November 15

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

Nov 15 - 11:15:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 15, 1768).

“WANTS a Place in a Store, either in Town or Country, a YOUNG MAN who can be well recommended.”

Advertisements for consumer goods and services, along with paid notices inserted for other purposes, filled the pages of eighteenth-century newspapers. Some colonists who placed advertisements did so in hopes of finding employment with the purveyors of consumer goods and services, seeking places to earn their own livelihoods in an expanding marketplace. At the same time that the consumer revolution presented many opportunities for entrepreneurship for shopkeepers, merchants, artisans, and other producers of goods, it also created employment opportunities for men and women who assisted retailers in making their wares available to customers.

Consider, for example, an advertisement that ran in the November 15, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Quite briefly, it announced, “WANTS a Place in a Store, either in Town or Country, a YOUNG MAN who can be well recommended. Enquire of the Printer.” The previous day a similar advertisement appeared in the Boston-Gazette: “A Young Woman that understands keeping a Shop of English Goods, wants such an Employ. Any Person having Occasion for such a one, may know further by enquiring of Edes and Gill.” Both advertisements were published in newspapers that ran numerous advertisements for vast arrays of consumer goods for sale at local shops and stores.

In each instance the prospective employee requested that interested parties “Enquire of the Printer.” They provided little information about themselves beyond initial assurances that they were suited for the positions they sought. The young man asserted that he “can be well recommended” for the job. While this may have referred to endorsements from others, it may also have meant that he could make a case for himself based on his character and experience. The young woman stated that she “understands keeping a Shop of English Goods,” suggesting that she had previous experience.

Not surprisingly, both placed short advertisements, minimizing their expenses as they sought work. Both depended on a local printing office as a place of exchanging information. Printers did more than disseminate newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides; they also served as information brokers beyond the printed page. In that capacity, they facilitated not only the sale of consumer goods but also the hiring of men and women who waited on customers and otherwise assisted in the operation of shops and stores.

November 8

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

Nov 8 - 11:8:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 8, 1768).

“M. NELSON, PASTRY-COOK, from LONDON.”

The advertisements that appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers testify to the presence of women in the marketplace as purveyors of goods and services, not merely as consumers. They ran their own businesses. They advanced their commercial activities in the public prints, carving out greater visibility for themselves in their communities. Yet women who advertised adopted a variety of approaches when it came to establishing that visibility.

Consider three advertisements that appeared in the November 8, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its supplement devoted entirely to advertisements. Mary King, a milliner, achieved the greatest visibility. Her notice used her name as a headline: “MARY KING.” A secondary headline, “A COMPLEAT ASSORTMENT of / MILLINARY GOODS,” described the merchandise that she then listed in greater detail. King achieved greater visibility as a female entrepreneur than either of the other two women who placed advertisements in the same issue.

Sabina Taylor was the least visible. Her advertisement filled only six lines, making it one of the shortest in the entire issue. Unlike many of the other advertisements of similar length, hers did not include a headline that pronounced her name in larger font and capital letters. Instead, the schoolmistress figuratively signed her name on the final line. Although “SABINA TAYLOR” appeared in capitals, her name still was not in a larger font. The lack of white space in her own notice as well as the headline for the advertisement that appeared immediately below, “TO BE SOLD CHEAP,” crowded out Taylor’s signature, making it even more difficult to spot her on the page.

  1. Nelson charted a middle course. Her advertisement occupied only lightly less space than King’s notice. She also had a headline – “M. NELSON” – and secondary headline – “PASTRY-COOK, from LONDON” – with sufficient white space to draw attention to her advertisement. Yet she did not list her full name, making it impossible for many readers to recognize at a glance that her advertisement promoted an enterprise operated by a woman. Many residents of Charleston would have already known of Nelson and her business. For those who did not, it would not have been apparent that a woman placed the advertisement until they read the body in which Nelson expressed “her sincere thanks to those gentlemen and ladies who has honoured her with their custom.” Nelson asserted visibility for her business while simultaneously downplaying her own visibility as a female entrepreneur.

Women who provided consumer goods and services were present among the advertisers in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, but their decisions about the copy for their advertisements resulted in various levels of visibility. While Mary King boldly claimed a place alongside male entrepreneurs, Sabina Taylor and M. Nelson obscured their participation in the marketplace even as they promoted the goods and services they offered to consumers.

November 1

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

Nov 1 - 11:1:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 1, 1768).

“Offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.”

