June 18

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

Jun 18 - 6:18 1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 18, 1770).

“Sam-Mill SAWS … By BENJAMIN HUMPHREYS.”

Visual images were relatively rare in eighteenth-century newspapers.  Mastheads often, but not always, incorporated images that became familiar to readers, but otherwise when images did appear in newspapers, they tended to accompany advertisements.  Among those images, most depicted vessels at sea, houses, horses, runaway indentured servants, or enslaved people for sale or escaping from those who held them in bondage.  Variation among these images was minor, allowing printers to use them interchangeably in advertisements.  Readers easily recognized them as stock images supplied by printers, images related to the content of advertisements but not created to adorn any particular advertisements.  When it came to ships seeking passengers and cargo, real estate, horses “to cover” (or breed), runaway servants, and the slave trade, printers did steady business selling advertisements, making it worth their investment in stock images.

The familiarity of those images made others all the more striking when they accompanied advertisements.  Even images with fairly simple designs distinguished the few advertisements that incorporated them from others that consisted entirely of text, often dense paragraphs that did not even deploy typography to allow for white space or other visual variations. When Benjamin Humphreys placed an advertisement for “Saw-Mill SAWS, Made in the NEATEST Manner” in the June 18, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, an image of a saw made it all the more noticeable to readers.  Unlike the stock images that belonged to the printer, Humphreys had to commission this woodcut.  Tied directly to his business, it could not be used elsewhere in the newspaper, especially since Humphreys had his name included in the image.  Even among advertisers who arranged for unique images to accompany their newspaper notices, relatively few incorporated their names into the woodcuts.

Jun 18 - 6:18:1770 Bartram Detail Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 18, 1770).

The image in another advertisement in the same issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle just happened to do so.  For nearly three years, George Bartram had occasionally published advertisements that included a depiction of his “sign of the NAKED BOY,” complete with his name.  Much more ornate than Humphrey’s woodcut of a saw, Bartram’s woodcut featured a naked child inspecting a roll of cloth in a cartouche in the center, flanked by Bartram’s merchandise on either side.  Garments on rolls of cloth appeared above the name “GEORGE” on the left and a glove draped over more rolls of cloth appeared above the name “BARTRAM” on the right.  The advertising copy changed from advertisement to advertisement over the years, but Bartram’s woodcut remained consistent in identifying his business to readers.

Although clustered in a single issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, these woodcuts were exceptional visual images that not only represented particular businesses but also incorporated the names of the advertisers.  Humphreys and Bartram experimented with creating logos that combined words and images to make them all the more distinctive and memorable for prospective customers.

January 15

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

Jan 15 - 1:15:1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 15, 1770).

“Dealers will meet with the usual encouragement.”

As colonists greeted a new decade, the “proprietors of the CHINA WORKS, now erecting in Southwark” took to the Pennsylvania Chronicle to advertise their new enterprise. They sought to provide consumers an alternative to the porcelain “manufactured at the famous factory in Bow near London, and imported into the colonies and plantations.” In addition to bolstering the colonial economy, the proprietors likely had an eye on the politics of the day, especially the nonimportation agreements adopted to protest the duties on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea imposed by the Townshend Acts. While they eschewed goods made in England and transported across the Atlantic, American consumers were primed to acquire similar wares produced in the colonies, especially if they had a reasonable expectation of similar prices and quality. To that end, the proprietors assured prospective customers that “the clays of America are productive of as good PORCELAIN” as the merchandise that came from Bow. Furthermore, they intended to “sell upon very reasonable terms.” Indeed, they reiterated both points, concluding the notice by proclaiming that their wares were “warranted equal to any in goodness and cheapness, hitherto manufactured in or imported from England.”

