April 14

GUEST CURATOR: Zachary Karpowich

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

Apr 14 - 4:14:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 14, 1768).

“Among all the WRITERS in favour of the COLONIES, the FARMER shines unrivaled for strength of argument, elegance of diction, knowledge in the laws of Great Britain and the true interest of the COLONIES.”

In the April 14, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette David Hall and William Sellers published an advertisement for a pamphlet containing a popular and widely read set of letters written by John Dickinson, a lawyer and legislator from Pennsylvania. They are titled “LETTERS from a FARMER in Pennsylvania, to the INHABITANTS of the BRITISH COLONIES.” According to the introductory notes in the “Online Library of Liberty” compiled by the Liberty Fund, Dickinson penned them under the name of “A Farmer” due to the fact that they were quite controversial. In these letters, he spoke out against the British Parliament and discussed the sovereignty of the thirteen colonies. The “Letters” famously helped unite the colonists against the Townshend Acts. These acts were passed largely in response to the failure of the Stamp Act. Dickinson argues in his letters that the taxes laid upon the people with these laws were for the sole purpose of gaining revenue from the colonies. Parliament was not trying to regulate trade or the market. This meant that they were illegal and should not have been passed. This pamphlet was meant to collect all of the “Letters” to help spread Dickinson’s arguments, showing that there was already growing discontent in the colonies in the late 1760s.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Hall and Sellers did not merely make an announcement that they had “Just published” a pamphlet that collected together all twelve of John Dickinson’s “LETTERS from a FARMER in Pennsylvania, to the INHABITANTS of the BRITISH COLONIES.”  Not unlike modern publishers, their marketing efforts included a testimonial that described the significance of the title they offered for sale. Indeed, they devoted nearly half of the space in their advertisement to an endorsement reprinted from the Boston Chronicle.  In so doing, Hall and Sellers advised potential customers that “Among all the WRITERS in favour of the COLONIES, the FARMER shines unrivalled for strength of argument, elegance of diction, knowledge in thelawsof Great-Britain, and the true interest of the COLONIES.”  Colonists unfamiliar with the “Letters” were encouraged to purchase the pamphlet and read them.  Colonists who had already read them as they appeared in newspapers were encouraged to acquire the pamphlet and continue referring to the wisdom provided by “such an able adviser, and affectionate friend.”

The testimonial from the Boston Chronicle also indicated that the “Letters” “have been printed in every Colony, from Florida to Nova-Scotia.”  For several months in late 1767 and early 1768, printers up and down the Atlantic coast reprinted this series of twelve essays.  For some this meant an essay a week over the course of three months, but others published supplementary issues that sped up publication of the “Letters” as they simultaneously disseminated other news and advertising.  Not all newspapers had finished the project at the time Hall and Sellers published the pamphlet that collected all of the “Letters” together.  The day before their advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, James Johnston published “LETTER X” in the Georgia Gazette.  Once the pamphlet was ready for sale, printer-booksellers in several colonies began promoting it in their own newspapers.  A network of printers participated in distributing Dickinson’s “Letters” twice, first as editorial content in newspapers and then as pamphlets that conveniently collected the essays into a single volume.  As Zach notes, Dickinson’s reasoned arguments aided in uniting many colonists in opposition to abuses committed by Parliament, but the dissemination of his work depended on the active involvement of colonial printers.

April 7

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

Apr 7 - 4:7:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 7, 1768).

“MARY SYMONDS, MILLENER, Is now removed from her late Shop.”

The advertisement that Mary Symonds, a milliner, inserted in the April 7, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazettedid not look any different than others promoting consumer goods and services, but that belies her role as an extraordinary advertiser in early America.

What made Symonds extraordinary?  It was not merely that she was a female entrepreneur who advertised her wares in the public prints.  True, women were disproportionately underrepresented among newspaper advertisers in eighteenth-century America, especially in busy urban ports like Philadelphia where they comprised anywhere from a quarter to a third or more of shopkeepers.  Despite their numbers, relatively few ran newspaper advertisements.  Yet enough did that Symonds could not be considered extraordinary – then or now – for placing an advertisement that promoted the “very large and neat Assortment of MILLENERY GOODS for Sale” at her new shop on Chestnut Street.

