November 15

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

South-Carolina Gazette (November 15).

“New Advertisements.”


The November 15, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette carried more advertising than news or other content.  Advertisements filled the entire first page, except for the masthead, most of the second and third pages, and all of the final page.  Peter Timothy, the printer, also published a four-page supplement devoted almost exclusively to advertising, though it did feature an essay raising “an ALARM” over the “INTRODUCTION of TEAS into AMERICA, immediately from the East-India Company’s Ware-houses, so that the Duties imposed thereon by the British Parliament, may be paid in America.”  Advertisements comprised twenty-one of the twenty-four columns in the standard issue and supplement.  From legal notices to calls to settle accounts to notices hawking consumer goods and services to descriptions of enslaved men and women who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers, those advertisements delivered news in an alternate format.

Unlike content selected by the printer, most paid notices ran in multiple issues.  Readers likely encountered many of them more than once as they perused the latest edition of the South-Carolina Gazette each week.  To help readers navigate the advertisements, the compositor inserted headers in the standard issue (but not in the supplement).  Headers for “New Advertisements” appeared on the first, second, and third pages.  Another header for “Advertisements” also appeared on the third page, suggesting that anything that appeared below or after it (including in the supplement) had been published in at least one previous issue.  The same headers regularly appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette.  Although the headers usually provided reliable guidance, occasionally advertisements from previous issues found their way into the “New Advertisements,” as was the case with Edmund Egan’s notice promoting “CAROLINA BEER” on the first page of the November 15 edition.  Printers and compositors generally did not classify advertisements by placing those inserted for similar purposes together.  Headers like “New Advertisements” and “Advertisements,” along with “Timothy’s Marine List” introducing the shipping news,” accounted for the first efforts to organize some of the contents and aid readers in navigating the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette.

October 25

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

South-Carolina Gazette (October 25, 1773).

Let the Beer justify itself.”

As October 1773 came to a close, Edmund Egan promoted his “CAROLINA BEER” in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  The prospects of this new product hitting the market excited the compositor for the South-Carolina Gazette enough to enclose the headline within a border of decorative type, distinguishing it from all other news and notices in the October 25 edition.  The headline did not receive the same treatment in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, though in both publications it had a prime spot at the top of the column in a section for “New Advertisements.”  Readers could hardly miss it.

To incite demand for the beer, Egan told a story about it.  He began by declaring that the “BREWERY … long laboured under many Disadvantages,” but Egan overcame them and the brewery “is now complete, and amply supplied with a Stock of the best MALT and HOPS.”  In so doing, the brewer crafted a narrative that only briefly focused on resilience in the face of adversity before extolling the factors that made his beer such a quality beverage.  Egan cited his own “unwearied Application” in launching the brewery as well as his experience and his “first Connection in London,” perhaps where he learned “the most regular Principles” of his craft.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 26, 1773).

All of that led Egan to assert that he would produce a “constant Supply of BEER and ALE … equal to any imported from any other Country.”  He also suggested that consumers should not take his word for it.  Instead, he proclaimed, “Let the Beer justify itself.”  That declaration appeared in italics in both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, suggesting that Egan did indeed instruct the compositors in both printing offices to give it some sort of special treatment to make it stand out from the copy in the rest of the notice.  The brewer did not need to say anything else about his “CAROLINA BEER.”  He could not say anything else that would be a better recommendation than consumers drinking his beer and ale and experiencing it for themselves.  “Let the Beer justify itself” simultaneously resonated as an affirmation, an invitation, and a challenge.  Egan was confident that customers would not be disappointed.

August 25

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

Postscript to the South-Carolina Gazette (August 25, 1773).

“New Advertisements.”

It was a busy week in the printing offices of T. Powell and Company in Charleston.  The printers distributed the weekly issue of the South-Carolina Gazette on Monday, August 23.  Like other newspapers published in the colonies at the time, the standard issue consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half.  Yet that did not provide enough space for all of the content that T. Powell and Company received in the printing office, prompting the printers to produce a four-page supplement to distribute on the same day.  Many printers regularly resorted to supplements, but they usually devoted a half sheet, only two pages, to the venture, rather than doubling the amount of content with a second broadsheet.  Even then, Powell and Company were not finished printing the news that week.  Two days later, the printers issued a Postscript to the South-Carolina Gazette, a two-page supplement.  Rather than four pages, subscribers received ten pages of news and other content that week.

