December 1

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 1, 1772).

“PIKE’s ANNUAL BALL.”

The December 1, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal carried an advertisement that proclaimed “BALL” in a larger font than anything else in the entire issue.  That headline drew attention to an announcement that “PIKE’s ANNUAL BALL, for the young LADIES and GENTLEMEN, under his Tuition, will be on Tuesday the Eighth of December.”  The event would begin “exactly at SIX o’CLOCK.”  Presumably members of the community other than the dancing master’s students were welcome to attend the ball to observe the skills that Pike taught in what he had promoted as a “NEW SUIT of ROOMS” in another advertisement that he published in September.

Pike concluded that advertisement with a message to the “Parents and Guardians of his Scholars, that his BALL will be on Tuesday the 8th of December next.”  He underscored that they needed to sign up for classes “as soon as possible, that they may be enabled to complete his Figures in a proper Manner” when they were on display at the ball.  The dancing master aimed to excite some anxiety about public scrutiny, knowing that colonizers carefully observed each other to assess whether their appearance and comportment revealed authentic grace and gentility …or whether they merely put on an act and went through the motions.  Effortless dancing, many believed, revealed virtue, while stumbling around the dance floor and awkwardly interacting with partners and other dancers suggested character flaws.

As a result, colonizers who wished to demonstrate that they truly belonged among the ranks of the genteel relied on the services of various instructors, including tutors who taught them how to speak French, tutors who taught them how to play musical instruments, and dancing and fencing masters, like Pike, who taught them how to move gracefully and how to engage in polite exchanges at social gatherings.  In cautioning the parents and guardians of his prospective pupils that “his SCHOLARS” would be on display at his annual ball in December, Pike reminded them that they needed his services just as much as he needed their patronage if they wished to safeguard their social standing.

November 17

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 17, 1772).

“A large and valuable Assortment of Goods.”

Samuel Gordon promoted the “large and valuable Assortment of Goods” he sold at the “IRISH LINEN WARE-HOUSE” in an advertisement in the November 17, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Contrary to the name of his store, Gordon’s inventory extended far beyond textiles.  To aid prospective customers in perusing his notice, he identified more than two dozen categories of merchandise, including “MILLINARY,” “SHOES,” “HOSIERY,” “CHINA,” “GLASS,” “LOOKING-GLASSES,” “STATIONARY,” and “PEWTER.”  Each of those categories appeared in capitals, indented to form a new paragraph, and followed by a short description or list of goods.  The format likely made Gordon’s advertisement easier for readers to navigate than others that featured dense blocks of text.  Alexander Gillon’s advertisement, for instance, occupied a similar amount of space and included a similar number of items, but nothing about the format differentiated any of the goods from others.

In contrast, Gordon deployed short passages that invited prospective customers to engage with the various kinds of merchandise he stocked.  For “HATS,” he had a “choice of mens fine fashionable hats, felt ditto, ladies riding ditto.”  He did not go into greater detail, but instead encouraged readers to imagine the choices and then visit his store to see for themselves.  The “STATIONARY” items included a “great choice of pocket-books, quills, wax, wafer, paper of different qualities, and a complete set of large books, viz. ledger, journal, and waste-book.”  Gordon composed a longer blurb for “CUTLERY,” mentioning a “great choice of knives and forks, ditto in cases, razors, ditto in cases, … carving-knives, pen-knives,” and related items.  He repeatedly used the word “choice” to signal to prospective customers that they ultimately made decisions according to their own taste and budget rather than settling for whatever happened to be on the shelves.  Similarly, he used variations that included “large assortment,” “different sorts,” “large quantity,” and “variety.”  Many blurbs concluded with “&c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera), suggesting that far more choices awaited those who entered Gordon’s store.

Gordon did not rely on choice alone in marketing his wares.  He also offered a discount to “Merchants who may want any of the above articles.”  He extended credit, while promising a “discount of Ten per cent” to merchants who paid their accounts in January.  Gordon likely intended that the carefully formatted list of wares would spark interest and then the discount in the nota bene would seem like too good of a bargain for merchants to ignore.  The design of the advertisement suggests that Gordon carefully considered his marketing strategy rather than simply publishing an announcement that he had imported goods for sale.

