September 18

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 18, 1770).

“He is in want of two NEGRO MEN TAYLORS, for whom the highest Wages will be given.”

The September 18, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal included multiple advertisements offering enslaved men, women, and children for sale.  One advertisement, for instance, concerned a “Young Country-born” woman “with her first Child, two Years old.”  This young woman, “an extraordinary good Washer and Ironer,” was pregnant with another child.  Other advertisements described enslaved people who possessed a variety of skills for sale with and without members of their families.

Yet buying and selling enslaved people was not the only means of distributing and exploiting their labor in the public prints.  Several “for hire” advertisements also ran in that issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Rather than purchase enslaved people outright, colonists frequently “hired” or rented their services from their enslavers.  In so doing, they acquired the labor they needed but without making as much of an investment.  One advertisement proclaimed, “WANTED ON HIRE, A Sprightly NEGRO BOY, who has been used to wait on a Gentlemen, and attend at Table.”  The advertiser did not sign the notice but instead instructed that anyone looking to hire out an enslaved servant should “Enquire of the Printer” for more information.  John Savage placed a similar advertisement, though he stated that he wanted an enslaved man “who was handy about a House” and an enslaved woman who was a good domestic servant “ON HIRE, OR TO PURCHASE.”  Thomas Fell, a tailor, informed the public that he was “in want of two NEGRO MEN TAYLORS, for whom the highest Wages will be given.”  Those wages, however, did not go to the enslaved tailors.  Instead, their enslavers collected the wages.  If they wanted to feel magnanimous, the enslavers could dole out a portion of those wages to the enslaved tailors who did the work.  Doing so might salve their consciences, yet the tailors remained enslaved and exploited.

This system of hiring out enslaved workers for short periods – days, weeks, months, or a year – supplemented the slave trade in early America.  In the colonial and revolutionary eras, it occurred throughout the colonies.  It later continued into the nineteenth century in all areas that did not abolish slavery.  Gabriel, the enslaved man executed for organizing a failed uprising in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800, hired out as a blacksmith.  Frederick Douglass hired out as a caulker in shipyards in Baltimore in the early nineteenth century.  Newspaper advertisements help to tell the stories of many other enslaved men and women who were hired out in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

September 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 11, 1770).

“Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.”

As summer turned to fall in 1770, Jacob Valk took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advertise his services as a bookkeeper.  He informed readers that he “keeps an Office where Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.”  He assisted with balancing and closing accounts as well as opening accounts “properly for those commencing any Kind of Business.”  Valk oversaw books kept for various purposes: “Partnerships Accounts, and Accounts of Ships, Planters, or Executors.”  In each case, clients could depend on having their ledgers “properly scrutinized, and accurately adjusted.”  They could also expect confidentiality.  Valk promised “Secrecy and Dispatch.”

Valk made a special appeal to prospective clients “apprehensive of a Failure or Litigation at Law.”  By hiring his services, they could avoid Embarrassment in their Affairs.”  Although he did not offer any guarantees, he suggested that anyone anxious about their bookkeeping abilities could gain a sense of security by relying on his guidance and oversight.  It was “more than probable,” he asserted, that his clients would “meet with a happy Prevention” of undesirable outcomes, but only if they acted in a timely manner.  Valk encouraged prospective clients to consult with him early rather than wait until it was too late for him to help.

Valk presented a combination of invitation and warning in his advertisement.  By responding to his notice, “Merchants and Tradesmen” lessened the chances that they would find themselves in the position of having to respond to another sort of notice that frequently appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers, those that called on colonists to settle accounts or face legal action.  In the same issue that carried Valk’s advertisement, Andrew Taylor placed just such a notice directed at “all Persons indebted to me.”  Those who owed Taylor money were on the verge of experiencing “Embarrassment in their Affairs” if they did not settle accounts quickly.  Valk offered an alternative to clients who hired his bookkeeping services.

July 31

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

Jul 31 - 7:31:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 31, 1770).

“The Gentlemen who please to favour us with their Subscriptions, shall have their Names carefully published in an alphabetical List.”

Like many books, maps were often published by subscription in the eighteenth-century.  Mapmakers published subscription notices to incite demand as well as gauge interest in their projects.  Doing so also allowed them to avoid some of the risk inherent in the enterprise.  Upon attracting a sufficient number of subscribers, they moved forward with confidence in the financial viability of the project.  On occasions that they lacked subscribers, they knew that it was not worth the time and resources required to publish a book or print a map.  Subscription lists also gave them a sense of how many copies to produce in order to avoid producing a large quantity that did not sell and counted against the financial success of the venture.

