June 30

Who was the subject of advertisements in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 30, 1772).


The images in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal testified to the prevalence of advertisements about enslaved people in that publication.  One column in the June 30, 1772, edition, for instance, featured five consecutive advertisements adorned with depictions of enslaved people for sale or fleeing for their freedom from their enslavers.  Three of those announced upcoming sales of “WINDWARD COAST NEGROES,” “PRIME, HEALTHY, YOUNG NEGROES, Of the COROMANTEE and FANTEE Countries,” and “CHOICE and HEALTHY NEGROES, ARRIVED … directly from the GOLD COAST.”  The other two encouraged colonizers to engage in surveillance of Black people to determine if anyone they encountered matched the description of James, “a likely, young Mulatto man,” Cato, “a stout negro man, well known in Charles-Town,” or “a negro boy named JAMEY, about eighteen years of age.”  The advertisers offered rewards for the capture and return of James, Cato, and Jamey.  In addition, they threatened to prosecute “with the utmost rigour of the law” anyone who aided those men.

Throughout the remainder of the four-page standard issue and the two-page supplement, six other advertisements incorporated woodcuts of enslaved people.  None of them depicted any particular person; instead, they were stock images that Charles Crouch, the printer, provided for advertisers.  In contrast, only five real estate notices included woodcuts of houses, also stock images.  Only three advertisements for freight or passage had woodcuts of ships at sea.  Although advertisements about enslaved people did not constitute the majority of advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, they did account for a sizeable minority of paid notices.  Furthermore, the images that accompanied many advertisements about enslaved people made them the most visible content in a publication that almost never included images with news items and only occasionally included images with other advertisements.  Those images demonstrated that a good portion of the business undertaken in the printing office related directly to perpetuating slavery.  Crouch generated significant revenues from slave traders announcing auctions and enslavers offering rewards for the capture and return of fugitives who seized their own liberty.

June 24

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 23, 1772).

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

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, had far more content than would fit in a standard issue on June 23, 1772.  Like other newspapers printed throughout the colonies, his weekly newspapers consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  On that particular day, Crouch devoted two pages to news and two pages to advertising.  That left out a significant number of advertisements of all sorts, including legal notices, catalogs of goods sold by merchants and shopkeepers, and notices that described enslaved people who liberated themselves and offered rewards for their capture and return.  Since advertising represented significant revenue for printers, Crouch did not want to delay publishing those advertisements, especially since his newspaper competed with both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette to attract advertisers.

To solve the problem, Crouch printed and distributed a supplement comprised entirely of advertising.  From New England to South Carolina, printers often resorted to supplements when they found themselves in Crouch’s position.  Even as he devised the supplement to accompany the June 23 edition, Crouch carefully considered his resources and the amount of the content he needed to publish.  He selected a smaller sheet than the standard issue, one that allowed for only two columns instead of three.  That could have resulted in wide margins, but Crouch instead decided to print shorter advertisements in the margins, rotating type that had already been set to run perpendicular to the two main columns.  That created room for four additional advertisements per page, a total of sixteen over the four pages of the entire supplement.  With a bit of ingenuity, Crouch used type already set for previous issues or that could easily integrate into subsequent issues rather than (re)setting type just to accommodate the size of the sheet for the June 23 supplement.  Crouch managed to meet his obligation to advertisers who would have been displeased had he excluded their notices while simultaneously conserving and maximizing the resources available in his printing office.

June 2

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 2, 1772).

“A Great Variety of {IRISH Linens, printed Linen …} of all Widths and Prices.”

When Wakefield, a merchant who went solely by his last name in the public prints, placed an advertisement in the June 2, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal he relied on design elements to draw attention.  Like many other advertisers, he demonstrated the choices available to consumers by providing a list, but he did not resort to a dense paragraph of text (the format selected by Edwards, Fisher, and Company) or side-by-side columns with only one item on each line (the option favored by Daniel Hall and Stephen Smith).  Instead, he clustered his goods together in the center of the advertisement with decorative brackets pointing to descriptions on either side.

For instance, Wakefield listed “IRISH Linens, printed Linen, Chintz, Calicoes, Cotton, Diaper, Huckaback, Lawns, Cambricks, &c. &c.”  That list extended five lines, occupying the center third of the column.  Brackets enclosed the list on both sides.  An introductory phrase ran on the left, “A great Variety of,” to let readers know that Wakefield stocked an even more extensive inventory of those textiles.  To underscore the point, the phrase to the right promised “all Widths and Prices.”  Similarly, a shorter list of other fabrics extended three lines with brackets enclosing both sides.  Commentary to the left indicated that Wakefield had “An Assortment of” those items.  The rest of the advertisement reverted to standard paragraphs, but the unique format for the lists of textiles created enough visual interest that readers likely took note.

