July 26

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

Jul 26 - 7:26:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 26, 1769).

“Who has for sale, all sorts of garden seeds and flower roots.”

Colonists placed advertisements in newspapers for a variety of reasons. Some marketed consumer goods and services. Many published legal notices. Others made announcements and shared news. In the July 26, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette, for instance, John Martin and James Martin advertised rum, wine, and sugar available at their store on Habersham’s Wharf in Savannah. Morgan and Roche also addressed consumers, informing them that they pursued “the TAYLOR BUSINESS in all its branches.” Among the legal notices, the executors of John Luptan’s estate announced that they would conclude settling accounts and “pay out what remains … to the heirs” on January 1. Another from the Commissioners of his Majesty’s Customs warned about the consequences of smuggling and doctored ship manifests that did not make “true reports of their cargoes.” James Wilson declared that his wife, Jane, “eloped” from him and since she placed herself beyond the authority of his household he would not pay “any debts of her contracting.” Among advertisements that also delivered news, the Trustees for the Presbyterian Meeeting House advised those who pledged to make contributions that “one fifth of the subscription money is immediately wanted” and requested payment. Another stated that “SIX NEGROES … three men, two women, and one girl” escaped from Thomas Young and might be headed towards some of the Sea Islands.

Each of those advertisers had a specific purpose in mind when placing their notices in the public prints, but other advertisers used the space they purchased to pursue more than one goal. Robert Hunter, for example, asserted that recently “several trespasses” occurred at Good Hope and Spring Gardens. To prevent further disturbances and theft, Hunter advised the public that intruders could expect to encounter “guns, dogs, or other snares.” Only after delivering this warning did Hunter briefly promote “all sorts of garden seeds and flower roots” that he offered for sale, a secondary purpose for his advertisement. A similar advertisement ran in the Georgia Gazette a year earlier, that one also lamenting trespassers and theft at Spring Gardens and signed by Robert Winter. It also concluded with a brief note that “Said Winter has all sorts of garden seeds to dispose of.” (Perhaps either “Robert Hunter” or “Robert Winter” was a misprint in one of the advertisements.) In both instances, the advertiser seized an opportunity to encourage sales of seeds, drawing attention to that enterprise after first rehearsing an interesting story about trespassers and threats of “guns, dogs, or other snares.” Stories of intruders and theft implicitly testified to the value of the plants at Good Hope and Spring Gardens, making the seeds all the more attractive to prospective buyers. Hunter leveraged unfortunate events in his efforts to encourage sales.

July 20

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

Jul 20 - 7:20:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 20, 1768).

“Said Winter has all sorts of garden seeds to dispose of.”

Robert Winter advertised “all sorts of garden seeds” almost as an afterthought in a notice he placed in the July 20, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette. Winter served as the caretaker for several gardens – Pleasant Oak, Mulberry Hill, and Spring Gardens – that belonged to Dr. James Cuthbert. In the course of performing his duties he noticed a series of robberies committed by “several very indiscreet persons.” In turn, the caretaker took measures to prevent further thefts on the premises. He also turned to the public prints to warn fellow colonists about those measures, proclaiming that “he has guns, dogs, and other snares laid for such as may trespass there for the future.” Furthermore, should he catch anyone defacing any of the gardens Winter was “resolved to bring them to justice. The caretaker imagined a variety of possible suspects, including “apprentices, servants, and negroes.” He requested that “masters will caution” them “against the like errors.”

Only after signing his name to this notice did the caretaker insert an additional line that deviated from his primary purpose of preventing further robberies: “Said Winter has all sorts of garden seeds to dispose of.” Compared to extensive advertisements placed by others who specialized in selling seeds, this portion of Winter’s notice was exceptionally short. He did not elaborate on any of the varieties he offered for sale. He assumed that potential customers were already familiar with the gardens he tended and did not need further explanation. Indirectly, the series of robberies indicated a certain level of demand for the plants that sprang from his seeds.

Winter put virtually no effort into marketing his garden seeds. He merely made an appeal to choice by noting that he sold “all sorts.” Yet he did follow another convention common to many eighteenth-century advertisements. Often colonists placed notices with two purposes. In many cases, the primary purpose revolved around some sort of announcement, such as estate notices, calls to settle accounts before advertisers left town, or, in this instance, cautioning robbers against further attempts. Having purchased space in the newspaper, some advertisers opted to pursue a secondary purpose: selling consumer goods and services. Having attracted attention for their primary purpose, but not wishing to distract from it too much, they appended short invitations for readers to make purchases, whether the contents of the rest of the notice applied to them or not.

Winter’s story of “guns, dogs, and other snares” intended to ward off the “several very indiscreet persons” who “made a practice of robbing the gardens” he tended likely garnered interest among readers solely because it was so different that the rest of the contents among the advertisements in the Georgia Gazette. The caretaker seized that opportunity to encourage sales of his seeds.