The proprietors addressed multiple audiences in their advertisement. They called on skilled workmen to seek employment as well as “such parents as are inclined to bind their children” as apprentices to contact them as soon as possible. The advertisement served as a general notice to consumer, but the proprietors included notes specifically for retailers. They pledged to “take all orders in rotation, and execute the earliest first.” More significantly, they aimed to convince merchants and shopkeepers that stocking up on this porcelain would be a good investment that yielded profits because the proprietors would not undersell them when dealing directly with consumers. They asserted that “Dealers will meet with the usual encouragement,” implying discounts for merchants and shopkeepers who purchased by volume. The proprietors then explicitly stated that dealers “may be assured that no goods under thirty pounds worth will be sold to private persons, out of the factory, at a lower advance than from their shops.” Considering that pledge was the only copy throughout the entire advertisement that appeared in italics, the proprietors intended for retailers to take notice. After all, they stood to achieve significantly larger transactions with merchants and shopkeepers who then assumed the risk of dispersing the porcelain to consumers.

The imperial crisis of the late 1760s and early 1770s helped to frame the entrepreneurial activities of colonists who launched new commercial endeavors, the “domestic manufactures” so often invoked in public discourse when discussing the trade imbalance with Britain and the duties on certain imported goods. Yet those who answered the call to produce goods in the colonies realized that it was not enough merely to make them available to consumers. The “proprietors of the CHINA WORKS” and other entrepreneurs realized that they needed to convince both consumers and retailers to embrace their wares in practice as well as in the ideology that circulated in conversations and in the press. Newspaper advertisements allowed them to make a case that emphasized cost, quality, and employment opportunities. Others went into even greater detail, outlining procedures designed to persuade them to stock “domestic manufactures” in their own shops.

January 8

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

Jan 8 1770 - 1:8:1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 8, 1770).

“Hart’s Vendue Store.”

Relatively few eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements featured visual images. Most that did relied on woodcuts of ships, houses, horses, or people that belonged to the printer for repeated use in various advertisements, but some advertisers did commission woodcuts that appeared exclusively in their notices. Oftentimes such woodcuts depicted their shop signs, creating consistent marketing iconography, but that was not always the case. Whether or not tied to shop signs, unique woodcuts stood to attract more attention to advertisements than they would have garnered without visual images.

Readers of the January 8, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle could hardly have overlooked the advertisement for an auction house, Hart’s Vendue Store, with its exceptionally large woodcut depicting a hand ringing a bell enclosed in a frame. Even though it was not the only visual image, it dominated the page, in large part due to its size. The woodcut occupied more space than the copy for the advertisement! The frame formed a square with the length of each side the same as the width of the column in which the advertisement ran. Woodcuts that the printer supplied, including one of a ship in the advertisement immediately to the left of the one for Hart’s Vendue Store, were much smaller icons. They usually appeared in the upper left corner of advertisements, with copy to the right and continuing below. In featuring such a large visual image, Hart invested not only in commissioning the woodcut but also in the space required to publish it in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. It more than doubled the amount of space filled by the advertisement. Hart may have considered it very well worth the investment if the woodcut managed to distinguish his advertisement and attract bidders to his auction house. Footman and Jeyes placed an advertisement for their “New VENDUE-STORE” on the same page. It lacked visual images. Indeed, the entire advertisement filled the same amount of space as Hart’s woodcut alone.

In the process of mobilizing a visual image, Hart’s advertisement may have engaged readers in other ways as well. Did colonists hear the ringing of the bell when they saw the woodcut? Did they imagine someone walking through the streets of Philadelphia proclaiming that they should visit Hart’s Vendue Store and participate in “the Sales of a large and very neat ASSORTMENT of Merchandize” on Tuesday afternoon? Did the woodcut evoke some of the sounds of the colonial city, prompting readers to imagine that they were already part of the sales that would soon take place?

No other advertisement in that issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle compared to the notice for Hart’s Vendue Store. The image of the hand and bell may look crude by model standards, but the size of the woodcut and its inclusion in the advertisement at all would have been notable to colonial readers.

October 16

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

Oct 16 - 10:16:1769 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 16, 1769).

