February 12

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 12, 1772).

“A SECOND-HAND SPINNET cheap, and of very fine tone.”

James Juhan offered a variety of services to colonizers in Charleston who were interested in learning to play musical instruments.  In an advertisement in the February 12, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, he informed prospective pupils that he gave lessons on the “Violin, German Flute and Guittar.”  In addition, he also sold instruments and supplies, including violins, bows, and strings.

His inventory included a “SECOND-HAND SPINNET,” a small harpsichord.  Juhan informed prospective buyers that the spinet possessed “very fine tone,” attempting to reassure them that even though it previously had been played in another home it was not defective.  In addition, Juhan described the price as “cheap,” a word that meant inexpensive in the eighteenth century but did not yet have negative associations with poor quality.  A family could acquire, play, and display the spinet in their home for a bargain price, a good investment for anyone looking for accessories to testify to their good taste, gentility, and status.  For those not yet committed to owning a spinet, even a secondhand one, Juhan also advertised “Spinnets in good order to let.”  Rather than make a major purchase, colonizers could participate in the rental market.

Whether they bought or rented their musical instruments, residents of Charleston could turn to Juhan for assistance in maintaining them.  He tuned “HARPSICHORDS, SPINNETS, FORTE-PIANOS, GUITTARS,” and other stringed instruments “with care and diligence.”  He also repaired “all kinds of Musical instruments … in the neatest manner,” setting his rates “on as reasonable terms as they can be done in this place.”  Colonizers who needed musical instruments tuned or repaired would not find better bargains than those offered by Juhan.

One of the largest urban ports in the colonies, Charleston was as cosmopolitan as New York and Philadelphia.  Merchants like Mansell and Corbett hawked a “Very neat Assortment of the most fashionable” foods imported from England, while goldsmith Philip Tidyman promoted a “Most ELEGANT ASSORTMENT” of jewelry.  In addition to acquiring and displaying garments, adornments, and housewares, colonizers had opportunities to signal their gentility and status through learning to play musical instruments and performing when guests visited their homes.  In particular, this allowed families to demonstrate that wives and daughters possessed both grace and the leisure time necessary to learn to play musical instruments.

December 24

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

The other NEW ADVERTISEMENTS are in the additional Sheet.”

Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, did a brisk business in advertising in the early 1770s.  He often had to distribute supplemental pages devoted exclusively to advertising when he did not have sufficient space to publish all the paid notices in the standard edition.  Such was the case on December 24, 1771.  Wells inserted a note at the bottom of the final column on the third page, complete with a manicule to draw attention to it, to inform readers (and advertisers looking for their notices) that “The other NEW ADVERTISEMENTS are in the additional Sheet.”

Wells was savvy in the production of that supplement, refusing to commit more resources than necessary.  The “additional Sheet” differed in size from the standard issue.  Unfortunately, digitized copies of eighteenth-century newspapers usually do not include dimensions; without examining the original, I cannot say with certainty that Wells adopted a particular strategy, but I can describe what seems likely based on both the visual evidence and common practices among eighteenth-century printers.

Let’s start with a description of the standard issue.  Like other newspapers of the era, it consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Most newspapers published in the early 1770s had three columns per page, for a total of twelve columns in an issue, but the South-Carolina and American General Gazettehad four columns per page, bringing the total to sixteen per issue.  In this instance, the “additional Sheet” also consisted of four pages, two on each side of a folded broadsheet, but the format differed from the standard issue.  Three shorter columns filled most of the page, but a fourth column featured advertisements rotated perpendicular to the rest of the text in order to for on the page.  Printers often deployed this technique to maximize the amount of space they filled while still using the same column width to prevent breaking down and resetting type multiple times for advertisements that ran for several weeks.  The “additional Sheet” had four columns in each of the perpendicular columns.  It appears that the “additional Sheet” was actually a half sheet that Wells turned on its side.

