June 11

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 11, 1771).

“She continues to make up EVERY ARTICLE in the MILINARY WAY.”

Readers encountered many advertisements that listed dozens of consumer goods when they perused the June 11, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and the supplement that accompanied it.  Indeed, rather than news accounts the first items on the first page consisted of advertisements for “a general and very compleat ASSORTMENT of GOODS, just imported … from London” that listed many kinds of textiles, garments, and adornments.  Male entrepreneurs placed most of those advertisements, but women also made an appearance in the public prints.  Jane Thomson ran her own notice for a “neat assortment of MILINARY GOODS.”

Thomson stocked everything from “pink, green, white, sky blue, and black English persians” to “women and girls silk and leather gloves and mitts” to “blond lace, single and double edged.”  After listing dozens of items, she proclaimed that her inventory also included “many other articles, too tedious to enumerate.”  She offered as many choices to consumers as her male competitors.  In addition to retailing those goods, Thomson informed prospective clients that she “continues to make up EVERY ARTICLE in the MILINARY WAY, and FINE JOINS LACE as usual.”  That made her a producer as well as a purveyor of goods.

Editorials in early American newspapers often framed women solely as consumers, usually to critique their activities in the marketplace, but Thomson demonstrated that women filled other roles during the consumer revolution.  They ran their own businesses, negotiated with English merchants who supplied their inventory, kept ledgers and other records, collected debts, produced goods, placed advertisements, and mentored other women.  Thomson informed readers that she sought “one GIRL a[s] an apprentice,” someone she could train as a milliner who might eventually operate her own business.

Many more women pursued shopkeeping and other occupations in eighteenth-century American than placed newspaper advertisements.  As a result, the public prints did not give a complete accounting of the presence of women in the marketplace as producers and purveyors of consumer goods.  As they went about their daily business, however, colonists certainly knew that many of their female friends, relatives, and neighbors operated businesses of one kind or another.  Jane Thomson’s advertisement only hints at the number of women who made or sold goods in Charleston in the early 1770s.

May 7

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

“Booksellers in Boston, New-York, Philadelphia, or … Charles-Town.”

Like many other colonial printers, Charles Crouch also sold books, pamphlets, and broadsides.  In the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, he advertised titles available at his “Great Stationary and Book Shop.”  He also acted as a local agent for printers and booksellers in other cities, publishing subscription notices and handling local sales.  He did so on behalf of Robert Bell, the flamboyant bookseller responsible for publishing a three-volume American edition of “ROBERTSON’s celebrated History of CHARLES the Fifth.”  Bell coordinated an advertising campaign that extended from New England to South Carolina.  Local agents simultaneously published his subscription notice inviting readers to participate in an “elegant XENOPHONTICK BANQUET” through purchasing his American edition.

When Wells inserted that advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and listed himself as a local agent, he contributed to the creation of a community that extended far beyond Charleston.  Yet settling in for the “XENOPHONTICK BANQUET” was not the only means of joining a larger community that Wells offered to readers and prospective customers.  He appended to Bell’s subscription notice a brief note that he also sold “The Trial of the Soldiers of the 29th Regiment, for the Murders committed at Boston,” printed by John Fleeming in Boston, and “A Funeral Sermon on the Death of the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, by the Rev. Mr. Zubly,” printed by James Johnston in Savannah.  Those two items commemorated two of the most significant events of 1770, the Boston Massacre on March 5 and the death of George Whitefield on September 30.  Both events received extensive coverage in the colonial press.  Both of them also generated commemorative items ranging from broadsides and prints to sermons and orations.

In a single advertisement, Wells linked consumers in South Carolina to geographically dispersed communities that shared common interests not defined by the places individual members resided.  Colonists from New England to Georgia mourned Whitefield, just as they expressed outrage over British soldiers firing into a crowd and killing several people in Boston.  Many colonists also sought to participate in genteel communities defined in part by the books they read, joining in the “grand Feast of historical Entertainment” that booksellers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and other towns offered to them.  Wells did not merely advertise three titles available at his shop; he marketed a sense of community.

April 27

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Extraordinary (April 27, 1771).

“He carries on his Business as usual, at his Shop in Broad-Street.”

