April 7

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

Apr 7 - 4:7:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 7, 1770).

“RUN-AWAY … a NEGRO FELLOW, named MONDAY.”

Newspaper coverage of the Boston Massacre in the weeks after it happened resulted in greater dissemination of advertisements entreating surveillance of Black men in South Carolina.  How did the one cause the other?  Following widespread custom, colonial printers did not write original articles about the Massacre but instead reprinted items from other newspapers.  Thus, the same story about the funeral procession for the victims appeared in both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal within a couple of days of each other, copied either from its original source in the Boston-Gazette or another newspaper that reprinted the story from the Boston-Gazette.  Peter Timothy ran it in the April 5, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, exactly one month after the Boston Massacre took place.  The story first appeared in the March 12 edition of the Boston-Gazette.  It took nearly four weeks for it to appear in a newspaper printed in South Carolina.

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, did not allow Timothy, his competitor, to provide the colony’s only coverage of the shocking event.  He had just published his newspaper on April 3.  Given that most colonial newspapers distributed one issue per week, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal was not scheduled for another edition until April 10 … but this news was too momentous to wait that long to take it to press.  Instead, Crouch published a two-page supplement on April 7.  The entire front and much of the back of that broadsheet featured news from Boston, including a woodcut of four coffins that closely replicated the one that accompanied the original article in the Boston-Gazette.  Although other newspapers that reprinted the story included woodcuts, none were as detailed as the one in the Boston-Gazette.  That being the case, Crouch most likely drew his coverage directly from that newspaper rather than another than reprinted it.

The space required for the news from Boston left a column and a half for other content.  Crouch filled that space with advertisements, including two advertisements for enslaved men who escaped from colonists who held them in bondage.  John Marley described “a neg[r]o fellow named GEORGE” who seized his own liberty five months earlier in November.  Humphry Sommers advertised “a NEGRO FELLOW, named MONDAY,” who escaped the day before the Boston Massacre took place hundreds of miles away in Massachusetts.  Both advertisements encouraged readers to engage in careful scrutiny of Black men to determine if they might be George or Monday.  Both Marley and Sommers offered rewards to colonists who helped capture the Black men they claimed as property.  Arguably, these notices received greater attention for having appeared in a supplement devoted to the Boston Massacre than when they ran in the standard issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Had it not been for Crouch issuing that supplement, these advertisements encouraging the surveillance of Black men would not have circulated as widely.

Apr 7 - Boston Massacre in South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 7, 1770).

March 27

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

Mar 27 - 3:27:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 27, 1770).

“I shall leave a List of the Subscribers Names, together with their Benefactions.”

In late March 1770 Stephen Hopkins, John Brown, and John Jenckes continued their efforts to raise funds and acquire materials to erect a building for Rhode Island College (now Brown University) in Providence.  On behalf of the “Committee for providing Materials and overseeing the Work,” they placed a notice in the Providence Gazette that thanked the “many Gentlemen [who] have been so generous to this very useful Institution, as to become Benefactors to it” while simultaneously calling on both current supporters and “those whose beneficient Minds may incline them to become such” to send updates about their intended donations.

Yet advocates for the college did not confine their fundraising efforts to the Providence Gazette alone.  Hezekian Smith inserted a similar notice in the March 27, 1770 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  He visited the colony to promote the college and the building it needed once its sponsors made a determination to move its location from Warren, Rhode Island, to Providence.  Smith extended his “humble and hearty Thanks to the Benefactors of RHODE-ISLAND COLLEGE, whom he has met since his first Arrival in this Province.”  He also announced that he planned to depart soon, prompting him to encourage “those Gentlemen who were so Kind as to promise to send their Benefactions for the College to him” to do so.

In a nota bene, Smith declared that he would leave behind a “List of the Subscribers Names, together with their Benefactions” that each supporter could consult in order to confirm “that his Donation goes towards making up the Sum I have collected since my Arrival here.”  Smith likely had an additional motive for drawing up such a list for “Subscribers” to consult.  As they perused the list to find their own names and “Benefactions” they would also see who else had donated and how much.  They could congratulate themselves on their civic responsibility and the company they kept, but also compare their donations to those made by others.  Benefactors could judge for themselves whether they appeared generous or miserly in comparison to others on the list.  Did an unexpectedly large donation enhance their status or an unaccountably small donation diminish it?