Why did he do that?  On the same day, Charles Crouch distributed an advertising supplement with the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  He also used a half sheet, though he did not adjust the format.  As a result, that supplement consisted of only two pages rather than the four that Wells created by folding a half sheet in half once again.  Compared to Crouch’s approach, the most common one throughout the colonies, Well’s method did not reduce the amount of paper required to print the supplement.  It did, however, yield a greater number of pages and gave the impression that advertisements overflowed into the margins.  This may have been Wells’s intention, a visual suggestion to both subscribers and prospective advertisers concerning the popularity of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

December 16

GUEST CURATOR:  J. Rioux

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 16, 1771).

“A CARGO OF Upward of NINETY Prime SLAVES.”

Advertisements in early American newspapers contain some of the most degrading language used towards fellow human beings. On December 16, 1771, the South-Carolina and American General Gazette published a listing for a large group of enslaved people to be sold, likely by auction. John Edwards and Company and Elias Vanderhorst stated, “To be sold … A CARGO of Upward NINETY Prime SLAVES, Being the first Choice out of a large Cargo at Barbados.” This choice of words signals to modern readers that racism was embedded in the United States from the very beginning.

The words “Choice” and “Prime” was often used in regards to goods. In essence, these men, women, and children were being described as objects, as commodities. The language in this advertisement stripped them of their identities, demonstrating that some people were valued less than others. This is contradictory to precious words written during the same era: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson wrote those words less than five years after the men, women, and children in this “CARGO” were deprived of their liberty.

John Cheng, a historian who teaches at George Mason University, declares, “‘Race” explained why Africans were slaves, while slavery’s degradation supplied the evidence for their inferiority.” The repercussions of such ideology continue today as Black Lives Matter and other organizations have emerged to address the ongoing dehumanization that too often takes place in American society.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Rioux, as he prefers to be called, completed this entry in the spring of 2021 when he enrolled in my research methods class, a course required of all History majors before they take the capstone research seminar in their senior year.  In addition to selecting an advertisement to feature for the Adverts 250 Project, he also served as the guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project this week.  This advertisement about a “CARGO OF … Prime SLAVES” is one of the sixty-one advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children that appeared in colonial American newspapers from New England to South Carolina during the week of December 12-18, 1771.  His classmates all undertook the same assignments: select one advertisement to feature on the Adverts 250 Project (not necessarily about slavery) and serve as guest curator of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project for a week.  I incorporated the same assignments into my Revolutionary America, 1763-1815, class this semester.

I’m preparing Rioux’s entry for publication and writing my own commentary on the same day that I have devoted many hours to grading final projects for my Revolutionary America course.  Many students confess to some initial trepidation about taking on these responsibilities when I first introduce the projects in class.  After all, these are not the essays that they expected to write in a history class.  Like Rioux, however, they become proficient at using databases of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers, identifying advertisements that belong in the project, and placing them in historical context.  That they examine so many advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children certainly has an impact, much more than when I supplied representative examples for consideration during lectures and discussion.  Encountering the advertisements in the original sources, seeing their frequency and their proximity to other contents of early American newspapers, helps my students understand the ubiquity of notices presenting enslaved people for sale or offering rewards for the capture and return of those who liberated themselves.  When they do the research themselves, it becomes impossible for my students not to recognize how entrenched slavery was in everyday life throughout the colonies during the era of the American Revolution.  Books, articles, and lectures make the same point, but many of my students report that it becomes more real when they see it for themselves as they examine newspapers from the period.  This also allows them to reach their own conclusions as they test the arguments made by historians against what they find in original sources from early America.

November 13

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 11, 1771).

“Freight or Passage.”

Charleston, one of the largest cities in the colonies during the era of the American Revolution, was a busy port and bustling center of commerce.  Residents glimpsed this activity as they went about their daily lives, but they also encountered depictions of it in the public prints.  Newspapers regularly included both shipping news from the customs house and advertisements about ships seeking passengers and freight as they prepared to depart.

For instance, more than two dozen vessels appeared among those that arrived, recently sailed, or were “NOW LOADING” in the shipping news in the November 11, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  The arrivals came from Bermuda, Georgia, and New Providence, while the departures headed for East Florida, North Carolina, and Philadelphia.  Ships preparing to sail had an even wider array of destinations, including Bristol, Falmouth, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, Georgia, New York, Barbados, Bermuda, Granada, Jamaica, and New Providence.  The shipping news documented extensive networks of trade that connected Charleston to England and other colonies in North America and the Caribbean.

