May 31

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

South-Carolina Gazette (May 28, 1771).

“He shall receive another CARGO … so that at all Times the Public may be assured of seeing the greatest Variety.”

Philip Tidyman, a jeweler and goldsmith, alerted prospective customers in Charleston that he imported “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF PLATE, JEWELS,” and other merchandise.  His inventory included gold watches, “Pearls in all Fancies,” tea kettles, and coffee pots.  His wares matched current tastes in London, “all new-fashioned” for discerning consumers.  Tidyman hoped that the items he already stocked would entice readers to visit his shop, but he did not focus exclusively on his current inventory.  Instead, he emphasized that he constantly received new merchandise.  Customers did not have to worry about the selection in his shop stagnating.

Tidyman proclaimed that he “shall receive another CARGO per Captain WILSON” in the near future as well as “Patterns of all new Goods in every London Ship” that arrived in the busy port.  That meant that “at all Times the Public may be assured of seeing the greatest Variety in every Branch of his Business.”  Rather than wait for Tidyman to publish subsequent advertisements, customers could keep current by making repeat visits to his shop.  The jeweler suggested that they were bound to discover something new on each trip.  In so doing, he attempted to create a sense of anticipation among consumers, not only desire for his current merchandise but also longing for whatever might arrive via the next vessels from London.

This strategy may have helped Tidyman distinguish his advertisement from one that Jonathan Sarrazin placed for a “LARGE and ELEGANT Assortment of PLATE and JEWELLERY” in the same issue of the South-Carolina Gazette.  Like Tidyman, Sarrazin stated that he “just imported” this merchandise, but he did not give any indication that he expected additional shipments to keep his inventory fresh.  He published an advertisement for the moment, while Tidyman crafted a marketing strategy intended to endure for quite some time after his notice ran in the newspaper.

May 24

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (May 21, 1772).

“Send their names to the Printers of this Paper.”

The supplement that accompanied the May 21, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette included “PROPOSALS FOR PUBLISHING BY SUBSCRIPTION, A MAP of the INTERIOR PARTS OF NORTH-AMERICA.  By THOMAS HUTCHINS, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Royal American Regiment, and Engineer.”  Hutchins explained that the map depicted a region “which must soon become a most important and very interesting part of the British empire in America.”  It included “the great rivers of Missisippi and Ohio, with the newest smaller streams which empty into them” as well as “Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan.”  Hutchins asserted that the map “accurately delineated” the region, “a great part of the country and most of the rivers and lakes … laid down from surveys, corrected by the observation of latitudes, carefully executed by himself” during the Seven Years War and “since the final treaty with the western and northern Indians in 1764.”  The map also incorporated “every considerable town of the various Indian Nations, who inhabit these regions.”  The “extent of their respective claims,” Hutchins noted, “are also particularly pointed out.”  Land speculators and settler colonizers certainly had their eyes on those “respective claims,” despite the Proclamation Line of 1763 that reserved that territory for indigenous peoples.

Hutchins declared that he would publish and deliver the map “as soon as the Subscribers amount to a number adequate to defray the unavoidable expence of the publication.”  Like so many others who wished to publish books and maps, he did not intend to assume the financial risk without assurances that the project would meet with success.  To that end, he invited “those in SOUTH-CAROLINA who may think proper to encourage” publishing the map to “as soon as possible, send their names to the Printers of this Paper.”  Powell, Hughes and Company acted as local agents for subscribers.  Hutching did not, however, restrict his marketing efforts to newspaper notices.  He also distributed broadside subscription proposals that featured almost identical text.  Measuring approximately thirteen inches by eight inches, a copy at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania includes blank space to insert the name of a local agent who could have posted the subscription notice in a retail shop or printing office.  That accounts for the first variation in the text compared to the advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette, an invitation for subscribers to “send their names to [blank]” rather than “send their names to the Printers of this Paper.”  A short paragraph unique to the broadside notice followed that blank: “WE the Subscribers do agree to pay Lieutenant THOMAS HUTCHINS, or Order, for the above-mentioned Map and Analysis, ONE PISTOLE, on the receipt thereof, according to the Number affixed to our respective Names.”  Additional blank space provided room for subscribers to add their names and indicate how many copies they wished to order.  The Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s copy does not have any manuscript additions; no subscribers signed it to reserve their maps.

Newspaper advertisements provided the best opportunity to circulate subscription notices to the greatest number of prospective customers, but they were not the only means of inciting interest in books and maps.  Hutchins and other entrepreneurs also distributed broadsides to local agents to facilitate recording the names of subscribers.  I suspect that a greater number of those broadsides circulated in early America than survive today, increasing the frequency that colonizers encountered advertising media.

