January 21

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

Continuation of the South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1772).

“New Advertisements.”

Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, and Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, both had too much content to fit in the four pages of the standard issues of their newspapers on January 21, 1772.  Crouch distributed a four-page Supplement printed on a smaller sheet, while Timothy doubled the amount of content that he distributed with a Continuation printed on the same size sheet as the standard issue.

Except for the first two columns on the first page, that Continuation consisted entirely of advertising.  In newspapers printed throughout the colonies, it was often the case that printers used supplements for advertising when they ran out of space in their standard issues.  To aid readers in navigating the publication, Timothy inserted a heading for “New Advertisements” in the Continuation.  The first advertisements under that heading, however, also ran on the third page of the standard issue.  They had not previously appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette, so in that sense they were indeed “New Advertisements.”

Why were some advertisements published twice in the South-Carolina Gazette and its Continuation on a single day?  John Marley advertised a house and lot for sale.  Justina St. Leger advised consumers that she stocked an assortment of “MILLINARY GOODS” imported from London.  Katherine Lind and William Burrows, executors for Thomas Lind, asked readers to settle accounts.  All three repeated advertisements were short, so the printer may simply have deployed them as filler to complete the page.  In that case, Timothy may very well have inserted those notices in the Continuationgratis, charging the advertisers only for publishing them in the standard issue.

A heading for “New Advertisements” also appeared in the standard issue.  Few colonial printers used such headings, but Timothy did so regularly.  Perhaps he thought the heading incited interest among readers and prompted them to examine the advertisements more closely.  In turn, that benefited Timothy’s own customers who paid to have their notices run in the South-Carolina Gazette.  The printer also had a heading for “Timothy’s Marine List,” a distinctive means of identifying the shipping news from the customs house.  Even if some advertisements sometimes ran for a second time under the header for “New Advertisements,” Timothy’s use of headers to mark sections for advertising and the shipping news helped to give his newspaper its own look that made it easy to recognize and distinguish from other newspapers.

October 24

GUEST CURATOR:  Katie Galvin

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (October 24, 1771).

“RUN-AWAY … a NEGRO MAN, named HECTOR … Also a Negro Man, named MAIDSTONE.”

This advertisement concerns an enslaved man named Hector, along with another enslaved man named Maidstone. Both men ran away from James Sinkler’s plantation.  Sinkler claimed that Hector was “supposed to be harboured at Mr. Boone’s plantation… where his Father and Mother reside.” This means that Hector was attempting to run away and return to his family and that they helped him by hiding him. Many enslaved people at the time were separated from family and friends during auctions or other sales. Sinkler said that Maidstone has been “lately purchased at the Sale of Mr. JAMES LE BAS Estate,” so he has been recently stripped away from his community.

Maidstone and Hector had experiences similar to many other enslaved people. According to Victoria Bissell Brown and Timothy J. Shannon, enslaved people often ran away for reasons more than the mistreatment from masters. Sometimes they were “trying to preserve a family that was being driven apart by a sale.”[1] Many enslaved people wanted to liberate themselves and reunite with their families.  Historians at the National Park Service’s Ethnography Program also state that “enslaved people ran away to reestablish marital and family ties or to protest changes in ownership or even to join prospective mates from whom they’ve been separated from.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

James Sinkler made a significant investment in his efforts to recover two men he enslaved.  Katie chose to examine his advertisement that ran in the South-Carolina Gazette on October 24, 1771, but that is not the only newspaper that carried Sinkler’s notice.  As guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project, Katie also worked with Sinkler’s advertisement in the October 28 edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette and the October 29 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Sinkler was so eager to recapture Hector and Maidstone that he placed notices in every newspaper printed in Charleston, increasing the dissemination of his advertisement and encouraging greater numbers of colonists to engage in surveillance of Black men to determine if they matched the descriptions that appeared in print.

