March 24

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

Pennsylvania Journal (March 24, 1773).

“I had not just cause to attack her reputation in the manner I have published.”

It was a rare retraction.  James Harding instructed William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, to discontinue an advertisement in which he advised the community against extending credit to his wife, Margaret.

James did not reveal the circumstances the prompted him to place his first advertisement in the March 3, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  In that notice, he succinctly declared, “LET no Person credit my Wife, MARGARET HARDING, on my account, for I will pay none of her debts, after this date.”  Throughout the colonies, aggrieved husbands regularly placed similar notices concerning recalcitrant wives.  In many instances, they provided much more detail about how the women misbehaved or even “eloped” or abandoned their husbands.  Without access to the family’s financial resources, controlled by each household’s patriarch, most wives could not publish rebuttals.  Those who did offered very different accounts of marital discord and who was really at fault.  For many women, running away was the most effective means of protecting themselves from abusive husbands.

Less than a week after placing the advertisement, James had a change of heart and sent instructions for the printers to remove the notice from subsequent issues.  “HAVING published an advertisement in your last Paper, prohibiting persons from crediting my Wife, MARGARET HARDING, on my account,” James stated, “I do hereby, in justice to my Wife’s character, declare, that I had not just cause to attack her in the manner I have published.”  Having reached that realization, he “therefore do forbid the continuance of said advertisement.”  Once again, James did not go into details, though friends, neighbors, and acquaintance – women and men alike – probably shared what they knew and what they surmised as they gossiped among themselves.

Pennsylvania Journal (March 24, 1773).

James intended for his initial advertisement to run for a month, according to the “1 m,” a notation for the compositor, that followed his signature.  In the end, that notice appeared just one before the Bradfords published his retraction in the March 10, 17, and 24 editions of the Pennsylvania Journal.  Someone in the printing office may have felt some sympathy for Margaret.  The retraction ran immediately below the “PRICES-CURRENT in PHILADELPHIA” on March 10, making it the first advertisement readers encountered as they transitioned from news items to paid notices.  That likelihood increased the chances of readers noticing the retraction, even if they only skimmed the rest of the advertisement.  Margaret did not share her side of the story in the newspaper, but it may have been some consolation that James’s acknowledgement that he erred in “attack[ing] her reputation” appeared repeatedly and the initial notice only once.  That was more satisfaction than most women targeted by similar advertisements received from their husbands in the public prints.

November 18

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (November 18, 1772).

“I AM very sorry for advertising my Wife.”

Marital discord in the Elwell household spilled over into the public prints in the fall of 1772.  In a notice dated October 20, John Elwell of “Salem County, West New-Jersey” revealed some of those difficulties to the readers of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  His advertisement ran a week later in the October 28 edition, stating that “MARCEY ELWELL, my Wife, hath eloped from me, and I am apprehensive that she will run me in Debt.”  Accordingly, he placed the notice “to forewarn all Persons not to trust her on my Account, as I am determined not to pay any Debts of her contracting, after the Date hereof.”  Elwell used formulaic language that appeared in many similar advertisements published throughout the colonies.  As in almost every other instance, the notice told only a portion of the story without any commentary from the wife who reportedly “eloped” from her husband.  Only in rare instances did women publish rebuttals.

Marcey Elwell was not one of those wives who found the resources to run her own advertisement, but a short time later her husband apparently had a change of heart.  In a notice dated November 2, he rescinded his previous statement.  “I AM very sorry for advertising my Wife,” he wrote, “it being done through the Heat of Passion and Inconsideration; which I now retract.”  It took longer for that advertisement to reach the printing office in Philadelphia than the initial one.  The updated notice ran in the November 18 edition, more than two weeks after John wrote it.  By that time, news that the Elwells reconciled may have spread via word of mouth in their local community.  The second newspaper notice served as an update and conclusion for the broader public, alerting shopkeepers, artisans, and others that they could once again do business with Marcey.  Although John did not discuss the particulars in either advertisement, the second notice may have also been part of his penance in convincing his wife to return to him.  The husbands who placed such advertisements sought to shape the narratives about what occurred in their households, though readers knew that the wives had their own perspectives about what happened.  Marcey’s side of the story did not appear in print, but her husband did make a rare public acknowledgment that it was he who had given in to “the Heat of Passion and Inconsideration.”  Few wives received such apologies in the public prints.

