July 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette (July 11, 1771).

“THE Printer of this Paper … GIVES THIS EARLY NOTICE.”

Peter Timothy, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, made it impossible for readers to ignore the notices that he ran in his newspaper for several weeks beginning in the summer of 1771.  He exercised his prerogative as printer in designing a format that made his notice the most visible item in the newspaper, running it immediately below the masthead and across all three columns on the first page.  Dated July 1, Timothy’s notice first appeared on July 4 and then in the next four issues before he inserted a revised version in subsequent editions.  The printer informed readers that he intended “to have all his Affairs settled by the First of January next, so that he may depart the Province by the Beginning of Aprilfollowing.”  To that end, he “GIVES THIS EARLY NOTICE thereof, to all Persons indebted to him, that they may prepare to make Payment to their Accompts … without giving him the unnecessary Trouble of calling again and again.”  In addition, for those “many Subscribers in the Country whom he does not know, he begs such will give their Factors or Agents proper Orders to settle with him.”

Advertising on the front page was not unusual in and off itself.  The South-Carolina Gazette regularly featured advertisements on the first page.  In the July 11 edition, Thomas Powell’s advertisement for “Dr. KEYSER’s famous PILLS” filled the entire first column, under a heading that labeled it a “New Advertisement,” making it the first item readers encountered below the masthead and Timothy’s notice.  News from London comprised most of the second column, before a heading for “New Advertisements” introduced two shorter notices, one seeking passengers and freight for a ship departing for Philadelphia and the other calling on colonists to settle accounts with Robert Dillon.  The third column contained a brief account of news from Charleston, a list of prices current of “South-Carolina Produce and Manufactures,” and “Timothy’s Marine List” (as the printer branded the shipping news from the customs house when he printed it in his newspaper).  Readers of the South-Carolina Gazette were accustomed to seeing a variety of items, including advertisements, on the front page.  Timothy could have made his notice the first item in the first column without altering the format of the page, complete with a “New Advertisement” heading, but that would have risked readers passing over it.  Instead, he created a distinctive format that demanded readers give their attention to his important notice.  Just as the incomplete “Marine List” on the front page included instructions to “[Turn to the last Page.]” for the remainder, the printer also deployed graphic design to guide readers in navigating the newspaper.

June 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette (June 6, 1771).

“A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS … will be inserted in a CONTINUATION.”

The South-Carolina Gazette was a delivery mechanism for advertising, often devoting more space to paid notices than to news.  The printer, Peter Timothy, must have generated significant revenues, assuming advertisers paid their bills.  Like other colonial newspapers, a standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Some printers reserved advertising for the final pages, but other distributed advertisements throughout an issue, including on the front page.

Consider the contents of the June 6, 1771, edition.  News from London comprised most of the first and third columns, but several advertisements filled the entire column between them.  In addition, a single advertisement appeared at the bottom of the first and third columns, each with a header proclaiming “New Advertisements.”  Local news and a poem filled most of the second page, but an advertisement appeared at the bottom of the last column.  It also bore a header for “New Advertisements,” leading into the facing page.  Advertisements accounted for the first two columns and a portion of the third on that page, though it concluded with “Timothy’s Marine List,” the shipping news from the customs house.  Paid notices filled the entire final page.  In total, advertising comprised seven of the twelve columns in the standard issue.

In addition, Timothy distributed a half sheet supplement, two more pages that contained nothing except paid notices.  Printers who ran out of space for the content they wished to print – or needed to print to satisfy agreements made with advertisers – often resorted to supplements.  In this instance, a header for “Advertisements” appeared at the top of the first column on the first page.  Timothy also inserted a notice in the standard issue to explain that “A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS, which we could not get into this Day’s Paper, will be inserted in a CONTINUATION, to be published on Monday next.”  That meant even more advertising, though the printer’s notice may have been misleading. Timothy may or may not have printed and distributed another supplement on Monday.  The supplement dated June 6 may have been that supplement, taken to press earlier than anticipated at the time Timothy composed his notice and printed the standard issue.

Even without a midweek Continuation in addition to a Supplement that accompanied the June 6 edition, advertising constituted the majority of content delivered to subscribers.  Paid notices filled thirteen of the eighteen columns in the standard issue and supplement, amounting to more than two-thirds of the space.  Revenues generated from that advertising supported the production and distribution of the news, even in the colonial era.

March 17

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

South-Carolina Gazette (March 14, 1771).

“New Advertisements.”

Colonial American newspapers were vehicles for disseminating advertising.  Some newspapers published in the largest port cities frequently included supplements devoted entirely to advertising, even when advertising filled more space than news accounts in the standard issues.  Peter Timothy, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, did not bother with an advertising supplement to accompany the March 14, 1771, edition, but neither did he print much news.  Paid notices filled more than three quarters of the twelve columns spread over four pages.

