November 11

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

Nov 11 - 11:11:1767 Pennsylvania Chronicle Extraordinary
Pennsylvania Chronicle Extraordinary (November 11, 1767).

“She is a new Vessel, has excellent Accommodations for Passengers.”

The various commodities marketed in eighteenth-century newspapers testify to the networks of exchange that crisscrossed the Atlantic, but the advertisements also reveal the movement of people. Almost every advertisement in the November 11, 1767, extraordinary issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, for instance, featured some element of mobility.

Six advertisements offered passage from Philadelphia to faraway places, including Cape Fear, North Carolina; Grenada; Barbados; Londonderry; and London. Half simply stated that readers could arrange either “Freight or Passage,” but the others promoted their “excellent Accommodations for Passengers” to attract travelers. Due to the size of the port city, newspapers published in Philadelphia regularly carried such advertisements, but similar advertisements also appeared frequently in newspapers from smaller cities and towns.

Some colonists used advertisements to announce their arrival. For instance, one “YOUNG MAN … lately arrived from England” placed an employment notice in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, informing his new neighbors that he “would be glad to serve any Gentleman as Clerk.” The anonymous ‘YOUNG MAN” requested that anyone interested in hiring him “Inquire of the PRINTER.” He also indicated his willingness to extend his journey when he expressed interest in positions available “either in Town or Country.”

Three additional advertisements documented recent departures of indentured servants who absconded from their masters. One reported that Abraham Weaver, am English linen weaver who ran away from Amos Garrett in Swan Creek in Maryland, had been seen with a widow who might attempt to pass as his wife. Garrett suspected that “they may make for Philadelphia or the eastern-shore of Maryland.” John Odenheimer of Philadelphia indicated that his servant, a German named Eberhard Hirschman, had been “seen in Lancaster, at the Sign of the Highlander” the previous week. These runaways attempted to put considerable distance between themselves and their masters.

Newspaper advertisements like these depicted a flurry of movement of people, not just commodities, throughout the Atlantic world and beyond in the eighteenth century. Those who purchased passage on ships traveled for various reasons, commercial and personal. Some, like the “YOUNG MAN … lately arrived from England,” embraced mobility as a means of encountering new opportunities, but others, including many indentured servants, found that their experiences in new places did not live up to their expectations. They made new departures, frustrating masters who had bought their services for a period of years. American colonists lived in an extremely mobile society. Advertisements for consumer goods and services often insinuated social mobility, but other paid notices revealed significant geographic mobility as well.

September 21

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

Sep 21 - 9:21:1767 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 21, 1767).

“New Shop at the Sign of the Naked Boy.”

George Bartram launched a new venture in 1767, opening his own shop “at the Sign of the Naked Boy” on Second Street in Philadelphia. To let both former and potential new customers know about his new location, he published an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Bartram promoted the “general Assortment of dry Goods, imported in the last Vessels from Great-Britain and Ireland,” but he did not confine himself to merely describing the goods he stocked. Instead, he included a woodcut that featured some of the textiles he imported and hoped to sell to consumers in the port city. A cartouche in the center depicted a naked boy examining a length of cloth, encouraging potential customers to imagine themselves inspecting Bartram’s merchandise. That the boy held the fabric close to his naked body suggested quality and softness, enticing readers to anticipate the luxurious pleasures that awaited them at Bartram’s shop. Many rolls of fabric flanked the central cartouche, testifying to the “general Assortment” of merchandise. What kinds of tactile sensations might shoppers experience when they compared the weave of one fabric to another? The naked boy surrounded by textiles of all sorts invited colonists to visit Bartram’s shop, where they did not need to confine themselves merely to window shopping but could indulge their sense of touch as well as sight.

The woodcut also included the proprietor’s name on either side of the cartouche, an unnecessary flourish in an advertisement that featured Bartram’s name as a headline. Its inclusion may have been necessary, however, if the woodcut doubled as an accurate representation of the “Sign of the Naked Boy” that marked Bartram’s shop. The shopkeeper had previously conducted business at a “Shop lately occupied by Bartram and Lennox.” To mark his new shop as exclusively his own, Bartram may have instructed the painter or carver who made his sign to include his name as well as the device he intended to serve as his brand. Eighteenth-century advertisements regularly indicate which shop signs marked which businesses, but few of those signs have survived. Woodcuts like the naked boy in Bartram’s advertisement suggest what colonists may have seen as they traversed the streets and visited retailers and artisans who used signs to mark their businesses.

August 24

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

Aug 24 - 8:24:1767 Advert Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 24, 1767).