Broadside Subscription Proposal with Space for Subscribers to Add Names. Courtesy Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

April 5

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

South-Carolina Gazette (April 2, 1772).

“Be very punctual in their Publications … and be particularly careful in circulating the Papers.”

The first page of the April 2, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette consisted almost entirely of the masthead and advertisements placed by colonizers.  At the top of the first column, however, Peter Timothy, the printer, inserted his own notice before the “New Advertisements” placed by his customers.  In it, he announced that “my present State of Health will not admit of my continuing the PRINTING BUSINESS any longer.”  Effective on May 1, “Thomas Powell, Edward Hughes, & Co.” would “conduct and continue the Publication of this GAZETTE.”  Wishing for the success of his successors, Timothy assured readers that they could expect the same quality from the publication under new management that he had delivered “during the Course of Thirty-three Years.”  Picking up where he left off, the partners “will have the Advantage of an extensive and well established Correspondence” with printers and others who provided news.  In addition, Timothy declared that they would “be very punctual in their Publications—regular and exact in inserting the Prices Current—continue my Marine List—and be particularly careful in circulating the Papers.”

Timothy addressed subscribers and other readers when he mentioned the “Charles-Town Price Current” and “Timothy’s Marine List,” as the printer called his version of the shipping news obtained from the customs house.  In making promises about the punctually publishing newspapers and attending to their circulation, however, he addressed both readers and advertisers.  Colonizers who paid to insert notices wanted their information disseminated as quickly and as widely as possible, whether they encouraged consumers to purchase goods and services, invited bidders to attend auctions and estate sales, or offered rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves.  Certainly subscribers wanted their newspapers to arrive quickly and efficiently, but Timothy understood the importance of advertising when it came to generating revenues.  After all, he devoted only five of the twelve columns in the April 2 edition to news (including the “Charles-Town Price Current” and “Timothy’s Marine List”) and the other seven to advertising.  In addition, he distributed a half sheet supplement, another six columns, that consisted entirely of advertising.  Paid notices accounted for just over two-thirds of the content Timothy disseminated on April 2, even taking his “extensive and well established Correspondence” into consideration.

As he prepared to pass the torch to Powell and Hughes, Timothy did not address advertisers directly, but he certainly addressed concerns that would have been important to them.  The South-Carolina Gazette competed with two other newspapers published in Charleston at the time.  Timothy sought to keep both subscribers and advertisers loyal to the publication he would soon hand over to new partners.

March 29

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

South-Carolina Gazette (March 26, 1772).

“TRANSACTIONS OF THE American Philosophical Society.”

Nicholas Langford advertised a “COLLECTION OF BOOKS” and magazines “Just imported … from LONDON” in the March 26, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  He invited prospective customers to peruse a “printed CATALOGUE of the whole COLLECTION” while he prepared this new shipment for sale.  Elsewhere in the same issue, readers encountered an advertisement for other reading material, the “TRANSACTIONS OF THE American Philosophical Society HELD AT PHILADELPHIA FOR Promoting USEFUL KNOWLEDGE.”  Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette, sold the “TRANSACTIONS” at his printing office on Broad Street in Charleston.

The American Philosophical Society had recently formed in 1769 as a result of a merger between the Philosophical Society, an organization founded by Benjamin Franklin and others in 1743, and the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge.  Franklin served as the first president.  The American Philosophical Society did not limit membership to residents of Philadelphia but instead adopted practices similar to those of other learned societies by recruiting members from various European nation-states as well as colonies in North America, the Caribbean, and beyond.  Members participated in a transatlantic “republic of letters” and scientific inquiry through their correspondence, collecting, and reading.

Some of the most elite and genteel colonizers in South Carolina also participated in that community.  They cultivated and maintained relationships with correspondents throughout the Atlantic World, acquired and transported specimens on behalf of friends and acquaintances in distant places, and read the same books, magazines, and transactions of learned societies as their illustrious counterparts in other places.  In advertising and selling the “TRANSACTIONS OF THE American Philosophical Society,” local printers and booksellers like Timothy helped colonizers access and contribute to conversations about political philosophy, natural philosophy, and many other sorts of “USEFUL KNOWLEDGE.”  Although the American Philosophical Society declared that it was “HELD AT PHILADELPHIA,” the publication, marketing, and sale of the first volume of its “TRANSACTIONS,” covering January 1 1769, through January 1, 1771, signaled that producing and consuming knowledge could not be confined to a single location.  Printers and booksellers who advertised that volume encouraged prospective customers to actively engage with the American Philosophical Society and a larger transatlantic community of scholars.

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.