Advertisements also testified to the level of activity in the port, especially those featuring woodcuts that showed ships at sea.  In the November 11 issue, the compositor chose to cluster five such advertisements together, replicating a view that readers might have seen at the wharves.  Each of the advertisements sought passengers and freight, some of them specifying “Indigo, Deer Skins, or other light Goods” as their preferred cargo.

These visual representations of maritime commerce were not unique to newspapers published in Charleston.  That same week, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter included a cluster of three advertisements with woodcuts of ships at sea and the Pennsylvania Gazette had a cluster of seven such advertisements.  The Pennsylvania Journal ran thirteen of those advertisements one after another, so many that the armada of commercial vessels filled an entire column and overflowed into another.  Compositors did not usually arrange newspaper notices according to genre or purpose in the eighteenth century, but on those occasions that they did place advertisements with images of ships together they created stunning visual representations of an empire of trade.

September 24

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 24, 1771).

“AN ASSORTMENT OF MILLINARY GOODS.”

Elizabeth Prosser, a milliner, took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advertise “AN ASSORTMENT OF MILLINARY GOODS” available at her shop on Broad Street in Charleston.  She informed prospective customers that her wares recently arrived “per the MERMAID, Capt. BALL.”  Merchants, shopkeepers, and others who sold imported goods often noted the ships that transported their merchandise across the Atlantic as a means of demonstrating to consumers that they had new items among their inventory.  New also implied fashionable, but Prosser explicitly made the connection.  She proclaimed that she carried “the most fashionable” millinery goods for “those Ladies who please to Favour her with their Custom.”

At the same time that she addressed readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Prosser attempted to cultivate a clientele among readers of the South-Carolina Gazette.  Her advertisement appeared in both newspapers on September 24, 1771.  Purveyors of goods and services frequently advertised in multiple newspapers, seeking to reach more prospective customers and increase their share of the market.  Prosser apparently considered it worth the expense to place the same advertisement in two newspapers simultaneously.  She did not, however, decide to insert her advertisement in the third newspaper published in Charleston at the time, the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.

If she had done so, her advertisement might have appeared alongside one placed by a competitor.  In the September 24 edition of that newspaper, Jane Thomson advertised “A fresh Supply of MILLINARY GOODS” that she “received by theMermaid, Capt. Ball, from LONDON.”  Thomson did not advertise in the other two newspapers.  That limited the competition between the milliners, at least in the public prints, but it also meant that readers of all three newspapers encountered advertising by female entrepreneurs who joined their male counterparts in marketing a vast array of imported goods.  Prosser addressed the “Ladies” in her notice, but women did not participate in the marketplace merely as consumers.  Prosser, Thomson, and many other female entrepreneurs conducted business as “she-merchants,” shopkeepers, and artisans during the era of the American Revolution.

September 18

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

Final page of Robert Bell’s subscription notice for Blackstone’s Commentaries that may (or may not) have been distributed with the September 17, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.

“Peaceable, yet active Patriotism.”

Yesterday, the Adverts 250 Project featured Robert Bell’s subscription notice for Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England that Accessible Archives included with the September 17, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette and addressed the difficulty of determining whether the subscription notice originally accompanied the newspaper.  Today, the marketing strategies deployed by Bell merit consideration.

First, however, consider the format of the subscription notice, a four-page flier.  On the first page, addressed “TO THE AMERICAN WORLD,” Bell encouraged prospective customers throughout the colonies to purchase American editions rather than imported books.  It could also have been published separately as a handbill, similar to the second page featuring two advertisements for books “Lately Published” by Bell, “YORICK’S Sentimental Journal Through FRANCE and ITALY” by Laurence Stern and “HISTORY OF BELISARIUS, THE HEROIC AND HUMANE ROMAN GENERAL” by Jean-François Marmontel.  On the third and fourth pages, Bell promoted William Robertson’s “HISTORY of CHARLES the FIFTH, EMPEROR of GERMANY,” a work he widely advertised in newspapers throughout the colonies, and other American editions.  The flier concluded with a note defending “the legality of literary publications in America.”