September 24

Who were the subjects of advertisements in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-York Journal (September 24, 1772).

THE Publick are hereby requested not to trust Susannah Crane the Wife of me the Subscriber.”

THIS is to inform the Publick, that I have been compelled to leave my Husband’s House.”

For four weeks in August and September 1772, Jeremiah Crane ran a “runaway wife” advertisement in the New-York Journal to inform the public “not to trust” his wife, Susanna, “on my Account … for I am determined to pay no Debts of her contracting.”  He complained that “she has already run me very considerably in Debt,” forcing him to place the notice “to prevent my entire Ruin.”  Similar advertisements frequently appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies, often deploying formulaic language as they described marital discord in full view of the public.  Jeremiah took a harsher tone in his advertisement, not only accusing Susanna of “living and behaving herself in so scandalous and notorious a Manner” to justify a “publick Notice” but also accusing her of leading “the Life of a common Prostitute.”  Even when they made insinuations about infidelity, husbands who placed “runaway wife” advertisements rarely leveled such accusations so explicitly.  That Jeremiah took that approach testified to the tumult in the Crane household.

In most instance, frustrated husbands set the narrative, at least in the public prints.  Wives could share their version of events via conversations and gossip, but usually lacked the resources to place their own notices in newspapers.  Susanna, however, did run her own notice, declaring that she had been “compelled to leave my Husband’s House, in which I had long received the basest and most unmanly Usage.”  She described a “Disposition naturally jealous, and often inflamed with Liquor,” suggesting that the problems in the Crane household did not originate with her.  Without naming names, Susanna addressed the allegations made by her husband, stating that “he was excited by the Insinuations and base Aspersions of a Person at whose House he spends the best Part of his Time and Substance.”  Jeremiah spent so much time away from his own home that he neglected his wife and her “poor Babes” by not providing “the most scanty Maintenance at Home.”  According to Susanna, the problem was not her comportment, falsely represented by an acquaintance, but rather her husband spending too much time drinking and partaking in tales told by that acquaintance.

In those relatively few instances when wives did place their own advertisements, they almost always appeared in response to notices placed their husbands.  Susanna, however, managed to publish her notice in the same issue in which Jeremiah’s advertisement first appeared.  The compositor chose to place those notices together, perhaps to aid readers with a more complete story or perhaps in sympathy with Susanna.  Either way, readers saw her rebuttal immediately following Jeremiah’s notice.  In most instances when wives responded, their advertisements appeared separately, often on another page completely.  That increased the likelihood that some readers perused only a husband’s side of the story.  The placement of Susanna’s notice aided her in using the power of the press to defend her reputation against Jeremiah’s “churlish Disposition.”

August 8

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 8, 1772).

“My wife, HANNAH FREDERICK, did … elope from my bed and board.”

In the eighteenth century, aggrieved husbands often took to the pages of newspapers to warn others not to extend credit to misbehaving wives who “eloped” from them.  Readers regularly encountered “runaway wife” advertisements in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  Those notices continued to appear during the era of the American Revolution and, as Mary Beth Sievens demonstrates, well into the nineteenth century.[1]

Although most notices followed a pattern, each provided details specific to a particular household.  Wives usually “eloped” from their husbands on their own, but in an advertisement in the August 8, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle one husband reported that his wife, Hannah Frederick, “did … elope from my bed and board … with a certain Abraham Hudson.”  The husband believed that the two of them traveled “from Fish-Kills, in Duchess County, in New-York government … to Elizabeth-Town” in New Jersey “and from thence to Philadelphia.”  To aid readers in identifying his wife, the advertiser reported that her “maiden name was Hannah Coleman” and she “served her time,” likely as an indentured servant, “with John Taylor, at Tinicum-Island.”  He concluded with a formulaic statement cutting his wife off from his credit: “these are therefore to forewarn all persons from trusting her on my account, as I shall pay no debts of her contracting after the date hereof.”