In the summer of 1770, James Cook and Tacitus Gaillard published “PROPOSALS FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR THE DRAUGHTS Of SOUTH-CAROLOINA,” their subscription notice for a map of the colony.  They presented this undertaking as a community endeavor, first noting that their work “has met with the Approbation of the Honourable the COMMONS HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY” and stating that they hoped their “Proposals will merit the Favour of the Public.”  Subscribers did not need to contact Cook and Gaillard directly.  Instead, they designated local agents who gathered names on their behalf, listing them at the conclusion of the advertisement.  Those agents included several prominent merchants and planters as well as Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette.  In addition, “sundry other Gentlemen of each Parish” also accepted subscriptions and reported them to Cook and Gaillard.  The mapmakers gave the impression that their project already had the support – and the financial backing through subscriptions of their own – of some of the most prominent men in the colony.

Cook and Gaillard offered subscribers an opportunity to join the ranks of those prominent men … and to enjoy public recognition that they had done so.  “The Gentlemen who please to favour us with their Subscriptions,” the mapmakers promised, “shall have their Names carefully published in an alphabetical List, unless they desire the contrary.”  Books and maps published by subscription often featured such lists that acknowledged the benefactors that made the projects possible.  Publishing subscription lists drew together in one place all the members of the community that supported these projects, giving subscribers the chance to associate with others in a manner that remained visible to the public long after they subscribed, paid for, and collected their books and maps.  These lists became lasting records of which colonists supported the publication of books and maps.  Cook and Gaillard’s marketing strategy suggested that securing a spot on their subscription list was nearly as alluring as acquiring a copy of their beautifully rendered map.  Subscribers purchased prestige along with the map.

July 10

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

Jul 10 - 7:10:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 10, 1770).

“All Persons indebted to him, to discharge the same.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, wanted to make sure that readers saw his notice calling on “all Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts before August 1, 1770.  He inserted that notice in his newspaper multiple times in June and July 1770, sometimes interspersing it with other advertisements.  That was not the case in the July 10 edition.  Instead, it was the first item on the first page, making it nearly impossible to overlook.  With the exception of the masthead, that page consisted entirely of advertisements, most of them notices that others paid to have inserted.  Even if readers opted to skip the first page in favor of seeking out the news items on the second, they were most likely to read at least a portion of Crouch’s notice.

The printer meant business.  He meant it in exercising his power over the publication to give his notice a privileged place on the page.  He also meant it in the organization of the notice.  Like many other eighteenth-century advertisements, it had more than one purpose.  Crouch called on others to discharge their debts, but he also informed the public that he “has plenty of Hands, and will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work, which will be executed with the greatest Care and utmost Dispatch, and on reasonable Terms.”  He sought orders for job printing to increase revenues (though customers may have requested credit when submitting some of those orders), but simultaneously made it clear that that collecting on debts was his primary purpose in placing the notice.  This also made it clear to new customers that he expected them to make payment in a timely manner.  He warned those who were already in arrears that if they did “not pay a due Regard to this Notice” that they “must expect he will take proper Steps to obtain Payment, tho’ the Circumstance will be disagreeable to him.”  In others words, they could expect legal action.  Crouch did not make this subtle threat out of spite or malice.  Instead, he wished “to PAY his own DEBTS” and depended on his former customers to make that possible.

The news in the July 10 edition consisted mostly of items from London along with a brief description of raising a statue of William Pitt in Charleston.  To get to that news on the inside pages, readers first had to glance at front page.  Crouch increased the likelihood that even a casual glance would include his notice by making it the lead item on the first page.

June 27

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

Jun 27 - 6:26:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 26, 1770).

“RUN AWAY … a NEGRO fellow, named July.”

No newspaper advertisements concerning enslaved people appear via the Slavery Adverts 250 Project today, but that does not mean that no such advertisements were published in the American colonies on June 27, 1770.  The absence of these advertisements is a consequence of the Georgia Gazette no longer being part of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project as of May 23.  James Johnston continued publishing the Georgia Gazette into 1776, but many editions have been lost over time.  Any surviving copies published after May 23, 1770, have not been digitized, making them less accessible to scholars and others who wish to consult them.  Of the newspapers published in 1770 that have been digitized, the Georgia Gazette was the only publication regularly distributed on Wednesdays (with dates that correspond to Saturdays in 2020), though printers in Charleston occasionally published newspapers on Wednesdays.  As a result, the Slavery Adverts 250 Projectnow inadvertently gives the impression that no advertisements concerning enslaved people circulated in colonial America on Wednesdays in 1770 even though the Georgia Gazette usually included at least half a dozen such advertisements and often significantly more.