November 3

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 3, 1772).

“A compleat ASSORTMENT of fashionable GOODS.”

Below the masthead, the entire front page of the November 3, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal consisted entirely of advertisements.  The one placed by William Stukes dominated the page, due in large part to its size and unusual format.  That newspaper ran three columns per page.  Stukes’s advertisement extended across two columns.  This was not a case of a lengthy advertisement that overflowed from one column into another.  Instead, it had been designed to take up space in more than one column.  The notice ran at the top of the first two columns, making it the first item in that issue.  That enhanced its visibility, though readers could hardly have missed an advertisement that occupied about half the space on the page.

The notice opened with a standard headline and introduction, similar to those in other advertisements for consumer goods.  The advertiser’s name in capital letters, “WILLIAM STUKES,” served as the headline.  The introduction stated that he “ACQUAINTS hid Customers and Friends, that he has removed into Broad-Street … and is now opening a complete ASSORTMENT of fashionable GOODS, imported in the last Ships from LONDON.”  In addition, Stukes declared that he would sell his wares “on the most reasonable Terms, at the usual CREDIT, and extraordinary cheap for CASH.”  He used formulaic language even as the format differentiated his advertisement from others on the same page and throughout the rest of the issue.

While the headline and introduction ran across two columns, Stukes’s extensive list of merchandise ran in three narrow columns.  Other advertisers grouped goods together in dense paragraphs.  Stukes made it easier for prospective customers to skim his advertisement and spot items of interest by giving each item its own line.  That resulted in significantly more white space within his advertisement than in the news and other paid notices.  For instance, “Silk gauze handkerchiefs” appeared on their own line without other items crowding them.  That even allowed space for readers to make notations, if they wished.

Stukes deployed popular marketing strategies and incorporated formulaic language into his advertisement, depending on its size and unique format to draw attention to the low prices and range of choices he offered to consumers.  Even though this newspaper notice consisted entirely of text, Stukes effectively used graphic design to distinguish it from advertisements placed by his competitors.

October 13

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 13, 1772).

“He continues to carry on the PAINTING and GLAZING BUSINESS.”

Colonial printers often resorted to publishing advertising supplements to accompany their weekly newspapers that featured both news and paid notices.  This was especially true for newspapers in the largest port cities, Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.  Each standard issue consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  When printers had sufficient additional content to justify the resources required to produce additional pages, they printed two- or four-page supplements.  Although news sometimes appeared in those supplements, additions, and extraordinary editions, they most often consisted of advertising.

That was not the case for the October 13, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and the Addition that Charles Crouch distributed on the same day.  The bulk of the news appeared in the two-page Addition after Crouch devoted ten and a half of the twelve columns in the standard issue to paid notices, including more than a dozen that offered enslaved people for sale or offered rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from those who held them in bondage.  Paid notices filled the entire first page below the masthead.  They also filled the entire third and fourth pages.  A short note, “For more London News, see the Addition,” appeared at the bottom of the first column of the second page, the only full column of news.  Halfway down the next column, a header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” alerted readers to the content on the remainder of the page.

The two-page Addition gave three times as much space to news compared to the standard issue.  News that arrived via London, most of it extracts from letters composed in various cities on the European continent, filled the first page and overflowed onto the second.  A short proclamation from the governor of the colony ran as local news midway through the second column on the other side of the sheet.  Crouch managed to squeeze in a few more advertisements, including one that promoted a “COMPLETE GERMAN GRAMMAR” that he sold at his printing office.  Instead of an advertising supplement that accompanied the newspaper, the Addition amounted to a news supplement that accompanied an advertising leaflet.  In many instances, colonial newspapers were vehicles for delivering advertising.  That was especially true of the October 13 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its Addition.

October 6

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 6, 1772).

“Advertisements omitted this Week, for want of Room, shall be in our next.”

Charles Crouch had more content than would fit in the September 29, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  To resolve the dilemma, he inserted a notice advising that “Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to give Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular notice in our next.”  The following week, the October 6 edition consisted almost entirely of advertising.  A header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” ran at the top of the first column on the first page.  Advertisements filled all three columns on that page.  Another header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” appeared midway down the final column of the second page.  The first two and half columns featured news items, but the remainder of the second column as well as the entire third and fourth pages consisted entirely of advertising.  Crouch presumably made sure that “Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” that he omitted in the previous issue did indeed run in the October 6 edition.