Both before and after the American Revolution, Bell established a reputation as one of the most vocal proponents of creating a distinctly American literary market served by printers and publishers in the colonies and, later, the new nation.  Bell advanced both political, economic, and cultural arguments in favor of an American book trade during the imperial crisis.  He opened his address “TO THE AMERICAN WORLD” by proclaiming that “THE inhabitants of this continent have now an easy, and advantageous opportunity of effectually establishing literary manufactures … the establishment of which will absolutely and eventually produce mental improvement, and commercial expansion.”  In addition, purchasing books published in America would result in “saving thousands of pounds” by consumers as well as keep the money on that side of the Atlantic.  Colonists could pay lower prices and, in the process, what they did spend would be “distributed among manufacturers and traders, whose residence upon the continent of course causeth the money to circulate from neighbour to neighbour, and by this circulation in America there is a great probability of its revolving to the very hands from which it originally migrated.”  Supporting domestic manufactures, including American publications, would create stronger local economies, Bell argued.

“American Gentlemen or Ladies” had a patriotic duty to lend their “auspicious patronage” to such projects by informing their local bookseller or printer that they wished to become “intentional purchasers of any of the literary works now in contemplation to be reprinted by subscription in America.”  In so doing, they would “render an essential service to the community, by encouraging native manufactures.  In turn, they “deserve[d] … grateful remembrance—By their country—By posterity.”  These subscribers would also contribute to the enlightenment of the entire community, the “MAN of the WOODS” as well as the “MAN of the COURT.”  In the hyperbolic prose he so often used in his marketing materials, Bell declared that “Americans, do certainly know, if universal encouragement is afforded, to a few publications of literary excellence … they will assuredly create sublime sensations, and effectually expand the human mind towards this most rational, and most dignified of all temporal enjoyments.”  In addition, he described himself and other American printers and publishers as engaging in “peaceable, yet active Patriotism” in making inexpensive American editions of several “literary WORKS” available to consumers.

Bell frequently inserted advertisements with similar messages into newspapers from New England to South Carolina, but those were not his only means of encouraging “THE AMERICAN WORLD” to support domestic manufactures and the creation of an American literary market that would result in self-improvement among readers far and wide.  In subscription notices (which may have been distributed with newspapers on occasion), book catalogs, and broadsides, he advanced the same arguments much more extensively than space in newspapers allowed.

September 17

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

First page of Robert Bell’s subscription notice for Blackstone’s Commentaries that may (or may not) have been distributed with the September 17, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.

“SUBSCRIPTIONS for Hume, Blackstone, and Ferguson, are received by said Bell … and by the Booksellers and Printers in America.”

Digitization makes primary sources more widely available, but digital surrogates sometimes introduce questions about those sources that might be more easily answered by examining the originals.  Consider the September 17, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette made available by Accessible Archives.  That company provides nine pages associated with that issue.  The first four comprise the standard issue, two pages printed on each side of a broadsheet then folded in half.

Another page filled entirely with advertising lacks a masthead, but does have the title, “THE SOUTH CAROLINA & AMERICAN GENERAL GAZETTE, for 1771,” and date “Sept. 10-17” running across the top.  It also features a page number, 192, in the upper left corner as well as a colophon at the bottom of the last column.  This may have been a one-page supplement, but paper was such a precious commodity that printers tended to fill both sides when they distributed supplements.  The page numbering for the standard issue went from 187 to 190.  Did the printer skip 191 in order to have the next issue begin, as usual, with an odd number?  Or, is the first page of a two-page supplement missing from the digital edition?  It is impossible to simply flip over the page with a digital edition, making it difficult to answer a question that likely would not even have been an issue when examining the original.

The final four pages associated with that issue of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette look like a subscription notice distributed by Robert Bell, a bookseller and publisher in Philadelphia.  The digital images suggest they were on a sheet of a much smaller size than either the standard issue or the supplement, but specific information about the relative sizes of these pages disappeared when remediating them to photographs and digital files.  How did this subscription notice become associated with that issue of the newspaper?  Bell incorporated Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, into his network of local agents who advertised and received subscriptions for Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England on his behalf.  An advertisement for that volume appeared on the final page of the standard issue as well as the first page of the subscription notice.  Perhaps Wells distributed Bell’s subscription notice with his newspaper.  On the other hand, the subscription notice may have been added to the collection of newspapers at a later time by the printer, a contemporary reader, a later collector, or an archivist.  Modern readers could ask a librarian or cataloger about the provenance when working with the original.  Even though that might or might not reveal an answer, it is an opportunity that readers consulting digital sources may not pursue, at least not easily.