Unfortunately, the absence of these advertisements further obscures the stories that they tell about the experiences of enslaved people in the era of the imperial crisis that resulted in the American Revolution.  Today’s featured advertisement about an enslaved man who liberated himself, a man known to his enslavers as July, comes from the June 26, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Filtered through the perspective of July’s enslaver, the advertisement tells a truncated story of Black agency and resistance similar to the stories told in advertisements that likely appeared in the Georgia Gazette on the following day.  Other advertisements in that missing issue likely told other kinds of stories, some of enslaved people for sale as individuals or in groups or “parcels” and others of enslaved people who attempted to liberate themselves but were captured and imprisoned until those who asserted mastery over them claimed them.  Advertisements that ran in other newspapers tell similar stories as those from the missing issues of the Georgia Gazette.

Relying on those proxies, however, does not as effectively reveal the number and frequency of advertisements concerning enslaved people that circulated in early American newspapers.  The Slavery Adverts 250 Project seeks not only to tell representative stories of enslaved people but also to demonstrate the magnitude of newspaper advertising as a means of perpetuating slavery in early America by identifying and republishing as many advertisements as possible, making the evidence impossible to ignore.  Like any examination of the past, work on the Slavery Adverts 250 Project is sometimes constrained by which sources have survived and are accessible and which have not survived or are not accessible. Despite its endeavor toward comprehensiveness, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project is not presenting newspaper advertisements originally published on June 27, 1770; that does not mean that advertisements concerning enslaved people did not circulate in the American colonies on that day, only that the sources are not known to exist at this time.

June 26

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

Jun 26 - 6:26:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 26, 1770).

“BLANK QUIRE BOOKS … for the Benefit of Merchants and Shopkeepers.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, frequently distributed advertisements for his own goods and services throughout the newspaper.  Readers regularly encountered those notices as they perused the others.  The June 26, 1770, edition, for instance, featured four advertisements promoting Crouch’s business.  At least one appeared on every page that included advertising.  Two were short notices, one advising readers that Crouch sold blanks (printed forms) and writing paper and the other announcing “A new CATECHISM for CHILDREN” for sale “by the Printer hereof.”  A lengthier advertisement called on “all Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts or risk facing legal action.  In it, Crouch also noted that he “has plenty of Hands, and will undertake any Kind of Printing-Work.”

The printer aimed all or part of each of those advertisements to all readers.  His other advertisement, however, offered products of particular interest to merchants and shopkeepers.  For their recordkeeping needs, he provided “BLANK QUIRE BOOKS, ruled and unruled” as well as “Blank Receipt Books.”  In addition, he also sold “an Abstract of An Act for regulating and ascertaining the Rates of Wharfage of Ships and Merchandize, and also for ascertaining the Rates of Storage in Charles-Town, passed the Twelfth Day of April, 1768.”  Published “for the Benefit of Merchants and Shopkeepers,” such reference material would aid them in making decisions related to their businesses.  Crouch likely wished to bundle the blank books and the “Abstract of An Act,” increasing sales by selling them together.  Introducing the idea in the newspaper advertisement set the stage for making the suggestion when customers visited his printing office. Those who already contemplated purchasing both yet remained undecided when they arrived at the printing office might have been more susceptible to a recommendation offered at the point of sale.  Given how Crouch sprinkled short advertisements for his own goods and services throughout the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, he could have created two shorter advertisements, one about blank books for recordkeeping and the other about the “Abstract of An Act.”  Instead, he chose to advertise them together, associating each with the other in the minds of prospective customers.

June 19

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

Jun 19 - 6:19:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 19, 1770).

“A Discount of 5 per Cent. at least.”

In the summer of 1770, David Baty and Company advertised a variety of liquors available at their store in Charleston.  Their notice in the supplement to the June 19 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal listed “RUM of different Qualities,” brandy, Madeira, claret, port, and “a Variety of other WINES.”  Customers could select the quantity they desired.  For rum and brandy, that meant by the hogshead, quarter cask, or “smaller Quantity,” but not less than three gallons.  For the wines, they could select among pipes, casks, and bottles.