A standard issue for most newspapers published in colonial America consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  This did not always provide sufficient space for all of the news and advertising on hand, so printers adopted a variety of strategies for producing supplements.  In the past week, the Adverts 250 Project has examined some of the decisions made by printers who had too much content and not enough space.  On April 24, 1771, Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, distributed a smaller sheet that consisted entirely of advertising along with the standard issue for the week.  The following day, Richard Draper, printer of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, inserted a note that “for want of Room” several advertisements “must be deferred till next Week.”  He did, however, issue a supplement that contained “Fresh London Articles” that he received from the captain of a ship that just arrived in port.  In that supplement, Draper scooped other newspapers.

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, took another approach.  On April 27, he published an Extraordinary containing both news and advertising that served as a midweek supplement to his newspaper.  Prior to the American Revolution, most newspapers operated on a weekly publication schedule.  When printers did publish supplements, they usually did so on the same day as the standard issue and distributed them together.  Both Draper and Wells did so with their supplements.  On occasion, however, printers produced supplements, extraordinaries, or postscripts midway through the week.  In such instances, supplements consisted of either news or news and advertising, but rarely just advertising.  Typically, breaking news justified publishing and disseminating midweek supplements, but printers determined that advertising supplements could wait until the usual publication day.

Crouch devoted an entire half sheet to his two-page supplement, unlike Draper and Wells who each opted to conserve resources with smaller sheets.  Crouch could have devised a smaller sheet that featured only news accounts.  Instead, he published news and advertising, further disseminating notices about consumer goods and services, real estate for sale, and ships preparing to sail to England and other colonies.  Did those advertisers pay for the additional insertion?  Or did those advertisements appear gratis?  Answering those questions requires consulting Crouch’s ledgers or other sources beyond the newspaper.  Either way, the midweek supplement increased the amount of advertising (and news) circulating in South Carolina near the end of April 1771.

April 2

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 2, 1771).

“He will likewise dispose of at private sale, all his household furniture.”

In the spring of 1771, Sampson Neyle took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advertise what amounted to an eighteenth-century version of a moving sale.  He advised readers that he planned “to embark for England in few weeks” and planned to sell his belongings before departing.  He also called on “all persons who have accounts against him” to seek payment before he left Charleston.  Colonists frequently placed such advertisements in advance of making transatlantic trips.  They almost always mentioned settling accounts, but only some of them offered items for sale.

Neyle listed an assortment of “household furniture” for prospective buyers, including “a neat mahogany desk and book-case, cloaths press, shaving stand, chairs, tables, bedstead, [and] feather beds.”  He also intended to part with housewares like china and glass.  To make these items more attractive, Neyle suggested that even they were secondhand that they had been barely used.  He proclaimed, in italics to draw notice, that most of those items “were new about five months ago.”  Neyle’s moving sale presented an opportunity for buyers to benefit from bargains on slightly used consumer goods compared to what they would pay artisans and retailers for new items.

Yet Neyle also attempted to manage that discount and his own proceeds by first offering his belongings “at private sale.”  Only if necessary would he sponsor a “public sale.”  Here he likely made a distinction between one-on-one transactions with buyers and an auction.  A “private sale” of any or all of the items allowed Neyle to set prices and negotiate with buyers based on how much interest they demonstrated.  At an auction, however, he would have to settle for the highest bid … and anything that did not sell via “private sale” likely would not achieve a higher bid at auction.  In addition, sponsoring an auction also meant paying a vendue master, further eroding Neyle’s bottom line.

Readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal encountered many invitations to participate in the consumer revolution.  Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans placed advertisements for all sorts of new goods, but other advertisers offered secondhand items as well.  Neyle and others who advertised moving sales expanded the number of ways that colonists could acquire goods, not unlike the many estate notices that listed used furniture and housewares for sale.

March 13

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 12, 1771).

“Writing Paper, Wafers, &c.
Loaf Sugar, and Bohea Tea,
Cinnamon, Nutmegs, &c.”

When an advertisement announcing the “SALE of the late Mr. CORKER’S Store Goods” appeared in the March 12, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, its format likely caught the attention of readers.  It listed more than one hundred items, from textiles to patent medicines to housewares to hardware.  In addition, the advertisement promised that “many small Articles too tedious to mention” would also be available for sale “at the Vendue-House” in the coming days.