When T. Lowder arrived in Charleston and established his own medical practice in 1768, he placed an advertisement to introduce himself to the residents of the city and its environs. Like many other physicians who placed newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, Lowder first provided his credentials to potential clients who might avail themselves of his services. He indicated that he had worked as “MIDWIFE and APOTHECARY, to St. Peter’s Hospital” in Bristol. Furthermore, he reported that “he has for some Years been largely engaged in” the “Practice of Midwifery.” Although he did not provide the particulars, Lowder stated that he had received “a regular, physical Education.” He hoped that prospective clients would consider it, in combination with “a considerable Degree of Experience,” as “sufficient Qualifications.” He also pledged to exert the “utmost Assiduity” in attending to his patients. As a newcomer to the city, Lowder did not enjoy a local reputation. Until he could establish that he was not “deficient” as a midwife and apothecary, he relied on his credentials to promote his services to prospective clients who otherwise knew little else about him.

To aid in establishing his reputation in the busy port, Lowder “offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.” To that end, he reserved three hours each afternoon for consulting with “The Poor” at his office on Church Street. Offering “Advice in all Cases” provided an opportunity to work with local patients who could then testify to his skill and care. Lowder likely hoped that demonstrating his competence in cases that he attended without charge would yield additional clients from among the ranks of residents who could afford to pay his fees. Providing free medical advice to the poor also attested to his character, further enhancing the public relations campaign Lowder launched in an advertisement introducing himself to colonists in Charleston. In case his credentials were not enough to attract clients, his altruism might attract the attention necessary for the newcomer to sustain his practice.

October 25

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

Oct 25 - 10:25:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 25, 1768).

“WILLIAM JOHNSON, Late of the Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON.”

To inform residents of Charleston and its hinterlands that “he carries on the Smith’s business in its various branches,” William Johnson placed an advertisement in the October 25, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He had recently opened his own shop near the city’s “Vendue-House” (or auction room), but Johnson was not a novice to the business. He introduced himself as “Late of the Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON.”

In so doing, Johnson’s advertisement differed from many others placed by artisans and others who provided services for consumers. Those advertisers frequently indicated their trade and place of origin in an introductory line that served as a secondary headline for their advertisements. For instance, one column over from Johnson’s advertisement, Thomas Booth’s notice included his name, centered and in a larger font, as the primary headline along with “COACH, SIGN, and HOUSE PAINTER, / from LONDON” as further introduction before describing the services he offered. On the following page, another advertisement promoted the services of “GEORGE WOOD, / BOOK-BINDER and STATIONER, in Elliott-street.”

Johnson could have followed this format, but he may have reasoned that he would attract more business by taking advantage of his record of serving residents of Charleston and the surrounding area. Presumably the partnership of Tebout and Johnson had built a clientele or established a reputation in the busy port. Johnson sought to leverage his prior experience to draw former customers to his shop. Even those who had never engaged his services could have been familiar with the former partnership, making it more valuable for Johnson to list that affiliation than his occupation as the secondary headline for his advertisement. After all, anyone familiar with the “Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON” would have known that they were smiths. Deviating from the standard format for advertisements placed by artisans allowed Johnson to place greater emphasis on an aspect of his business likely to resonate with prospective customers.

October 18

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

Oct 18 - 10:18:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 18, 1768).

“Those who intend to encourage this Work are requested to send their Names to Peter Valton, Mr. Peter Timothy, or Mr. Robert Wells.”

When it came to publishing newspapers, Peter Timothy, Robert Wells, and Charles Crouch were competitors. All three operated printing shops in Charleston, where Timothy published the South-Carolina Gazette, Wells published the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, and Crouch published the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. This did not, however, preclude their cooperation when it came to other ventures.

In the fall of 1768, Peter Valton circulated a subscription notice that announced his intention to publish “SIX SONATAS For the HARPSICHORD or ORGAN, WITH An Accompanyment for a VIOLIN.” Valton intended for the subscription notice to incite demand. For instance, he highlighted the quality of the paper, promised to print the names of subscribers in recognition of their support for this genteel endeavor, and offered to provide a seventh copy free to anyone who pledged to purchase six. Valton also used the subscription notice to gauge interest in the project. He needed to know if he could attract enough subscribers to make it a viable venture and, if so, how many copies to print without ending up with an unprofitable surplus. To that end, he instructed, “Those who intend to encourage this Work are requested to send their Names to Peter Valton, Mr. Peter Timothy, or Mr. Robert Wells.” When Valton inserted the advertisement in the October 18 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, its appearance brought together all three of Charleston’s newspaper publishers.

All three stood to profit from the venture, either directly or indirectly. According to Odai Johnson, Wells was the intended printer.[1] Robust sales of the prospective publication would certainly benefit him. Yet all three printers generated revenues by publishing Valton’s subscription notice in their newspapers. Timothy further lent support for the project by collecting the names of subscribers. Promoting a culture of consumption contributed to their livelihoods, even if they were not the producers or purveyors of the printed materials advertised in their newspapers.