“Just published … Father ABRAHAM’S ALMANACK.”

It was one of the signs that fall had arrived in the colonies: advertisements for almanacs began appearing in newspapers from New England to Georgia. The appearance of these advertisements had a rhythm as familiar as the changing of the seasons. A small number appeared as early as July or August to announce that particular titles would be published in the coming months. A greater number ran in September and October. By the end of October, some printers informed customers that they had just published almanacs, alerting them to purchase their favorite titles before supplies ran out. In November and December the number and frequency of advertisements for almanacs increased. As the new year approached, printers devoted significant space to newspaper advertisements about almanacs. This continued into January, though the advertisements tapered off in February and beyond. Some printers continued their attempts to rid themselves of surplus copies that ate into their profits. By the time spring arrived, advertisements for almanacs practically disappeared.

John Dunlap inserted his own advertisement for “Father ABRAHAM’S ALMANACK, For the Year of our LORD, 1770” in the October 16, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Noting that he had “Just published” the almanac, Dunlap made it available to customers two and a half months before the beginning of the new year. His marketing strategy consisted primarily of listing the contents, hoping to entice prospective customers with a combination of practical reference materials and entertaining essays and poems. The almanac included the usual astronomical calculations, such as “the Rising and Setting of the Sun; the Rising, Setting, and Southing of the Moon; … [and] Length of Days.” Other reference material included “Tables of Interest at 6 and 7 per Cent; a Table of the Value, and Weight of Coins,” and a calendar of “Quakers yearly Meetings.” The practical information even extended to medicine: “A Collection of choice and safe Remedies, simple and easily prepared.” Dunlap imagined some of his prospective customers when he suggested that these remedies were “fitted for the Service of Country People” who did not have immediate access to apothecary shops in Philadelphia. The pieces of entertainment included “An Essay on Toleration and the Search after Truth” as well as “The Ant and Caterpillar, a Fable” and “Spring, a Poem.” One item resonated with news reported in the public prints and discussed in town squares: “An Ode on Liberty.”

Dunlap offered little commentary on the contents of the almanac, leaving it to prospective customers to assess the value on their own. Clearly, however, he believed that listing the contents would stimulate demand. Doing so provided a preview while also distinguishing this almanac from the many others printed, published, and sold in Philadelphia. If he had not considered listing the contents an effective means of marketing the almanac, he could have truncated the advertisement to just a few lines merely announcing its availability.

September 18

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

Sep 18
Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 18, 1769).

“DANCING MASTER.”

Advertisements in the September 18, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle reminded readers that more than one dancing master taught lessons in the city that fall. Martin Foy and Mr. Tioli placed notices that conveniently appeared on the same page. Indeed, the compositor may have had a little fun when choosing the layout for the page, positioning both advertisements at the top of their respective columns but on opposite sides as though they were facing each other before commencing a dance … or perhaps a duel, considering that Foy taught “Gentlemen the use of the small sword” in addition to the latest steps. Whatever the compositor’s intent, the placement of the advertisements clearly put Foy and Tioli in competition with each other.

Even though they were rivals for students, both dancing masters emphasized the environment in which they provided their lessons. Foy ran his school “at the assembly room,” noting that the “room will be illuminated” in the evenings when he provided lessons for men who could not attend during the day due to their other commitments. Tioli taught at his home, where he set aside a room “excellently adapted for the purpose.” Yet it was not only the place of instruction that concerned the dancing masters. Tioli also assured prospective pupils that he would “make it his particular study to preserve the greatest order and decorum” during lessons. When several students gathered, the dancing school became a cacophony of movement and physical interactions, which helps to explain why both dancing masters instructed men and women separately. Even during lessons segregated by sex, Foy and Tioli recognized the prospect for misbehavior and mischievousness, whether horseplay or gossip, and insisted on their students acting with propriety. They imposed order when necessary. Foy promised his “fidelity” in conducting lessons “in a regular and polite manner.”