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Aug 24 - 8:24:1767 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 24, 1767).

I am obliged to take this public Method to forewarn all Persons from trusting her on my Account.”

“I am obliged to take this method solemnly to declare, that those charges against me have not the least foundation in truth.”

Joseph Perkins’ advertisement concerning the misbehavior of his wife, Elizabeth, made its second appearance in the August 24, 1767, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, having previously appeared in the issue with the same date inserted at the end of the notice, August 17. More elaborate than many “runaway wife” advertisements, this one was particularly notable because it garnered a response in print from its subject. Most such advertisements went unanswered in the newspapers, but occasionally bold women refused to allow their husbands to exercise exclusive control over shaping the narrative presented to the public.

Elizabeth may have anticipated that her husband would publish this sort of advertisement and checked Philadelphia’s newspapers for it. At the very least, she read or heard about it within days of its publication and set about responding to it with her own advertisement, dated August 22. Readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle could piece together the story, encountering Eliazabeth’s response on the third page and the original notice reprinted on the fourth and final page. (In the next issue, either the editor or compositor made a decision to run the related advertisements one after the other. They appeared as the final two items in the August 31 edition, Joseph’s initial notice first, followed by Elizabeth’s rebuttal. Instead of a series of advertisements unrelated to each other, that issue concluded with a narrative drama.)

Joseph had leveled the usual accusations against his wife: she “behaves in a very unbecoming Manner towards me” and “she may endeavor to run me in Debt.” Elizabeth turned the tables by “solemnly” declaring “that those charges against me have not the least foundation in truth.” She went on to describe “disorderly company” that her husband invited into their home and the “notorious scenes of disorder” his guests created. To underscore the point, she deployed racialized language, asserting that she had been subjected to treatment “that would have shocked a savage of the Ohio.” To escape this abuse, she had taken the only option available to her: she fled to her mother’s house.

Historians of early American often read runaway wife advertisements as evidence of women’s agency. Even though written and published by men, they demonstrate that women did not always bow to the patriarchal order within their households. At the same time, however, the very nature of runaway wife advertisements, especially the warnings not to engage in commercial exchanges with runaway wives, suggest a rather constrained agency in which men continued to exert control over women’s access to credit and consumer goods. That did not have to be the end of the story. Some runaway wives, like Elizabeth Perkins, also turned to the public prints, to offer alternate accounts that further illuminated the circumstances of their departure.

July 27

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

Jul 27 - 7:27:1767 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (July 27, 1767).

“THOMAS HALE … undertakes the Business of hanging Bells through all the Apartments of Houses.”

Thomas Hale, a carpenter, turned to the advertising pages of the Pennsylvania Chronicle to announce that he “undertakes the Business of hanging Bells through all the Apartments of Houses.” Appropriately, he adorned his notice with a woodcut depicting a bell. Somewhat crude compared to other woodcuts that sometimes appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers, Hale’s bell served its purpose of drawing attention to his advertisement. It was the only visual image on the page, as well as the only woodcut that accompanied any advertisement in the July 27, 1767, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, making Hale’s notice difficult to overlook.

When woodcuts did accompany advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers, they often replicated familiar shop signs and promoted businesses operated by colonists already well known to many readers and potential customers. That was not the case, however, for Thomas Hale. He noted that he was “LATELY from London” and so recently arrived in Philadelphia as to be considered a “Stranger” (for which he offered assurances of his integrity to anyone who contemplated hiring him). As a newcomer to the city, as someone attempting to find his footing and establish his business, Hale needed to increase the likelihood that possible patrons would notice his advertisement among the dozens of others published in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Including an image offered one way to distinguish his notice from so many others that consisted exclusively of text on a densely formatted page.

This woodcut did not confirm Hale’s “Integrity” or the quality of his work, but it did demonstrate to potential customers that the carpenter was conscientious and thoughtful. Placing the advertisement was one of the first steps in establishing a clientele that could also yield further business via word-of-mouth recommendations. Accordingly, readers willing to take a chance on Hale could reasonably expect that he would exert the same care in hanging bells and other tasks that he devoted to designing his newspapers notices, his first introduction to the residents of Philadelphia.

Hale advertised that he installed “Bells through all the Apartments of Houses,” bells intended to alert residents when someone desired their attention. His own woodcut of a bell figuratively rang loudly, announcing his presence and demanding the attention of potential customers.

March 5

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

mar-5-35-1767-pennsylvania-gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 5, 1767).

“Quilted or plain Carrying Saddles.”