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[1] Odai Johnson, London in a Box: Englishness and Theatre in Revolutionary America (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2017), 167.

October 11

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

Oct 11 - 10:11:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 11, 1768).

“Many other useful articles, too tedious to mention.”

John Edwards and Company advertised an array of goods in the supplement that accompanied the October 11, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. They emphasized abundance and consumer choice in the language deployed to describe the textiles available at their store on Tradd Street: “A LARGE QUANTITY of exceeding good WHITE PLAINS,” “a large assortment of Irish shirting and sheeting linen,” “a choice quantity of oznaburgs,” “a variety of checks, drawboys, and cotton velvets.” They applied the same appeals to other merchandise as well, including “an assortment of womens and childrens leather [shoes]” and “several very fashionable compleat sets of queens, or cream colour ware.” After listing dozens of items in their inventory, Edwards and Company concluded by underscoring the intertwined themes of abundance and choice, stressing that they carried “many other useful articles, too tedious to enumerate.” Rather than “tedious” perhaps the partners considered it too expensive to purchase additional space to list even more merchandise. They had made their pitch and their final appeal suggested prospective customers would discover an even more extensive selection when visiting their shop.

Other merchants and shopkeepers joined Edwards and Company in making general statements about the vast array of goods they sold. Godfrey and Gadsden, for instance, listed even more items than Edwards and Company yet also stated that carried “many other articles.” Mary King, a milliner, named about two dozen items associated with her trade but also promised “a variety of other articles.” Mansell, Corbett, and Roberts concluded their list-style advertisement with “&c. &c.” Dawson and Walter did the same. Not to be outdone, Alexander Gillon published a list twice as long and with an additional “&c.” at the end: “&c. &c. &c.” Through invoking the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera, these entrepreneurs challenged readers to imagine what else they sold. Choosing not “to enumerate” all of their goods allowed advertisers to incite curiosity among prospective customers. They named enough to get readers thinking about the possibilities without eliminating any options outright. Advertisers offered consumers extensive choices, but when it came to tallying all of those choices in the public prints they often opted for a version of “less is more.” They accounted for just enough to stimulate interest and then promised even more, inviting prospective customers to see for themselves when visiting their shops.

October 4

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

Oct 4 - 10:4:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 4, 1768).

“A proper supply of GOODS will be sent to their stores at DORCHESTER and MONCK’S CORNER.”

For six weeks in the fall of 1768 the partnership of Dawson and Walter placed an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to promote the “large and compleat assortment of GOODS, for the present and winter season” that they had imported from London. In addition to seasonal goods, their inventory included items that testified to the refinement of provincial consumers, especially when it came to apparel and housewares. From among the assortment of goods on hand, Dawson and Walter specifically enumerated “FASHIONABLE BROAD CLOTHS, and trimmings, compleat sets of enameled, and blue and white table china, [and] complete sets of tea ditto.”

Like many other colonial merchants and shopkeepers, Dawson and Walter did not address residents of Charleston exclusively. They also wished to cultivate customers among colonists who lived in the hinterlands surrounding the colony’s major port city. Some of their counterparts advertised that they accepted orders delivered by post or messenger and faithfully filled them, but Dawson and Walter instead opened additional shops in smaller towns to serve colonists outside of Charleston. They informed readers that “A proper supply of GOODS will be sent to their stores at DORCHESTER and MONCK’S CORNER, where their friends may now depend on finding a good assortment kept up.” Furthermore, the partners pledged that customers in the countryside would be “served as cheap as in Charles-Town.” In other words, convenience did not come at the expense of limited selections or higher prices. Those who shopped in Dorchester and Monck’s Corner could depend on choosing from among the same merchandise presented to customers in the bustling port. Despite their distance from Charleston – and their even greater distance from London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire – customers in the hinterlands could demonstrate their refinement by purchasing the same goods as consumers in the cities. Demand alone does not explain the extensive reach of the consumer revolution during the eighteenth century. Instead, entrepreneurs like Dawson and Walter who established shops beyond major cities and towns facilitated the distribution of consumer goods throughout the American colonies.

September 27

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

Sep 27 - 9:27:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 27, 1768).

“ONE might be apt to think by Mr. Champneys’s advertisement that GEORGE LIVINGSTON is actually dead.”

George Livingston demonstrated his appreciation for drama in an advertisement offering his services as a broker in the September 27, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. “ONE might be apt to think by Mr. Champneys’s advertisement,” the broker acerbically observed, “that GEORGE LIVINGSTON is actually dead: Blessed be GOD the case is not so: He is still in the land of the living, and steps forth to inform his friends and the public, that he is in some measure able to do BUSINESS.” After such a theatrical introduction, Livingston returned to the familiar refrains that appeared in advertisements placed by others in his line of work. Familiar as Livingston’s appeals to his “FIDELITY and PUNCTUALITY” may have been, they likely garnered more notice from prospective clients as a result of Livingston’s unusual method of introducing himself.

