December 10

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

Dec 10 - 12:7:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (December 7, 1769).

“LONDON MAGAZINE.”

Nicholas Langford, “Bookseller, on the Bay,” inserted an advertisement for the London Magazine in the December 7, 1769, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. At a time when many colonists participated in nonimportation agreements to protest taxes that Parliament imposed on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea, most continued to seek redress of grievances rather than political separation from the most powerful empire in the world. Even as they came to think of themselves as Americans with unique concerns within that empire, most still embraced their British identity, not just politically but also culturally. Langford had a reasonable expectation that he would find subscribers for the London Magazine on the eve of the 1770s.

Commencing publication in 1731, the London Magazine had a long history and a notable reputation. According to Langford, the “present Proprietors … are resolved to spare no Cost to continue its Pre-eminence” by “collecting from their extensive Correspondence, such Pieces of Literary Knowledge and Amusement, as may best deserve the Public’s Notice.” They also composed original pieces, “each taking upon him that Department which best suits his Genius.” This sort of cultural production did not have a counterpart or competitor in the colonies. Lewis Nicola had recently tried to launch the American General Magazine, placing subscription notices in several newspapers throughout the colonies, but the magazine quickly folded. Like most other American magazine published before the Revolution, it lasted less than a year. The first issue appeared in January 1769 and the last in September. Nicola modeled the magazine after successful publications produced on the other side of the Atlantic, but did not manage to cultivate a roster of subscribers extensive enough to make the American General Magazine a viable venture. Consumers with the resources to afford magazines and the leisure time to read them had well-established alternatives, including the London Magazine with its “Copper-Plate Embellishments.” Langford also offered The Critical Review “for any Gentleman who may be desirous of having it with the Magazine.”

As colonists expressed their disdain for Parliament and its various abuses, many also continued to embrace their British identity. The politics of the period did not prevent them from marketing or consuming cultural productions that emanated from the center of the empire. For some, staying informed by reading the London Magazine did not seem incongruous with participating in acts of political resistance that included boycotting a vast array of consumer goods imported from Britain.

November 2

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

Nov 2 - 11:2:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (November 1, 1769).

“His printed CATALOGUE may be had.”

In an advertisement that ran on the front page of the November 2, 1769, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, Nicholas Langford, “BOOKSELLER From LONDON,” informed prospective customers that he had just imported a collection of “CHOICE AND USEFUL BOOKS.” Calhoun Winton has documented Langford’s activities as a bookseller (and advertiser) in Charleston, noting that in January 1769 he advertised in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that “he was departing for London to secure” new inventory.[1] Eleven months later, he returned and once again turned to the public prints to promote his entrepreneurial activities.

This advertisement served as a preview since Langford was not yet ready to offer the books for sale. In a nota bene, he informed readers that “the earliest Notice will be given in all the Papers, when and where the [books] will be ready for Sale.” He offered another sort of preview, instructing interested parties to obtain copies of his “printed CATALOGUE” from several local merchants and artisans. As Winton explains, Langford “established a network … to assist him in purveying his books.”[2] The bookseller indicated that each of his associates accepted orders in addition to distributing his catalog.

The success of this network depended in large part on that catalog since it served as a substitute for browsing through the books themselves. It is not clear from Langford’s advertisement if he had the catalog printed in London before returning to the colonies or if he arrived in Charleston with a manuscript list of titles and had one of the local printers produce it. Either way, the catalog represented additional advertising revenue accrued to at least once printer. In addition to paying to have his advertisements inserted in Charleston’s newspapers, Langford also paid for job printing when he took this special order to a printing office. The catalog itself demonstrates that eighteenth-century advertisers utilized multiple forms of marketing media, not just newspaper advertisements, but it also testifies to the expenses that many entrepreneurs incurred in the process of promoting their wares.

**********

[1] Calhoun Winton, “The Southern Book Trade in the Eighteenth Century,” in The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World, ed. Hugh Amory and David D. Hall, vol. 1. A History of the Book in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press in association with the American Antiquarian Society, 2007).

[2] Winton, “Southern Book Trade.”

August 9

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

Aug 9 - 8:9:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 9, 1768).

“For the inspection of the CURIOUS … one of Mr. Benjamin Martin’s ROYAL PATENT PUMPS.”

Like many other colonial booksellers, Nicholas Langford stocked an array of other sorts of goods at his “BOOK and PRINT STORE” in Charleston. In an advertisement in the August 9, 1768 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Langford listed several titles from among the “Very neat and choice collection of BOOKS in polite literature, approved history and useful sciences” that he had recently imported, but he supplemented those wares with other sorts of merchandise, including “Woodstock wash leather gloves” and “neatest London made gentlemens shoes.” Langford’s inventory of clothing and housewares was not particularly extensive when compared to the items listed by many shopkeepers. However, the bookseller did stock sufficient additional goods to garner attention from prospective customers interested in more than just books, stationery, and prints.

That part of Langford’s advertisement was not all that unusual. Eighteenth-century booksellers frequently attempted to supplement the revenues generated by their primary occupation by selling other items on the side. A lengthy paragraph about “Mr. Benjamin Martin’s ROYAL PATENT PUMPS,” however, did distinguish Langford’s advertisement from others placed by booksellers. Langford announced that he displayed one of the pumps, which had never before been seen in South Carolina, “For the inspection of the CURIOUS.” He invited readers to examine the display model for themselves to see “its much superior effect produced by a continual stream” and observe how it “work[ed] without friction,” eliminating the “wear” and “choak” commonly associated with other pumps. Langford promoted several uses for this new brand of pumps, asserting that “they will be found to be extremely useful to this province, particularly for the draining of swamps, and filling the indico vats.” Interested parties could place their orders at the “BOOK and PRINT STORE” for Langford to transmit “to the manufactory in London.”

The final paragraph of Langford’s advertisement deviated significantly from the standard marketing efforts deployed by eighteenth-century booksellers. He offered readers a curiosity that they were invited to contemplate in the moment as well as examine on their own during a visit to his shop. In making “Mr. Benjamin Martin’s ROYAL PATENT PUMPS” available for purchase, he enhanced his reputation as an entrepreneur who tended to the improvement of the entire colony rather than merely advancing his own business. Yet he did stand to reap benefits of his own if displaying the pump and taking orders also happened to create additional foot traffic in his shop and if curious onlookers also happened to buy books or other wares. Langford hoped to transform the “CURIOUS” into consumers.