July 21

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

Pennsylvania Journal (July 18, 1771).

“ROLLING SCREENS for Cleaning Wheat or Flax-seed.”

Christian Fiss devoted half of the space in his advertisement in the July 18, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal to a depiction of a rolling screen for cleaning wheat and flaxseed.  That woodcut almost certainly garnered attention from readers since it was one of the few images in that issue.  Woodcuts adorned only three other advertisements, each of them showing nearly identical vessels at sea.  The printers provided those stock images to advertisers seeking freight and passengers.  On the other hand, Fiss commissioned an image specific to the “ROLLING SCREENS,” “DUTCH FANS,” and “various kinds of WIRE-WORK” he made at his shop.  That woodcut appeared exclusively in his advertisements; other artisans who made similar items did not have access to it when they placed notices of their own.

Although the vast majority of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements did not feature any sort of image, woodcuts commissioned by individual entrepreneurs did appear with some regularity.  Did the frequency change over time?  Did advertisers become more likely to use combinations of words and unique images to promote their products?  Did they become more likely to use images as brands or logos to make their advertisements more distinctive and their businesses more memorable?  I believe that the answer to each of those questions is “yes,” but I also caution that this is merely an impression at this point rather than based on tabulating the number of specialized images incorporated into advertisements.  When I compiled an archive of American newspapers published in 1771 that have since been digitized, I noticed what seemed to be a greater frequency of images commissioned by advertisers compared to the late 1760s.  This merits further investigation to chart the evolution of graphic design in early American advertising.  Throughout the eighteenth century, advertisers resorted primarily to text to deliver messages to prospective customers, but it also appears that over time greater numbers of advertisers experimented with visual images and invested in iconography associated with their businesses.  As advertisers continued to encourage colonists to participate in a transatlantic consumer revolution, the early 1770s may have been a turning point in the development of advertisements that utilized unique images.

July 7

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

Pennsylvania Journal (July 4, 1771).

“At the London Book-Store and Unicorn and Mortar.”

Like many booksellers, John Sparhawk also sold patent medicines.  He did not, however, do so as a side venture but instead cultivated a specialization in health and medicine when marketing the merchandise available as his “London Book-Store” in Philadelphia in the early 1770s.  To underscore that he carried “Drugs and Medicines of all kinds as usual,” he marked his location with a sign depicting a unicorn and mortar.  In selecting an image associated with apothecaries, the bookseller suggested that he did not merely stock a variety of elixirs but also possessed greater expertise than most shopkeepers, booksellers, and others who listed patent medicines among the many items available at their shops.

Sparhawk further enhanced that reputation by publishing an American edition of “TISSOT’s ADVICE to the People, Respecting their HEALTH” in the spring of 1771.  In describing the contents of the popular volume by Swiss physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot, first published in 1761, portions of the advertisement Sparhawk placed in the Pennsylvania Journal echoed the lengthy subtitle.  “THIS book,” the advertisement explained, “is calculated particularly for those who may not incline, or live too far distant, to apply to a doctor on every occasion.”  It included “a table of the cheapest, yet effectual remedies, and the plainest directions for preparing them readily.”  Originally published in French at Lyon, Tissot’s Avis au Peuple sur sa Santé became one of the bestselling medical texts of the eighteenth century.  By the time Sparhawk produced an American edition just ten years after the first publication of the book, it had already been through four editions in London.  The title page noted, though Sparhawk’s advertisement did not, that the American edition included “all the notes in the former English editions” as well as “some further additional notes and prescriptions.”

Sparhawk also mentioned that he stocked “Burn’s Justice, Blackstone’s Commentaries, and a general assortment of Books, on all subjects,” but he made Tissot’s manual the centerpiece of his advertisement.  Having invested in its publication, he certainly wanted the American edition to do well, but selling as many copies as possible was not his only goal.  After all, he could have published American editions of any number of books, but he chose Advice to the People to buttress his image as a knowledgeable purveyor of both books and medicines.  Publishing the book and associating it with “Unicorn and Mortar” was in itself a marketing strategy.

July 4

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Journal (July 4, 1771).

“RUN-AWAY … a Mulatto Woman Slave, named VIOLET.”