Printers published such advertisements without offering commentary of their own, but, in this instance, William Goddard did insert a clarification.  “In the copy of the foregoing Advertisement, which was sent to the Printer,” he explained, “the Advertiser’s name was omitted.”  As a result, the husband’s name appeared as “———- FREDERICK.”  That being the case, how did Goddard handle payment for the advertisement?  Some printers required advertisers to pay in advance, even though they extended credit to subscribers.  After all, advertising comprised a lucrative revenue stream.  Occasional notices in eighteenth-century newspapers, however, make clear that some printers did allow credit for advertisements as well as subscriptions.  This husband may have submitted payment, but not his name, to the printing office … or Goddard may have taken a chance that he would settle up in a timely manner.  Even if that was the case, the printer’s trust only went so far.  The advertisement ran just twice (August 8 and 15), though most newspapers initially published advertisements for three or four weeks for a set fee before charging a lower fee for each insertion.  Goddard may have been carefully managing how much credit he extended to “———- FREDERICK” even as that husband attempted to exert control over his credit when it became clear his wife was beyond his influence.


[1] Mary Beth Sievens, “Female Consumerism and Household Authority in Early National New England,” Early American Studies:  An Interdisciplinary Journal 4, no. 2 (Fall 2006):  353-371.

June 5

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

Connecticut Journal (June 5, 1772).

“I shall from this Date, pay no Debts of his contracting.”

Advertisements that ran in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy in the spring of 1772 testified to marital discord in the Wolcott household.  In the May 8 edition, Jeremy Wolcott inserted a notice informing the public that “My wife SARAH, and MYSELF, being unhappy in the Marriage State !! which had subjected me to great anxiety; and for Reasons, I hereby forbid any Person trusting her on my Account, for I will not pay any Debts by her contracted, after this Date.”  It was one of dozens of similar advertisements placed by anxious patriarchs in newspapers published in New England that year.  Throughout the colonies, aggrieved husbands ran similar notices in their attempts to assert control over wives they claimed did not obey their commands.  Jeremy’s advertisement appeared in the next two issues as well.

When it concluded its run, something unusual happened.  Sarah inserted her own advertisement in response, a rare instance of a wife answering her husband’s charges in print.  Not surprisingly, Sarah told a very different story than the one rehearsed by Jeremy, one that likely humiliated him even more than placing his own advertisement that implicitly confessed his inability to exercise proper authority within his household.  In a notice that first appeared in the May 29 edition, Sarah referred to Jeremy’s notices “in the Connecticut Journal, No. 238, 39, and 40” that advised “the Publick, not to trust me on his account, and declar’d he will pay no Debts of my contracting.”  Given the actual state of affairs, according to Sarah, that advertisement misrepresented Jeremy’s record of providing for his wife.  “I think I ought (in Justice to myself),” she proclaimed, “inform the Public, That I never was trusted a farthing on his Credit, in my Life.” Furthermore, “when I was married to my said Husband, he had no Estate, and was much in Debt, which I soon after paid for him, and ever since he has been supported out of the Incomes of my Estate, for he has done little or nothing to support himself.”  In Sarah’s version, Jeremy had never fulfilled his responsibilities as husband and head of household.

She then turned the tables on him, issuing similar directions “not to trust him hereafter, on my Account, as I shall from this Date, pay no Debts of his contracting, further than the Select-Men’s Allowance.”  Sarah paid taxes legitimately levied by locally elected representatives, but she asserted that she did not want the resources she brought to the marriage used by Jeremy for any other purposes.  That must have resulted in further embarrassment for Jeremy, especially since the vast majority of women targeted in the sort of advertisement that he placed did not have the means to offer any sort of rebuttal in print.  Most of the time, husbands exercised exclusive access to the power of the press.  On occasions, however, women like Sarah Wolcott published forceful responses that may have caused their husbands to wish that they have never gotten the printing office involved at all.

August 27

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

Connecticut Courant (August 27, 1771).

“I think it high time to clip the wings of these public spirited gentlemen, that make so great an appearance in our weekly papers.”