By the time Sinkler’s advertisement appeared in those newspapers in late October, they had already been running for months.  As work has continued on the production of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project, other guest curators and I have learned that Sinkler’s advertisements continued to appear well into 1772.  We have not yet determined when Sinkler discontinued them.  That the advertisements ran for so long suggests that Hector and Maidstone managed to elude detection and evade capture for quite some time.  They may have received assistance from family and friends in the places Sinkler suspected, but they may have gone in completely different directions than he imagined.  The same may have been true for Cudjoe, Jemmy, Rynah, Venus, and Dye, five enslaved people who fled from Peter Sinkler and James Sinkler on the last day of March in 1771.  The Sinklers thought that the fugitives seeking their freedom “intend for Ponpon, where they lately lived.”  If they did, no one there spotted them and attempted to claim the reward.  That advertisement also continued to run in October, more than six months later.

The archive includes many silences, including the fates of most enslaved people who attempted to liberate themselves by running away from those who held them in bondage.  That advertisements about Hector and Maidstone ran for many months suggests that the men managed to make good on their escape.  At the very least, they were not recaptured quickly or easily.  The text of the advertisement offers insights into their experiences, but tracking it through multiple newspapers over an extended period helps to reconstruct a more complete story of what might have happened.  Even then, the silences in the archive prevail.

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[1] Victoria Bissel Brown and Timothy J. Shannon, “Colonial America’s Most Wanted: Runaway Advertisements in Colonial Newspapers,” in Going to the Source: The Bedford Reader in American History, eds. Brown and Shannon (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004), 50.

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.

August 8

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

South-Carolina Gazette (August 8, 1771).

“CUDJOE, JEMMY, RYNAH, VENUS, and her Daughter DYE.”

For several months, Peter Sinkler and James Sinkler attempted to use the power of the press to recapture six enslaved people who liberated themselves in 1771.  According to advertisements the Sinklers placed in several newspapers, including the June 19 edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, “Cudjoe, Jemmy, Long Jemmy, Rynah, Venus, and her daughter Dye, about twelve years old,” departed from the Sinklers’ plantation in St. Stephen Parish on March 31.  The Sinklers surmised that Cudjoe, “elderly” and “very artful,” had “enticed the others.  Jemmy, Long Jemmy, Rynah, Venus, and Dye, however, may not have needed much enticing when they decided to seize their freedom.

After eluding capture for many months, Long Jemmy suddenly did not appear in the advertisement that ran in the August 8 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  In every previous iteration, the advertisement identified “the six following NEGROES” and then always listed them in the same order.  For some reason, however, a new advertisement referred to only “the Five following NEGROES” and did not include Long Jemmy.  What happened to him?  Did he get separated from the others and then captured and returned to the Sinklers?  Had he returned of his own accord, as enslaved people sometimes did after demonstrating that enslavers did not exercise total authority over them?  Did a colonist see the advertisements, recognize Long Jemmy, and collect the reward for apprehending him?  What else might have occurred?

After identifying, remediating, and republishing these advertisements for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project over the past four months, Long Jemmy seems starkly absent from this advertisement.  Yet that is not the only absence associated with this enslaved man.  The earlier advertisements may be the sole archival sources that name him.  Even those silence him, his story told from the perspective of enslavers who claimed that Long Jemmy, like the others who liberated themselves, “is so well known … as to need no further Description.”  Other than saying that Cudjoe was likely the leader of group, the Sinklers did not comment on any of their relationships or much of anything else about them.  Long Jemmy, Rynah, Venus, and the others are not “well known” in Charleston and elsewhere today.  Archival sources allow us to tell composite stories of their likely experiences, but they did not have the same opportunities to shape the historical record and how they should be remembered as the Sinklers did through the simple act of placing a newspaper advertisement.

July 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette (July 11, 1771).

“THE Printer of this Paper … GIVES THIS EARLY NOTICE.”

Peter Timothy, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, made it impossible for readers to ignore the notices that he ran in his newspaper for several weeks beginning in the summer of 1771.  He exercised his prerogative as printer in designing a format that made his notice the most visible item in the newspaper, running it immediately below the masthead and across all three columns on the first page.  Dated July 1, Timothy’s notice first appeared on July 4 and then in the next four issues before he inserted a revised version in subsequent editions.  The printer informed readers that he intended “to have all his Affairs settled by the First of January next, so that he may depart the Province by the Beginning of Aprilfollowing.”  To that end, he “GIVES THIS EARLY NOTICE thereof, to all Persons indebted to him, that they may prepare to make Payment to their Accompts … without giving him the unnecessary Trouble of calling again and again.”  In addition, for those “many Subscribers in the Country whom he does not know, he begs such will give their Factors or Agents proper Orders to settle with him.”