On July 4, 1771, Philip Kearney told the story of Violet, an enslaved woman who liberated herself, though he certainly did not do so in celebration of her fortitude and courage.  In an advertisement that ran in both the Pennsylvania Gazetteand the Pennsylvania Journal, Kearney provided a brief account of what he knew about Violet’s whereabouts for the past decade.  Violet first liberated herself in October 1762.  In 1764, she was spotted “in company with one James Lock, somewhere on the Susquehanna.”  That led to her capture and imprisonment at the jail in Fredericks-Town (now Frederick), Maryland, “on suspicion of having runaway.”  Violet escaped and for seven years managed to elude detection by those who sought to return her to bondage.  In the spring of 1771, however, she “was discovered about fifteen miles from Ball-Fryer’s ferry” in Maryland.

According to Kearney, Violet now had three children.  He wished to enslave the entire family, including children who had only known freedom in the wake of their mother liberating herself.  According to the law, children followed the condition of the mother, and the law still considered Violet a slave.  When Kearney purchased Violet from the executors of Edward Bonnel’s estate, he also acquired any of her children born after the transaction.  Kearney offered ten pounds as a reward for the capture and return of Violet and fifteen pounds for Violet and her children.  Kearney was determined to re-enslave Violet, but she was equally determined to preserve her liberty and protect her children.  Kearney warned that anyone “who may take her up must secure her strictly, or she will certainly escape again, being remarkably artful.”  That artfulness already resulted in nearly a decade of freedom.  With three children, Violet now had even more reason to outwit anyone who attempted to capture her.  Kearney’s advertisement had the potential to bring Violet’s liberty to an end, but it may have also alerted her, her friends, or sympathetic members of her community that she and her children faced new danger.

As the American colonies experienced an imperial crisis that ultimately culminated in a war for independence, Violet seized freedom for herself, repeatedly.  In 1771, colonists did not know the significance that July 4 would gain five years later, but they did discuss liberty and lament their figurative enslavement to Parliament.  Violet, in contrast, experienced literal enslavement before liberating herself.  More than a decade prior to the first shots at Lexington and Concord, she waged her own fight for freedom, an ongoing battle that she might lose at any moment despite the many victories she won.  While certainly not Kearney’s intention, his advertisement told a story of hope and resistance … but it was an unfinished story because the enslaver most certainly aimed to enslave a family who experienced freedom as a result of a woman’s steadfast determination.

On Independence Day, the Adverts 250 Project commemorates the complicated history of the founding of the nation, the grand ideals and the unfulfilled promises, by recounting the experiences of enslaved people who liberated themselves during the era of the American Revolution.  Newspaper advertisements that offered rewards for their capture and return told incomplete stories of freedom, for each a tenuous liberation that brave men and women sought to make permanent but without any guarantee.  Violet and so many others waged their own battled for liberty, as countless advertisements from the early eighteenth century through the late nineteenth century demonstrate.

For other stories of enslaved people liberating themselves originally published on July 4 during the era of the American Revolution, see:

June 22

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

Providence Gazette (June 22, 1771).

“ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length (accompanied with the Pay) are inserted in this Paper three Weeks for Four Shillings Lawful Money.”

Today marks two thousand days of production for the Adverts 250 Project.  Every day for two thousand consecutive days, I have examined an advertisement originally published in an eighteenth-century newspaper.  Students enrolled in my Colonial America, Revolutionary America, Public History, and Research Methods classes at Assumption University have also contributed to the Adverts 250 Project as guest curators.

This milestone seems like a good opportunity to address two of the questions I most commonly encounter.  How much did a subscription to an eighteenth-century newspaper cost?  How much did an advertisement cost?  Most printers did not regularly publish subscription rates or advertising rates in their newspapers, but some did include that information in the colophon at the bottom of the final page.  Of the twenty-two newspapers published during the week of Sunday, June 16 through Saturday, June 22, 1771, that have been digitized and made available for scholars and other readers, seven listed subscription rates and six indicated advertising rates.  Four of those, the Essex Gazette, the Maryland Gazette, Purdie and Dixon’s Virginia Gazette, and Rind’s Virginia Gazette, included both subscription rates and advertising rates in the colophon. That nearly as many identified advertising rates as the cost of subscriptions testifies to the importance of advertising for generating revenue.

