July 23

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

Jul 23 - 7:23:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (July 23, 1767).

“PETER GOELET … Has just imported … a great Variety of other Articles.”

Peter Goelet knew that potential customers might read one of several newspapers published in New York in 1767. To increase the chances that colonists who wanted or needed any of his “Large and complete Assortment of Ironmongery, Cutlery and Brasses” would see his advertisement and visit his shop “At the Golden-Key in Hanover-Square” he inserted his notice in more than one newspaper. On a Thursday, readers encountered it in the July 23, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal, but it had also appeared in the New-York Gazette and the New-York Mercury on the previous Monday. The copy did not vary from one publication to another, but the compositors in each printing office made their own decisions about typography (though the variations were minor).

Goelet incurred expenses when he placed his advertisement in multiple newspapers. Neither William Weyman nor Hugh Gaine, the printers of the New-York Gazette and the New-York Mercury, respectively, listed the price for advertising in their publications. John Holt, on the other hand, incorporated the fee schedule into the colophon of the New-York Journal: “Advertisements of a moderate Length are inserted for Five shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after.” Goelet and other advertisers paid a fee to have their notices set in type, but after a month purchased only the space. Goelet, however, did not take advantage of these savings. His advertisement first appeared on July 16 and then again in the next three issues. Perhaps he had stretched the resources he was willing to commit to marketing as far as possible at the time and decided not to continue inserting this particular advertisement. Apparently, however, he believed that advertising in the New-York Journal had been worth the investment. Within three months he inserted a new, much lengthier list-style advertisement that enumerated scores of items recently imported from London and Bristol. New merchandise merited new expenditures on advertising in order to move the goods out the door and generate revenue.

March 19

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

Mar 19 - 3:17:1766 New-York Mercury
New-York Mercury (March 17, 1766).

“Baggammon tables, … flutes and fifes, … fishing reels.”

Peter Goelet presented many choices to potential customers in an advertisement that listed dozens and dozens of items that he stocked in his shop “At the Golden Key, in Hanover-Square, New-York.” What else possibly could have been included among the “great variety of other articles” listed at the end of the advertisement?!

This assortment of goods could be used to glimpse many different aspects of daily life in colonial America, from the types of tools that many artisans would have used to housewares and cooking equipment to supplies for writing letters, accounts, and other documents, to name a few.

This advertisement also suggests leisure activities pursued by some early Americans. Goelet sold “baggammon tables” on which colonists would have played the game now commonly known as backgammon. He also carried musical instruments, including violins and “German and common flutes and fifes,” and supplies, such as “hautboy [oboe] reeds, violin strings, bridges, and pins, [and] brass and steel harpsichord wire.” Although the advertisement does not list other sorts of books or pamphlets, “newest tunes, &c.” may have referred to music. Goelet concluded his advertisement with a list of fishing rods, reels, hooks, and flies.

Games, music, and fishing: advertisements offered colonial Americans the goods they needed to pursue a variety of leisure activities that in turn helped them to express their own status and gentility.