Baty and Company encouraged customers to make larger purchases.  To that end, they offered “a Discount of 5 per Cent. at least” for buying “any considerable Amount,” suggesting that they applied even more significant discounts as customers increased their orders.  The partners did not list any prices to capture the attention of prospective customers; instead, they asked them to imagine a different kind of bargain available at their store.

They also provided a discount to customers who paid cash rather than made their purchases on credit.  The same issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal included several notices calling on customers and others to settle overdue accounts.  Some of those advertisements included threats to place delinquent “Accounts in the Hands of a Lawyer.”  Baty and Company sought to avoid the hassle and expense of chasing down customers for payment at a later date, so they offered an incentive for paying with “Ready Money” at the time of sale.

Purveyors of goods and services frequently trumpeted their low prices in eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements.  Baty and Company took a different approach.  The partners asked prospective customers to consider how they could play a role in bringing down prices by ordering “any considerable Amount” or paying in cash, actions that provided even greater benefits to Baty and Company than simply making a sale.

June 5

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

Jun 5 - 6:5:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 5, 1770).

“ANN & BENJAMIN MATHEWES … VIOLATORS OF THE RESOLUTIONS.”

The “GENERAL COMMITTEE” responsible for overseeing adherence to the nonimportation agreement adopted in Charleston in July 1769 ran an advertisement in the June 5, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to inform the community of two violations.  The story of the first had unfolded over several months.  Benjamin Mathewes, a merchant and “Subscriber to the Resolutions,” had imported “sundry Goods from London” in January, but upon being detected had “voluntarily agreed to store” them until nonimportation came to an end and “a general Importation should take Place.”  The committee published the new agreement that Mathewes signed to that effect.

For many colonists caught in such circumstances that was the end of the story.  Newspaper notices published in several colonies documented violators attempting to rehabilitate their reputations and relationships with the community by making special effort to abide by the terms of the nonimportation agreed after they had been discovered deviating from it.  Such was the case for William Glen and Son, “having also been guilty of a Breach of the Resolutions.”  Glen and Son acknowledged that they had imported some textiles “contrary to the Resolutions” and then agreed to store them for the duration of the boycott.  However, “through Mistake” they “disposed of a few Pieces.”  For that error, they “declare our Sorrow” and promised to “adhere strictly to the Resolutions” in the future.  Glen and Son also agreed to deposit the remainder of the textiles and other goods “in the public Stores” where they would not have access to them, thus offering reassurance that the mistake would not happen again.  The committee stated that Glen and Son depicted the incident as “an Act of Inadvertence, rather than Design” and recommended that their pledge to turn over the remaining textiles “will be received as a sufficient Atonement for their Fault, and restore them to the Public’s Favour and Confidence.”

Mathewes, on the other hand, did not make the same effort to demonstrate his recalcitrance, prompting the committee to take a different approach to his case.  Although he affixed his signature to an apology and claimed that he would turn over the goods, the Committee of Inspection discovered that “many of the said Goods … had been opened” and sold.  Mathewes claimed that his mother, Ann, also a subscriber to the nonimportation agreement, had been responsible for their sale while he was away from town.  Neither mother nor son “ma[d]e proper Satisfaction to the Public for such shameful Breach of their sacred Contracts.”  Indeed, the elder Mathewes continued to sell the goods “in manifest Violation of the said Resolutions.”

This resulted in consequences.  Although the General Committee had shown “all possible Lenity and Forbearance” in attempting to resolve the situation, they came to the point that they deemed it necessary to advertise “ANN & BENJAMIN MATHEWES, as VIOLATORS OF THE RESOLUTIONS.”  The committee asserted that these violators were guilty of “counteracting the united Sentiments of the whole Body of the People, not only in this, but all the Northern Provinces; and prefering their own little private Advantage to the general Good of AMERICA.”  The Mathewes had betrayed both consumers and their country.  The Committee even more stridently made that point, proclaiming that “every such Violator should be treated with the utmost Contempt.”  Furthermore, the committee instructed those who supported the nonimportation agreement “against having any commercial Dealings whatever with the said ANN & BENJAMIN MATHEWES.”  Until they took the necessary actions to redeem themselves, “their Actions must declare them to be obstinate and inveterate Enemies to their Country, and unworthy of the least Confidence or Esteem.”