Here is an overview of subscription rates and advertising rates inserted in the colophons of colonial newspapers during the last week of spring in 1771.

SUBSCRIPTION RATES:

  • Essex Gazette (June 18): “THIS GAZETTE may be had for Six Shillings and Eight Pence per Annum, (exclusive of Postage) 3s. 4d. (or 3s. 6d. if sent by Post) to be paid at Entrance.”
  • Maryland Gazette (June 20): “Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE, at 12s. 6d. a Year.”
  • Massachusetts Spy (June 20): “Persons may be supplied with this paper at Six Shillings and Eight Pence, Lawful Money, per Annum.”
  • Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 17): “Subscriptions, (at TEN SHILLINGS per Annum) Advertisements, Articles and Letters of Intelligence are gratefully received for this Paper.”
  • Pennsylvania Journal (June 20): “Persons may be supplied with this Paper at Ten Shillings a Year.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 20): “ALL Persons may be supplied with this PAPER at 12s. 6d. a Year.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 20): “All Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE at 12s6 per Year.”

ADVERTISING RATES:

  • Essex Gazette (June 18): “ADVERTISEMENTS not exceeding eight or ten Lines are inserted for Three Shillings.”
  • Maryland Gazette (June 20): “ADVERTISEMENTS, of a moderate Length, are inserted for the First Time, for 5s. and 1s. for each Week’s Continuance.  Long Ones in Proportion to their Number of Lines.”
  • New-York Journal (June 20): “Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth are inserted for Five Shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after, and larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.”
  • Providence Gazette (June 22): “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length (accompanied with the Pay) are inserted in this Paper three Weeks for Four Shillings Lawful Money.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 20): “ALL Persons may … have ADVERTISEMENTS (of a moderate Length) inserted in it for 3s. the first Week, and 2s. each Week after.”
  • Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 20): “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length are inserted for 3s. the First Week, and 2s. each Time after; and long ones in Proportion.”

Those newspapers that specified both subscription rates and advertising rates demonstrate the potential for generating significant revenue by publishing advertisements.  The competing newspapers in Williamsburg, Virginia, each charged twelve shillings and six pence per year for a subscription and collected three shillings for the first insertion of an advertisement and two shillings for every subsequent insertion.  William Rind declared that he set rates “in Proportion” for longer advertisements.  An advertisement that ran for six weeks cost more than an annual subscription.  Anne Catherine Green set the same price, twelve shillings and six pence, for a subscription to the Maryland Gazette, but charged five shillings the first time an advertisement ran.  Samuel Hall charged six shillings and eight pence for a subscription to the Essex Gazette and three shillings for each appearance of an advertisement of “eight or ten Lines.”  Some significantly exceeded that length, costing as much as a subscription for a single insertion.  Other printers presumable set similar rates, a pricing structure that meant that advertising played a substantial role in funding the dissemination of the news even in the colonial era.

May 26

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

Pennsylvania Journal (May 23, 1771).

“Frugality and Industry make Mankind rich, free, and happy.”

Politics certainly shaped accounts of current events that ran in colonial newspapers during the era of the imperial crisis that culminated in the American Revolution.  Even more explicitly, politics appeared in letters and editorials that printed selected for publication.  Yet news accounts, letters, and editorials were not the only places that readers encountered politics in newspapers.  Advertisements often commented on current events and sought to convince readers to adopt political positions.

Such was the case in an advertisement about “A GOLD MEDAL” that would be awarded to “the Person that produces the best piece of Woollen Cloth, sufficient for a Suit of Cloathes, of Wool raised in Lancaster County.”  The advertisement in the May 23, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal declared that “it must be a sincere pleasure to every lover of this Country, to see the attention that persons of all denominations give, not only to the Woolen, but to other Manufactures that we stand most in need of from Foreign Countries.”  Such sentiments corresponded with an emphasis on “domestic manufactures,” producing more goods for consumption in the colonies, that arose in tandem with nonimportation agreements adopted in defiance of duties Parliament imposed on imported goods.  Many colonists argued that boycotts had the greatest chance of succeeding if American consumers had access to more alternatives produced in the colonies.  Such efforts also stood to strengthen local economies and reduce the trade imbalance with Britain.  In the process, goods acquired political meaning.  Colonists consciously chose to wear garments made of homespun, the cloth that inspired the competition advertised in the Pennsylvania Journal, as a badge of honor and a means of communicating their political allegiances and support of nonimportation agreements.  Even after Parliament repealed most of the duties and the colonies resumed trade with Britain, many colonists continued to advocate for greater self-sufficiency through domestic manufactures, as was the case for the sponsors of the content in Lancaster County.