Still, he found himself once again in the position of not having sufficient space to publish all of the advertisements received in the printing office.  He inserted a notice at the bottom of the final column on the third page: “Advertisements omitted this Week, for want of Room, shall be in our next.”  Why did the notice appear there instead of the bottom of the last page?  Understanding the process for producing newspapers on manually-operated presses reveals the answer.  A standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (and other colonial newspapers) consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Printers often produced the first and last pages first.  After the ink dried, they then printed the second and third pages on the other side of the sheet.  In his effort to give the advertisements omitted the previous week “particular Notice” in the October 6 edition, Crouch printed them first, placing them on the first page.  Other new advertisements also ran on the fourth page, interspersed with notices that appeared in previous editions.  Crouch made publishing all of those advertisements a priority.  He also made advertisements a priority for the second and third pages, though he realized that subscribers who expected to receive news would not be satisfied with an issue that served solely as a mechanism for delivering advertisements.  He opted for a couple of columns of news on the second page before filling the rest of the newspaper with advertisements.  The notice at the bottom of the final column on the third page would have been the last of the type set and placed into position for the October 6 edition once Crouch determined that he did not have space for all the advertisements he intended to publish.

Crouch did have other options.  He could have produced an advertising supplement to accompany the September 29 edition or the October 6 edition or both.  He may have decided, however, that he did not have enough additional content to warrant doing so.  He may not have had the time to print a supplement.  He may not have considered doing so worth the resources required.  He apparently believed that advertisers would be patient with a short delay, though he made certain to acknowledge that he owed them space in his newspaper.

September 29

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 29, 1772).

“Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular Notice taken of them in our next.”

Advertising could appear anywhere in colonial American newspapers, even on the front page.  In fact, some newspapers often devoted the entire front page to the masthead and advertising.  Others placed both news and advertising on the front page.  The distribution of items selected by the printer and paid notices submitted by advertisers varied from week to week in many newspapers.

Such was the case for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, printed by Charles Crouch.  Consider the September 29, 1772, edition.  Like other issues, it consisted of four pages crested by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half.  The first two pages contained news from London that arrived earlier in the week.  The shipping news from the customs house indicated that the Mermaid from London entered port on September 24.  The New Market, also from London, arrived a day later.  That gave Crouch plenty of time to receive newspapers and letters from both ships, read through them, and choose which items to print before publishing a new weekly edition on September 29.  He reserved advertising for the third and fourth pages, marking some notices with a header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”

Crouch also inserted a note to alert readers (and advertisers searching for their notices) that “Sundry NEW ADVERTISEMENTS omitted this Week, in order to Place to the LONDON NEWS, &c. shall have particular Notice taken of them in our next.”  What constituted “particular notice” beyond making sure to publish them at all?  No news appeared on the front page of the October 6 edition.  Instead, “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” filled all three columns on both the front page and the final page, two pages printed on the same side of a broadsheet.  Printers often printed those pages first, reserving the second and third pages for news that arrived just before publication.  In addition to the prominent placement of advertising on the front page, almost the entire issue consisted of paid notices.  Only the second page carried anything other than advertising.  News extended throughout the first and second columns.  It overflowed into the third, but more “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” accounted for half of that column.

The proportion and placement of news and advertising often varied from week to week in colonial newspapers as printers made decisions about providing news for subscribers who (sometimes) paid for their newspapers and disseminating paid notices for advertisers who accounted for an important revenue stream.  As a result, some newspapers sometimes looked like vehicles for delivering advertising without much news content at all.

September 15

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 15, 1772).

“Young Ladies and Gentlemen instructed in DANCING.”

An advertisement for “DANCING and FENCING” lessons in the September 15, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal alerted readers that “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” would soon offer a new “Season” of classes.  Pike was probably already familiar to many prospective pupils, having offered instruction in Charleston for several years.  He attempted to generate interest even among those who had already taken lessons with him by inviting students to his “NEW SUIT of ROOMS” on Church Street.