Creating this advertisement required some level of collaboration with the compositor.  When he submitted the copy, Wakefield may have arranged the lists as he intended for them to appear, but the compositor was ultimately responsible for setting type in a manner that honored any instructions or requests.  For instance, Wakefield probably did not devise a line break that divided “Calicoes” between two lines.  Instead, a compositor would have relied on experience and experimentation in determining the final appearance of the advertisement.  No matter how closely he worked with the compositor, Wakefield likely took greater interest in designing a distinctive advertisement than Edwards, Fisher, and Company or Hall and Smith or any other advertisers whose notices featured standard formats.

April 14

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 14, 1772).

Ten Shillings per Day will be paid to every able Male Slave.”

Roads and bridges needed repair.  That was the message in a notice that ran in the April 14, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Henry Ravenel informed readers that two bridges in St. John’s Parish “are both in Want of great and immediate Repairs.”  He called on “any Person or Persons, who will repair both, or either of the said Bridges” to submit Proposals to the Board of Commissioners in Monck’s Corner.  In addition to the bridges, “Part of the high Road leading from Goose Creek to Monck’s Corner, stands in great and immediate Want of Repair.”  Ravenel did not request proposals for that job.  Instead, he declared that “Ten Shillings per Day will be paid to every able Male Slave” who worked on repairing the road.

Readers knew that was an impolite fiction.  The enslaved men who did the repairs would not receive ten shillings for each day they labored.  Instead, the Board of Commissioners would pay those funds directly to the enslavers.  This advertisement testified to yet another contribution beyond agricultural labor that enslaved men and women made to the colonial economy.  They participated in building and maintaining infrastructure.  Other advertisements in the same issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal concerned a “NEGRO WAITING BOY, who also understands the Management of Horses,” an enslaved cooper, enslaved tanners, an enslaved “House Carpenter,” enslaved sawyers, and enslaved domestic servants.  Some of those enslaved men and women may have also hired out, like the enslaved men who repaired the road between Goose Creek and Monck’s Corner, and their enslavers may have allowed them to keep a small portion of their earnings, but they almost certainly did not retain their entire wages for the work they performed.  Those enslaved men and women undertook all kinds of labor, much of it requiring specialized skills and expertise, in the colonial economy.  Their contributions extended far beyond cultivating rice, indigo, and other crops.

April 7

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 7, 1772).

“A variety of other articles too tedious to enumerate.”

In the spring of 1772, an advertiser who identified himself simply as “STUKES” (almost certainly William Stukes) advised readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he imported and sold a “COMPLEAT assortment of millinary, haberdashery, [and] stationary” and “As compleat and large an assortment of RIBBONS as ever was imported into this province at one time.”  As further evidence of the bounty available at his shop, he listed dozens of textiles, garments, and accessories.  Stukes stocked everything from “new fashioned flowered Leghorn hats” to “Ladies Morocco pocket books … with silver French locks” to “fine white linen gloves” to “fashionable fans.”  Like many other eighteenth-century advertisers, he expected such a vast array of choices to entice consumers.

Yet he did not want to overwhelm prospective customers by committing too much to print (or he did not want to pay for additional space that a longer list would occupy in the newspaper).  He concluded his litany of goods with a note that he carried “a variety of other articles too tedious to enumerate.”  Where did Stukes draw the line?  Giving only his last name amounted to an economy of prose, but the lengthy list of goods certainly did not.  Only two other shopkeepers placed advertisements listing a similar number of items in the April 7, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Stukes apparently did not consider the “blue satin hats” and the “wax ear-rings” and the “Barcelona cravats” and the “womens black calamanco pumps” in his notice to be “too tedious to enumerate” as he competed to attract customers by demonstrating the choices available at his shop.  Proclaiming that listing anything more would become “tedious” was a sly way of encouraging prospective customers to imagine for themselves what else they might discover in Stukes’s shop.  He gained the advantage of cataloging his wares in the public prints while simultaneously suggesting that he exercised restraint in how much he shared about his merchandise.

March 3

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

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


When Richard Dickinson and William Turpin, chocolate makers, marketed their product in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in March 1772, they adorned their advertisement with a woodcut depicting two men conversing while holding cups that presumably held the beverage they sold.  Compared to most other images incorporated into newspaper advertisements in the 1770s, their woodcut likely seemed clumsy to readers.  On the other hand, including an image in their advertisement at all distinguished it from other notices.

