September 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 11, 1770).

“Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.”

As summer turned to fall in 1770, Jacob Valk took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advertise his services as a bookkeeper.  He informed readers that he “keeps an Office where Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.”  He assisted with balancing and closing accounts as well as opening accounts “properly for those commencing any Kind of Business.”  Valk oversaw books kept for various purposes: “Partnerships Accounts, and Accounts of Ships, Planters, or Executors.”  In each case, clients could depend on having their ledgers “properly scrutinized, and accurately adjusted.”  They could also expect confidentiality.  Valk promised “Secrecy and Dispatch.”

Valk made a special appeal to prospective clients “apprehensive of a Failure or Litigation at Law.”  By hiring his services, they could avoid Embarrassment in their Affairs.”  Although he did not offer any guarantees, he suggested that anyone anxious about their bookkeeping abilities could gain a sense of security by relying on his guidance and oversight.  It was “more than probable,” he asserted, that his clients would “meet with a happy Prevention” of undesirable outcomes, but only if they acted in a timely manner.  Valk encouraged prospective clients to consult with him early rather than wait until it was too late for him to help.

Valk presented a combination of invitation and warning in his advertisement.  By responding to his notice, “Merchants and Tradesmen” lessened the chances that they would find themselves in the position of having to respond to another sort of notice that frequently appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers, those that called on colonists to settle accounts or face legal action.  In the same issue that carried Valk’s advertisement, Andrew Taylor placed just such a notice directed at “all Persons indebted to me.”  Those who owed Taylor money were on the verge of experiencing “Embarrassment in their Affairs” if they did not settle accounts quickly.  Valk offered an alternative to clients who hired his bookkeeping services.

August 25

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

Aug 25 - 8:25:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 25, 1770).

“ALL Persons indebted to the Printer hereof … are AGAIN requested to settle their respective Balances.”

In 1770, every issue of the Providence Gazette concluded with a colophon that informed readers that the newspaper was “Printed by JOHN CARTER, at his PRINTING-OFFICE, the Sign of Shakespeares Head; where Subscriptions, Advertisements, Articles, and Letters of Intelligence, &c. are received.”  Like any other printer, Carter needed both subscribers and advertisers to make his newspaper a viable enterprise.  Subscribers constituted the foundation, but for many printers the real money was in advertising.  Neither the number of subscribers nor the number of advertisers mattered much, however, if they did not pay their bills.

Colonial printers frequently found it necessary to run notices calling on their customers to pay their debts.  Carter inserted such a notice into the August 25 edition of the Providence Gazette.  He proclaimed, “ALL Persons indebted to the Printer hereof, either for the Gazette, Advertisements, or in any other Manner, are AGAIN requested to settle their respective Balances, that he may be enabled to discharge his own Contracts.”  That “AGAIN” appeared in capital letters communicated Carter’s exasperation, which he further underscored in the process of threatening legal again.  “Those who pay as little Regard to this as they have done to many and repeated Notices of a like Nature,” he warned, “cannot reasonably expect any further Indulgence.”  He considered taking his customers to court “disagreeable” and a last resort, but something he was “compelled” to do under the circumstances.  Having taken a strident tone throughout the notice, Carter attempted to conclude on a positive note.  “[W]hile the Printer justly complains of those who neglect their Arrearages,” he declared, “he cannot but return his grateful Thanks to such Gentlemen as have paid him with Honour and Punctuality.”  In thanking his customers who paid their bills, he also launched an implicit critique of those who had not.

Such notices were a standard feature of colonial newspapers.  Like other entrepreneurs, printers extended credit to their customers but sometimes found themselves overextended or their customers too slow in settling accounts.  For merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others, placing such notices represented an additional cost of doing business.  Newspaper printers, on the other hand, did not incur additional expenses when running such advertisements.

August 10

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

Aug 10 1770 - 8:10:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 10, 1770).

“A Settlement with the Customers is become necessary.”

In eighteenth-century America, printers, like other entrepreneurs, sometimes had to resort to publishing advertisements calling on customers to settle accounts or else face legal action.  For those who published newspapers, the anniversary of the first issue provided a convenient milestone for attempting to collect debts.  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, inserted such notices on various occasions, not only the anniversary of their newspaper’s first edition, though that event did often prompt them to remind customers to send payment.