Personal comportment was an important aspect of both dancing well and appearing in genteel company to dance and socialize with others. Many colonists devoted considerable time to learning to dance in order to make the best possible impression on friends and neighbors when they attended public events. Learning the steps – and, equally important, how to do them gracefully – for a dance that lasted a few moments could require hours of instruction and practice, significantly more time for lapses in conduct and demeanor resulting from distractions during lessons composed entirely of male or female students who might feel unfettered when gathered in groups and not observed by members of the opposite sex. Instructing men and women separately avoided certain kinds of opportunities for discomfort among pupils, but doing so meant dancing masters potentially faced other sorts of allegations of impropriety at their schools. To that end, dancing masters advertised that they made great effort “to preserve the greatest order and decorum” at their schools.

August 7

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

Aug 7 - 8:7:1769 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 7, 1769).

“JOHN MASON, Upholsterer, PRAYS for LIBERTY to inform his friends and customers that he has removed his PROPERTY, to a new built house.”

As the imperial crisis intensified in the late 1760s, newspaper advertisements for consumer goods and services increasingly incorporated political messages intended to sway prospective customers. Many such advertisements underscored the benefits of encouraging “domestic manufactures” to achieve greater self-sufficiency and the virtues of purchasing those locally produced goods. Those advertisements often connected their “Buy American” appeals to faithful adherence to nonimportation agreements adopted to resist Parliament’s attempts to enact new taxes, first via the Stamp Act and later through imposing duties on certain imported goods via the Townshend Acts.

Such advertisements became a genre that deployed similar language and took similar forms. In his attempt to sell mattresses and market his services as an upholsterer, John Mason took an even bolder approach. Like other purveyors of goods and services, he turned to the public prints to inform prospective customers when he moved locations. The language he used, however, had distinct political overtones that certainly resonated with debates taking place in newspapers as well as in taverns, coffeehouses, and the public square. Mason trumpeted that he “PRAYS for LIBERTY to inform his friends and customer that he removed his PROPERTY, to a new built house … where he carries on the Upholstery Business.” The word “PRAYS” appeared in capitals because it was the first word in the body of the advertisement. “LIBERTY” and “PROPERTY,” however, apparently appeared in capitals because Mason specified that they needed appropriate emphasis. The upholsterer invoked two of the most important concepts animating resistance to Parliament.

Readers could hardly have missed the point when they considered “LIBERTY” and “PROPERTY” in combination with the nota bene that Mason appended to his advertisement. “No WONDER that Liberty is the Common Cry,” Mason lectured, “for if it was not the inanimate creation would cry out against us, for the very flowers, they, when deprived of their Liberty, Choose Death Rather, than be Confined in the softest bosom.—Methinks a Moment’s Reflections would Convince those that would Deprive us of our Liberty and property that they are Doing WRONG – for if our Fathers have No Right to Deprive us of our Liberty and property after Twenty-one Years, Certainly out Mother* can have No Right after we have enjoyed it near an Hundred Years. *Mother Country.” In this sermon on liberty, Mason looked to the history of the colonies for guidance and precedents. Parliament could not suddenly impose regulations the colonies after more than a century of allowing them to govern themselves through their own colonial assemblies. Furthermore, the stark choice between liberty and death so was evident that it could be witnessed even in the natural world, as Mason attested in his example of flowers that dies when held too closely, even in the most loving embrace.

At a time when many purveyors of consumer goods and services crafted advertisements that either implicitly or softly invoked politics to influence prospective customers, Mason made a full-throated declaration of his political sentiments. Inserting this editorial into his advertisement allowed him to demonstrate his politics to customers. In addition to adding his voice to the discourse unfolding in the public prints, Mason also intended to encourage customers to support his business because they agreed with his politics and admired his bold stance.

July 19

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

Jul 19 - 7:19:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 19, 1769).

“PROPOSALS FOR CONTINUING AND IMPROVING The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE.”