Advertising accounted for a significant portion of that content, so much that the newspaper might better have been entitle the South-Carolina Gazette and Advertiser.  Other colonial newspapers did include “Advertiser” in their extended titles, including the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, the Massachusetts Gazette and the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser, the New-York Journal, or the General Advertiser, and the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser.  The standard issue for the South-Carolina Gazette featured “New Advertisements” on the first page.  That header reappeared on both the second page, also filled with paid notices, and the third page, which contained a single column of news.  The fourth page consisted entirely of advertising.  Overall, advertisements filled eleven of the twelve columns in the August 23 standard issue.

The supplement distributed that day did not use the “New Advertisements” header, but it still ran many advertisements.  Paid notices filled the first two columns on the first page, leaving the third column for news.  The second page included more news, a column and a half, as well as more advertisements.  Advertising filled the third and fourth pages.  That brought the running total to two and half columns of news and twenty-one and a half columns of advertising between the standard issue and the supplement.  Only one-tenth of the space delivered news selected by the editor, though the advertisements, including legal notices and descriptions of enslaved people who liberated themselves, featured news in another format.

The Postscript to the South-Carolina Gazette commenced with a column of “New Advertisements” under the familiar header, though the printers placed a letter to the editor and other news in the two remaining columns on the front page.  News, including “Timothy’s Marine List” of ships recently arrived in port, filled most of the three columns on the reverse, with only two short advertisements completing the final column.  Those news items included an unhappy letter to the editor from Philo-Patriæ that quoted in its entirety an advertisement about a proposed theater that ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette within the past week.  Just as advertising often delivered news, the news sometimes incorporated advertisements.

All of this advertising meant revenues for Powell and Company at the printing office near the Exchange.  Advertisements placed to promote consumer goods and services as well as for a variety of other purposes underwrote the production and dissemination of the news.  There hardly could have been a case that made the point more visibly than the South-Carolina Gazette, its Supplement, and its Postscript published during the week of August 25, 1773.

August 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette (August 9, 1773).

“Lands, Houses, and Negroes, Bought and sold at private Sale, upon the usual Commissions.”

Jacob Valk opened a brokerage office in Charleston in the early 1770s.  For months in 1773, he ran an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to alert “the PUBLIC in general, and his Friends in particular” about the various services he provided.  He presented five primary categories of tasks undertaken in his office:  “Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated,” “Sets of Books opened properly, for Persons newly commencing any Kind of Business and superintended with the utmost Care,” “Persons desirous of settling their yearly Business expeditiously, by sending their Books to him may have it done,” “Money borrowed and lent at Interest,” and “Lands, Houses, and Negroes, Bought and sold at private Sale, upon the usual Commissions.”  Among the various jobs that he did on behalf of colonizers who employed him, Valk facilitated buying and selling enslaved men, women, and children.

To that end, he also placed advertisements on behalf of his clients.  In the August 9, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, one of those advertisements ran immediately below his weekly notice about his various services.  On behalf of his clients, the broker described “Four valuable and seasoned Negroes” available “by private Contract” rather than auction.  Two young men were “fit for the Field,” but another young man as well as a woman possessed skills for contributing to a household.  The “young FELLOW” had experience as a “complete Waiting-Man” who had also seen to the “Care and Management of Horses, and can drive a Carriage.”  The woman was a “complete” housekeeper, “who is also a good ordinary Cook.”  Valk concluded with instructions that prospective buyers should contact him for more information about the enslaved men and woman and the “Terms of Sale.”

In another advertisement in the same issue, the broker described a house and lot for sale.  Valk’s newspaper advertisements outlining his services likely helped generate business in his brokerage office.  In turn, he placed additional notices that increased his visibility and, when successful, augmented his reputation among his clients and the general public.  Those advertisement also demonstrated that the broker actively worked on behalf of his clients, confirming for prospective customers that they might do better by entrusting sales to him “upon the usual Commissions” rather than invest their own time and effort.  In addition, those additional advertisements testified to the fact that others did indeed employ Valk, perhaps elevating the confidence that prospective clients had in his abilities.

June 14

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (June 14, 1773).

“A Variety of Cabinet-Work … of the newest Fashion and neatest Construction, such as were never offered for Sale in this Province before.”

Richard Magrath’s upcoming furniture sale was going to be an event, at least according to the advertisement that appeared in the supplement that accompanied the June 14, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  The venue, “Mr. PIKE’s LONG ROOM,” where the dancing master gave lessons and hosted balls, set the tone for the sale of a “Variety of Cabinet-Work” that included “SOPHAS, French Chairs, Conversation Stools, and Easy-Chairs, of the newest Fashion and neatest Construction.”