In August 1770, the Fowles noted that it would be “Fourteen Years, next Month, since this Paper was first publish’d.”  That being the case, they reasoned that “a Settlement with the Customers is become necessary, as soon as possible.”  Those who did not comply “with so reasonable a Request” could expect to face the consequences.  The Fowles would put their subscriptions on hold instead of sending new editions, plus they would initiate legal action.  The printers argued that they provided sufficient notice for everyone who intended to pay, whether they lived in “Town or Country,” to visit the printing office or send a note.  At the very least, they requested that subscribers pay for “at least half a Year.”

Yet it was not only subscribers who were delinquent in paying.  Advertisers apparently submitted notices to the printing office and then did not pay for them in a timely manner.  For many printers who published newspapers, advertisements generated far greater revenue than subscriptions.  The Fowles asked “Those who are Indebted for Advertisements” to pay immediately.  They simultaneously informed all readers that in the future “those who send Advertisements for this Paper” must “send the Pay for them at the same time.”  Those who did not do so “must not take it amiss, if they are not publish’d.”  The printers may or may not have intended to follow through on this threat.  At one point they warned that they would publish a list of customers who owed money if they did not settle accounts in the next couple of weeks.  That list never appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  It seems unlikely that everyone paid, but perhaps cajoling by the printers yielded sufficient results that they did not take the most extreme measures.

Advertisements calling on subscribers, advertisers, and other customers to settle accounts provide insights into the business practices of printers in eighteenth-century America.  They reveal that printers, like others who provided goods and services during the period, extended credit to their customers, sometimes finding themselves in difficult positions as a result.

April 27

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

Apr 27 - 4:27:1770 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 27, 1770).

“It is impossible to carry on Business without Money.”

Printers, like members of other occupations, frequently extended credit to their customers in early America.  Indeed, the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century depended on extensive networks of credit on both sides of the Atlantic.  As a result, colonial newspapers carried notices calling on consumers to settle accounts nearly often as advertisements hawking goods and services.  Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, profited from both sorts of advertisements … provided that his customers paid their bills.  He sometimes found himself in the position of placing his own notices “earnestly request[ing] all his good Friends and Customers to pay off their Accounts.”

Such was the case at the end of April 1770.  He declared it “impossible to carry on Business without Money.”  Wells offered generous terms to his “Friends and Customers,” asking them to catch up only “to the End of last Year.”  He did not call on them to pay any charges incurred in the past five months, nor did he threaten legal action.  Most similar advertisement concluded with such warning, some of them more polite than others.  Wells also challenged his customers to compare what they owed him to the magnitude of credit he extended to all of his customers.  Their “Accounts separately amount only to small Sums,” he declared, while implicitly suggesting that those small sums represented a much larger total when considered together.  Wells pleaded with customers not to dismiss the impact of settling accounts just because they considered what they owed so trifling as to not matter.  The printer issued a special appeal to “Ladies and Gentlemen in the Country” to pay for their “Gazettes, Advertisements, and other Articles,” advising that they could have “their Factors or other Friends in Town” settle accounts on their behalf.  Rather than overlook his entreaty because they lived at a distance, Wells offered a solution.  What they owed made it just as “impossible to carry on Business” as what those who resided in Charleston owed.

Like other printers, Wells frequently placed notices in his own newspaper.  Usually he advertised books and stationery, but on occasion he placed another sort of notice.  He could not continue to publish the South-Carolina and American General Gazette if “Friends and Customers” did not settle accounts.  More than any advertisements placed by merchants, shopkeepers, or others calling on customers to pay what they owed, Wells stood to generate the most revenue from this particular advertisement, provided that his customers heeded it and submitted payment.

December 30

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

Dec 30 - 12:30:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 30, 1769).

The Price of a Year’s paper is in itself trifling.”

As 1769 drew to a close, John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, placed two timely advertisements in the final edition for the year. In one, he continued marketing the “NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, OR, Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our Lord CHRIST 1770.” In the other, he called on “Subscribers to this GAZETTE” to settle accounts, noting that “Numbers of them are now greatly in Arrear.”