When readers perused that issue, they first encountered “New Advertisements” immediately below the masthead. Advertisements filled the first two columns of the first page, but Timothy have over the third column to news accounts and a letter to the editor.  That column concluded with a note to “Turn to the last Page” to continue reading the news.  Indeed, advertising consumed all three columns on the second page and all three columns on the third page.  A bit more news appeared in the first column of the fourth page as well as two regular features, the “Charles-Town Price Current, Of South Carolina Produce and Manufactures” and “Timothy’s Marine List.”  The printer branded the shipping news from the customs house.  In this instance, the extensive list of vessels filled the better part of a column, overflowing into the second column.  More “New Advertisements” immediately followed “Timothy’s Marine List.”  While Timothy did not organize the advertisements according to purpose or genre, he did distinguish among those that previously appeared in the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and those that readers had not previously seen.

Timothy had two competitors, the South-Carolina and American General Gazette printed by Robert Wells and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal printed by Charles Crouch.  That same week, those newspapers published similar proportions of news and advertising.  Apparently, Timothy did not need to worry about his subscribers expressing discontent that they received less news in their newspapers compared to others.  They may have considered the news accounts that the printer did insert along with the information contained in the advertisements sufficient for staying informed until another edition devoted more space to news accounts rather than paid notices.

November 26

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

Nov 26 - 11:23:1769 South-Carolina Gazette Additional Supplement
Additional Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (November 23, 1769).

“New Advertisements.”

In the fall of 1769 Peter Timothy did good business when it came to publishing advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette. Consider the November 23 edition. Advertising appeared on every page. Indeed, the space devoted to advertising eclipsed the space for news items. A headline directing readers to “New Advertisements” appeared at the top of the first column of the first page. The other two columns consisted of news items. The second page also delivered news, but two “New Advertisements” ran at the bottom of the last column. Timothy divided the third page evenly between news items (including a list of prices current in Charleston and the shipping news from the customs house, branded as “Timothy’s Marine List”) and more “New Advertisements.” The final page consisted entirely of advertisements. Overall, paid notices compromised half of the standard issue, which likely suited Timothy just fine since advertising usually generated greater revenue than selling subscriptions.

Yet even giving over that much space to advertising in the standard issue did not allow Timothy to disseminate all of the advertisements submitted to his printing office. A two-page Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette accompanied the November 23 edition. Except for the masthead, it consisted entirely of advertisements, though the “New Advertisements” headline that ran three times in the standard issue did not appear in the supplement. Timothy may have made a concerted effort to give new content, whether news or advertising, a privileged place in the standard issue. Still, even by publishing the supplement Timothy did not gain sufficient space to include all of the advertisements for the week. He went to the extraordinary step of printing and distributing an Additional Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette. Printed on a smaller sheet, this two-page supplement featured only two columns per page. It still allowed Timothy to circulate an additional sixteen advertisements. The “New Advertisements” headline ran at the top of the first column on the first page, though the notices were repeats from previous editions. Did Timothy deploy that headline indiscriminately? Or did he use it strategically in an attempt to draw readers weary of advertisements into the Additional Supplement rather than dismiss it as content they had already perused in recent weeks?

Timothy very nearly had more advertisements than he could publish in the South-Carolina Gazette. Assuming that advertisers actually settled accounts in a timely manner, Timothy operated a booming business at his printing office. The volume of paid notices testified to both the extensive circulation of the newspaper and colonists’ confidence in the effectiveness of advertising. Some colonial newspapers, such as the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser, the New-York Journal or General Advertiser, the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser, and the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, positioned their purpose as twofold right in the masthead. Timothy very well could have billed the South-Carolina Gazette as an Advertiser.

November 12

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

Nov 12 - 11:9:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (November 9, 1769).

Advertisements, &c. not inserted in this Sheet, will be published in a Supplement.”

Peter Timothy, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, inserted a brief note in the November 9, 1769, edition to inform readers that “The European Intelligence, received by Captain Carter from Bristol, Charles-Town News, Advertisements, &c. not inserted in this Sheet, will be published in a Supplement, on Tuesday next.” In so doing, he simultaneously provided a preview for subscribers and assurances to advertisers that their paid notices would indeed appear in print shortly. The South-Carolina Gazette, like most other colonial newspapers, was a weekly, but Timothy pledged to distribute a supplement five days later rather than asking subscribers and advertisers to wait an entire week for the content he did not have space to squeeze into the November 9 issue.

Whether Timothy did print a supplement on November 14 remains unclear. Accessible Archives includes issues for November 9 and 16, consecutively numbered 1782 and 1783, but not a supplement issued any time during the week between them. The November 16 issue does not, however, include news from Europe received from Captain Carter that had been delayed by a week, suggesting that it could have appeared in a supplement no longer extant. Advertising filled nearly three of the four pages of the November 16 edition. The headline “New Advertisements” appeared on two pages. While this might suggest that Timothy did not print “European Intelligence, received by Captain Carter, from Bristol” and simply delayed publishing the advertisements, the several newspapers printed in Charleston in 1769 regularly overflowed with advertising. Timothy very well could have printed overdue advertisements in a supplement and still had plenty more advertisements for the standard weekly edition.

