July 19

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

Jul 19 - 7:19:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 19, 1768).

“The BARBER’s BUSINESS is carried on as usual.”

Elizabeth Butler’s advertisement in the July 19, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal demonstrates that women pursued a wide range of occupations in colonial America. Divided into two parts, Butler’s advertisement promoted two different services she provided. In the first portion, she announced that she had “good Accommodations for Boarders” who could “depend on being faithfully served, and meeting with the genteelest Treatment.” Women throughout the colonies provided such services. In that regard, Butler did not describe anything out of the ordinary. In the second portion of her advertisement, however, Butler indicated that she practiced an occupation usually reserved for men: shaving and trimming beards as well as cutting and dressing hair. “The BARBER’s BUSINESS is carried on as usual,” Butler informed prospective clients, apparently reminding many readers of the services that she apparently had already provided for some time.

When women placed newspaper advertisements for the services they provided they also indicated what was probable and what was possible for members of their sex in the marketplace. Most advertisements fell in the category of what was probable, such as those placed by milliners, schoolmistresses, and women who took in boarders. A significantly smaller number of advertisements, on the other hand, belonged to the category of what was possible. Women sometimes practiced trades considered the domain of men, such as barbering. Butler’s advertisement testifies to the flexibility sometimes exhibited in the gendering of occupations in colonial America. While women did not enter most trades in large numbers, a few did manage to carve out space for themselves without being too disruptive of social norms. They did so by remaining exceptions to expectations rather than seeking to transform generally accepted ideas about who should work in particular occupations. That Butler simultaneously pursued an occupation considered appropriate for women – operating a boardinghouse – may have reassured residents of Charleston that she sought only to stretch rather than shatter the gendered boundaries associated with barbering.

July 12

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

Jul 12 - 7:12:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 12, 1768).

“At WEYMAN’s Looking-Glass Shop.”

Edward Weyman’s advertisements for his “Looking-Glass Shop in Church-street” in Charleston were easily recognizable when they appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. In addition to using to his surname as a headline, Weyman included an image of a looking glass mounted in an elaborately carved frame. While Weyman’s woodcut certainly was not a sophisticated engraving, the processes of remediating the image over the years – photography and digitization – likely make it appear more crude than it looked to colonists who read the newspaper when it was first published or even to modern researchers who consult original copies in libraries and archives rather than the digital surrogates more widely accessible in the twenty-first century. This process is compounded when printing images from the digital ones, a process that tends to create even darker and denser images. In other words, Weyman’s woodcut may look like a dark mass to modern eyes, but that is contingent in part on the format in which it is presented for our consumption. Eighteenth-century viewers would have seen a crisper image. They would have more easily noticed the lines and details that do not translate well via subsequent remediation. It remains important not to overstate the quality of this and other woodcuts, but at the same time we should avoid denigrating them as excessively crude unnecessarily.

Besides, Weyman’s woodcut served its purpose. Other than the masthead, only three images appeared in the July 12, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Two of them were stock images that belonged to the printer: a woodcut of a house that accompanied a real estate advertisement and a woodcut of a slave that accompanied a fugitive advertisement. Weyman’s woodcut of a looking glass was the only one commissioned by the advertiser, the only one used exclusively by a particular advertiser rather than interchangeably in advertisements of the corresponding genre. Weyman advertised frequently, making his woodcut a familiar image to regular readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. In effect, it created a logo or a brand that readers could immediately identify. Its mere repetition over weeks and months, especially as an especially distinctive visual element, likely secured a place for Weyman in the minds of readers. Even if they did not need or want looking glasses when they glimpsed his advertisements, they were likely to remember his workshop when they were in the market to make such purchases.

July 5

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

Jul 5 - 7:5:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 5, 1768).

“EDWARD JOYCE’s famous Great American BALSAM.”