The description of the medal awarded for the competition the previous year reflected the ideology of the patriot cause.  One side featured “the Bust of the Pennsylvania Farmer” with the inscription “Take away the wicked from before the King, and his Throne shall be established in righteousness.”  The image celebrated farmers.  The inscription lauded the king, implicitly critiquing Parliament for overstepping its authority in attempts to regulate colonial commerce.  The other side depicted “a Woman spin[n]ing, on the big wheel” with the inscription “Frugality and Industry maker Mankind rich, free, and happy.”  Like homespun cloth, the spinning wheel became a symbol of the patriot cause.  Including it on the medal testified to the important role women played in both politics and commerce, their labor in production and their decisions about consumption necessary to the success of domestic manufactures.  The inscription underscored that supporting domestic manufactures led to prosperity, freedom, and, ultimately, happiness.

The arguments contained in the advertisement about the contest to produce “Woollen Cloth” in Lancaster County echoed those made in letters and editorials that appeared elsewhere in the Pennsylvania Journal and other newspapers.  When they purchased space in newspapers, advertisers acquired some extent of editorial authority to express their views about any range of subjects.  Publishing an advertisement, like promoting the contest, gave the sponsors an opportunity to comment on politics and the colonial economy while simultaneously enlisting the support of others.

April 14

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

Pennsylvania Journal (April 11, 1771).

“A POEM. By Doctor GOLDSMITH, author of THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD and THE TRAVELLER.”

In the spring of 1771, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, printers in Philadelphia, published the first American edition of “The Deserted Village,” a poem penned by Oliver Goldsmith.  Later that year, John Holt published another edition in New York.  As they prepared their edition for press, the Bradfords also alerted the public that they would soon have copies available for sale at their printing office.  They placed an advertisement to that effect in the April 14 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, the newspaper they published.

As many printers did when they inserted advertisements for other goods and services in their own newspapers, the Bradfords took advantage of their position to give their notice about “The Deserted Village” a privileged place.  It was the first advertisement in the April 14 issue, appearing immediately below the shipping news that listed vessels that arrived and departed in the past week.  That increased the likelihood that readers interested primarily in news would at least skim the advertisement even if they passed over the rest of the paid notices that appeared on the same page.  That the title of the poem ran in large capital letters, surrounded with plentiful white spice compared to the dense text in most other advertisements, most likely also drew eyes to the Bradfords’ notice.

The printers did not offer much additional information about this publication.  They did not describe the material qualities of the paper or type used in production, nor did they incorporate blurbs promoting the work to refined readers.  Some booksellers adopted those strategies in their advertisements, but many did not.  To incite demand, the Bradfords did introduce one innovation intended to resonate with consumers.  They noted that Goldsmith was also the “author of THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD,” a popular novel, and “THE TRAVELLER,” another poem.  Both works enjoyed great popularity on both sides of the Atlantic.  Perhaps the Bradfords did not consider it necessary to elaborate on their edition of “The Deserted Village,” but instead expected Goldsmith’s popularity sufficient recommendation for prospective customers to acquire their own copies of the poem.

April 7

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

Pennsylvania Journal (April 4, 1771).

“Spencer has already given convincing proofs of his abilities.”

In the spring of 1771, Brent Spencer, a “Coach & Coach Harness MAKER,” opened a new shop on Lombard Street in Philadelphia.  In an advertisement in the April 4 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, he noted that he drew on his experience “in all the branches of Coach, Chariot, Phaeton, and Chaise making” gained in London and Dublin.  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, he intended that prospective customers would associate his time in those cities with superior skill and training.