In addition to regularly running notices in newspapers, Symonds resorted to at least one other form of advertising, one that male merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans dominated even more than newspaper advertisements.  By 1770 she distributed a large trade card to incite demand among prospective customers.  Trade cards circulated widely in England, especially in London.  The practice made its way across the Atlantic to the colonies, but relatively few women adopted this method of advertising.  Those that did tended to commission rather simple designs that did not rival the engraved images that graced the trade cards passed out by their male counterparts.

Fewer than half a dozen trade cards distributed by American women in the eighteenth century have survived, indicating that even fewer women resorted to trade cards than placed newspaper advertisements.  That made Symonds an extraordinary advertiser.  Her trade card stands out as an example not of what was probably in the eighteenth-century marketplace but instead what was possible.  The milliner devised an advertising campaign that incorporated one of the most innovative methods deployed by male entrepreneurs, supplementing her newspaper advertisements with engraved trade cards for current customers and prospective clients.  In so doing, she made a major investment in her marketing efforts, expecting it to pay off by attracting more business to her shop.

Colonists encountered a visual landscape of advertising every day.  By distributing her trade card, Mary Symonds claimed a place in that visual landscape of circulating ephemera just as she physically occupied a space in the marketplace by operating a shop on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

Mar 23 - Mary Symonds Trade Card
Trade card (with receipted bill on reverse) distributed  by Mary Symonds in 1770 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania:  Cadwalader Collection, Series II: General John Cadwalader Papers, Box 5: Incoming Correspondence: Pa-Sy, Item 19: Su-Sy).

March 17

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

Mar 17 - 3:17:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 17, 1768).

“HENRY STUBER, DRUGGIST in Lancaster.”

Although he ran a shop in Lancaster, Henry Stuber sought local customers by placing advertisements for his “FRESH and universal supply of DRUGS and MEDICINES” in the Pennsylvania Gazette, printed in Philadelphia more than fifty miles to the east. His advertisements demonstrate the reach of colonial newspapers in an era before most towns had printing presses and local newspapers. Lancaster did not have its own newspaper in 1768. Instead, English-speaking residents treated those printed in Philadelphia – the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal – as their local newspapers, while others who spoke German read the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote printed in Germantown, just outside of Philadelphia. As the titles of the English-language newspapers suggest, they served the entire colony of Pennsylvania – and beyond. Colonists in Delaware and portions of New Jersey and Maryland also considered these regional newspapers to be their local publications, reading them and inserting advertisements in them.

Stuber relied on the extensive geographic distribution of the Pennsylvania Gazette when he composed his advertisement. Realizing that he would probably not attract many customers from the busy port where residents had access to many apothecary shops, he instead targeted customers who lived in the hinterlands. In particular, he addressed “Doctors in the country” who were likely to purchase in volume, informing them that it “will be much easier to get [medicines] from Lancaster” than from Philadelphia. He also promoted his wares to “families who live at a distance from a Doctor” in towns and villages throughout the colony. He supplied “medicine boxes, with ample directions” so they could tend to their own minor ailments as necessary. In addition to convenience, he suggested other benefits: acquiring drugs from his shop could be done with “much less risk” and “will save the expence of so far carriage.” Just in case skeptical prospective customers assumed that the prices would already reflect the costs Stuber paid for transporting his inventory to Lancaster, he assured readers that “he will sell as cheap as any one in Philadelphia.”

That Henry Stuber, a “DRUHGGIST in Lancaster,” opted to advertise in a newspaper printed in Philadelphia in hopes of enticing customers from throughout the countryside testifies to the wide dissemination and readership of eighteenth-century newspapers. Those publications not only delivered information far and wide but also facilitated commerce beyond the largest and busiest port cities.

February 14

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

Feb 14 - 2:11:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (February 11, 1768).

“All the mustard put up in bottles, has the above stamp pasted on the bottles.”

Readers of the Pennsylvania Gazette would have been familiar with the “genuine FLOUR of MUSTARD” and chocolate that Mary Crathorne advertised in February 1768. Her husband, the late Jonathan Crathorne, had previously produced and sold chocolate and mustard with Benjamin Jackson, but when that partnership dissolved the two men each continued in the business. Sometimes their advertisements appeared one after the other in the Pennsylvania Gazette, as was the case in the November 21, 1765, edition.

Jonathan Crathorne’s advertisement included the same woodcut that his wife later used to promote the business that she operated after his death. It featured a seal flanked by a bottle of mustard on the left and a brick of chocolate on the right. The seal incorporated William Penn’s insignia, a shield decorated with three silver balls, but it bore the words “J. CRATHORN’S PHILADA FLOUR OF MUSTARD.” Crathorne associated pride in the colony with his own products.