In the spring of 1769, William Goddard launched an advertising campaign intended to garner subscriptions for the Pennsylvania Chronicle from throughout the colonies. In outlining its contents, Goddard described a weekly publication that prospective subscribers may have considered as much a magazine as a newspaper. He proclaimed, “Several Gentlemen of great learning and ingenuity, in this and the neighbouring provinces, have promised to lend their assistance, so that there may not be wanting dome original productions, which may exhibit agreeable specimens of American humour and genius.” That being the case, Goddard did not produce a local or regional newspaper that merely delivered news reprinted from one newspaper to another, but instead a “Repository of ingenious and valuable literature, in prose and verse.” Goddard intended for subscribers to preserve their copies of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, pledging to distribute a title page, index, and two copperplate engravings (one for use as a frontispiece) to be bound together with the several issues each year. Such plans paralleled those distributed by magazine publishers in eighteenth-century America.

Goddard’s “PROPOSALS FOR CONTINUING AND IMPROVING The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE” radiated out from Philadelphia. They first found their way into newspapers published in New York and then others published in New England. Eventually they appeared in newspapers published in southern colonies. Dated “May 1, 1769,” Goddard’s “PROPOSALS” did not run in the Georgia Gazette, the newspaper most distant from Philadelphia, until July 19, eleven weeks later. Goddard envisioned what Benedict Anderson termed an imagined community of readers. Although dispersed geographically, readers formed a sense of community and common interests through exposure to the same information via print culture. Colonial newspapers served this purpose as printers established networks for exchanging their publications and liberally reprinting news and other content from one to another. Goddard presented an even more cohesive variation: subscribers throughout the colonies reading the same information in a single publication and feeling a sense of community because they knew that other subscribers in faraway places read the same news and literature contained in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, rather than whichever snippets from other publications an editor happened to choose to reprint for local and regional consumption.

Creating an imagined community depended in part on establishing a sense of simultaneity, that readers were encountering the same content at the same time. Communication and transportation technologies in the eighteenth century made true simultaneity impossible, as seen in the lag between Goddard composing his “PROPOSALS” on May 1 and their eventual publication in the Georgia Gazette on July 19. Yet readers could experience a perceived simultaneity from knowing that they read the same publication as subscribers in other colonies. Reprinting items from one newspaper to another already contributed to this, but the widespread distribution of a single publication made that perceived simultaneity much more palpable and certain. Readers encountered Goddard’s “PROPOSALS” in several newspapers published in cities and towns throughout the colonies, but they could experience the same contents, pitched as political and cultural and distinctively American, in the pages of the publication that Goddard made such great effort to distribute as widely as possible.

June 27

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

Jun 27 - 6:27:1769 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 27, 1769).

“SUBSCRIPTIONS are taken in … in different parts of America.”

In the spring of 1769, William Goddard inserted a subscription notice for his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, in several newspapers published in other cities. It ran in the Connecticut Courant, the Connecticut Journal, the Newport Gazette, the New-York Journal, and the Providence Gazette in May. The printers who ran the advertisement likely did not expect that subscribers would choose the Pennsylvania Chronicle over their own newspapers but rather as a supplement, especially since Goddard marketed his own publication as “a repository of ingenious and valuable literature, in prose and verse,” in addition to “a Register of the best Intelligence.”

Goddard printed the news and more, distinguishing the Pennsylvania Chronicle from other newspapers printed in the colonies. His subscription notice made the Pennsylvania Chronicle sound as much like a magazine as a newspaper, placing it in competition with the American Magazine. Lewis Nicola, the publisher, and William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, the printers of the American Magazine (and also the printers of the Pennsylvania Journal), embarked on their own advertising campaign, placing subscription notices in several newspapers beyond Philadelphia, their local market. Although the Pennsylvania Chronicle carried advertisements from Philadelphia and the surrounding area, Goddard’s subscription notice promoted the other contents of the publication as a rival to the American Magazine.

