August 3

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

Aug 3 - 8:3:1769 New-York Journal
Supplement to the New-York Journal (August 3, 1769).

“79–.”

Like many other eighteenth-century printers, John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal, inserted numbers at the end of advertisements. These numbers were not intended for readers but instead for those who worked in the printing office. They indicated how long an advertisement should run. For instance, an advertisement announcing that the brigantine Rebekah would sail for Jamaica appeared in the supplement that accompanied the August 3, 1769, edition of the New-York Journal. The compositor inserted the numbers 85 and 88 on the final line, 85 indicating that the advertisement first ran in issue 1385 on July 20 and 88 indicating that it would make its final appearance in issue 1388 on August 10. After that, the compositor would remove it. Similarly, Jonathan Hampton’s advertisement featuring a woodcut that depicted a Windsor chair also included 85 and 88 on the final line, though an earlier iteration included the numbers 63 and 72 instead. Hampton had inserted the advertisement for ten weeks earlier in the year, apparently determined it had been worth the investment, and then inserted it again for a shorter run.

Other advertisements, however, included a single number and a dash. Samuel Francis (better known today as Samuel Fraunces) ran an advertisement that concluded with “79–“ instead of two numbers. Similarly, Jarvis Roebuck had “62–“ on the final line of his advertisement. In each case, the number indicated the issue that the advertisement first appeared: issue 1362 on February 2 for Jarvis and issue 1379 on June 8 (the same date at that opened the advertisement) for Francis. What did the dash mean? How did the compositor interpret it when deciding which items belonged in an issue and which should be removed?

The publication history of these two advertisements reveals that the dash did not indicate that an advertisement should run continuously. Francis’s advertisement ran for five consecutive issues (June 8, 15, 22, and 22 and July 6) before appearing sporadically in six more issues (July 20, August 3 and 24, September 7, and October 12 and 26). Roebuck’s advertisement ran sporadically from the start, appearing on February 2 and 9, March 2 and 30, April 13 and 27, May 25, June 1, 8, and 29, July 27, August 3, 24, and 31, September 14, and October 12. Seemingly no particular plan corresponds to the publication schedule for the sixteen insertions of Roebuck’s notice over the course of nine months.

Perhaps the dash indicated that the compositor had carte blanche to insert the advertisement when necessary to complete a page. These two advertisements were the final items in the August 3 supplement, though they did not always appear at the end of an issue or supplement. Moderate in length, they may have been convenient filler when the compositor estimated that an issue or supplement ran short of other content. Paired numbers, like “85 88,” streamlined bookkeeping and production of the New-York Journal, but this arrangement for continued yet sporadic insertions required careful attention to bookkeeping. The printer or another employee in the printing office would have had to peruse each issue to see which advertisements with dashes appeared and then update the ledger accordingly.

What role did advertisers play in this process? Could they instruct the printing office to insert an advertisement on a week-by-week basis? If compositors made decisions about including advertisements, did advertisers pay for every insertion? Did advertisers receive any sort of discount for this arrangement? Did advertisements every run after advertisers no longer wished for them to appear? It seems unlikely that Francis would have been enthused about an advertisement promoting the summer entertainments at Vauxhall Gardens to appear in the New-York Journal in late October.

Some of the numbers compositors inserted at the end of advertisements clearly indicated their purpose in the operation of a printing office and the production of colonial newspapers. Other notations, however, only hinted at their purpose and now raise tantalizing questions about how printers, compositors, advertisers, and others used them. The dash at the end of some advertisements certainly served some purpose; otherwise compositors would not have taken the time to include such notation. A more systematic survey of advertisements combined with careful examination of printers’ ledgers may reveal some of the practices that printers found efficient and effective in running their shops in the eighteenth century.

June 16

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

Large or small Entertainments provided, in the most genteel Manner.”

Jun 16 - 6:16:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (June 16, 1768).

As summer arrived in New York in 1768, Josiah Davenport continued placing advertisements in newspapers published in that city to inform colonists planning to visit Philadelphia that he had recently opened a new inn and tavern “called the BUNCH of GRAPES.” This was not merely a way station for food and lodging but instead “a genteel HOUSE of ENTERTAINMENT, for travelers and others.”