Advertising on the front page was not unusual in and off itself.  The South-Carolina Gazette regularly featured advertisements on the first page.  In the July 11 edition, Thomas Powell’s advertisement for “Dr. KEYSER’s famous PILLS” filled the entire first column, under a heading that labeled it a “New Advertisement,” making it the first item readers encountered below the masthead and Timothy’s notice.  News from London comprised most of the second column, before a heading for “New Advertisements” introduced two shorter notices, one seeking passengers and freight for a ship departing for Philadelphia and the other calling on colonists to settle accounts with Robert Dillon.  The third column contained a brief account of news from Charleston, a list of prices current of “South-Carolina Produce and Manufactures,” and “Timothy’s Marine List” (as the printer branded the shipping news from the customs house when he printed it in his newspaper).  Readers of the South-Carolina Gazette were accustomed to seeing a variety of items, including advertisements, on the front page.  Timothy could have made his notice the first item in the first column without altering the format of the page, complete with a “New Advertisement” heading, but that would have risked readers passing over it.  Instead, he created a distinctive format that demanded readers give their attention to his important notice.  Just as the incomplete “Marine List” on the front page included instructions to “[Turn to the last Page.]” for the remainder, the printer also deployed graphic design to guide readers in navigating the newspaper.

June 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette (June 6, 1771).

“A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS … will be inserted in a CONTINUATION.”

The South-Carolina Gazette was a delivery mechanism for advertising, often devoting more space to paid notices than to news.  The printer, Peter Timothy, must have generated significant revenues, assuming advertisers paid their bills.  Like other colonial newspapers, a standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Some printers reserved advertising for the final pages, but other distributed advertisements throughout an issue, including on the front page.

Consider the contents of the June 6, 1771, edition.  News from London comprised most of the first and third columns, but several advertisements filled the entire column between them.  In addition, a single advertisement appeared at the bottom of the first and third columns, each with a header proclaiming “New Advertisements.”  Local news and a poem filled most of the second page, but an advertisement appeared at the bottom of the last column.  It also bore a header for “New Advertisements,” leading into the facing page.  Advertisements accounted for the first two columns and a portion of the third on that page, though it concluded with “Timothy’s Marine List,” the shipping news from the customs house.  Paid notices filled the entire final page.  In total, advertising comprised seven of the twelve columns in the standard issue.

In addition, Timothy distributed a half sheet supplement, two more pages that contained nothing except paid notices.  Printers who ran out of space for the content they wished to print – or needed to print to satisfy agreements made with advertisers – often resorted to supplements.  In this instance, a header for “Advertisements” appeared at the top of the first column on the first page.  Timothy also inserted a notice in the standard issue to explain that “A Number of ADVERTISEMENTS, which we could not get into this Day’s Paper, will be inserted in a CONTINUATION, to be published on Monday next.”  That meant even more advertising, though the printer’s notice may have been misleading. Timothy may or may not have printed and distributed another supplement on Monday.  The supplement dated June 6 may have been that supplement, taken to press earlier than anticipated at the time Timothy composed his notice and printed the standard issue.

Even without a midweek Continuation in addition to a Supplement that accompanied the June 6 edition, advertising constituted the majority of content delivered to subscribers.  Paid notices filled thirteen of the eighteen columns in the standard issue and supplement, amounting to more than two-thirds of the space.  Revenues generated from that advertising supported the production and distribution of the news, even in the colonial era.

April 30

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (April 30, 1771).

“He already makes what is called QUEEN’S WARE, equal to any imported.”