The compositor designed a catalog of goods that was relatively easy for readers to navigate compared to many notices merchants and shopkeepers placed in early American newspapers.  The advertisement spanned two columns on the third page, occupying enough space to create three columns within the notice.  In turn, only one or two items appeared on each line.  A significant amount of white space, especially compared to the dense text in news accounts and other advertisements, facilitated scanning the advertisement for items of interest.  In contrast, Parker and Hutchings’s advertisement for “An ASSORTMENT of FRESH GOODS” immediately below the notice for Corker’s goods listed dozens of items in three paragraphs.  It had no white space to aid in distinguishing among the merchandise.  Parker and Hutchings selected the more common means of listing their wares in the public prints.  Incorporating orderly columns into the advertisement for Corker’s goods also increased the amount of space necessary to run it.  The size of the notice, in addition to the design elements, made it more visible on the page.

In addition to promoting the sale sponsored by Corker’s estate, this advertisement also testified to the skills of those who labored in Charles Crouch’s printing office.  In the colophon, Crouch invited prospective clients to visit him on Elliott Street, “where all Manner of Printing Work is performed with Care and Expedition.”  The format of the notice about Corker’s store goods simultaneously served as an advertisement for the different styles of printing that Crouch could deliver to customers who ordered broadsides, handbills, circular letters, blanks, and other job printing.

February 12

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 12, 1771).

“They have entered into Co-partnership, and continue to carry on the FACTORAGE BUSINESS.”

Like many other colonial newspapers, the masthead for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal proclaimed that it “Contain[ed] the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic.”  In other words, printers promoted their newspapers by claiming that they delivered accounts of current events as soon as they became available.  Local news appeared quickly, but news from other colonies, Great Britain, Europe, and other distant places took more time to report.  Printers published letters they received from distant correspondents and reprinted items as newspapers arrived from other colonies and London.

In addition to those “freshest Advices,” colonial newspapers also contained significant amounts of advertising.  On occasion, some even seemed as though they were delivery mechanisms for advertisements rather than purveyors of news.  The February 12, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal provides an extreme example.  It consisted almost entirely of paid notices from the first page to the last.  In the first column immediately below the masthead readers encountered a header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”  Charles Crouch, the printer filled all three columns of the first page with advertisements.  He inserted one column featuring news from Charleston and towns in other colonies, shipping news from the customs house, and a poem to entertain readers on the second page.  Otherwise, advertising constituted the remainder of the second page and the entire third and fourth pages.  Overall, paid notices accounted for eleven of twelve columns in the February 12 edition.

That did not mean, however, that readers did not have access to the “freshest Advices.”  Advertisements delivered a variety of news, especially about local people and events.  One notice published on February 12, for instance, identified colonists who did not appear in court to serve as jurors and would be fined if they did not “make good and sufficient Excuses, upon Oath, for their Non-Attendance.”  Several estate notices informed the public of deaths, accounts to be settled, and real estate and household goods for sale.  One advertisement described enslaved men who liberated themselves, offering rewards for their capture and return while simultaneously encouraging readers to scrutinize all Black men they encountered.  Another notice lamented that “there are many Gentlemen who have Plantations and Negroes in the Parish of St. James, Goose Creek, and no white Man on them, by which Means, the Negroes are enabled to prosecute all Manner of Roguery.”  The advertisement then instructed such offenders to “provide white Men for their respective Plantations” and organize patrols or face legal consequences.  An array of advertisements, including one in which William Gibbes and William Hort offered their services as factors or brokers, kept readers informed about local commerce.  One advertisement in Welsh invited those who could read it to participate in St. David’s Day celebrations.

Crouch did not print many news articles in that particular edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, but that did not mean that he neglected to provide readers with valuable information.  The advertisements presented the “freshest Advices” about many local and regional events, keeping readers informed.

January 22

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 22, 1771).

“Scotch camblets for negro wenches gowns.”