Yet New Yorkers did not need to travel to Philadelphia to enjoy the sorts of amenities Davenport advertised. Starting with the June 16 edition of the New-York Gazette (number 1328), Samuel Francis (more commonly known today as Samuel Fraunces) announced that his summer resort at the edge of the city, “VAUX-HALL GARDEN,” was open for business. Naming his pleasure garden after Vauxhall Gardens of London, Fraunces opened “VAUX-HALL GARDEN” at Spring Hill, a villa located on the Hudson River, in 1767. The establishment competed with nearby Ranelagh Gardens, the site of several fireworks exhibitions in the spring of 1768. Fraunces countered the series of advertisements for the fireworks shows with his own notices, slated to appear in the New-York Gazette for at least four weeks (according to the issue numbers – “28 31” – that the compositor inserted at the end of the advertisement).

Visitors to his “House and Gardens” could experience “Large or small Entertainments … in the most genteel Manner” as they selected among “neat Wines, and other Liquors.” In addition to evening amusements, patrons could also enjoy “Breakfasting” complete with tea and coffee as well as “Cakes, Tarts, Jellies, [and] Sillibubs.” In addition, Fraunces offered catering services – “Dinners, Suppers, &c. dressed at Gentlemen’s own Houses” – for those who wished to entertain in their own homes.

In the second half of the eighteenth century an emerging leisure and hospitality industry served “such Ladies, Gentlemen, and others, who may be pleased to favour” establishments like Vauxhall Garden, Ranelagh Gardens, and the Bunch of Grapes “with their Company.” Colonists participated in a transatlantic consumer revolution that involved more than acquiring goods. Those with the time and resources also enjoyed a variety of services and entertainments presented for their amusement. For some early Americans, the culture of consumption extended to consuming experiences as well as the myriad of housewares and apparel advertised in eighteenth-century newspapers.

June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1766 Frauncis Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 12, 1766).
Jun 12 - 6:12:1766 Johnson Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 12, 1766).

“Gentlemen will be entertained in the most polite manner.”

“AT the Sign of the Globe, … is opened a convenient EATING-HOUSE.”

Compare yesterday’s advertisement for Daniel Ocain’s “house of entertainment” in Savannah to two advertisements for similar establishments that appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette during the same week. Samuel Frauncis (more commonly Fraunces) and William and Ann Johnson offered more extensive and luxurious accommodations and promoted them in greater detail.

Fraunces devoted most of his advertisement to listing and describing the food from his “Cook Shop” and “Confectioner’s Shop,” variety of “Victuals,” baked goods, and condiments. Several related enterprises operated out of his location “at the Sign of Queen Charlotte.” His advertisement suggested that he catered to both male and female clients. “Ladies and Gentlemen may be supplied with Cakes and Pastries of all Sorts” at his large Confectioner’s Shop, but it appears that the “Ordinary,” a separate restaurant operated for three hours in the afternoon, was reserved for “the better Entertainment of Gentlemen” exclusively. Men often gathered in homosocial spaces like taverns and coffeehouses to conduct business, discuss politics, and gossip.

William and Ann Johnson did not indicate that their “EATING-HOUSE” had as extensive a menu, but they promoted other amenities instead, including a billiard table “where Gentlemen may divert themselves, by paying for their Games only.” (In other words, patrons were not required to purchase food or drink if they only wished to play billiards and socialize. The Johnsons likely assumed that visitors who came with the intention of only playing pool would eventually order something, but they didn’t want to put up any obstacles to getting customers through the door.) The house, located on the outskirts of Philadelphia in the Northern Liberties, was in an attractive setting away from the crowded port. It had pleasant Gardens and Walks, shaded with pleasant Groves of different Kinds of Apple Trees.” Guests could rent rooms by the week, month, or even the entire summer.

Jun 12 - Samuel Fraunces
Portrait of Samuel Fraunces (unknown artist, ca. 1770-1785).  Francis Tavern Museum.

Samuel Fraunces is still remembered today, best known for Fraunces Tavern in New York City, the site of George Washington’s farewell to his officers at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. He also served as the steward of Washington’s household throughout the president’s first term in office. Fraunces Tavern is still in operation at Pearl and Dock Streets in New York City. Visitors may eat, drink, and socialize on the first floor and tour a museum operated by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York on the second and third floors.