Magrath aimed to generate excitement and interest by creating a buzz about the sale.  He proclaimed that “the Gentry may be assured, that it will be the greatest Sale of neat Cabinet-Work ever known in this Place,” a spectacle not to be missed because furniture of such elegance and quality had “never [been] offered for Sale in this Province before.”  Magrath included an eighteenth-century version of humblebragging to entice prospective customers to attend the sale.  “The Subscriber omits giving any further Encomiums on the Construction and Neatness of the different Articles,” he proclaimed, “as he doubts not of meeting with general Approbation, from the great Encouragement and repeated Favours he has already received from most of the First Families in the Province.”  In other words, Magrath declared that he had already earned a reputation among “the Gentry” for providing them with furniture of the highest quality and the most current tastes.  He also suggested that prospective customers could enhance their status by acquiring furniture at his sale, thus joining the “First Families” or most genteel and elite colonizers in South Carolina.

Magrath also laid the groundwork for future sales, confiding that he “intends to have a Sale of neat Cabinent-Work annually.”  He demanded that readers to take note, pledging that he “will always be supplied with the newest Fashions in this Branch” as a result of “his Connection in London,” the most cosmopolitan city in the empire.  For the moment, prospective buyers could examine the items offered at the upcoming sale during viewings at Magrath’s house, selecting which they hoped to purchase at the auction in Pike’s Long Room.  Through both advertisements and viewings, Magrath wanted to generate excitement about his elegant furniture, hoping that the excitement would compound itself before and during the sale.

February 7

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

South-Carolina Gazette (February 4, 1773).

“As complete Assortment as any ever imported into this Province.”

Consumers would not find a larger selection of merchandise anywhere else in the colony.  That was the promise made by Edwards, Fisher, and Company in an advertisement in the February 4, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  The partners reported that they “just imported” a variety of wares in the Fair American from Liverpool as well as “the late Vessels from LONDON,” achieving “as complete [an] Assortment as any ever imported into this Province.”  To demonstrate the point, Edwards, Fisher, and Company deployed dual deadlines, each in larger font than the rest of the advertisement, declaring that they stocked “A VERY LARGE AND COMPLETE ASSORTMENT of GOODS, Suitable for the present Season” and “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF Ironmongery, Cutlery, Tin-Ware, &c.”  That abbreviation for et cetera alerted readers to even more items.

Lists of goods, short catalogs, followed each of the headlines.  Among the merchandise “Suitable for the present Season,” the merchants carried a “large Quantity of Ladies Calamanco Shoes and Pumps,” “Fashionable Beaver Hatts,” “Mens, Womens, Boys, and Girls Worsted Hose,” “Fashionable Broad Cloths,” a “large Quantity of exceeding good white Plains,” and a variety of other textiles in many different colors and patterns.  Their selection of ironmongery, cutlery, and housewares included everything from “Very neat Parrot Cages” to “Complete Setts of Table China” to “long and short Pipes.”  In some instances, the merchants referred to the packaging materials to suggest the volume of dishes and other ceramics they imported, such as “Crates of yellow Ware” and “Hogsheads [or large barrels] of assorted Delf Ware.”  They offered a tantalizing description of a “large Quantity of Queens Ware,” proclaiming that it included “one Sett of Desert, exceeding elegant, and is the First of the Kind ever imported into this Province.”  Their merchandise was not merely more of the same kinds of items that shoppers could find in other stores and warehouses in Charleston.

Edwards, Fisher, and Company did not publish the longest advertisement for imported consumer goods in that edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  Others, including John Wilson and a merchant who went by Wakefield, inserted announcements as long or longer.  Wakefield divided his notice into even more categories, while Wilson listed hundreds of items available at his store.  Yet Edwards, Fisher, and Company made a bid for offering the largest selection in their efforts to draw prospective customers to their shop to browse and buy.

January 10

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

South-Carolina Gazette (January 7, 1773).

A great Number of NEW ADVERTISEMENTS … shall be inserted in a Paper that will be published early on MONDAY next.”

The South-Carolina Gazette might better have been named the South-Carolina Gazette and Advertiser.  That was especially true for the January 7, 1773, edition of the newspaper since advertising constituted the vast majority of the content.  The printers, Thomas Powell and Company, distributed a standard four-page edition and a two-page supplement.  Advertising comprised fifteen of the eighteen columns.