Like many other colonial American printers, Charles Crouch sold patent medicines to supplement his income from newspaper publishing and job printing. The featured advertisement from just a few days ago, for instance, listed a variety of popular patent medicines – Anderson’s Pills, Bateman’s Drops, Godfrey’s Cordial, among them – that Timothy Green, printer of the New-London Gazette, sold. Given that each of these remedies represented a brand familiar to colonists, Green devoted little space to describing their use or the symptoms they cured. Crouch, on the other hand, stocked a patent medicine that was not nearly as well known among his prospective customers: “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous Great American BALSAM.” Placing it in the hands of readers required more promotion than usually accompanied the most established patent medicines.

Crouch first acknowledged the origins of Joyce’s Balsam, but stressed that should not cause concern. Even though it was “made in Long-Island” and shipped from New York, this remedy was “superior by Trial, for its Use and Efficacy, to any imported from Europe.” Wary readers did not have to trust solely in Crouch’s word on that count. He concluded his advertisement by stating that Joyce’s Balsam had “cured a Number of People in New-York, whose Names are affixed to the Directions.” Skeptics could examine that evidence for themselves. Furthermore, Crouch reported that a bottle had been “brougth into this Province the latter End of last Winter” and “it cured several Persons of violent Coughs, &c. which were of a long standing.” The printer suggested that potential customers could receive local confirmation of the claims transmitted from afar.

Colonists already knew the uses for patent medicines imported from England, which ones supposedly alleviated which symptoms. Since Joyce’s Balsam was much less familiar, Crouch needed to educate readers about which maladies it relieved. To that end, he devoted the vast majority of the advertisement to describing how to take Joyce’s Balsam for colds, swelling, wounds, sprains, and an assortment of other concerns. According to Crouch’s account, Joyce’s Balsam was a cure-all that could replace any variety of imported patent medicines, though he did offer a warning that it had its limits: “I don’t say that it is an infallible cure.”

Given the number of apothecaries, shopkeepers, and printers who regularly advertised patent medicines, a market for familiar imported brands already existed. Crouch, however, wanted to create a local market for a remedy produced in the American colonies. That required more extensive copy than usually accompanied the most popular patent medicines. This included not only reviewing the uses of Joyce’s Balsam but also asserting its effectiveness as a legitimate competitor “to any imported from Europe.”

June 28

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

Jun 28 - 6:28:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 28, 1768).

“TO BE SOLD, EXCEEDING good Rhenish WINE, in BOTTLES.”

The proportion of news to advertising varied among eighteenth-century newspapers. Some carried relatively few advertisements, but others, especially those published in the largest port cities, often devoted significant portions of each issue to advertising. Many of those seemed to strike a balance between the two types of content, designating two of the four pages of a standard issue to each. Some, however, received so much advertising that they regularly issued two-page supplements comprised solely of advertising. Such was the case for the Pennsylvania Gazette in the late 1760s. In such instances, advertising accounted for two-thirds of the content delivered to readers, which helps to explain why many printers considered advertisements rather than subscriptions better for generating revenues. Some printers acknowledged this by including “Advertiser” in the title of the newspaper. The masthead of the Boston Post-Boy, for instance, read “The Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser.”

Charles Crouch’s South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal ran more advertising than most other American newspapers in the late 1760s. Indeed, advertising sometimes seemed to crowd out other content, especially news. For instance, consider the four-page standard issue and the two-page supplement distributed on June 28, 1768. Not surprisingly, the supplement consisted entirely of advertisements, except for the masthead. With twelve woodcuts of horses, houses, slaves, and even a mirror on a stand for “WEYMAN’s Looking-Glass Shop” distributed across two pages, this advertising supplement featured far more images to break up the otherwise dense text than appeared in the vast majority of newspaper during the period.

Advertising also comprised most of the standard issue. Except for a proclamation by the lieutenant governor that filled one-third of a column on the third page, the final two pages consisted entirely of advertising. Advertisements filled the entire first column on the first page. In other words, seven of twelve columns in the regular issue (in addition to all six columns in the supplement) delivered advertising to readers. The remainder of the issue was rather short on news. After eliminating poetry and amusing anecdotes, just a little more than two columns featured news and editorials, including “DEFENCE of the AMERICANS,” reprinted “From the Gentleman’s Magazine, for January 1768.”