Today, colleges and nonprofit organizations regularly publish lists of benefactors, often classifying them according to how much they donated and organizing the lists to give preeminence to the most generous.  This is both an expression of appreciation and a challenge to current and prospective donors to secure their positions on subsequent lists of benefactors.  In his efforts to raise funds for Rhode Island College, Hezekiah Smith similarly extended an acknowledgment and a challenge to benefactors in South Carolina.  In promising to leave behind a list of donors and the sums they donated, he encouraged benefactors to increase their pledges.

March 20

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

Mar 20 - 3:20:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 20, 1770).

“A faithful Account of the Proceedings of the Subscribers and Non-Subscribers.”

The commodification of the American Revolution began several years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.  As the imperial crisis unfolded, printers marketed a variety of books, pamphlets, and engravings that commemorated current events while simultaneously informing consumers of the rift between the colonies and Britain.

Consider, for instance, an advertisement that appeared in the March 20, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  It announced a “Compilation” of documents related to the colony’s nonimportation agreement was “In the PRESS, and speedily will be published.”  That compilation contained “ALL the LETTERS which have been written FOR and AGAINST the RESOLUTIONS” along with “Copies of the different Resolutions proposed to be signed.”  It also included various lists, including “the Names of the Gentlemen who compose the Committee” that enforced the agreement and “a List of the Non-Subscribers” so readers would know which members of the community worked against the interests of the colony.  To that end, the collection featured “Remarks on the Conduct and Writings” of the “Non-Subscribers.”  The compiler of these documents wished to educate readers about the debates over the boycott, inserting “a Translation of the Latin Verses, Phrases, &c. made Use of in the said Letters.”  Not everyone possessed a classical education, but all colonists could participate in the debates and make decisions about their own conduct.  Nonimportation was not restricted to highbrow households.  In addition to all that, the compilation included “several other interesting Particulars relative to the above Resolutions.”  Through a series of documents and commentaries, it provided a history of recent events, a “faithful Account of the Proceedings of the Subscribers and Non-Subscribers.”

Purchasing this compilation gave colonists another means of participating in protests against the duties on imported goods imposed by Parliament in the Townshend Acts.  Doing so enhanced feelings of connection to others who supported nonimportation agreements in South Carolina and, more generally, throughout the colonies.  Colonists envisioned a time when importation would resume after Parliament relented and repealed the unpopular duties.  When that happened, the compilation would become a memento that reminded those who purchased it of the events they had witnessed, the history they had played a part in shaping.  Owning a copy gave colonists yet another way to express their support for the American cause.

March 18

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

Mar 18 - 3:15:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 15, 1770).

“His past Offences will be forgiven.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, generated significant revenue from publishing advertisements for “runaways.”  Most of those runaways were actually enslaved men and women who escaped from those who attempted to hold them in bondage.  These included “a negro fellow named LONDON, this country born” and “a negro man named ISAAC” who spoke “tolerable good English” even though he came from “the Guinea country” and survived the Middle Passage.  Both men were subjects of advertisement that ran in the supplement published on March 15, 1770.

Apprentices, indentured servants, convict servants, and even recalcitrant wives were sometimes the subjects of other runaway notices, though not nearly in the same numbers as enslaved people in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers published in Charleston.  In newspapers published in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, however, the number of runaway notices for apprentices and servants rivaled or often exceeded the advertisements for enslaved men and women who escaped.  Still, notices calling on colonists to help identify and return enslaved people to those who purported to be their masters appeared in every newspaper from Georgia to New England.

Crouch not only published advertisements concerning a variety of runaways but on occasion found himself in the position of placing them.  In the same supplement that carried notices about London and Isaac, Crouch ran a notice directed to his own apprentice, William Way, who “hath absented himself from my Service, for two Months past.”  Addressing Way or anyone who would pass along the message, Crouch pledged that if the wayward apprentice “will return of his own Accord, and behave himself well in future, his past Offences will be forgiven.”  Enslavers occasionally, though rarely, made similar proposals when they attempted to recover people they treated as property.

Crouch’s advertisement told a truncated story about his disobedient apprentice.  It told Crouch’s side of the story.  In the advertisement, Crouch blamed Way for “absent[ing] himself” and accused him of “past Offences” that the printer would generously forgive, but he did not comment on anything that he might have done to exacerbate the situation.  It did not indicate if the master had mistreated or abused the apprentice.  Every runaway notice told only a partial story, one constructed by someone who possessed significantly more power and authority than the subject of the advertisement. Such notices aimed to reassert order in the face of apprentices, servants, and enslaved people exercising agency and seizing power away from those who usually wielded it.  These skirmishes played out in advertisements that appeared in the public prints throughout the colonies.

