14.  Otherwise, news items appeared on pages two and three, though that was not an uncommon format for newspapers of the period.

Readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal discovered the same proportion of advertising and news in the issue that circulated on Tuesday, July 31.  Charles Crouch published two and half columns of news and editorials, confined entirely to the second page.  Paid notices filled the first page.  The contents of the newspapers published in South Carolina in the early 1770s were not always so lopsided in favor of advertising over news, but the issues from the final week of July 1770 underscore that newspapers were vehicles for disseminating advertising just as much as (and sometimes more than) delivering the news.