In the late 1760s, colonists responded to duties on certain imported goods with nonimportation agreements against an even wider array of items, hoping to use economic leverage to pressure Parliament to rescind the Townshend Acts.  Eventually, Parliament relented, repealing all of the duties except for the one on tea.  Although some colonists objected to reopening trade while any duties remained in place, most merchants and shopkeepers eagerly resumed importing goods and consumers returned to purchasing them.  Throughout the period that nonimportation agreements were in effect, some advertisers promoted “domestic manufactures,” items produced in the colonies, as alternatives to imported goods.  Even after trade resumed, some colonists continued to encourage consumers to select domestic manufactures over imported wares.  On April 30, 1771, for instance, Thomas You, a silversmith in Charleston, made the same appeal he had been publishing in advertisements since the original nonimportation agreement inspired by the Stamp Act in 1765.  He requested the patronage of “those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”

In the same Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, John Bartlam announced that he had “opened his POTTERY and CHINA MANUFACTORY.”  Echoing the appeals made by others who produced and sold American goods, he proclaimed his pottery “equal to any imported.”  Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when they chose domestic manufactures over imported goods.  Like other artisans who launched new enterprises in the colonies, Bartlam also suggested that colonists could play an important role in production.  Bartlam called on “Gentlemen in the Country, or others: to send samples “of any Kinds of fine Clay upon their Plantations” so he could identify suppliers of the materials necessary to expand his business.  He believed that with “suitable Encouragement,” in terms of both production and consumption, he would be “able to supply the Demands of the whole Province.”  That was an ambitious goal; in publishing it, Bartlam challenged consumers to consider the ramifications of the choices they made in the marketplace.  He provided an additional reason for supporting his “POTTERY and CHINA MANUFACTORY,” another familiar refrain.  Bartlam employed local workers.  He sought “Good WORKMEN” as well as “Five or Six Apprentices.”  Consumers who purchased his pottery not only supported his business but contributed to the livelihoods of other colonists.

Bartlam and You encouraged colonists to “Buy American” years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.  In supporting the local economy, consumers also made choices with political ramifications.  Given You’s extensive history of newspaper advertising, the silversmith very intentionally made that part of his marketing strategy.  For Bartlam, politics may not have been his guiding principle, but rather a welcome means of enhancing his marketing.  Whatever the motivations of the advertisers, they prompted consumers to consider the value of domestic manufactures when deciding between goods produced locally or imported from England.

March 24

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

South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

“Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”

In an advertisement that appeared in the March 21, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, Thomas You described himself as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH” who ran a workshop “AT THE SIGN OF THE GOLDEN CUP” on Queen Street in Charleston.  That he was a working silversmith, as opposed to a purveyor of imported wares, was important to both You’s identity as an artisan and his marketing efforts.  He declared that he “carried on the GOLD and SILVERSMITH’s Business in their different Branches,” making claims about his expertise in his craft.  He also confided that “his Dependance is entirely in the working Part.”  In other words, he earned his livelihood through making what he sold, a shift in his marketing compared to his earlier advertisements that incorporated goods imported from England.

For readers of the South-Carolina Gazette, that proclamation resonated with the politics of the period.  Gary Albert traces You’s advertising over several years, noting that before the Stamp Act crisis, the silversmith “advertised six times that he sold goods ‘just imported from London,’” but “You did not advertise recently imported British goods from the enactment of the Stamp Act in the fall of 1765 through the repeal of the Townshend Acts in 1770.”  Albert underscores that You embedded politics in his advertisements in the late 1760s and early 1770s:  “On six occasions during the term of the Townshend Acts You made a point to tell his customers that his shop was manufacturing silversmith products, not retailing imported goods.”

In so doing, You challenged consumers to practice politics when making choices in the marketplace.  He stated that he “hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”  He argued that he did his part for the American cause as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH,” but his efforts as a producer required recognition by consumers and commitment on their part in selecting domestic manufactures as alternatives to imported goods.  In making that proposition, he echoed appeals made in newspaper advertisements throughout the colonies as artisans, shopkeepers, and others encouraged consumers to “Buy American” several years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.

March 17

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

South-Carolina Gazette (March 14, 1771).

“New Advertisements.”

Colonial American newspapers were vehicles for disseminating advertising.  Some newspapers published in the largest port cities frequently included supplements devoted entirely to advertising, even when advertising filled more space than news accounts in the standard issues.  Peter Timothy, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, did not bother with an advertising supplement to accompany the March 14, 1771, edition, but neither did he print much news.  Paid notices filled more than three quarters of the twelve columns spread over four pages.