“JOHN YOUNG, senior, SADLER,” operated a workshop “In Second-street, opposite the Baptist Meeting, and next Door to Mr. Alexander Huston’s,” in Philadelphia. Elsewhere in the city “JOHN YOUNG, jun. Saddler,” ran his own shop “At the sign of the ENGLISH HUNTING SADDLE, at the corner of Market and Front-streets, and opposite the LONDON COFFEE-HOUSE.” The younger Young likely learned his trade from the elder Young. Which one taught the other about the power of advertising? Was that also passed down from one generation to the next? Or did the senior Young eventually adopt marketing strategies on the recommendation of his son (or perhaps even to compete with him)?

mar-5-491767-pennsylvania-chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (March 9, 1767).

Both Youngs advertised in newspapers printed in Philadelphia in early March 1767, the elder Young in the established Pennsylvania Gazette and the junior saddler in the new Pennsylvania Chronicle. Although both included woodcuts of saddles in their notices, the younger Young seems to have been the more sophisticated marketer when it came to mobilizing an image to identify his products. Note that Young Sr. merely listed directions to aid potential customers in finding his workshop, yet Young Jr. created a brand for his business that operated at “the sign of the ENGLISH HUNTING SADDLE.” Score one for the younger Young’s innovative marketing.

The saddlers offered almost identical appeals concerning quality, price, and fashion. Young Sr. stated that “he makes in the neatest and most Fashionable Manner, and sells at the most reasonable Rates” a variety of saddles and other riding equipment. In turn, Young Jr. announced that “he makes in the best and most fashionable manner, and sells at the most reasonable rates” a similar array of leather goods. Both indicated that they had sufficient inventory “ready made” that they could sell in quantity, though the elder saddler edged out his son by offering “proper Abatement to those who buy to sell again.” In other words, retailers received a bulk discount. Score one for the elder Young’s innovative pricing.

The two saddlers seemed to address slightly different clientele. Although both asserted they made saddles “in the most fashionable Manner,” Young Jr. placed more emphasis on serving elite customers. He listed “GENTLEMEN’S English hunting” saddles first among his wares (and the format of the advertisement directed readers’ eyes to the word “gentlemen”) and underscored that he did his work “in the genteelest manner.” On the other hand, Young Sr. thanked gentlemen and merchants for their previous patronage, but he included appreciation for “Shallopmen, and others” in the same sentence. One saddler traded on exclusivity for elite customers, while the other made his workshop more accessible to clients from all backgrounds. In the end, which marketing method yielded greater revenues by attracting more business? For now, that should be considered a draw.

Whether the Youngs competed or cooperated with each other, they devised advertisements that shared some of the most common appeals deployed in commercial notices printed in newspapers throughout the eighteenth century. Each other advanced unique and innovative marketing strategies, demonstrating that advertising in early America amounted to more than mere announcements that particular vendors sold certain goods.

February 9

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

feb-9-291767-pennsylvania-chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 9, 1767).

“A neat Assortment of DRY GOODS, which he will sell cheap.”

Today the Adverts 250 Project features its first advertisement from the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and Universal Advertiser. Likewise, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project includes its first advertisement from that newspaper. William Goddard had been publishing proposals for the Pennsylvania Chronicle in Philadelphia’s newspapers (and even the Providence Gazette) for weeks before it commenced publication on January 26, 1767. The third issue, published February 9, 1767, is the first included in Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers database, though copies of the first two issues are extant in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society.(*)

Goddard’s proposal included a call for advertisers to submit notices they wished to appear in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. In addition, the colophon advised readers that Goddard “gratefully received” all sorts of submissions for his newspaper, including advertisements, articles, and letters of intelligence. He achieved early successes attracting advertisers, devoting nearly half (seven of sixteen columns) of the third issue to thirty-five paid notices of varying lengths. Most promoted consumer goods and services, but some offered real estate for sale or called on debtors to settle accounts. One even offered a reward upon the return of “a young DOG of the Spaniel Breed” that had strayed from its master.

Compared to newspapers published in some smaller towns, the new Pennsylvania Chronicle overflowed with advertising, especially advertisements for consumer goods and services. The third issue even included advertisements from two entrepreneurs who branded their businesses with woodcuts that presumably replicated the shop signs that marked their locations: saddler John Young, Jr., “At the sign of the ENGLISH HUNTING SADDLE” and druggist Nathaniel Tweedy “At the GOLDEN-EAGLE.”

feb-9-291767-tweedy-detail-pennsylvania-chronicle
Detail of Nathaniel Tweedy’s advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 9, 1767).