Advertisements filled eleven of the twelve columns in the standard issue published on March 3.  The printer, Charles Crouch, also distributed a half sheet supplement comprised entirely of advertising.  In total, the standard issue and the supplement carried 126 advertisements, but only nineteen of them featured any sort of visual image.  Eleven real estate advertisements included images of houses.  Another had a more elaborate scene of two houses, trees, and a fence dividing fields.  Six advertisements offering rewards for enslaved people who liberated themselves included woodcuts depicting a dark-skinned figure running.  An image of a vessel at sea accompanied a notice about a ship departing for Bristol.  All of those woodcuts belonged to the printer.  Almost every printer who published a newspaper in the colonies had stock images of houses, ships, horses, and enslaved people to insert into advertisements.

The image of two figures conversing while drinking cups of chocolate in Dickinson and Turpin’s advertisement was the only woodcut commissioned by the advertisers in that edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its supplement.  Dozens of other advertisers refrained from creating and including images that depicted their products, their shop signs, or anything else.  As a result, Dickinson and Turpin’s unique image likely drew even more attention since it competed only with familiar woodcuts that readers encountered in every issue as the printer recycled them from advertisement to advertisements.  In the copy for their advertisement, the chocolate makers proclaimed that consumers considered their chocolate “much superior to any other made here or imported.”  Some prospective customers likely noticed that bold claim because the image in the advertisement, different from any other in the newspaper, caught their attention.

January 28

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 28, 1772).

“Those who are animated by the Wish of seeing Native Fabrications flourish in AMERICA.”

Robert Bell worked to create an American literary marketplace in the second half of the eighteenth century.  The flamboyant bookseller, publisher, and auctioneer commenced his efforts before the American Revolution, sponsoring the publication of American editions of popular titles that other booksellers imported.  His strategy included extensive advertising campaigns in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  He established a network of local agents, many of them printers, who inserted subscription notices in newspapers, accepted advance orders, and sold the books after they went to press.

Those subscription notices often featured identical copy from newspaper to newspaper.  For instance, Bell attempted to drum up interest in William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1772.  Advertisements that appeared in the Providence Gazette, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, and other newspapers all included a headline that proclaimed, “LITERATURE.”  Bell and his agents tailored the advertisements for local audiences, addressing the “Gentlemen of Rhode-Island” in the Providence Gazette and the “Gentlemen of SOUTH-CAROLINA” in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  In each instance, though, they encouraged prospective subscribers to think of themselves as a much larger community of readers by extending the salutation to include “all of those who are animated by the Wish of seeing Native Fabrications flourish in AMERICA.”

Bell aimed to cultivate a community of American consumers, readers, and supporters of goods produced in the colonies, offering colonizers American editions of Blackstone’s Commentaries and other works “Printed on American Paper.”  Given the rate that printers reprinted items from one newspaper to another, readers already participated in communities of readers that extended from New England to Georgia, but Bell’s advertisements extended the experience beyond the news and into the advertisements.  He invited colonizers to further codify a unified community of geographically-dispersed readers and consumers who shared common interests when it came to both “LITERATURE” and “the Advancement” of domestic manufactures.  To do so, they needed to purchase his publications.

January 7

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 7, 1772).

“They will be put up in small Lots for the better Conveniency of private Families.”

Samuel Gordon planned to leave South Carolina in February 1772.  In advance of his departure, he advertised that he would sell a variety of goods at auction on January 10.  To entice bidders, he listed many of those items, including “a great Variety of blue and white enameled Dishes and Plates,” “a great Number of Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate Cups and Saucers,” “Decanters and Wine Glasses,” and “an Assortment of Table Knives and Forks.”  He concluded the list with “&c.” (the abbreviation for et cetera commonly used in the eighteenth century) to indicate far more choices awaited those who attended the auction.

Gordon did not want prospective bidders to assume that he was attempting to get rid of merchandise that had lingered on the shelves at his “IRISH LINEN WARE-HOUSE” in Charleston.  He asserted that he had recently imported the goods “in the HEART-OF-OAK, who arrived here the Twentieth of December Instant, from LONDON.”  In other words, he acquired his inventory three weeks before the auction.  Colonizers had an opportunity to purchase new goods shipped from the cosmopolitan center of the empire for bargain prices at auction.