That was one way of attempting to establish a reputation in a new place, but Spencer did not ask consumers merely to take his word.  Instead, he declared that he already had work on display in the local marketplace.  Spencer asserted that he had “already given convincing proofs of his abilities, in executing some of the principal Carriages now running in this city and province.”  He did not name his clients, but he did suggest that some of the most prominent residents of Philadelphia and its environs previously hired him.  Anyone who had admired or otherwise taken note of carriages already traversing the streets of the busy port city, Spencer suggested, had likely seen some that he constructed.

Given that he already cultivated a clientele among the better sorts, Spencer gave their peers and those who aspired to their ranks an opportunity to acquire one of his carriages.  Immediately following his comment about making “some of the principal Carriages” in the city, he noted that he “has now for sale a coach body and a waggon body, both of new construction.”  Prospective customers did not need to settle for secondhand carriages that may have previously belonged to friends or acquaintances, not when Spencer could outfit them with carriages that observers would recognize as new.

Spencer concluded his advertisement with assurances about customer service and low prices, two more reasons for consumers to purchase coaches from him.  In a short advertisement, he established his experience working in two of the largest cities in the empire, suggested that readers already glimpsed his carriages on the streets of Philadelphia, and promoted new carriages available at his shop.  Even for the most affluent colonists, purchasing a carriage was a major investment.  Spencer offered many reasons to choose his workshop over others in the city or imported alternatives.

February 21

What do newspaper advertisements published 250 years ago today tell us about the era of the American Revolution?

Pennsylvania Journal (February 21, 1771).

“LIBERTY.  A POEM.”

“RUN-AWAY … a Negro Boy named SAY.”

Like every other newspaper printer in colonial America, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford published advertisements about enslaved people.  The pages of the Pennsylvania Journal contained advertisements offering enslaved men, women, and children for sale as well as notices that described enslaved people who liberated themselves and offered rewards for their capture and return to their enslavers.  The Bradfords generated revenues from both kinds of advertisements.  In the process, they facilitated the buying and selling of enslaved Africans and African Americans.  Their newspaper became part of a larger infrastructure of surveillance of Black people, encouraging readers to scrutinize the physical features, clothing, and comportment of every Black person they encountered in order to determine if they matched the descriptions in the advertisements.

Simultaneously, the Bradfords published news about politics and current events that informed readers about colonial grievances and shaped public opinion about the abuses perpetrated by Parliament.  In addition, advertisements underscored concerns about the erosion of traditional English liberties in the colonies when they underscored the political dimensions of participating in the marketplace.  Purveyors of goods encouraged consumers to support “domestic manufactures” by purchasing goods produced in the colonies as alternatives to imported items.  News, editorials, and many advertisements all supported the patriot cause.

Those rumblings for liberty, however, stood in stark contrast to advertisements that perpetuated the widespread enslavement of Black men, women, and children.  The two ideologies did not appear in separate portions of the Pennsylvania Journal or any other newspaper.  Instead, they ran side by side.  Readers who did not spot the juxtaposition chose not to do so.  Consider, for instance, two advertisements in the February 21, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  The Bradfords advertised “LIBERTY.  A POEM” available at their printing office.  Their advertisement appeared next to a notice about “a Negro Boy named SAY,” a chimneysweeper born in the colonies.  Isaac Coats offered a reward to whoever “secures [Say] so that his Master may have him again.”  For his part, Say seized the liberty that so animated the conversations of those who attempted to keep him in bondage.

That was not the first time that the Bradfords placed advertisements about liberty and slavery in such revealing proximity to each other.  Three months earlier, they advertised the same poem and placed an advertisement offering a young man and woman for sale immediately below it.  “LIBERTY” in capital letters and a larger font appeared right above the words “To be sold by JOHN BAYARD, A Healthy active young NEGRO MAN, likewise a NEGRO WENCH.”  This paradox of liberty and slavery was present at the founding of the nation, not only in the ideas expressed by the founding generation but also plainly visible among the advertisements in the public prints.

February 14

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

Pennsylvania Journal (February 14, 1771).

“HART and PATTERSON … opened a VENDUE-STORE.”