March 13

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

Mar 13 - 3:13:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 13, 1770).

“A CHINA MANUFACTURE.”

In January 1770 an advertisement for “New China Ware ran in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  In it, the “CHINA PROPRIETORS in PHILADELPHIA” advised both retailers and consumers that they had set up production of porcelain “as good … as any heretofore manufactured at the famous factory in Bow, near London, and imported into the colonies.”  This enterprise aimed to provide colonists with alternatives to imported merchandise; both imported goods and “domestic manufactures” assumed new political significance when merchants and shopkeepers adopted nonimportation agreements to protest the duties levied on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea in the Townshend Acts.

Two months later an advertisement about the “CHINA MANUFACTURE … now erecting” in Philadelphia appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  The proprietors, G. Bonnin and G.A. Morris, had two purposes in placing that notice:  recruiting workers and marketing their wares.  They reiterated the claims they made in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, proclaiming that “the Clays of America are productive of as good PORCELAIN as any hitherto manufactured in, and imported from England.”  Given those resources available to them, the proprietors also needed “Workmen skilled in the different branches of Throwing, Turning, Moulding, Pressing, and Handling.”  In a nota bene at the conclusion of the advertisement they proclaimed that “None will be employed who have not served their Apprenticeships in England, France, or Germany.”  Bonnin and Morris eschewed imported goods, but they still wished to draw on skills that had been learned on the other side of the Atlantic.  The quality of the “Clays of America” alone did not yield finished goods that competed with those produced in England.  To assist in acquiring the skilled workers they needed, the proprietors designated a local agent in Charleston.  They instructed “such in South-Carolina as are inclined to engage” that they would be “assisted in procuring their Passages to Philadelphia by Mr. EDWARD LIGHTFOOT.”

In addition to seeking workers, Bonnin and Morris made an appeal to prospective customers, “those who are inclined to encourage this Undertaking.”  They did not explicitly state that consumers had a duty to purchase goods produced in the colonies, but given the news and commentary that appeared elsewhere in the newspaper the proprietors likely depended on readers making such connections between consumption and politics.  Bonnin and Morris both invoked a sense of urgency and suggested existing demand for their wares, requesting customers “to be expeditious in forwarding their Commands” while also clarifying that “all Orders will be obeyed in Rotation” with “the earliest executed first.”  In so doing, they again repeated marketing strategies incorporated into their earlier advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.

Bonnin and Morris’s efforts to produce “domestic manufactures” and promote them to consumers were not merely local or even regional endeavors.  They looked far beyond Philadelphia and the Middle Colonies when recruiting workers and customers, further strengthening networks of both print and consumption that increasingly contributed to a sense of an imagined community that stretched from New England to Georgia.

March 6

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

Mar 6 - 3:6:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 6, 1770)

“The best French gloves and mits, free from spots, at 12s6. per pair.”

Like many other shopkeepers in Charleston and throughout the colonies, William Stukes stocked “a neat assortment of millenary GOODS, with many other articles.”  To demonstrate the point, he cataloged much of his inventory in a newspaper advertisement.  He carried “PLAIN and flowered sattins,” “stript thread gauze,” “scented and plain hair powder,” and “different coloured silk gloves and mitts,” along with an array of other items.  In addition, he advised prospective customers of “All sorts of millinary ware made in the newest fashion by Mrs. Stukes.”  His partner received second billing even though she provided an important service that undoubtedly supported his enterprise and supplemented the household income.

Stukes sought to incite demand for his wares by emphasizing both consumer choice and fashion.  In addition, he made appeals to price, proclaiming that he would sell these goods “extraordinary cheap.”  When eighteenth-century advertisers made such claims, they usually did not elaborate.  Stukes, however, listed his prices for several items:

  • “black sattin hats at 30s.”
  • “the newest fashion broad ribbons at 5s. per yard”
  • “the best French gloves and mits, free from spots, at 12s6. per pair”
  • “Hose’s callimanco shoes at 31s. per pair”
  • “fine bohea tea at 20s. per pound”
  • “black pepper at 15s. per pound”
  • “table knives and forks at 20s. per set”
  • “best Oronoko tobacco at 12s6 per pound”

Prospective customers did not have to take Stukes at his word that he offered low prices, only to be disappointed when they visited his shop.  Unlike most other advertisers, he published prices for several items.  That allowed consumers to assess for themselves whether Stukes actually offered bargains.  It also facilitated comparison shopping.  Prospective customers might examine the merchandise in other shops, Stukes may have reasoned, and then decide to give their business to him upon learning that his competitors did not match his prices.