A significant portion of the advertisement consisted of the schedule.  Pike devoted early mornings, “Five o’Clock to Nine,” to fencing lessons.  He taught dancing to “Young Ladies and Gentlemen” in the afternoons on Thursdays and Saturdays in addition to his “EVENING SCHOOL, every Evening in the Week, from Six o’Clock to Nine.”  That left “four Afternoons at Liberty every Week” for Pike to venture beyond his academy to provide private lessons to students “at their own Houses.”  That may have been the preferred option for those who felt anxious about appearing anything other than graceful and genteel in front of observers.

Yet dancing was an activity meant to be undertaken in public, at least eventually.  Colonizers asserted their status and took great pride in being skillful dancers.  Smoothly completing complex steps testified to their refinement, while awkwardness or stumbling undermined impressions of politeness and sophistication they demonstrated in other aspects of their comportment and dress.  Understanding the stakes, Pike scheduled an exhibition ball for early December and encouraged the “Parents and Guardians of his Scholars” to enroll them in lessons “as soon as possible.”  The teacher and his pupils needed sufficient time “to complete his Figures in a proper Manner” during their lessons so the young ladies and gentlemen could showcase their skills in front of observers at the ball.  Other dancing masters also raised the specter of public embarrassment in their advertisements, encouraging prospective students and their parents to enroll in lessons in order to withstand public scrutiny.  By stoking anxiety, they aimed to motivate colonizers to engage their services.

September 1

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 1, 1772).

“BOXES of MEDICINES fitted up as usual.”

As fall approached in 1772, Carne and Poinsett alerted readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that they imported and sold a “VERY LARGE AND GENERAL ASSORTMENT of DRUGS, CHYMICAL, GALENICAL, AND FAMILY MEDICINES.”  They competed with Thomas Stinson, who acquired his “FRESH SUPPLY of DRUGS, CHYMICAL and GALENICAL, With most Family Medicines now in Use” directly from “their ORIGINAL Warehouses,” and Edward Gunter, who stocked a “large and complete ASSORTMENT OF DRUGS and MEDICINES” imported via “the last Vessels from LONDON.”

In addition to carrying similar merchandise, each of these entrepreneurs offered an ancillary service for the convenience of their customers.  Carne and Poinsett promoted “BOXES of MEDICINES fitted up as usual.”  Their competitors gave more elaborate descriptions of this service.  Gunter declared that he supplied “BOXES of MEDICINES, with Directions, for Plantations and Ships Use, prepared in the best Manner.”  Similarly, Stinson explained that “BOXES of MEDICINES, with Directions for PLANTATIONS and SHIPS Use, are faithfully prepared” at his shop.

Providing these boxes kept Gunter, Stinson, and Carne and Poinsett competitive with each other, eliminating the possibility that prospective customers would turn to one who offered the convenience of such boxes medicines over one who did not.  Yet marketing this service to customers did not constitute the sole reason for assembling these eighteenth-century versions of first aid kits.  Doing so augmented sales beyond medicines that customers actually needed to medicines that they might need at some time in the future.  Entrepreneurs who ran apothecary shops used the combination of uncertainty and distance to their advantage, realizing that many prospective customers did not have easy access to medicines and needed to plan for various possibilities rather than acquire remedies only when need became apparent.  It mattered little to these entrepreneurs whether their customers ever used the medicines in the boxes they “fitted up as usual.”  They traded in the security offered by the convenience of having various medicines on hand even if the buyers never needed to administer some of them.

August 20

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (August 20, 1772).

“He makes American Punch in Perfection.”

When Robert Benson became the new proprietor of “COLE’S and the GREENLAND COFFEE-HOUSE, in Ball Court, Cornhill,” in London, he placed advertisements in newspapers in South Carolina.  Having formerly worked as a waiter at the Carolina Coffee House, he likely hoped that some merchants who had conducted business there would remember him fondly enough to visit his new establishment when they next traveled to London as well as entrust him to receive “Bills, Letters, and Messages” directed to local associates.  He opened his first advertisement with a headline introducing himself as “BOB, WAITER from the CAROLINA,” but concluded it more formally as his prospective customers’ “obedient humble Servant, ROBERT BENSON.”  In a subsequent advertisement, he dispensed with giving his full name, opting instead to solely use the more familiar “BOB, WAITER from the CAROLINA and PENNSYLVANIA COFFEE-HOUSE, in Birchin Lane.”