A trio of advertisements about “runaway wives” appeared in the August 13, 1771, edition of the Connecticut Courant, each of them describing the misbehavior of a woman who absconded from her husband and warning others not to extend credit because their aggrieved husbands refused to pay any debts they contracted.  Richard Smith placed one of those advertisements, claiming that his wife, Hannah, “makes it her business to pass from house to house with her [busy] news, tattling and bawling and lying.”  In addition, he accused her of “carrying out things out of my house, things contrary to my knowledge.”

Such advertisements told only part of the story.  In most instances, wives did not possess the same access to the press as their husbands, especially once husbands published notices that they refused to make payments on behalf of recalcitrant wives, so runaway wife advertisements largely went unanswered in the public prints.  Occasionally, however, women defended their behavior and their reputations by publishing notices of their own.  When Hannah Smith did so, she told a very different story than the one her husband previously presented in the Connecticut Courant.

Hannah blamed both her husband and his children from a previous marriage for the discord in their household.  She first pointed to the “perfidious instigation” of his children that “represented me in a false and ungenerous light, to be wastful, tattling, and wilfully absenting myself.”  Problems arose, Hannah claimed, because she had a husband “who keeps himself (for the most part) intoxicated ten degrees below the level of a beast.”  She also experienced emotional and physical abuse, reporting that Richard “allows some of his children to treat a step mother with the most abusive, ignominious language, not sparing to kick her.”  None of these details appeared in Richard’s advertisement!

Since Richard made accusations against her in a public forum, Hannah in turn insisted that the situation “absolutely necessitated” that she “ask the public, how a woman ought to behave” in such circumstances.  At the same time, she critiqued advertisements for runaway wives more generally, perhaps reacting to the three that appeared one after the other and concluded with Richard’s advertisement concerning her alleged misconduct.  “As the woman is the weaker vessel,” Hannah asserted, “I think it high time to clip the wings of these public spirited gentlemen, that make so great an appearance in our weekly papers.”  Richard Smith had not told an accurate or complete story in his advertisement; neither had Samuel Pettibone and John Savage in their notices.  In a rare rebuttal that appeared in print, Hannah Smith defended not only herself but also Mary Pettibone, Nancy Savage, and other women targeted by runaway wife advertisements.

August 14

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

Connecticut Courant (August 13, 1771).

“I am so unhappy in my last marriage.”

Samuel Pettibone, John Savage, and Richard Smith had something in common.  Each of them experienced marital discord and failed to exercise proper patriarchal authority to maintain order in their households.  The situation for each spiraled so far out of control that all three men resorted to placing advertisements in the Connecticut Courant to instruct others in their communities not to extend credit to their wives.

“I am so unhappy in my last marriage,” lamented Pettibone, “as to inform the public that my wife Mary has privately run me in debt at many places, and has absented herself from my bed and board.”  Furthermore, she “carried off with her all she bro’t with her” to the marriage “and thirty pounds or upwards of my estate.”  Smith told a similar tale about his wife, Hannah, who “makes it her steady business to pass from house to house with her [busy] news, tattling and bawling and lying.”  Just as Mary Pettibone supposedly had done to her husband, Richard accused Hannah of “carrying out things out of my house, things contrary to my knowledge.”  Savage was not nearly as animated in his account, instead resorting to standardized language that appeared in many “runaway wife” advertisements.  “Whereas Nancy the wife of me the subscriber,” he stated, “has eloped from my bed an[d] board and has run me in debt … I utterly refuse paying any debt contracted by her after this date.”  Pettibone and Smith could have also deployed formulaic accounts; that they did not testifies to the exasperation they felt in the face of such recalcitrance and disobedience by their wives.

Pettibone, Savage, and Smith intended for others to view them as aggrieved husbands.  They published unflattering narratives about their wives, using the power of the press to frame events according to their understanding or liking.  Eighteenth-century readers, especially those who knew the families or heard gossip, certainly realized that none of these men provided all of the details of what transpired in their households.  Arranged one after another, these advertisements served as a catalog of misbehaving women, but they also demanded readers ask questions about how the men who placed the notices comported themselves.  In what ways did the husbands contribute to the turmoil in their households?

July 3

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (July 1, 1771).

“THE imprudent Behaviour of my Son JESSE HALL, lays me under the painful Necessity of forwarning all Persons from harbouring or concealing him.”