After they parted ways, Jonathan Crathorne and Benjamin Jackson engaged in a prolonged public dispute in their advertisements. Mary Crathorne was not as aggressive as her husband in that regard, but the widow did not that “her late husband went to a considerable expence in the erecting, and purchasing out Benjamin Jackson’s part” of “those incomparable mustard and chocolate works at the Globe mill, on Germantown road.”

Mary Crathorne did not want her product confused for any other. To that end, the woodcut in her newspaper advertisement had a purpose that went beyond drawing the attention of readers. “All the mustard put up in bottles,” she reported, “has the above stamp placed on the bottles.” Similarly, “the paper round each pound of chocolate has the same stamp thereon.” To avoid competitors’ products being mistaken for her mustard and chocolate, the widow Crathorne deployed the woodcut from her advertisements as a brand to mark her merchandise. Her husband may have followed the same practice, but his advertisements did not explicitly state that was the case. Perhaps as a woman running a business in a marketplace dominated by men Mary Crathorne found it necessary to devise additional means of promoting her products. She made it easy for consumers to recognize her mustard and chocolate by making sure they were labeled with some sort of trademark that identified the producer.

January 24

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

Jan 24 - 1:21:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (January 21, 1768).

“If any one lowers their price, I am determined to do so.”

Joseph Wood advertised a “large and neat assortment” of imported textiles in the January 21, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Like many other merchants and shopkeepers throughout the colonies, he made an appeal to price, pledging to sell “as low as any imported into this province.” His competitors in Philadelphia and counterparts in other towns frequently deployed the same language, extending sweeping promises that they did indeed offer the lowest prices that customers would encounter. Wood, however, inserted an innovation intended to increase consumer trust in his claim: price matching. When it came to the same items of the same quality sold by others in the city, “if any one lowers their price, I am determined to do so too.” This flexibility demonstrated to readers that Wood recognized that prospective customers had many choices when it came to acquiring goods and that he was eager to make the necessary accommodations to attract their business in order to avoid losing them to competitors.

In addition to elaborating on some of the standardized language used by advertisers making appeals to price, Wood also enhanced the appeal to quality in his notice. He did not suggest that readers should take him at his word that the textiles he sold “are of the very best kind” or “the finest sort.” Instead, he acknowledged a practice adopted by some underhanded retailers, proclaiming that he did not similarly attempt to deceive his customers. His textiles had not been “high pressed and glazed to deceive the eye.” Their quality would “bear examination.” Inviting prospective customers to test his claims by examining these fabrics for themselves had the additional advantage of getting them through the door. Once they visited his shop at the corner of Market and Second Streets they would more fully appreciate the variety, price, and quality of his merchandise.

Wood combined a list-style advertisement that previewed his “very good assortment of cloths” with a nota bene that incorporated innovations on popular appeals that often relied on formulaic language. He sacrificed space that he might otherwise have devoted to further detailing his inventory in favor of clarifying the usual appeals to address the concerns of skeptical consumers.

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

Today is an important day for specialists in early American print culture, for Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 (January 6, 1705, Old Style), in Boston.  Among his many other accomplishments, Franklin is known as the “Father of American Advertising.”  Although I have argued elsewhere that this title should more accurately be bestowed upon Mathew Carey (in my view more prolific and innovative in the realm of advertising as a printer, publisher, and advocate of marketing), I recognize that Franklin deserves credit as well.  Franklin is often known as “The First American,” so it not surprising that others should rank him first among the founders of advertising in America.

benjamin-franklin
Benjamin Franklin (Joseph Siffred Duplessis, ca. 1785).  National Portrait Gallery.

Franklin purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729.  In the wake of becoming printer, he experimented with the visual layout of advertisements that appeared in the weekly newspaper, incorporating significantly more white space and varying font sizes in order to better attract readers’ and potential customers’ attention.  Advertising flourished in the Pennsylvania Gazette, which expanded from two to four pages in part to accommodate the greater number of commercial notices.

jan-17-pennsylvania-gazette-19-161736
Advertisements with white space, varying sizes of font, capitals and italics, and a woodcut from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette (December 9-16, 1736).