This stands in stark contrast to other newspapers, such as the Providence Gazette that seemed to struggle to attract advertisers in late 1766 and early 1767. Goddard appears to have experienced no difficulty generating advertising from entrepreneurs in the busy urban port of Philadelphia. The third issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle offered dozens of advertisements to its readers. A quarter of a millennium later, I am simultaneously excited by the range of advertisements that could potentially be incorporated into the Adverts 250 Project and disappointed to choose only one at a time.

I am also frustrated to skip over so many interesting and significant advertisements, though I continue to affirm the methodology that requires doing so. Part of this disappointment stems from the dearth of advertisements available at other times during the week. For instance, since the Providence Gazette was the only newspaper published on Saturdays in 1767 and no newspapers were published on Sundays, each week the Adverts 250 Project gives disproportionate attention to advertisements from the Providence Gazette in the process of featuring advertisements published exactly 250 years ago that day or as close to that day as possible. As a result, the Providence Gazette is overrepresented and other newspapers with much more advertising remain underrepresented. On the other hand, this means that marketing efforts in at least one smaller city are subject to examination alongside the copious newspaper advertisements published in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.

Again, I stand by the project’s methodology, but recognize that both researchers and readers must take into account both its strengths and limitations.

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(*) Although this project relies primarily on digitized primary sources, I also examined original copies of the first two issues of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. From the very first issue William Goddard managed to attract advertisers.  A total of twenty-two advertisements spread over five (out of sixteen) columns appeared in the first issue (January 26, 1767), including an advertisement by Nathaniel Tweedy (without the woodcut).  The second issue (February 2, 1767) included thirty-three advertisements amounting to nearly seven columns, including advertisements by John Young, Jr., and Nathaniel Tweedy (both with woodcuts).

January 25

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

jan-25-1241767-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

Subscriptions for the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, and UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER, will be taken in by the Printer.”

Throughout January 1767, William Goddard inserted his “PROPOSALS for printing by Subscription … The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, And UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER” in newspapers printed in Philadelphia. Although he focused most of his efforts on luring subscribers from that city and its hinterland, he also welcomed subscribers from faraway places who already had access to local newspapers published where they lived.

For instance, his lengthy proposal appeared in the Providence Gazette two days before Goddard published the first issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. He recognized three categories of customers and pledged that each would receive their subscriptions in a timely manner: “ladies and gentlemen … shall, in the city, receive [the newspaper] at their respective houses; or, if in the country, forwarded to them by the first opportunity; nor shall any care or industry be wanting to transmit it to the most distant customers with all expedition possible.” To serve that final category, Goddard had appointed agents in “the other colonies on the continent” who collected names of subscribers on his behalf.

Why would residents of other cities and colonies be interested in Goddard’s Pennsylvania Chronicle? After all, even as he pledged “to form his paper on as extensive and universal principles as any other on the continent” he stated that he was not “intending to derogate, in the least, from the merit of any.” Goddard acknowledged that his competitors and counterparts already published fine newspapers.

However, he also underscored that he had “established an extensive correspondence in Europe, and the several Colonies in America” that would allow him to collect in one publication all sorts of items that would “tend to the improvement, instruction, and entertainments of the PUBLIC.” Other newspapers might (and certainly did) print some of the same material that appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but Goddard cultivated a network of “learned and ingenious” correspondents who not only forwarded accounts of “the most remarkable and important occurrences foreign and domestic” but also submitted original “judicious remarks, pieces of wit and humor, essays moral, political, geographical, historical, and poetical.” Considering the editorial care that Goddard devoted to the Pennsylvania Chronicle, subscribers could expect a publication “as complete as possible,” one that provided both news items printed and reprinted throughout the colonies and original features for their edification and amusement.

Goddard’s lengthy proposal, which filled almost an entire column, did not appear alongside other advertisements in the Providence Gazette. There certainly would have been space for it on the final page, had the printer chosen to place a poem submitted by a reader earlier in the issue. Instead, Goddard’s proposal appeared in the final column on the third page, to the left of news items from Williamsburg, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Boston, and Newport. As a result, Goddard’s proposal took on the appearance of a news item as opposed to the commercial notices for consumer goods and services clustered on the following page.

Given its placement within the Providence Gazette, Goddard’s proposal was an advertisement that was not an advertisement, a puff piece that seemed to deliver news but also promoted a product. That Goddard’s proposal received this sort of preferential treatment hardly comes as a surprise when we remember that he formerly published the Providence Gazette before the Stamp Act and when the newspaper once again began publication it did so under the stewardship of his mother, Sarah Goddard.