When readers perused that issue, they first encountered “New Advertisements” immediately below the masthead. Advertisements filled the first two columns of the first page, but Timothy have over the third column to news accounts and a letter to the editor.  That column concluded with a note to “Turn to the last Page” to continue reading the news.  Indeed, advertising consumed all three columns on the second page and all three columns on the third page.  A bit more news appeared in the first column of the fourth page as well as two regular features, the “Charles-Town Price Current, Of South Carolina Produce and Manufactures” and “Timothy’s Marine List.”  The printer branded the shipping news from the customs house.  In this instance, the extensive list of vessels filled the better part of a column, overflowing into the second column.  More “New Advertisements” immediately followed “Timothy’s Marine List.”  While Timothy did not organize the advertisements according to purpose or genre, he did distinguish among those that previously appeared in the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and those that readers had not previously seen.

Timothy had two competitors, the South-Carolina and American General Gazette printed by Robert Wells and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal printed by Charles Crouch.  That same week, those newspapers published similar proportions of news and advertising.  Apparently, Timothy did not need to worry about his subscribers expressing discontent that they received less news in their newspapers compared to others.  They may have considered the news accounts that the printer did insert along with the information contained in the advertisements sufficient for staying informed until another edition devoted more space to news accounts rather than paid notices.

February 7

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

South-Carolina Gazette (February 7, 1771).

“No one is to hire his Negro Man ABRAHAM, a Bricklayer, without his Consent.”

Advertisements about enslaved people were ubiquitous in newspapers publishing during the era of the American Revolution, as the Slavery Adverts 250 Project seeks to demonstrate.  Most of those advertisements fell into one of two categories:  offering enslaved men, women, and children for sale or offering rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves from bondage.  Less frequently, advertisements about enslaved people reported on suspected “runaways” confined to jails or workhouses until their enslavers claimed them or hiring out practices, a system for temporarily employing enslaved men and women in which the enslavers ultimately received the wages.

These advertisements, especially those concerning Black men and women confined in jails and workhouses and those describing Africans and African Americans who liberated themselves, served as mechanisms of surveillance and control.  Enslavers placed such advertisements to reassert their authority and attempt to return to what they considered appropriate good order.  They also encouraged all colonists, whether enslavers or not, to participate in the perpetuation of the system by scrutinizing every Black person they encountered to determine if they matched the descriptions published in the newspapers.  By default, Black men and women not under the immediate supervision of enslavers were suspect.

Alternately, advertisements about disorder also testified to resistance by enslaved men and women.  Runaway notices often documented acts of defiance that occurred before Black people liberated themselves.  In addition to actions, they cataloged attitudes that enslavers found frustrating or insubordinate.  In the process of liberating themselves, perhaps the most significant act of resistance, Black people often appropriated multiple articles of clothing in order to disguise themselves.  They also sometimes took horses or weapons.  Many enslavers surmised that enslaved people who liberated themselves received assistance from others, including other enslaved people, free Black men and women, and sympathetic white colonists.  They warned that anyone offering aid would face prosecution.

Less frequently, some advertisements told other stories of resistance, though that was not the intention of the men and women who placed them.  Consider the notice that Lionel Chalmers inserted in the February 7, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  The enslaver asserted that “no one is to hire his Negro Man ABRAHAM, a Bricklayer, without his Consent.”  Furthermore, they were not “to pay the Negro any Wages for his Work.”  As was the case with many enslaved people hired out in busy urban ports, Abraham may have experienced some level of quasi-autonomy, as Douglas R. Egerton demonstrated was the case for Gabriel, the leader of a failed revolt in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800.  Abraham may have been choosing his own employers, socializing with whomever he saw fit, and keeping some portion of his wages, a situation that Chalmers may have initially endorsed but eventually found untenable because it undermined his authority.  Chalmers may not have even been aware of who currently employed Abraham, declaring that said person “is hereby desired to deliver him, immediately to his Master, unless he be determined to make himself liable.”

Like so many other advertisements about enslaved people, this advertisement sought to reestablish order by restoring the authority of the enslaver who placed it.  Chalmers told a partial story, one that certainly deviated from how Abraham would have told it if he had the opportunity.  Still, Chalmers revealed enough details to reveal that Abraham, a skilled artisan, exercised his own will by engaging in acts of resistance so bold that the enslaver had to resort to publishing an advertisement in an effort to regain his authority.