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 18, 1772).

Benson made other changes when he published a second advertisement in newspapers in Charleston.  In particular, he declared that “for the Accommodation of American Gentlemen, the South-Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania News-Papers, will be regularly taken in.”  Those newspapers featured a significant amount of news from Europe, especially London, that would have been more quickly and more readily available to visitors to the city, but they also carried digests of news from throughout the colonies, varying amounts of local news, prices current for a variety of commodities in Charleston, Savannah, and Philadelphia, and shipping news from the customs houses in those busy ports.  In addition, readers could glean a fair amount of news (and gossip) from reading the advertisements, including legal notices and advertisements intended to promote commerce and consumption (and notices cutting off credit for disobedient wives who “ran away” from their husbands).  Benson considered supplying American newspapers one of the services for his customers that demonstrated he “will exert his utmost Endeavours to merit their Favours.”  He also declared that he “has fitted up” his establishment “very elegantly.”  In addition to the newspapers, American merchants and other travelers would feel at home at Cole’s and the Greenland Coffee House because Benson “makes American Punch in Perfection.”  Even as colonial merchants took part in London’s cosmopolitan culture, Benson suspected they would welcome a taste of home.  He listed the “American Punch” last in his advertisement, one of several amenities that he hoped would make his coffeehouse an attractive destination.  His competitors relied on reputation and word of mouth to attract customers from Charleston and other towns in the colonies.  Benson, the affable “BOB,” on the other hand, believed that directly marketing his new venture in the colonies would contribute to its success.  He attempted to leverage his reputation while also promoting the amenities that made his coffeehouse a rival to any others in London.

August 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 11, 1772).

“White and coloured NEGRO CLOTH.”

The partnership of Ancrums and Chiffelle took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advise “their Friends” that they stocked “White and coloured NEGRO CLOTH, Together with a Variety of other GOODS, fromLONDON and BRISTOL” in the summer of 1772.  They placed an advertisement in the August 11 edition, as did Atkins and Weston.  They informed readers that they imported “NEGRO CLOTH, DUFFIL, BLANKETS, and SAIL CLOTH” from Bristol.  Atkins and Weston assured “their Friends and Customers” that they set low prices.  Elsewhere in the same issue, Thomas Eveleigh advertised “A FEW BALES of NEGRO CLOTH, and some good LONDON PORTER, just imported, and to be sold reasonably.”

Those advertisements accompanied seven others that offered enslaved men, women, and children for sale, one seeking “TWO or Three NEGRO BOYS, as Apprentices to the Wheel-Wright’s Business,” five announcing rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers, and a lengthy notice describing eighteen Black men and women “Brought to the WORK-HOUSE” and imprisoned there on suspicion of attempting to liberate themselves.  The printer did not arrange advertisements according to purpose or category, so readers encountered notices about enslaved people interspersed with advertisements promoting consumer goods and services, real estate notices, legal notices, and other kinds of advertisements.

Ancrums and Chiffelle and their competitors who hawked “NEGRO CLOTH” may or may not have participated in the slave trade directly, yet they certainly aimed to profit from maintaining that institution.  In their advertisements, those merchants made supplying enslavers with an inexpensive textile to clothe the men, women, and children held in bondage central to their operations at the stores and warehouses they operated in Charleston.  Furthermore, they demonstrated that commerce enmeshed in the transatlantic slave trade extended beyond any sort of streamlined triangular trade that connected Africa, England, and colonies on the other side of the Atlantic.  Even as ships departing from London, Bristol, and other English ports carried goods to Africa to purchase captives held in outposts along the coast, other ships from those ports delivered finished goods, including “NEGRO CLOTH,” directly to South Carolina and other colonies.  Many merchants, including Ancrums and Chiffelle, sought opportunities to profit from selling supplies to enslavers, embracing the transatlantic slave trade in their business models even if they did not transport or sell Black men, women, and children themselves.