On the whole, digitization has revolutionized access to primary sources, making them more widely available rather than confined to research libraries and historical societies.  Yet digital copies are not replacements for originals.  They sometimes introduce questions that either would not have been part of working with original copies or would have been more easily answered.  Even the most enthusiastic proponents of digitization readily recognize that digital surrogates are best considered complements to, rather than replacements for, original primary sources.

September 2

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 2, 1771).

“Those who have taken subscriptions of others, [send] their lists … to the Publisher.”

In the course of just a few days late in the summer of 1771, readers in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina encountered the same advertisement in their local newspapers.  John Dunlap, a printer in Philadelphia, distributed subscription notices for his current project, “ALL THE POETICAL WRITINGS, AND SOME OTHER PIECES, of the Rev. NATHANIEL EVANS,” in order to entice customers in distant places to reserve copies of the forthcoming work.  On September 2, Dunlap’s advertisement ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Four days earlier, the same advertisement ran in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Pennsylvania Journal.

With one exception, the advertisements featured identical copy with minor variations in format, the copy being the domain of the advertiser and decisions about design at the discretion of the compositor.  The exception concerned the directions issued to prospective subscribers for submitting their names.  In the newspapers published in Philadelphia, Dunlap requested “that all who are desirous of encouraging this publication, and who may not yet have subscribed, will send their names” to him directly.  In addition, he asked that “those who have taken subscriptions of others,” acting as agents on Dunlap’s behalf, dispatch “their lists without loss of time to the Publisher.”  In the advertisements in the other newspapers, however, he instructed subscribers to submit their names “to the Printer hereof.”  Newspaper printers in other cities served as his local agents, including Richard Draper in Boston and Hugh Gaine in New York.  Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, underscored that he was Dunlap’s local agents, revising the copy in his newspaper to instruct subscribers to “send in their Names, without Loss of Time, to ROBERT WELLS.”

Dunlap did not rely merely on generating demand among local customers when he published “THE POETICAL WRITINGS … of the Rev. NATHANIEL EVANS.”  Instead, he inserted subscription notices in newspapers published in the largest cities in the colonies, hoping to incite greater interest in the project and attract additional buyers.  In the process, he recruited other printers to act as local agents who collected subscriptions on his behalf.  He created a network of associates that extended from New England to South Carolina as part of his marketing campaign.

June 19

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 17, 1771).

“RUN away … a Negro Fellow named WILL.”

“RUN away … the six following NEGROES, viz. Cudjoe, Jemmy, Long Jemmy, Rynah, Venus, and her daughter Dye.”

“RUN away … SARAH … carried a negro boy with her named HECTOR.”

“RUN away … a NEGRO MAN named Hector.”

Colonial newspapers regularly carried accounts of Black resistance to enslavement in the form of “runaway” advertisements, documenting the courage and fortitude of enslaved men, women, and children who liberated themselves.  Enslavers certainly did not place those advertisements to celebrate the perseverance of enslaved people who seized their liberty.  Instead, enslavers appealed to readers to engage in surveillance of Black people to determine if they encountered anyone matching the descriptions in the advertisements.  They offered rewards for the capture and return of each fugitive seeking freedom.  In the process, those enslavers and the printers who aided them created an extensive archive of stories of Black resistance before, during, and after the American Revolution.  Such advertisements appeared almost as soon as the Boston News-Letter commenced publication in 1704 and continued to appear in American newspapers for more than 150 years as countless Black people liberated themselves from those who attempted to hold them in bondage.