Yet they did not need to wait until the day of the auction if any of the textiles, housewares, and other items interested them.  In a nota bene, Gordon stated that he “continues to sell any of the above Goods at a very low Advance, till the Day of the Sale.”  He invited customers to visit his warehouse to examine the merchandise and select what they wished to purchase rather than take chances bidding against others at auction.  He offered low prices to make this option as attractive as the prospects of a good deal at auction.  Gordon also explained that any remaining inventory that went to auction “will be put up in small Lots for the better Conveniency of private Families.”  That meant that items would be bundled together.  Consumers who wished to purchase only specific items needed to buy them before the auction.

In his efforts to liquidate his merchandise before leaving the colony, Gordon sought to incite interest in new goods recently received from London.  He scheduled an auction for colonizers hoping for deep discounts via low bids, but also continued sales at his warehouse for others who wanted the security of making purchases without bidding against competitors.  Offering colonizers both means of acquiring his goods had the advantage of maximizing his revenue while also clearing out his inventory.

November 12

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

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

“RUN-AWAY … six Angola negro men.”

“LIBERTY … excellent Accommodations.”

In the fall of 1771, John Edwards and Company sought freight and passengers for the Liberty, soon departing Charleston for Bristol.  In an advertisement in the November 12, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Edwards and Company promised “excellent Accommodations” for passengers.  Two aspects of the advertisement helped draw attention to it:  the name of the ship, “LIBERTY,” in capital letters and a large font as well as a woodcut of a ship at sea.  Wind seemed to fill the sails and unfurl the flags, suggesting a quick and comfortable journey.  The advertisement for freight and passage aboard the Liberty appeared two notices below another advertisement that also incorporated a woodcut.  That image, however, depicted an enslaved man on the run.  He seemed to move in the opposite direction across the page in relation to the ship adorning the advertisement for the Liberty, testifying to the very different conceptions of liberty among enslavers and enslaved people in South Carolina in the era of the American Revolution.

Francis Yonge placed that advertisement to offer a reward for the capture and return of not just one enslaved man but instead “six Angola negro men” who had “RUN-AWAY” from his plantation at the end of October.  Yonge purchased the men a few months earlier, suggesting that they had only recently arrived in South Carolina and “cannot as yet speak English.”  Readers could also identify them by the clothing they wore, blue jackets and breeches made of “negro cloth” with their enslaver’s initials sewn “in scarlet cloth … upon the forepart of their jackets.”  Yonge selected the rough cloth for its low costs, not for its comfort.  Such callousness would have been familiar to the six men from Angola by the time Yonge outfitted them at his plantation.  After all, they had survived the Middle Passage on a ship that did not offer “excellent Accommodations” for its human cargo, unlike the Liberty that carried passengers from South Carolina to England.  As was so often the case in early American newspapers, advertisements that perpetuated the enslavement of Africans and African Americans appeared in stark contrast to other advertisements, editorials, and articles that promoted, in one way or another, the liberty that white colonists demanded for themselves.

October 29

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 29, 1771).


As was often the case, the October 29, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal overflowed with advertising.  The first page consisted of the masthead and more than a dozen advertisements, but no news items.  The second page did include those “freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic,” promised in the masthead.  The shipping news from the customs house continued on the third page, but two dozen advertisements filled the vast majority of it.  Nearly two dozen more appeared on the final page, along with a brief column identifying Charles Crouch as the printer at the bottom of the last column.  Crouch received so many advertisements at his printing office on Elliott Street that he issues a two-page supplement that contained about three dozen more advertisements, including Joseph Atkinson’s oversized notice that spread over more than half a page.  Thirteen advertisements about enslaved people ran among the other notices.

To help readers navigate the contents of the newspaper, Crouch inserted headers to identify “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS.”  The first appeared at the top of the first column on the first page.  When advertising commenced once again on the third page, the “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” header ran once again, directing readers to notices they did not encounter in previous issues.  Midway through the page, however, Crouch transitioned to advertisements already inserted at least once without providing a different header.  Newspapers of the era tended to feature relatively few headlines and headers, so an effort to identify “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” made Crouch’s publication distinctive even though he did not devise other markers to aid readers as they perused the advertising.  Similarly, neither Crouch nor any other printer in the colonies organized advertisements according to purpose or genre.  Instead, advertisements for consumer goods and services, legal notices, advertisements offering rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves, real estate advertisements, and a variety of other kinds of notices ran alongside each other in an undifferentiated amalgamation.  A header for “NEW ADVERTISEMENTS” provided some guidance for readers, but it was a rudimentary classification system.