September 29

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 29, 1772).

“Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular Notice taken of them in our next.”

Advertising could appear anywhere in colonial American newspapers, even on the front page.  In fact, some newspapers often devoted the entire front page to the masthead and advertising.  Others placed both news and advertising on the front page.  The distribution of items selected by the printer and paid notices submitted by advertisers varied from week to week in many newspapers.

Such was the case for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, printed by Charles Crouch.  Consider the September 29, 1772, edition.  Like other issues, it consisted of four pages crested by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half.  The first two pages contained news from London that arrived earlier in the week.  The shipping news from the customs house indicated that the Mermaid from London entered port on September 24.  The New Market, also from London, arrived a day later.  That gave Crouch plenty of time to receive newspapers and letters from both ships, read through them, and choose which items to print before publishing a new weekly edition on September 29.  He reserved advertising for the third and fourth pages, marking some notices with a header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”

Crouch also inserted a note to alert readers (and advertisers searching for their notices) that “Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular Notice taken of them in our next.”  What constituted “particular notice” beyond making sure to publish them at all?  No news appeared on the front page of the October 6 edition.  Instead, “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” filled all three columns on both the front page and the final page, two pages printed on the same side of a broadsheet.  Printers often printed those pages first, reserving the second and third pages for news that arrived just before publication.  In addition to the prominent placement of advertising on the front page, almost the entire issue consisted of paid notices.  Only the second page carried anything other than advertising.  News extended throughout the first and second columns.  It overflowed into the third, but more “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” accounted for half of that column.

The proportion and placement of news and advertising often varied from week to week in colonial newspapers as printers made decisions about providing news for subscribers who (sometimes) paid for their newspapers and disseminating paid notices for advertisers who accounted for an important revenue stream.  As a result, some newspapers sometimes looked like vehicles for delivering advertising without much news content at all.

October 19

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

Oct 19 - 10:19:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (October 19, 1767).

“We are oblig’d to give a SUPPLEMENT.”

Edes and Gill placed their own announcement immediately before the “New Advertisements” in the October 19, 1767, edition of the Boston-Gazette. In it, they explained that within the last three days three ships had arrived in port from London. The captains brought with them the “Prints to the 19th of August,” which they passed along to the printers. In other words, Edes and Gill had just obtained recent (or as recent as could be expected given the time required to cross the Atlantic) newspapers. As was common practice in the eighteenth century, their method of reporting involved reprinting items directly from other publications.

Edes and Gill did not have much time to scan the London newspapers, choose which items to reprint, set the type, and operate the presses before distributing the Boston-Gazette on Monday, its usual publication day. They might have been able to include news that had arrived the previous Friday, if they were industrious, but it would have been impossible to insert anything delivered by the captain who arrived on Sunday night. Setting type and operating the press by hand required more time, even if they quickly identified which items to reprint in their own newspaper.

Still, they wanted to get recently arrived news in print and distributed to their subscribers as quickly as possible. To that end, they determined “to give a SUPPLEMENT at Three o’Clock this Afternoon” and instructed their customers “to call or send for them” at that time if they wished to know the “Articles of Intelligence” delivered on the recently arrived vessels. The Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy both also published supplements that day. None of the local newspapers usually published on Mondays allowed the others to scoop them.

Edes and Gill offered an additional explanation for their decision to limit the amount of news from London in the standard issue in favor of filling the supplement with those “Articles of Intelligence.” They reasoned that they needed “to give our Advertizing Customers a good Place.” They considered this a favor and a service to their advertisers, but it also suggested that they realized that even though readers might often be eager to peruse the advertisements that at the moment they prioritized the news, especially since the Townshend Acts were scheduled to go into effect in just a month. Subscribers might (or might not) call or send for a supplement filled with advertisements later in the day, but they would certainly retrieve a supplement that included the most recent political news from London. Edes and Gill implicitly acknowledged that they had a responsibility to place their advertisers’ notices in front of as many eyes as possible rather than consigning them to a separate supplement, distributed at a later time, that might not be read. This was good business that promoted loyalty among their advertisers and encouraged others to consider placing their advertisements in the Boston-Gazette.