July 25

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

Jul 25 - 7:25:1770 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 25, 1770).

“JOHN HATFIELD, TALLOW-CHANDLER and SOAP-BOILER … CARRIES on the said Business as usual.”

Among the three newspapers published in Charleston in 1770, readers encountered far more advertising than news in the final week of July.  On Wednesday, July 25, Robert Wells distributed the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Like most newspapers published in eighteenth-century America, it consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Wells divided each page of his newspaper into four columns, yielding sixteen columns of content for subscribers and other readers.  Advertising comprised eleven of those sixteen columns, slightly more than two-thirds of the issue.  Three of the four columns on the first page contained news.

Yet it was the South-Carolina and American General Gazette that delivered the most news that week.  The following day, Peter Timothy published the weekly edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  It also consisted of four pages, but featured only three columns per page.  Of the twelve columns in the July 26 issue, advertising comprised ten.  Timothy devoted just two columns to news, including “Timothy’s Marine List,” the shipping news from the customs house.  The first item on the first page was a proclamation from the acting governor calling the colonial assembly into session on August 14.  Otherwise, news items appeared on pages two and three, though that was not an uncommon format for newspapers of the period.

Readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal discovered the same proportion of advertising and news in the issue that circulated on Tuesday, July 31.  Charles Crouch published two and half columns of news and editorials, confined entirely to the second page.  Paid notices filled the first page.  The contents of the newspapers published in South Carolina in the early 1770s were not always so lopsided in favor of advertising over news, but the issues from the final week of July 1770 underscore that newspapers were vehicles for disseminating advertising just as much as (and sometimes more than) delivering the news.

May 31

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

May 31 - 5:31:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 31, 1769).

“HENRY YONGE … intends to depart this province for some time.”

Even more so than usual, the May 31, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette was a delivery mechanism for advertisements of all sorts. From week to week the balance of news, advertising, and other content varied, yet advertisements accounted for significant space in any issue regardless of the relative proportions. After all, advertising provided an important revenue stream that made publication of the rest of the content possible.

In addition to the standard four-page issue, the May 31 edition also featured a one-page supplement. Unlike most other colonial newspapers, James Johnston did not run a masthead across the top of the occasional supplement to the Georgia Gazette. Instead, only the issue number that it accompanied – [No. 296.] – appeared at the bottom of the final column. Otherwise, advertising filled the entire page, just as advertisements filled the entire third and fourth pages as well as the second column of the second page. News ran on the first page and in the first column of the second page. Overall, between the regular issue and the supplement, advertising accounted for seven of ten columns distributed to readers on May 31, 1769.

Much of that advertising consisted of notices for consumer goods and services, including lengthy lists of merchandise for sale by Inglis and Hall, Samuel Douglass, and Lewis Johnson. Other advertisements announced the sale of enslaved men, women, and children or offered rewards for the capture of those who had escaped from slaveholders who held them in bondage. Others described real estate for sale. Half a dozen legal notices appeared in the supplement, one after the other in the closest the organization of the advertisements came to any sort of classification system.

Readers of the Georgia Gazette were accustomed to encountering more advertising than any other content within that newspaper’s pages. That had been the case for all of the issues published in May 1769, but the inclusion of a supplement devoted entirely to advertising at the end of the month underscored that disseminating advertising, rather than news, was an important purpose of the publication.