While it is quite possible that the promised supplement never materialized, Timothy’s reputation was on the line. He promised certain content to his subscribers who had other options for receiving their news from papers printed in Charleston, including the South-Carolina and American General Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Whether or not Timothy issued a supplement on November 14, Robert Wells did publish the South-Carolina and American General Gazette that day, complete with two extra pages devoted exclusively to advertising. The most important European news received from Captain Carter would have spread by word of mouth by the time it appeared in any supplement distributed by Timothy, but the printer needed to be wary of disappointing advertisers, not just subscribers. After all, those advertisers also had other options. Advertisements accounted for significant revenue for colonial printers. Timothy’s notice that “Advertisements … not inserted in this Sheet, will be published in a Supplement” very well could have resonated with advertisers more than subscribers. After all, they paid for that service and each expected a return on their investment, a return that could not manifest as long as the printer delayed publication of their advertisements. Although listed third in his notice, advertisements may have been the most important content that Timothy sought to assure readers would soon appear.

October 18

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

Oct 18 - 10:18:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (October 18, 1769).

For the Remainder of new Advertisements … turn to the last Page.”

Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, included instructions to aid subscribers and other readers in navigating the October 18, 1769, edition of the newspaper. The front page consisted primarily of news items, but it also featured three paid notices of various sorts under the headline, “New Advertisements.” These advertisements ran at the bottom of the final column on the page, which concluded with further instructions. “For the Remainder of new Advertisements, Charles-Town News, &c.” Timothy explained, “turn to the last page.” There readers found local news, the shipping news from the customs house (which the printer branded as “Timothy’s Marine List”), and a dozen more paid notices under the same headline that ran on the front page, “New Advertisements.”

These were not the only advertisements that ran in the October 18 issue. Paid notices, nearly fifty of them, comprised the entire second and third pages. Like most other American newspapers published in the late 1760s, the South-Carolina Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half. Except for the news items on the front page and Timothy’s Marine List and a brief account of local news on the final page, advertising accounted for a significant proportion of the issue.

That was not uncommon, especially in newspapers published in the largest and busiest port cities, such as Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. New articles, editorials, and other news content were easy for readers to spot, in part because printers rarely reprinted such items. Advertisements, on the other hand, usually ran for multiple weeks. Some even appeared week after week for months. Compositors moved them around on the page or from one page to another in their efforts to make all the content for any particular issue fit. This usually required readers to skim all of the advertisements to discover anything appearing for the first time. Timothy’s occasional headlines and instructions, however, sometimes helped readers to scan the South-Carolina Gazette more efficiently. Readers interested in legal notices, inventory at local shops, or descriptions of enslaved people who escaped from bondage did not have to sort through the entire newspaper to find new content. Instead, Timothy sorted it, labeled it, and provided instructions for finding it. Clustering paid notices together under a headline for “New Advertisements” was the closest that eighteenth-century newspapers came to classifying advertisements. In a newspaper that featured as much advertising as the South-Carolina Gazette, this was an important service to readers.

October 18

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

Oct 18 - 10:18:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 18, 1768).

“Those who intend to encourage this Work are requested to send their Names to Peter Valton, Mr. Peter Timothy, or Mr. Robert Wells.”

When it came to publishing newspapers, Peter Timothy, Robert Wells, and Charles Crouch were competitors. All three operated printing shops in Charleston, where Timothy published the South-Carolina Gazette, Wells published the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, and Crouch published the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. This did not, however, preclude their cooperation when it came to other ventures.

In the fall of 1768, Peter Valton circulated a subscription notice that announced his intention to publish “SIX SONATAS For the HARPSICHORD or ORGAN, WITH An Accompanyment for a VIOLIN.” Valton intended for the subscription notice to incite demand. For instance, he highlighted the quality of the paper, promised to print the names of subscribers in recognition of their support for this genteel endeavor, and offered to provide a seventh copy free to anyone who pledged to purchase six. Valton also used the subscription notice to gauge interest in the project. He needed to know if he could attract enough subscribers to make it a viable venture and, if so, how many copies to print without ending up with an unprofitable surplus. To that end, he instructed, “Those who intend to encourage this Work are requested to send their Names to Peter Valton, Mr. Peter Timothy, or Mr. Robert Wells.” When Valton inserted the advertisement in the October 18 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, its appearance brought together all three of Charleston’s newspaper publishers.

All three stood to profit from the venture, either directly or indirectly. According to Odai Johnson, Wells was the intended printer.[1] Robust sales of the prospective publication would certainly benefit him. Yet all three printers generated revenues by publishing Valton’s subscription notice in their newspapers. Timothy further lent support for the project by collecting the names of subscribers. Promoting a culture of consumption contributed to their livelihoods, even if they were not the producers or purveyors of the printed materials advertised in their newspapers.

**********

[1] Odai Johnson, London in a Box: Englishness and Theatre in Revolutionary America (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2017), 167.