Advertisers took to the pages of the January 22, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to offer a variety of commodities for sale.  A good number of advertisers also sought to sell enslaved men, women, and children; their notices were interspersed among the others, ubiquitous in the commercial landscape represented on the printed page and enacted in everyday life.  The executors of Edward Smilie’s estate, for instance, advertised “Twenty-seven valuableSLAVES, among whom are, a carpenter and driver, as few good house-wenches, a seamstress, and several handy boys and girls.”  Thomas Knighton advertised “Nineteen valuable NEGROES, among which are, one copper, two sawyers, and a good house wench.”  An anonymous advertiser instructed interested parties to “Enquire of the Printer” to learn more about purchasing a “Young NEGRO FELLOW, that has been used to attend on a Gentleman in the Country.”

Such advertisers, however, were not alone in their efforts to profit from the enslavement of Africans and African Americans.  Henry Rugeley and Company advertised a variety of goods, mostly textiles but also tea and seeds.  Their textiles included “a variety of long and clear lawns, Silesia linens, tandems, Russia drab, dowlas, garlix, osnabrugs, and half-ell German linen” as well as “Scotch camblets for negro wenches gowns.”  Although Rugeley and Company did not seek to sell enslaved people, at least not in that advertisement, the partners did want a share of the market for supplying provisions to enslavers.  They derived some of their revenues from selling textiles intended to clothe enslaved women.  The transatlantic slave trade had tentacles that extended beyond the buying and selling of enslaved men, women, and children.  Like Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal who collected advertising fees and facilitated sales of enslaved people, Rugeley and Company deliberately played a supporting role in the perpetuation of slavery in colonial America.  As newspaper advertisements and other sources make clear, there was money to be made through enslavement and exploitation, not only by slave traders but also by printers, merchants, shopkeepers, and others in a vast commercial infrastructure that catered to enslavers.

January 2

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 1, 1771)

“WANTED on Purchase, or Hire by the Year, A Honest, handy, young Negro Fellow.”

Thomas Green and Ebenezer Watson, the printers of the Connecticut Courant, extended best wishes to their subscribers and advertisers on January 1, 1771.  In a brief note, they proclaimed, “We wish our Customers a happy NEW-YEAR!”  On the same day, the “LAD who carried The MASSACHUSETTS SPY” delivered to subscribers a supplementary broadsheet to wish “all his kind Customers A Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!”  Throughout the week, other newspapers marked the end of 1770 and the arrival of 1771.  At the request of a reader, John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, inserted “PSALM LVX. 2. For NEW-YEAR’s Day,” the verses having been “adapted to the Season,” in that newspaper’s final issue for 1770.  James Rivington advertised an assortment of goods as “NEW-YEARS PRESENTS” in the last issue of the New-York Journal of the year.  Every newspaper from New Hampshire to South Carolina carried at least one advertisement for almanacs for the new year.

Yet the arrival of a new year was not a cause of celebration for everyone in the colonies.  For many enslaved men and women, the new year marked the first day of hiring out, a system in which enslavers leased the labor of those they held in bondage.  Enslaved men and women who hired out earned wages, but they went directly to those who purported to be their masters.  Enslavers who thought themselves magnanimous sometimes allowed enslaved men and women to keep a portion of these earnings, but even in those instances the system perpetuated the exploitation of enslaved people.

When they hired out, enslaved men and women faced other hardships beyond the confiscation of their wages.  They usually moved to new households, sometimes in distant towns, leaving behind spouses, children, parents, siblings, other relations, and friends.  Hiring out disrupted their communities and strained their relationships, yet another reverberation of the widespread abuse and exploitation that was so common that advertisements for hiring out appeared in newspapers alongside mundane details of everyday life in eighteenth-century America.  The front page of the January 1, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, for instance, carried an advertisement for a young enslaved man “WANTED on Purchase, or Hire by the Year.”  The advertiser remained anonymous, instructing anyone seeking to sell or hire out “A Honest, handy, young Negro Fellow” to “apply to the Printer.”  The identity of the advertiser, however, is not the most significant detail glossed over in this advertisement.  The notice, like so many others that ran in early American newspapers, testifies to a much more complicated story about the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children in early America when considered not from the perspective of the advertiser but instead from the perspective of the subject of the advertisement and the perspectives of his family, friends, and community.  The hiring out system meant that the new year often meant anxiety, disruption. and separation, rather than celebration, for enslaved people.