Unlike the vast majority of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements composed primarily of text, a visual image dominated the notice that Hart and Patterson placed in the February 14, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal to announce that they “opened a VENDUE-STORE, in Front-street, below the Draw-bridge.”  The partners pledged that “ALL those who please to favour them with their custom, may depend on their best endeavours to render satisfaction,” but a woodcut depicting a hand holding a bell enclosed in a frame occupied far more space than the copy of the advertisement.  With the exception of the masthead, Hart and Patterson’s notice featured the only visual image in that edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  Both its size and its uniqueness surely demanded attention from readers.

When images did accompany newspaper advertisements, they were usually a fraction of the size of Hart and Patterson’s woodcut.  They tended to depict ships at sea, houses, horses, and enslaved people, a small number of standard images that could adorn any relevant advertisement.  Printers provided those woodcuts for advertisers interested in including them in their notices.  For other images, those associated with specific businesses, advertisers commissioned woodcuts that then belonged to them.  Such woodcuts often replicated shop signs or represented some aspect of the business featured in the advertisement.  For Hart and Patterson, the hand and bell suggested that they vigorously called attention to the items available for sale and auction after their “VENDUE-STORE.”

The previous publication history of that woodcut makes clear that it belonged to the advertisers rather than printers of the Pennsylvania Journal.  A year earlier, Hart included it in an advertisement he placed in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on January 8, 1770.  Irregularities in the border, perhaps due to damage sustained from making so many impressions on a hand-operated press, demonstrate that the same woodcut appeared in both newspapers.  Hart originally provided it to William Goddard and Benjamin Towne, the printers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but later reclaimed it.  After Hart formed a new partnership with Patterson, the auctioneers supplied William Bradford and Thomas Bradford with the woodcut when they submitted their advertising copy to the Pennsylvania Journal.

A year after first including the woodcut in an advertisement, Hart aimed to achieve a greater return on the investment he made in commissioning it.  He used the image of the hand and bell once again when he launched a new advertising campaign after embarking on a new enterprise with a new partner.  That the woodcut ran in a different newspaper than the one that first published it demonstrates that advertisers, not printers, usually owned any specialized images that appeared in eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements.

January 31

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

Pennsylvania Journal (January 31, 1771).

“A DISCOURSE, Occasioned by the DEATH of the Revd. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

The death of George Whitefield in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, was one of the most significant news events of the year.  Newspapers throughout the colonies reported on the death of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  They also carried news of local reactions and commemorations as well as poetry that memorialized the minister.  Almost immediately, printers, publishers, booksellers, and others commodified Whitefield’s death, marketing a variety of memorabilia via newspaper advertisements.

Such marketing tapered off after a couple of months as the immediacy of Whitefield’s death faded.  Printers and booksellers who previously placed advertisements designed solely to promote items devoted to Whitefield began listing such memorabilia among other merchandise available for sale.  At the end of January and beginning of February 1771, however, a resurgence of marketing commemorative items occurred, this time in places that had not witnessed the same intensity of advertising for Whitefield memorabilia as New England and New York in the final months of 1770.

William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, began advertising sermons delivered in memory of the minister in the January 31 edition of their newspapers.  The Bradfords informed the public that they published “A DISCOURSE, Occasioned by the DEATH of the Revd. GEORGE WHITEFIELD … delivered October 14, 1770, in the Second Presbyterian Church, in this city, By JAMES SPROUTT, A.M. Pastor of said Church.”  They also carried another sermon by Ebenezer Pemberton, “Pastor of a Church in BOSTON.”  The Bradfords likely acquired copies of Pemberton’s sermon from printers in New England or New York, perhaps in exchange for promises of receiving copies of Sproutt’s sermon when it went to press.  The latter was a new publication not previously marketed elsewhere.  The Bradfords offered their customers choices; they could acquire a sermon delivered locally that already may have been familiar or one delivered in Boston that featured new content.  They could even purchase both, allowing them simultaneously to honor the influential minister and compare the memorials.

Whitefield’s death prompted mourning throughout the colonies, but it also presented opportunities for printers, publishers, booksellers, and others to attempt to profit from leveraging current events into commemorative items.  From New England to South Carolina, newspapers carried both reports of the minister’s death and advertisements for memorabilia. Widespread commodification accompanied the death of the famous minister.