Many historians of the press and print culture in early America have noted that Franklin became wealthy and retired as a printer in favor of a multitude of other pursuits in part because of the revenue he collected from advertising.  Others, especially David Waldstreicher, have underscored that this wealth was amassed through participation in the colonial slave trade.  The advertisements for goods and services featured in the Pennsylvania Gazette included announcements about buying and selling slaves as well as notices offering rewards for runaways.

jan-17-pennsylvania-gazette-slave-19-161736
An advertisement for slaves from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette (December 9-16, 1736).

In 1741 Franklin published one of colonial America’s first magazines, The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, for all the British Plantations in America (which barely missed out on being the first American magazine, a distinction earned by Franklin’s competitor, Andrew Bradford, with The American Magazine or Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies).  The magazine lasted only a handful of issues, but that was sufficient for Franklin to become the first American printer to include an advertisement in a magazine (though advertising did not become a standard part of magazine publication until special advertising wrappers were developed later in the century — and Mathew Carey was unarguably the master of that medium).

general-magazine
General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, For all the British Plantations in America (January 1741).  Library of Congress.

In 1744 Franklin published an octavo-sized Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Books, including 445 entries.  This is the first known American book catalogue aimed at consumers (though the Library Company of Philadelphia previously published catalogs listing their holdings in 1733, 1735, and 1741).  Later that same year, Franklin printed a Catalogue of Books to Be Sold at Auction.

Franklin pursued advertising through many media in eighteenth-century America, earning recognition as one of the founders of American advertising.  Happy 312th birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

January 17

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

Jan 17 - 1:14:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement
Detail from Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (January 14, 1767).

“SUPPLEMENT to the PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE.”

No advertisements were published in colonial America on January 17, 1768. That was because January 17, 1768, was a Sunday, the one day of the week that no newspapers were published in any of the colonies. The methodology for the Adverts 250 Project allows for selecting an advertisement printed earlier in the week if none were published on a particular date; I’ll comment more on today’s featured advertisement after establishing the context for its publication. Due to the time, labor, and technology involved in printing in the 1760s, printers issued their newspapers just once a week, though they sometimes circulated a supplement or an extraordinary later in the week if circumstances merited a special publication of momentous news that demanded immediate coverage. That situation occurred with increased regularity as the imperial crisis intensified in the late 1760s and 1770s.

Even though newspapers published only one issue each week, printers staggered their distribution dates. In January 1768, Monday was the most popular date with at least ten newspapers, including four in Boston, made available at the beginning of the week. Only two newspapers, however, appeared on Tuesdays, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in Charleston and the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote in Germantown, Pennsylvania. The Georgia Gazette was the sole newspaper published on Wednesdays, followed by five newspapers, including the Pennsylvania Gazette, on Thursdays. Four newspapers, three from New England and the other from South Carolina, appeared on Fridays. The week ended with the publication of the Providence Gazette, conveniently timed to reprint news from the Boston papers as soon as they arrived at the printing office. This accounting includes only those currently available in databases of digitized newspapers. It overlooks only a couple of publications. Their inclusion would not alter the pattern of publishing most newspapers at the beginning of the week, especially in the largest port cities.

For most newspapers, the weekly issue consisted of four pages, a single broadsheet printed on both sides and folded in half. Between news items and advertising, however, some newspapers consistently had sufficient content to publish a two-page half sheet supplement for distribution with the regular issue. Often advertisements filled the entire supplement. Rather than select a particular advertisement to feature today, I have instead chosen one of those supplements filled with advertisements, the Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette. Advertisements filled two of the four pages of the standard issue for January 14, 1767, as well as the entire supplement. Overall, advertising comprised two-thirds of the content that week.

David Hall and William Sellers frequently issued an advertising supplement with the standard issue, doing so with such regularity that it practically became a standard feature of the weekly publication. Subscribers were likely more surprised not to receive a supplement overflowing with advertisements than to discover one accompanying the newest edition. Although newspapers in Boston, Charleston, and New York sometimes issued such supplements, the Pennsylvania Gazette did so with the greatest consistency in the late 1760s. This resulted in part from the size of Philadelphia, but also from the attention that the Pennsylvania Gazette’s former proprietor, Benjamin Franklin, devoted to developing newspaper advertising. Among his other accomplishments, Franklin is considered the “Father of American Advertising.” It seems appropriate on his birthday to feature an advertising supplement from the newspaper that he cultivated into the most prominent American publication of the eighteenth century. Advertising, especially the revenue from advertising that allowed for prolonged and widespread distribution, aided in making the Pennsylvania Gazette so influential.