Except for the masthead, the front page consisted entirely of advertising.  A banner that announced “New Advertisements” appeared at the top of the first column.  Similarly, the second page consisted entirely of advertising with a banner for “New Advertisements” once again running at the top of the first column.  Readers encountered the first news items on the third page.  The first column carried local news from Charleston.  Near the bottom, “Timothy’s Marine List,” a feature that retained the name of the former printer, provided news from the customs house about the arrival and departure of ships in the busy port.  It overflowed into the second column, filling most of it.  Another banner for “New Advertisements” described the rest of the page.  The final page did not feature any news items, only advertisements.

In the supplement, the first page column of the first page contained “NEWS from the Continent of Germany” and a short essay denigrating the “CHARACTERS of some of the crowned Heads od EUROPE.”  The second and third columns as well as all three columns on the second page featured advertisements exclusively.  That does not mean, however, that those portions of the newspaper did not deliver important information to readers.  Some of those advertisements included a proclamation from the governor concerning the “Boundary Line” with North Carolina and legal notices about court proceedings.

In addition to all that advertising, a note that ran at the end of news from Charleston and just above “Timothy’s Marine List” indicated that Powell and Company did not have sufficient space to publish all of the advertisements received in the printing office.  “A great Number of NEW ADVERTISEMENTS,” the note stated, “now left out for Want of Room, shall be inserted in a Paper that will be published early on MONDAY next.”  In addition, “Advertisements sent before that Time, shall (if desired) make their Appearance in it.”  Four days later, Powell and Company published a two-page Postscript to the South-Carolina Gazette on January 11.  It devoted more space to news than the previous issue and its supplement combined!  Advertising filled only two and a half of the six columns, though “New Advertisements” accounted for the first column on the first page.  The banner for “New Advertisements” once again appeared halfway down the second column on the second page.

The South-Carolina Gazette was certainly a delivery mechanism for advertising, sometimes more than a delivery mechanism for news.  That meant that readers gleaned information via a variety of formats, not just articles that reported on recent events.  It also meant significant revenues for the printers, underwriting the dissemination of news articles when Powell and Company made space for them.

December 31

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

South-Carolina Gazette (December 31, 1772).

“Mr. SAUNDERS has been honoured with the greatest Applause,, by all the Nobility that have seen his Great Performances.”

Newspaper advertisements allow for tracing the travels of itinerant performers who entertained colonizers as they moved from town to town in the eighteenth century.  Those same advertisements also provide a glimpse of some of the popular culture options available audiences in early America.  Just in time for the new year, the “New Advertisements” in the December 31, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette included a notice that “THE CELEBRATED Mr. SAUNDERS Will exhibit his DEXTERITY and GRAND DECEPTION.”

Hyman Saunders, an illusionist, already established a reputation for his “Variety of new, astonishing, and entertaining Performances, by Dexterity of Hand, surpassing every Thing of the Kind that has hitherto been seen, or attempted, on this Side [of] the Atlantic” in New York and Pennsylvania.  Since arriving in the colonies from Europe just over two years earlier, he had moved back and forth between New York and Philadelphia, placing advertisements in the New-York Journal, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and the Pennsylvania Journal.

To incite interest in his performances, Saunders suggested that colonizers would gain access and enjoy the same entertainments as the better sorts on both sides of the Atlantic.  He trumpeted that he “has been honoured with the greatest Applause, by all the Nobility that have seen his Great Performances in Europe, America, and the West-Indies.”  The illusionist made sure to list prominent colonial officials who had seen his performances, including the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  Audiences who came to his show in “STOTHERD’s Long Room” in Charleston or hired him for “private Performances at their own Houses” would join the ranks of “the Nobility and Gentry in Great-Britain, Ireland, and America, and in particular in the capital Cities.”  Residents of Charleston, one of the largest urban ports in the colonies, wanted their town to rank among those “capital Cities.”  Saunders offered them an opportunity to partake in the same entertainments previously enjoyed by their counterparts in other “capital Cities” in the colonies and throughout the British Empire.

Like other itinerant performers, Saunders resorted to newspaper advertisements to announce his arrival in hopes of inciting interest in his performances.  He gave a preview of the wonders that audiences would witness, noting that he earned “the greatest Applause” from audiences that included “the Nobility and Gentry … in capital Cities.”  Upon purchasing tickets “at ONE DOLLAR each,” colonizers from various backgrounds could experience the same entertainments, but the better sort concerned about the prospects of rubbing elbows with the masses could also schedule private performances that enhanced their own status and Saunders’s acclaim as well.