Some of those stories appeared in the June 17, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American Gazette.  Eight advertisements reported on sixteen Black people who “ABSENTED” themselves from those who purported to be their masters.  Some departed for freedom on their own, but others went in the company of a companion or small group.  Will, for instance, made his escape from James Witter on his own, though friends who remained behind may have provided assistance.  James Sinkler certainly suspected that Hector received aid from others, reporting he was likely “harboured at Mr. Boone’s plantation in Christ Church parish, where his father and mother reside.”  Sarah, a “very artful and sensible” woman who was “well known in town and country,” took Hector, a thirteen-year-old boy, with her.  Their enslaver, Stephen Miller, stated that Hector “had then irons on,” creating an even greater challenge for Sarah and the boy.  Cudjoe, “an elderly fellow,” led five others to freedom.  When he departed from Peter Sinkler and James Sinkler’s plantation, Jemmy, Long Jemmy, Rynah, and Venus went with him, as did Venus’s twelve-year-old daughter, Dye.  The Sinklers could not conceive of the others taking this action on their own, claiming that the “very artful” Cudjoe “enticed the others away.”  Even if Cudjoe provided the initial inspiration, the others desired freedom so much that they joined their elder in seizing it for themselves.

Today the nation commemorates Juneteenth, the first time doing so as a federal holiday.  This new designation should encourage contemplation of the long road to liberation and the work that remains to be done to create the fair and just society envisioned in the ideals expressed at the time of the founding but unevenly applied and incompletely enacted.  That contemplation should include a more complete accounting of American history, including the stories of courageous Black men, women, and children who liberated themselves or assisted others in achieving freedom.  Cudjoe, Sarah, Hector, and so many others made history, their stories strands of a much larger tapestry of American history.

April 17

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 17, 1771).

“Grand Feast of Historical Entertainment … XENOPHONTICK BANQUET.”

Robert Bell advertised widely when he published an American edition of William Robertson’s History of the Reign of Charles the Fifth in 1771.  Though he printed the three-volume set in Philadelphia, he placed advertisements in newspapers from New England to South Carolina.  In seeking subscribers in advance of publication and buyers after the books went to press, Bell did not rely on the usual means of marketing books to consumers.  Instead, he adopted a more flamboyant style, an approach that became a trademark of his efforts to promote the American book trade in the late eighteenth century.

For instance, Bell announced “the Completion of the grand Feast of Historical Entertainment” with the imminent “Publication of the third Volume of Robertson’s celebrated History of Charles the Fifth” in an advertisement in the April 17, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  He invited “all Gentlemen that possess a sentimental Taste” to participate in “this elegant XENOPONTICK BANQUET” by adding their names to the subscription list.  In continuing the metaphor of the feast, Bell invoked Xenophon of Athens, an historian and philosopher considered one of the greatest writers of the ancient world.  The phrase “XENOPHONTICK BANQUET” appeared in all capitals and a slightly larger font, as did “HISTORY,” the headline intended to draw attention to the advertisement.

Essex Gazette (April 16, 1771).

The previous day, a very similar advertisement ran in the Essex Gazette.  It featured “HISTORY” and “XENOPHONTIC BANQUET” in capital letters and larger font.  Most of the text was identical as well, though local printers adjusted the instructions for acquiring copies of the book.  The version in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette directed subscribers to “any of the Booksellers in Boston, New-York, Philadelphia, or to ROBERT WELLS,” bookseller and printer of the newspaper, “in Charlestown.”  The variant in the Essex Gazette also mentioned “Booksellers in Boston, New-York, [and] Philadelphia,” but also listed local agents in seven other towns, including Samuel Orne in Salem.  Wells also inserted a note that he sold writing paper and trunks in addition to the first and second volumes of Robertson’s History.

Published just a day apart in Charleston, South Carolina, and Salem, Massachusetts, these advertisements with such similar copy and format created a near simultaneous reading experience in towns located hundreds of miles distant.  Reprinting news accounts from one newspaper to another to another had a similar effect, though it took time to disseminate news in that manner.  Bell engineered an advertising campaign without the same time lapse as coverage of the “freshest Advices” among the news accounts.  Among the imagined community of readers and consumers in South Carolina and Massachusetts, the simultaneity of being encouraged to purchase an American edition of Robertson’s famed work was much less imagined than the simultaneity of keeping up with current events by reading the news.