Although January 1 marked a new year on the calendar, Carter asserted that November 9 “closed the Year” for most of his subscribers. In the seven weeks that had elapsed since then, many neglected to pay what they owed, “to the great Disadvantage of the Printer.” Carter lamented that during the past year “he has not received of his Subscribers a Sufficiency barely to defray the Expence of Paper on which the GAZETTE has been printed.” Yet he had expenses other than paper, including the “Maintenance and Pay of Workmen.” Like other printers who issued similar notices to subscribers, Carter suggested that publishing a newspaper did not pay for itself, at least not readily. If subscribers wished for the Providence Gazette to continue circulation, they had a duty to pay for that service to the community. Otherwise, “the Publication of this GAZETTE must be discontinued.”

Doing so required little sacrifice on the part of any particular subscriber. “The Price of a Year’s Paper is in itself trifling,” Carter argued, “and ‘tis certainly in the Power of every Subscriber once in Twelve Months to pay Seven Shillings.” He hypothesized that because the annual subscription fee was so low that it made it easy for subscribers to overlook it or even dismiss its importance. What did seven shillings one way or another matter to Carter? They mattered quite a bit, the printer answered, noting “that a Thousand such Trifles, when collected, make a considerable sum.”

Carter very likely exaggerated the number of subscribers for the Providence Gazette. He did so to make a point, but it served another purpose as well. The success of colonial newspapers depended at least as much on advertising revenue as subscription fees. Prospective advertisers needed to know that inserting notices in the Providence Gazette would likely yield returns on their investments because the newspaper circulated to so many subscribers throughout the colony and beyond. Inflating his circulation helped Carter encourage more advertising. That did not mean, however, that it would solve his financial difficulties. Although most of the notice addressed subscribers, Carter concluded by requesting that “EVERY PERSON indebted to him, either for the GAZETTE, Advertisements, or in any other Manner, immediately … settle and discharge his respective Account.” Apparently some advertisers were just as delinquent as subscribers when it came to paying their bills.

August 2

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

Aug 2 - 8:2:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 2, 1769).

“THE subscribers being desirous to close all their concerns, in the dry good business.”

Inglis and Hall were among the most prolific advertisers in the Georgia Gazette in the late 1760s. They frequently inserted lengthy advertisements listing goods imported from Britain, the Caribbean, and other faraway places. They also participated in the transatlantic slave trade, advertising enslaved men, women, and children.

In the summer of 1769, the partners placed an advertisement announcing that they intended to “close all their concerns, in the dry good business.” Like other merchants and shopkeepers, Inglis and Hall extended credit to their customers. In preparation for going out of business, they asked their “friends” to pay any debts incurred prior to January 1. Those who made purchases since then presumably had more time to settle accounts. Despite their amicable description of their customers as “friends,” Inglis and Hall expressed exasperation that some of them “have given little or no attention to their repeated calls” to submit payment.   This was the last warning, the partners proclaimed, because those who did not “settle to their satisfaction” in one month’s time “may depend on being sued without further notice.” After first dispensing with that important piece of business, Inglis and Hall promoted their remaining merchandise, advising prospective customers that they still had “a variety of the most useful articles” in stock.

For several years Inglis and Hall provided residents of Savannah and the rest of the colony with vast assortments of goods, encouraging them to participate in the consumer revolution that was taking place throughout the British Atlantic world and beyond. During that time they were also important customers for James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette. For eighteenth-century newspaper printers, selling advertisements was often more lucrative than selling subscriptions. Most advertisements that ran in the Georgia Gazette were fairly short, extending three to fifteen lines. At fourteen lines, Inglis and Hall’s advertisement announcing the end of their dry goods business was short compared to many others that they placed in the Georgia Gazette, advertisements that filled half a column or more. Although Johnston did brisk business when it came to advertisements, he must have been disappointed to lose such an important customer and all of the revenue Inglis and Hall contributed to the operations of the Georgia Gazette.

May 12

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

May 12 - 5:12:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 12, 1769).

“BLANKS of most sorts, and a variety of BOOKS sold at the Printing-Office.”

Three advertisements placed by the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette rounded out the final page of the May 12, 1769, edition. Each appeared at the bottom of a column, immediately above the colophon that listed Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle in Portsmouth as the printers. Each notice testified to a different aspect of the printing business.