In this case, Crouch’s publication operated as an advertiser rather than as a newspaper. While it is extremely difficult to determine what readers thought about the advertisements delivered to them in newspapers of all sorts, this balance of news and advertising suggests that at least some readers expected and desired to read advertisements. Perhaps more significantly, the collective decision of advertisers to continue placing notices in publications that provided as much (if not more) advertising as news suggests that advertisers felt confident that readers would indeed peruse their notices. Although they did not engage in market research as we understand it today, anecdotal evidence likely suggested that newspaper advertising achieved some positive return on their investment.

June 21

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

Jun 21 - 6:21:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 21, 1768).

Just published in Pamphlets, and to be sold by CHARLES CROUCH.”

In an advertisement that appeared in the June 14, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Charles Crouch announced an auction of “A COLLECTION of LAW BOOKS” scheduled to occur in just over a week. He offered a brief description of the books, arguing that they were “valuable” and “rarely to be found.” He also pledged to insert a catalog in the next issue of the newspaper, a promise that he fulfilled in the June 21 edition. The catalog provided an additional description of the books up for bid: “the best Editions, well bound, and in good Condition.”

As the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Crouch exercised considerable discretion when it came to the placement of his advertisements in that publication. The original announcement about the auction appeared first among the paid notices, immediately under a header that marked “New Advertisements.” The catalog occupied an even more privileged place in the next edition. Except for the masthead, it was the first item on the first page. The catalog comprised more than half the page, filling the entire first column as well as more than two-thirds of the second. Other advertisements for Crouch’s interests also appeared on the front page, including one seeking a tenant for “THE front STORE and CELLAR, in the House I now live in.” In another short notice, he announced that he sold “THE FARMER’s LETTERS to the Inhabitants of the BRITISH COLONIES,” a pamphlet that collected and reprinted John Dickinson’s series of essays that appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies. In yet another advertisement, Crouch alerted readers that he had just received a shipment of “EDWARD JOYCE’s famous Great American BALSAM,” a patent medicine made in New York. A lengthy description of the remedy and its uses extended nearly half a column. Finally, Crouch inserted a short advertisement for printed blanks and stationery, the last item on the first page.

Advertising accounted for three of the four pages of the June 21, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Paid notices generated significant revenue for Crouch, making it possible to distribute the newspaper as well as give over space to his own advertisements. It hardly seems a coincidence that so many of his advertisements were clustered on the first page of the June 21 issue. As the proprietor of the newspaper, he likely instructed the compositor to give his advertisements prominence of place, thereby increasing the number of readers likely to examine them.

Jun 21 - 6:21:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 1
Charles Crouch placed five of his own advertisements on the front page of the newspaper he published. (South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, June 21, 1768).

June 15

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

Jun 15 - 6:14:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 14, 1768).

“ALL Person who are anywise indebted to the Estate of JOHN DUTARQUE, deceased, are desired to make payment.”

The “missing” Georgia Gazette from June 15, 1768, presents an opportunity to discuss methodology. Each day the Adverts 250 Project republishes an advertisement originally published in an American newspaper exactly 250 years ago that day, along with a short essay that provides historical context and analysis of the contents of the advertisement. These advertisements are drawn from databases of eighteenth-century newspapers that have been digitized: the Virginia Gazette from Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, newspapers published in Charleston from Accessible Archives’s South Carolina Newspapers, and an extensive array of newspapers from throughout the colonies from Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers.

If no newspaper was published on a particular day (or if no newspaper published on a particular day has been digitized as part of one of those databases), the Adverts 250 Project instead features an advertisement printed sometime during the previous week. Although colonial printers clustered newspaper publications on Mondays and Thursdays in the late 1760s, at least one newspaper was published somewhere in the colonies on every day of the week except Sundays. This means that usually there is only one day of the week that the Adverts 250 Project needs to feature an advertisement not published exactly 250 years to the day.