October 8

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

South-Carolina Gazette (October 8, 1772).

“Dancing & Fencing.”

“THE Sign of the Golden Cup.”

Mr. Pike, a dancing master, and Thomas You, a silversmith, both used graphic design to draw attention to their advertisements in the October 8, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, yet they adopted different strategies.  Their notices further enlivened the vibrant graphic design that distinguished notices in that newspaper from those that ran in other newspapers.  The compositor for the South-Carolina Gazette made liberal use of varying font sizes, gothic letters for headlines, italics, capitals, and centering compared to advertisements.

That being the case, the compositor may have played a role in how the dancing master used decorative type and gothic letters to enhance his advertisement.  The headline “Dancing & Fencing” in gothic letters appeared inside a border composed of printing ornaments above a secondary headline spread over three lines: “PIKE’s ACADEMY / for / DANCING and FENCING.”  Compare that to a similar advertisement that Pike ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  It featured only one headline, “DANCING and FENCING,” that did not appear in a different font than the rest of the advertisement.  Rather than constituting a second headline, “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” was part of the first paragraph of the advertisement.  An enterprising compositor at the South-Carolina Gazette likely played a significant role in designing Pike’s advertisement, perhaps assuming full responsibility without consulting the advertiser.

On the other hand, You almost certainly submitted instructions to include a woodcut depicting a golden cup in his advertisement for the merchandise he sold at the “Sign of the Golden Cup.”  You commissioned that image for his exclusive use, previously inserting it in advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette in December 1770 and March 1771.  Prior to that, he used a different woodcut in his advertisements in December 1766 and July 1767.  He seemed to appreciate that images helped draw attention to his notices.  How to incorporate an image, however, he may have left to the discretion of the compositor.  In 1772, his woodcut of a golden cup appeared in the center, flanked by his name and location.  In earlier advertisements, it was positioned to the left, replicating the placement of woodcuts depicting ships that adorned other notices.

The advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette testify to both the role of the compositor in designing newspaper notices and occasional collaboration or consultation involving both the compositor and the advertiser.  Rather than dense text, variations abounded in the advertisements in that newspaper, making the South-Carolina Gazette one of the most visually interesting publications in the early 1770s.

September 6

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

South-Carolina Gazette (September 3, 1772).

“KEYSER’s, Lockyer’s, Hooper’s, and Anderson’s PILLS … all warranted GENUINE, from their original Warehouses.”

Of the several entrepreneurs who advertised “DRUGS & MEDICINES” for sale at their shops in Charleston in September 1772, Edward Gunter provided the most complete catalog of his “large and complete ASSORTMENT.”  He listed several patent medicines “all warranted GENUINE, from their original Warehouses” as well as “Double distilled Rose, Lavender, Honey, and Hungary Waters” and “Cinamon, Citron, and Orange Cordial Waters.”  He also carried an array of supplies and equipment, including “labelled Ointment Pots,” “Glass, Marble, and Bell-Metal Mortars and Pestles,” “best London and common Lancets,” and “Pewter Glyster and Ivory Syringes.”

Gunter commenced his list with “KEYSER’s, Lockyer’s, Hooper’s, and Anderson’s PILLS,” leading with a cure for venereal disease that had recently been at the center of a public dispute between the printers of the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Throughout the month of July, Charles Crouch and Powell, Hughes, and Company engaged in a feud that started over how best to market “Dr. KEYSER’S famous PILLS” and eventually descended into insinuations that the other printer sold counterfeit medicines.  Following the death of Edward Hughes at the end of July, Thomas Powell and Company asserted that they “received a Quantity of Dr. KEYSER’S GENUINE PILLS, from Mr. James Rivington, Bookseller, in New-York, who is the ONLY Person that is appointed (by the Proprietor) for vending them in America.”

Gunter did not address that altercation directly when he ran advertisements in both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in September.  Apothecaries and others who sold patent medicines often stated that they obtained their wares “from their original Warehouses,” as Gunter did in his advertisement, but in this instance the advertiser may have intended for that message to resonate with both readers and the printers who published his notice.  Given that Gunter specialized in “DRUGS & MEDICINES” of all sorts, compared to local printers who sold only a few kinds of patent medicines to supplement other revenue streams, he likely did not consider it necessary to make more pointed comments about the authenticity of Keyser’s Pills he imported.  Instead, he allowed his reputation and experience running an apothecary shop justify why prospective customers should acquire that particular remedy from him rather than either of the squabbling printers.