The notice in the first column warned that “ALL Persons indebted to the Printers, for News-Papers, &c. are NOW desired to make payment, if ever they design it, and would avoid unnecessary Trouble and Expence.” Colonial printers frequently inserted such appeals into their newspapers, but the Fowles did so more regularly than most others in the 1760s. Some printers incorporated their calls to settle accounts into annual messages that commemorated the completion of one year of publication and the beginning of another. Such messages to subscribers and other readers often outlined improvements to be made in the coming year, but also earnestly requested that customers pay their debts. The Fowles used some of the most creative and colorful language, once even threatening to publish the names of any who did not settle accounts within a short time, though they never followed through on that strategy for public shaming.

The advertisement in the second column informed readers that “BLANKS of most sorts, and a variety of BOOKs [are] sold at the Printing-Office.” Operating the newspaper was not the extent of how the Fowles earned their livelihood. They also sold books, some that they had printed but most imported from Britain. In addition, they did job printing and produced “BLANKS of all Kinds,” better known to day as printed forms. Colonists used these blanks for a variety of commercial and legal transactions, relying on the standardized language. A similar advertisement published in the Georgia Gazette provided a list of the various sorts of blanks available at the local printing office: “bonds, bills of sale, mortgages, powers of attorney, bonds of arbitration, indentures, bills of lading, articles of agreement between masters of vessels and seamen, summonses, warrants, and attachments, for the court of conscience, summonses before justices of the peace, executions for the use of magistrates, indico certificates.” Some, such as the indigo certificates, were specific to local usage, but most were used throughout the colonies.   Like advertisements, blanks supplied an important revenue stream for printers.

Finally, the third column concluded with an advertisement for “Ames’s Almanack, for 1769, to be Sold at the Printing Office, in Portsmouth.” This was incredibly late for an advertisement for an almanac to appear; some of the contents certainly remained useful for the remainder of the year, but more than one-third of 1769 had already elapsed. By and large, printers, booksellers, and others had ceased advertising almanacs for quite some time. The appearance of this notice indicates that the Fowles still had surplus almanacs in stock. They hoped for some sort of return on their investment if they could sell any of them at that point. Its position as the last item in the May 12 issue, with the exception of the colophon, tells another story. The Fowles needed to fill the space to complete the column and the issue. This advertisement may have been just as valuable for that purpose as for any sales that resulted from it.

Indeed, the placement of all three advertisements from the printers suggests that they served dual purposes. Each tended to some aspect of operations at the printing office in Portsmouth while simultaneously completing a column and contributing to the tidy appearance of the final page of the May 12 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.

February 17

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (February 17, 1769).

“ALL Persons Indebted to the Printers hereof are desired to make immediate payment.”

Like many colonial printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle inserted their own notices in the newspaper they published. The February 17, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included three advertisements placed by the printers. One announced, “RAGS Taken in at the Printing-Office as usual, in case they are white and clean.” The Fowles collected linen rags to manufacture into paper. For several weeks earlier in the year they had printed the New-Hampshire Gazette on smaller sheets because their paper supply had been disrupted. They refused to purchase imported paper because doing so would have required paying duties levied by the Townshend Act. Instead, the Fowles waited on supplier in New England to produce more paper, choosing temporarily to print their newspaper on smaller sheets. By February the New-Hampshire Gazette had returned to its usual size, but the Fowles continued to advertise for rags in order to maintain access to paper produced in New England.

In another advertisement the Fowles marketed goods they offered for sale: “BLANKS of all sorts, and a great variety of BOOKS, are sold at the Printing-Office.” Selling books and job printing for blanks (or printed forms) supplemented the revenues gained from newspaper subscriptions and advertising fees, especially when subscribers and advertisers did not settle their accounts in a timely manner. The Fowles’s third advertisement addressed that situation: “ALL Persons Indebted to the Printers hereof are desired to make immediate payment.—Some of those whose Accounts are of long standing will very soon be put in Suit, unless speedily Settled.” This was a constant refrain for many colonial printers, especially the Fowles. Three months earlier they had published a similar message, though they had been much more strident in their threats of legal action. They also made another threat, one that went beyond the usual means of cajoling recalcitrant subscriber to pay their bills. The Fowles declared that would “publish a List of those Customers … whose Accounts are of long standing, with the Sum due.” The printers did not follow through on this extraordinary plan. Perhaps it convinced a sufficient number of customers to settle their accounts, or maybe the Fowles decided that such a public shaming of their customers would have a significant negative impact on their business.