The clustering of publications on Mondays and Thursdays means that some days offer many more choices for both newspapers and advertisements. During most weeks, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal was the only [extant and digitized] newspaper printed on Tuesdays, the Georgia Gazette was the only newspaper printed on Wednesdays, and the Providence Gazette was the only newspaper printed on Saturdays. As a result, the Adverts 250 Project features an advertisement from each of these publications once a week. During the rest of the week the project draws from among more than a dozen other newspapers, attempting an informal rotation to feature as many as possible.

This methodology causes some newspapers to be featured much more often than others. Even though it carried relatively little advertising compared to some of its counterparts published in the largest port cities, the Georgia Gazette contributes an advertisement to the Adverts 250 Project once a week because it was only newspaper published in the colonies on Wednesdays in the late 1760s. (Dates that fell on Wednesdays in 1768 fall on Fridays in 2018.)

Jun 15 - Georgia Gazette Calendar
This calendar indicates which issues of the Georgia Gazette from 1768 have been digitized for Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers database.

Today’s advertisement should have come from the Georgia Gazette, but the issue for June 15, 1768, is “missing.” Note the availability of other issues summarized in the calendar provided via Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers. On closer investigation of some of those other issues it turns out that the June 15 edition is not missing after all. The June 8 edition is numbered 246. June 22 is numbered 247. June 29 is numbered 248, indicating that the June 22 edition is indeed numbered correctly and not the result of the printer or compositor neglecting to advance the number if there had been a June 15 edition (that would have been 247). For whatever reason, printer James Johnston did not issue the Georgia Gazette on June 15, 1768. Despite the noticeable gap in the calendar depicting publication in 1768, complete runs of the Georgia Gazette for that year have been preserved in archives and reproduced via America’s Historical Newspapers.

Rather than examine an advertisement published sometime during the previous week, the not-missing-after-all issue of the Georgia Gazette presents an opportunity to discuss the Advert 250 Project’s methodology in greater detail as well as describe the schedule of publication throughout the colonies in the late 1760s. This should give readers a better sense of why advertisements from some newspapers appear so frequently and advertisements from other newspapers are featured much less often.

June 14

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

Jun 14 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 14, 1768).

A Catalogue of which will be in our next.”

In advance of an auction of “A COLLECTION of LAW BOOKS” to be held on June 22, 1768, Charles Crouch placed an advertisement in the June 14 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He attempted to incite enthusiasm by informing potential bidders that the collection included several “valuable Articles; many of which, are now rarely to be found.” Anyone potentially interested would not want to miss this sale since auctions often yielded bargain prices, even for rare items that might otherwise cost significantly more when they exchanged hands through other sorts of transactions.

Crouch did not expect prospective buyers simply to trust his assertions about the value and rarity of the books up for auction in just over a week. Instead, he advised them that “A Catalogue … will be in our next” edition, a promise that Crouch could confidently make since he was the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Publishing a catalog, whether in a newspaper or as a separate pamphlet or broadside, provided a preview of the auction. It allowed interested parties to contemplate the merchandise in advance; as they anticipated the auction they likely imagined themselves bidding and acquiring some of the items, perhaps increasing the chances they would do so once they found themselves at the auction.

Yet Crouch did not yet direct readers to such visualizations: the list of rare and valuable books would not appear in the newspaper until the following week. He mentioned the catalog, however, as an invitation to potential bidders to peruse the next issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, perhaps assuming that their eagerness would make them more inclined to select items that they did indeed wish to buy at the auction. Alternately, he ran the risk that the catalog would merely disappoint some readers if its contents did not include books they considered interesting or particularly valuable or rare. Crouch gambled that mentioning the catalog in advance would make readers more disposed to examining it and attending the auction.