The General Committee told two stories of violations of the nonimportation agreement, one about the contrite Glen and Son and the other about two generations of the Mathewes family who refused to abide by the resolutions they had signed.  In each instance, the committee made recommendations for how members of the community should interpret these actions and react to the perpetrators.  By publishing this advertisement, the committee used the power of the press in their efforts to achieve compliance with the agreement and shape the narrative of resistance to the duties on certain imported goods that Parliament imposed in the Townshend Acts.

May 29

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

May 29 - 5:29:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 29, 1770).

“ALL Kinds of Blanks used in this Province, and good Writing Paper, to be sold by the Printer hereof.”

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, regularly inserted advertisements for goods available at his printing office into his newspaper.  Consider the May 29, 1770, edition.  Under a heading for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” on the second page, Crouch ran a notice that called on “all Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts.  It further advised that he “has plenty of Hands” employed in his printing office and “will undertake any kind of Printing-Work, which will be executed with the greatest Care and utmost Dispatch, and on reasonable Terms.”  On the fourth page, Crouch ran an advertisement for “BLANK QUIRE BOOKS, ruled and unruled, and Blank Receipt Books” as well as a pamphlet concerning “An Act for regulating and ascertaining the Rates of Wharfage of Ships and Merchandize.”  That notice was interspersed among others that advertisers paid to have inserted.

Several other advertisements merit notice for their particular placement on the page.  One briefly informed readers: “JUST PUBLISHED and to be sold by the Printer hereof, A new CATECHISM for CHILDREN.”  Another advised prospective customers that “A Second EDITION of THOMAS MORE’s ALMANACK, for the present Year, may be had at Crouch’s Printing-Office in Elliott-street.”  A third, similarly short, announced, “ALL Kinds of Blanks used in this Province, and good Writing Paper, to be sold by the Printer hereof.”  These three advertisements were particularly noticeable because they concluded the first three pages of that issue.  The advertisement for the “CATECHISM for CHILDREN” appeared at the bottom of the final column of the first page.  It was the only advertisement on that page, conveniently placed to bring the third column to the same length as the first two.  The advertisement for the almanac and the advertisement for the blanks and paper appeared in the lower right corners of the second and third pages, respectively.  Only the fourth page did not conclude with one of Crouch’s advertisements.  Instead, the colophon occupied that space.  Arguably, it served as an advertisement as well.  Crouch used the colophon to promote the services he provided: “CHARLES-TOWN: Printed by CHARLES CROUCH, in Elliott-Street; where all Manner of Printing Work is performed with Care and Expedition.”  As readers perused the newspaper, the last item they encountered on every page was a short advertisement that promoted some aspect of Crouch’s business.  Both the placement and the repetition likely made them more memorable.

Eighteenth-century printers frequently used their newspapers to promote other aspects of their business, including books, stationery, and blanks for sale as well as job printing.  Their access to the press allowed them to place their notices in advantageous places to garner additional attention from readers.

May 22

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

May 22 - 5:22:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

“A Few Bales of well bought WHITE PLAINS.”

When he prepared to go to press with the May 22, 1770, edition, Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, found that he had too much content to fit into a standard four-page issue.  To remedy the situation, he also produced a two-page supplement comprised entirely of advertisements.  That was not unusual, but one of the decisions Crouch made about the format of that supplement differed from the approach usually taken by printers and compositors throughout the colonies.  In an effort to fill every square inch of space on the page, Crouch included three advertisements that deviated from the standard width for columns in his newspaper.

Understanding this strategy first requires a closer look at the entire supplement.  Crouch did not have enough material to fill two sides of a half sheet, the most common format for supplements.  Instead, he used a smaller sheet, one that was wide enough for only two columns with generous margins.  Regular issues had three columns.  To take advantage of the empty space, Crouch selected shorter advertisements to rotate perpendicular to the rest of the text.  Those he inserted in several columns.  This was a common trick for printers and compositors.  It saved the time and effort of resetting type by arranging in a different configuration several advertisements that previously appeared in the newspaper.

Crouch could have left space on either side of these advertisement.  Instead, he positioned them with margins as narrow as if they appeared in the regular columns.  This left empty space at the bottom of the page, but it was not wide enough for an advertisement of the same width.  Here Crouch’s method departed from the usual practice.  Rather than adjust the margins, he instead inserted advertisements that were narrower than any of the other columns throughout the standard issue or the supplement.  Doing so required resetting type for advertisements that previously ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Crouch chose to expend the time and effort rather than surrender the otherwise empty space.  He made use of every last inch of the smaller half sheet when he published this particular advertising supplement.