Either way, they soon found themselves once again placing a notice in their newspaper to instruct their subscribers to make payment or else face the consequences. Their advertisements not only looked to the future of their business, such as their call for rags to make paper or the books and blanks they provided for sale, but also played an important role in concluding transactions previously initiated.

January 18

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

Georgia Gazette (January 18, 1769).

“WILLIAM SAUNDERS, Sailmaker, … flatters himself with the hopes of their commands.”

In an advertisement placed in the January 18, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette, William Saunders, a sailmaker, lead former and prospective customers through a dance in which each move achieved some purpose related to running his business. First, he expressed gratitude to those who had ordered sails from him in the past, stating that he “TAKES this opportunity of returning his sincere thanks to the gentlemen merchants and others of the town of Savannah, for the kind encouragement he has met with at their hands since his arrival at this place.”

The wording suggested that he might have been a relative newcomer to the colony’s most significant port. If that was the case, acknowledging that some “gentlemen merchants and others” in Savannah had already expressed their support for his venture or perhaps even engaged his services would have been particularly important in setting up his next move. He pivoted from a note of appreciation into calling on those same boosters to submit more orders. He pledged that “they may be assured of the strictest dispatch imaginable” when they contracted with him and his partner, Callighan McCarthy, for sails. For prospective customers who had not previously purchased sails from him, Saunders signaled that he was a capable artisan, as demonstrated by his interactions with those “gentlemen merchants and others.”

Only then did the sailmaker become more vigorous. In a final paragraph his called on “those gentlemen who are indebted to him” to settle accounts by the first of March. If they did not, he would “be under the disagreeable necessity of putting their accounts into the hands of an attorney at law.” That was a last resort, a step that Saunders wished to avoid. Compared to another advertisement in the same issue, his initial movements softened the warning that followed. Thomas Morgan inserted a notice for the sole purchase of informing his debtors “that they will find their accounts in the hands of an attorney at law to be sued for without distinction” if they did not pay by the first of March. Saunders and Morgan issued the same threat, but Saunders did so only after nurturing his rapport with customers and other readers of the Georgia Gazette.

January 4

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

Georgia Gazette (January 4, 1769).

“They desire all persons indebted to them … to settle their respective debts.”

Among purveyors of consumer goods in Savannah, the partnership of Inglis and Hall placed the lengthiest advertisements in the Georgia Gazette in the late 1760s. They also advertised more frequently than many of their counterparts, so regular readers of the colony’s only newspaper were probably not surprised that the first issue for 1769 included an advertisement from Inglis and Hall. As a new advertisement, it appeared first among all of the paid notices in that edition.

With the arrival of the new year, the partners took the opportunity to announce that they “HAVE now on hand, A Neat Assortment of Dry Goods, consisting of a great variety of the most useful articles.” In many of their advertisements Inglis and Hall elaborated on this appeal to consumer choice by listing dozens of items included among their inventory. They placed less emphasis on enticing end-use consumers among colonists than cultivating clients who participated in “the Indian Trade.” They did list strouds, an especially popular textile among Indians who bartered with colonial traders, “Trading Guns, Tomahawks, Gunpowder, Ball, &c. &c.” When it came to those items, they offered a discount “to any person taking a quantity” or the entire stock. They began the new year with an attempt to dispose of significant portions of their inventory in large transactions.

Inglis and Hall also seized on the first of the year as an appropriate time to call on customers and associates to settle accounts. Instead of “N.B.” (for nota bene or “take notice”), they used three stars to call attention to that request: “They desire all persons indebted to them by bond, note, or book account, to settle their respective debts on or before the first day of March.” Unlike other advertisers throughout the colonies, they did not allude to the ramifications of neglecting to make payment. That could wait for subsequent advertisements if “persons indebted to them” did not respond to the initial notice.

Although Inglis and Hall’s first newspaper advertisement for 1769 did promote consumer goods, the partners devoted much more space to other business operations: settling accounts and wholesale transactions with colonists involved in “the Indian Trade.” Merchants, shopkeepers, and other purveyors of consumer goods often pursued multiple purposes in their newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, providing an overview of their business practices.