December 18

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

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

“A SERMON SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THE Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  The next day, several newspapers in Boston informed readers of Whitefield’s death.  Over the course of several weeks, news radiated from there.  Newspapers from New Hampshire to Georgia eventually reprinted articles that originated in Boston and supplemented with coverage of local reaction.  That additional coverage included poems that memorialized Whitefield and advertisements for commemorative items.  Less than a week elapsed when the October 4 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter noted that Green and Russell sold “A FUNERAL HYMN, wrote by the Rev’d Mr. Whitefield: Said to be designed to have been sung over his Corpse by the Orphans belonging to his Tabernacle in London, had he died there.”  So began the commodification of Whitefield’s death.

That commodification was widespread, though especially prevalent in New England.  Still, printers and booksellers in other regions participated as well.  On December 18, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal carried a notice that “A SERMON SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THE Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD” … delivered in Charleston on October 28 by Josiah Smith “WILL BE PUBLISHED” and sold later in the week.  This was only the second commemorative item presented for purchase in South Carolina.  Previously the South-Carolina and American General Gazette carried a notice for “AN ELEGY on the Reverend GEORGE WHITEFIELD” combined in a single publication with the hymn that was first advertised in Boston.  Those advertisements ran in November.  The advertisement for the sermon first appeared four weeks after the last insertion of the advertisement for the elegy and hymn.  Consumers in South Carolina were not barraged with marketing for publications commemorating Whitefield to the same extent as their counterparts in New England, but they did not lack options either.  Perhaps of his own initiative, but perhaps in part as a result of examining newspapers from other regions, Charles Crouch, printer of both the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and Smith’s sermon memorializing Whitefield, saw an opportunity to produce a commemorative item.  He contributed to public mourning of the influential minister, but simultaneously exercised some self-interest in seeking to generate revenues from sales of the sermon, not unlike many other printers and booksellers throughout the colonies.

November 13

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

Continuation to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 13, 1770).

“CONTINUATION to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal.”

Like other newspapers published in colonial America, a standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Charles Crouch occasionally had more news, editorials, and advertisements than would fit in a standard issue, prompting him to distribute a supplement with the additional material.  Some newspapers so often had surplus items, especially advertisements, that supplements themselves became practically standard.

November 13, 1770, was one of those days that all of the news and all of the advertising for the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal would not fit on four pages.  Six pages did not provide enough room either.  Crouch filled a two-page supplement and still had advertisements remaining.  Advertisements generated important revenue for any printer.  In this case, Crouch determined that they generated enough revenue to merit the additional expense of producing and distributing a four-page Continuation to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in addition to the supplement.  The Continuation consisted entirely of advertisements.

The Continuation, however, was not printed on the same size sheet as the standard issue or the supplement.  Digital remediations of eighteenth-century newspapers usually do not include metadata that includes dimensions, but differences in the sizes of sheets are often apparent even without knowing the precise measurements.  The standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal featured three columns per page.  When printed on an 8.5×11 sheet of office paper, the type is relatively small.  In contrast, the Continuation had only two columns per page.  When printed on an 8.5×11 sheet, the type is relatively large.  The sizes of the original broadsheets were obviously different.  Furthermore, white space divides the columns in standard issues, but the columns nearly run together in the Continuation, separated by a line running down the middle.  Rather than reset the type of advertisements that ran in previous issues, a time-consuming task, Crouch instead made them fit on the smaller sheet.  The Continuation had four pages, but they did not double the size of that standard issue.

Still, subscribers and other readers encountered far more content than usual when they perused the November 13 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal along with its Supplement and Continuation.  Close examination of the digital surrogate also suggests that Crouch printed the supplement on a smaller sheet than the standard issue, though one large enough to retain three columns with white space separating them.  For most newspaper printers, advertisements represented significant revenues.  Paid notices often accounted for a significant portion of the content in any given issue. In this instance, devoting a page to advertising was not sufficient.  Crouch devised additional sheets to accompany the standard issue, incurring expenses yet generating revenues while simultaneously exposing readers to greater advertising content.