Conradt Wolff lamented that his wife, Jenny, “hath behaved herself in such a manner as lays me under a necessity of forbidding any persons from trusting her on my account.”  In an advertisement in the July 1, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, he warned the public that he “will pay no debts of her contracting.”  Throughout the colonies, similar notices frequently ran in eighteenth-century newspapers.  Aggrieved husbands deployed “runaway wife” advertisements to discipline disobedient women, though their notices told only one side of a story of marital discord. Relatively few wives possessed the resources to respond in print.  Those that did usually provided much different narratives, often accusing their husbands of abuse and neglect.  From their perspective, running away was an act of self-preservation and principled resistance rather than willful disobedience.

On occasion, colonists resorted to the public prints in the wake of other sorts of tumult within their households.  On the same day that Wolff placed an advertisement in the New-York Gazette, Moses Hall placed his own notice in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Hall, however, deplored the misbehavior of his son, Jesse.  “THE imprudent Behaviour of my Son,” Hall declared, “lays me under the painful Necessity of forwarning all Persons from harbouring or concealing him.” Furthermore, “they may depend on being prosecuted to the utmost Rigour of the Law, if they disregard this Notice.”  Hall did not elaborate on his son’s “imprudent Behaviour,” though gossip and rumors likely circulated beyond the newspaper.  That was almost certainly the case for the Camps and the Brents in Elizabethtown, New Jersey.  John D. Camp, Jr., informed readers of the New-York Gazette that he had been “compel’d by David Brent, to marry Catherine, his daughter.”  Camp vowed to “allow her a separate Maintenance, in all Respects suitable to her Degree,” but he would not pay “any Debts of her Contracting.”  Camp carefully avoided the details about events that resulted in his unwelcome wedding.  If friends and acquaintances had not been discussing whatever transpired between John and Catherine and her father before the advertisement ran in the New-York Gazette, its appearance probably prompted them to share what they knew for certain and speculate on what they did not.

Wolff, Hall, and Camp all attempted to focus attention on the subjects of their advertisements:  an absent wife, a troublesome son, or an imperious father-in-law.  In even publishing their notices, however, they called attention to themselves and their shortcomings in maintaining order within their households.  They sought to regain authority through the power of the press, but in the process they made their private altercations all the more visible to the public.  They framed the narratives and obscured the details, yet they still alerted others to scenes of difficulty and embarrassment that did not reflect well on them despite their efforts to shift responsibility to the actions of others.

June 13

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

New-York Journal (June 13, 1771).

“James Sloan … hath thought proper to advertise me his Wife for absconding from him.”

In the wake of marital discord in the Sloan household, James placed an advertisement concerning his wife, Altye, in the June 13, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal.  According to James’s version of events, his wife had “in many Respects misbehaved, and without any just Cause eloped from me, wasting and embezling my Substance.”  James further accused Altye of “endeavour[ing] to run me in Debt.”  Accordingly, he placed the advertisement “to warn all Persons not to trust or entertain her on my Account” because he would not pay any “Debt of her contracting since her Elopement.”

Runaway wife advertisements like this one appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers from New England to Georgia. They usually went unanswered, at least in the public prints.  Husbands advanced narratives about what happened, but wives generally did not have the resources to publish their own version of events.  That was not the case, however, for Altye Sloan.  She ran her own notice that acknowledged her husband’s advertisement, suggesting that James had been prompted to tell a tale to the public by “some dissolute Persons like himself.”  In turn, she offered a more accurate rendering of events, claiming that “she neither has embezzled his Substance, nor eloped from him.”  Instead, James “turned her out of Doors” after “beat[ing] and abus[ing] her often Times.”  As far as Altye was concerned, that amounted to “sufficient C[au]se to abandon such an insolent Person.”  She concluded by proclaiming that she would not run her husband into debt and neither would she pay any of his bills.