An eighteenth-century newspaper was not a local publication in the sense that it served just the city where it was printed. Most newspapers served an entire colony or even larger regions, circulation radiating out from the place of publication. Yet printers did not tend to advertise their own newspapers in newspapers published in other cities. Yet Goddard aggressively advertised the Pennsylvania Chronicle in newspapers in New England and New York in the spring of 1769 and in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette early in the summer. The latter concluded with a familiar note for interested readers: “SUBSCRIPTIONS are taken in by the Printer in Market-street [Philadelphia]; by most of the Postmasters, Booksellers and Printers, and many other Gentlemen, in different parts of America.” In addition, it specified that Robert Wells, the printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, accepted subscriptions in Charleston.

Goddard was not content to cultivate a regional audience for the Pennsylvania Chronicle. The contents of the publication, the distribution network envisioned by Goddard, and the participation of newspaper printers in collecting subscriptions positioned the Pennsylvania Chronicle as akin to a magazine. Goddard’s counterparts apparently did not consider it a rival to their own newspapers, though the time required to deliver it to faraway subscribers may have influenced their views as much as the contents Goddard described in his subscription notice. The reach of his advertising campaign helped to distinguish the Pennsylvania Chronicle as a different sort of publication when compared to other newspapers printed in the colonies at the time.

May 13

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

May 13 - 5:13:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (May 13, 1769).

“The Printer of the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE … is very desirous to extend its Utility.”

On May 13, 1769, William Goddard published “PROPOSALS For continuing and improving the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE AND UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER” not in that newspaper but instead in the Providence Gazette. At the same time, he inserted the same advertisement in the Newport Gazette (May 8), the New-York Journal (May 18), Connecticut Journal (May 19), and the Connecticut Courant (May 22). While it was unusual for printers to advertise their newspapers in faraway markets, Goddard’s vision for his publication explains why he thought colonists in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and other places beyond Philadelphia and its hinterlands would be interested in subscribing to the Pennsylvania Chronicle. He billed it as both “a REGISTER of the BEST INTELLIGENCE” and “a Repository of ingenious and valuable Literature, in Prose and Verse.” He aimed to collect news and editorials concerning current events from correspondents in the colonies, Europe, and other locales, newspapers he received via exchange networks created by fellow printers, and political pamphlets published on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet the Pennsylvania Chronicle delivered more than just news and editorials. “Literature, in Prose and Verse,” was such a significant component of the publication that Goddard hoped “to incite Persons to preserve their Papers, which will grow into a Family Library of Entertainment and Instruction.” As part of that plan, Goddard promoted the size of the sheets, the quality of the paper, and the “beautiful” type. He also promised that subscribers would annually receive “two elegant Copper Plates … executed by the most ingenious Artists; one to serve as a Frontispiece and the other to close the Volume,” as well as an attractive title page and “a copious and useful INDEX.” After they gathered the issues, the plates, the title page, and the index, Goddard encouraged subscribers to have them bound together into a single volume to become an important part of home libraries.

Individual issues of the Pennsylvania Chronicle were not ephemeral; instead, they were part of a larger publication with value that endured beyond delivering the “freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic.” The Providence Gazette, which carried Goddard’s subscription notice, incorporated that phrase into its masthead, as did many other newspapers printed in the American colonies. The masthead for the Pennsylvania Chronicle, however, advised that it contained “the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic; with a Variety of other Matter, useful, instructive, and entertaining.” The inclusion of that “other Matter” transformed the Pennsylvania Chronicle into more than just a vehicle for delivering news and advertising. It explained why Goddard believed he could cultivate a market for this publication beyond Philadelphia and the surrounding area. This was not merely a publication that fellow printers could scour for material to reprint or merchants could peruse for political and economic news and then lay it aside in coffeehouses. It was an anthology that merited preservation for the continued edification and entertainment of subscribers and their families.