Livingston inserted his advertisement in response to one from his former business partner that appeared the previous week as well as again in the same issue as the rebuttal. In that notice, Champneys announced that he “FOLLOWS the FACTORAGE BUSINESS by himself.” He offered his services to friends and former customers, promising that “they may depend on the same Diligence and constant Attendance as formerly.” Although some colonists placed advertisements when they dissolved business partnerships, Champneys did not mention Livingston at all. Neither advertisement reveals the conditions of their parting. Livingston’s notice could suggest that he took some umbrage at Champneys seemingly erasing their former association, but he also noted that he “proposes doing his business on Mr. Champneys’s, formerly Mr. Simmons’s, wharf.” They were not on such poor terms that Livingston refused to become a tenant of Champneys. Perhaps the two had parted amicably. Perhaps Champneys even laughed at the joke made possible by his own advertisement, even as the two brokers competed for the same clients. Formerly partners, they were now rivals in business. Invoking humor may have been a means for Livingston to attract his share of clients without denigrating his former partner’s own “FIDELITY and PUNCTUALITY.” Just because they were business rivals did not mean that Champneys and Livingston could not also be friendly rivals.

September 13

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

Sep 13 - 9:13:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 13, 1768).

“Black silk and cotton gauzes.”

Several merchants and shopkeepers placed list-style advertisements in the September 13, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its two-page supplement. Among them, George Ancrum and Company, Elizabeth Blaikie, Thomas Walter, Godfrey and Gadsden, and John McCall each enumerated dozens of items they offered for sale. Most of these advertisements took the form of dense paragraphs that did not incorporate visual signals intended to differentiate the various goods they listed. Godfrey and Gadsden, however, experimented with the format of one of their advertisements. Rather than a single paragraph, they opted for two columns with only one or two items listed on each line, making it easier for prospective customers to spot “coloured ribbons” and “parrot cages” amid the many other goods. This distinctive layout distinguished Godfrey and Gadsden’s advertisement from the many other notices on the same page, even though their inventory replicated the merchandise available from their competitors.

Yet this was not the only advertisement Godfrey and Gadsden placed in that issue. In another advertisement on the same page they deployed a lengthy paragraph that rivaled all others in its density. Although the advertisement with the dense paragraph of goods occupied a privileged position as the first item in the first column, the format of the advertisement divided into two columns (with significantly more white space) made the latter much more prominent, even though it appeared near the bottom of the final column. The disparity between the two demonstrates that Godfrey and Gadsden were not committed to one format over the other; it does suggest that they did intentionally experiment with the visual elements of their advertisements, perhaps of their own volition or perhaps at the urging of a compositor who made suggestions about possible alternatives. Compared to newspapers published in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal featured less variation when it came to the format of list-style advertisements in the late 1760s, yet advertisers and compositors did sometimes play with typography to create notices with unique graphic design elements.

September 6

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

Sep 6 - 9:6:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 6, 1768).

“ANDREW LORD, Has just imported …”

In September 1768 Andrew Lord experimented with a marketing strategy deployed by relatively few merchants and shopkeepers prior to the American Revolution. He placed multiple advertisements in a single issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, improving the likelihood that readers would notice at least one of them. For readers and prospective customers who happened to notice both, this further increased Lord’s visibility in the Charleston marketplace, making it difficult to overlook his significance in the local commercial landscape. Publishing multiple advertisements enhanced his name recognition.

Printers frequently crowded newspapers with advertisements for their own goods and services, exercising one of the privileges of operating the press, but merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others were slow to follow their lead. Financial considerations certainly played a role. Advertisers not affiliated with the newspaper did, after all, have to pay to have their notices inserted, but that alone does not sufficiently explain their failure to appreciate how to better take advantage of the power of the press in presenting their goods and services to prospective customers. After all, many advertisers made significant investments when they inserted lengthy notices that listed vast arrays of merchandise.

Sep 6 - 9:6:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 6, 1768).

Lord could have done the same. He could have combined his two advertisements into a single advertisement. Doing so would have had the advantage of making his assortment of merchandise seem even more expansive by taking up more space on a single page. Yet he opted for two distinct advertisements instead. Since most printers charged by the length, Lord incurred the same costs whether he published one longer advertisement or two shorter ones. Given the choice, he determined that two shorter notices better suited his purposes. One appeared on the third page of the September 6 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, the other on the fourth page. This bolstered his presence in the newspaper, further solidifying his reputation as a merchant of note in the bustling port of Charleston. The appeals Lord made in his advertisements did not distinguish him from his competitors, but the reiteration of his name in a single issue did.