The two advertisements ran one after the other in the June 13 edition of the New-York Journal.  They did so again in the June 20 and 26 editions, before being discontinued.  The compositor may have chosen to place them together for easy reference, but the notations on the final line of each advertisement suggest that Altye may have requested that her advertisement appear with her husband’s notice.  The notations on the final lines corresponded to the issue numbers for the first and last times advertisements were supposed to run.  They aided compositors in determining whether advertisements belonged in an issue.  The “83 86” in James’s advertisement indicated that it first appeared in issue 1483 (June 6) and ran through issue 1486 (June 27).  For Altye’s advertisement, “84 86” corresponded to first running in issue 1484 (June 13) and concluding in issue 1486 (June 27).  According to the rates in the colophon, most advertisements ran at least four weeks.  James’s advertisement did so, in issues 1483, 1484, 1485, and 1486, but Altye’s advertisement ran for only three weeks.  She may have made special arrangements for a shorter run (and lower fees) that matched the remaining time her husband’s advertisement would appear.  As part of the deal, she could have requested that their advertisements run one after the other.

Altye could not prevent her husband from advertising, but she apparently possessed the means to purchase space in the New-York Journal to tell her side of the story.  Rather than allow her husband to control the narrative, she may have also requested that her notice appear with his in order to give readers a more complete story of what actually transpired in the Sloan household.  Most so-called “runaway wives” did not have opportunities to leverage print to inform the public that it was actually husbands who “misbehaved” and they “eloped” to protect themselves from various kinds of mistreatment and abuse.  Altye Sloan did publish her account of events, managing to have it inserted with her husband’s advertisement to increase the chances that readers would not see his version without the additional context she provided.

April 5

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (April 5, 1771).

“… till she behaves more like an obedient Wife.”

From New England to Georgia, runaway wife advertisements frequently appeared in early American newspapers.  Aggrieved husbands warned the public against extending credit to wives who departed their households.  Although these advertisements framed the women as spouses who abandoned both their household responsibilities and good social order, they also testified to one means at women’s disposal for exercising power in a society that granted so much authority to husbands.  Almost certainly, women were not always solely to blame when marital discord that became so severe that wives fled from husbands.  Men shaped the narrative when they published runaway wife advertisements, but they told only part of the story.

Such advertisements ran so often in colonial newspapers that they sometimes featured standardized or formulaic language, as in the case of Samuel Richardson’s notice in the April 5, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  “I forbid all Persons,” he stated, “trusting my Wife, Mary Richardson, any Thing on my Account.”  Although the conflict in the Richardson household may have attracted attention, the wording that Samuel chose did not merit particular notices.  Benjamin Wills, on the other hand, opted for language that did not regularly appear in this genre of advertising.  “Edea, the wicked Wife of me the Subscriber,” he proclaimed, “makes a constant practice of squandering away my Substance, and spends the most of her Time in running from House to House, chatting about those Things of neither Advantage nor Profit, running me in Debt, wherever she can get credit, and takes no care of my House nor Family.”  Benjamin catalogued specific grievances against his wife in the process of informing the community that he would “pay no Debts contracted by her … till she behaves more like an obedient Wife.”

Benjamin resorted to more colorful language than what appeared in most runaway wife advertisements.  Was this evidence of greater discord in the Wills household compared to others with husbands who placed such advertisements?  Did literacy play a part in the variations that made Benjamin’s advertisement so different from the standardized language of Samuel Richardson’s notice?  Wills signed his advertisement with “his + Mark,” an indication that he did not write it, though he very well may have dictated it.  Wills may have been able to read even if he could not sign his name, but he may have been familiar with runaway wife advertisements without regularly reading them and absorbing the formulaic wording.  He understood their function even if he did not replicate their usual form.  Realizing that such notices usually leveled accusations against willful wives, he may have done his best to explain why he found it necessary to publish the advertisement even though he did not have ready access to the usual words and phrases.

That Wills signed with “his + Mark” raises questions about the production of his advertisement.  Did he visit the printing office?  If so, did the printers offer any assistance in choosing the language or did they merely transcribe what Wills dictated?  Did Wills instead entrust someone in the town of Lee with transcribing the advertisement for him and then sent it to the printing office in Portsmouth?  If so, the printers did not have the opportunity to suggest the standardized words and phrases that so often appeared in runaway wife advertisements.  The variations in Wills’s advertisement may have been the result of his level of literacy and the process of producing the notice for publication.