Today, consumers are accustomed to prices being advertised with products.  Indeed, naming a price is a common marketing strategy, an effort to entice customers with bargains.  Most eighteenth-century advertisers did not deploy that method for attracting customers, though a few, like Stukes, did experiment with attaching prices to some of their goods when they promoted their businesses in the public prints.

February 27

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

Feb 27 - 2:27:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 27, 1770).

“HANNAH COLEMAN, … late apprentice to Mrs. Wish.”

Hannah Coleman made mantuas.  These loose gowns worn by women first came into popularity in the late seventeenth century.  In February 1770, Coleman placed an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to “inform the LADIES in general” that she carried on the business of a “MANTUA-MAKER … in all its branches.”  She used a phrase commonly deployed by artisans to indicate that there was no part of her trade beyond her abilities.  Accordingly, she pledged that customers would have their garments made “in the neatest manner.”  To bolster that claim, Coleman relied on another strategy that often appeared in advertisements placed by artisans, though one usually invoked by men rather than women.  She listed her credentials when she named her occupation.  Rather than “HANNAH COLEMAN, MANTUA-MAKER,” she was “HANNAH COLEMAN, MANTUA-MAKER, late apprentice to Mrs. Wish, deceased.”  She assumed that prospective clients would be familiar with the reputation of the departed Mrs. Wish or at least feel reassured that Coleman had completed an apprenticeship.

Although Coleman adopted a strategy usually reserved for men, her efforts to market mantuas fashioned a world in which women participated in commercial transactions without reference to men.  She addressed “the LADIES in general.”  She established her connection to her mentor, Mrs. Wish.  She even listed her location in relation to another woman, stating that she did business “in Elliott-Street, opposite to Mrs. Peronneau’s” rather than naming male neighbors or using other landmarks.  In a nota bene, Coleman did note that she sought “two gentlemen to lodge and board,” but the portion of the advertisement about her activities as a mantua maker depicted a world of women who created their own networks, taught each other, and traded with each other.  Women in business tended to publish newspaper advertisements less often than their male counterparts in eighteenth-century America, perhaps because they relied on gendered networks as an alternate means of attracting customers.  They participated in the marketplace, but chose means of promoting their enterprises that yielded less visibility among the general public even while generating familiarity among female consumers.

February 20

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

Feb 20 - 2:20:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 20, 1770).

“The said Wines are still in the Possession of Captain Livingston.”

The “NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS” in the February 20, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journalcommenced with a notice placed by the “GENERAL COMMITTEE” responsible for overseeing adherence to the nonimportation agreement adopted in protest of duties that Parliament levied on certain imported goods via the Townshend Acts.  The committee noted that Patrick Muir had imported some goods from Scotland and “refused to store or re-ship” them.  The bulk of the advertisement, however, concerned a “Parcel of Wines” from Tenerife on the Hope, captained by Alexander Livingston.

That was a much more convoluted story.  The committee became aware of an “industriously spread” rumor that John Tuke ordered the wine at the behest of Wilson, Coram, Wayne, and Company despite the fact that those merchants were “Subscribers to the Resolutions” who had pledged to support the nonimportation agreement.  In response, Tuke made a statement in which he declared “the above Report is absolutely false, having never made use of those Gentlemen’s Names.”  He did acknowledge, however, that “the Wines were bought on my own Account” even though he was also “a Subscriber to the General Resolutions.”  Tuke assumed responsibility and expressed his “utmost Concern” that the wine had been shipped to Charleston.  A nota bene inserted by the committee reported that the wine was “still in the Possession of Captain Livingston.”  Tuke had not taken possession of it or attempted to sell it.

Did Tuke profess “utmost Concern” because a misunderstanding resulted in the wine being delivered by mistake or because he had been caught and now realized the error of his ways?  His statement did not make that clear, but it did attempt to unequivocally clear Wilson, Coram, Wayne, and Company.  As Tuke worked to ameliorate any damage done to his own standing in the community, he also sought to restore the reputations of prominent merchants who had been pulled into the controversy.  It was bad enough to find his dealings under so much scrutiny; he did not need to alienate himself from Wilson, Coram, Wayne, and Company by continuing to call unwarranted attention to them.  Instead, he did what he could to exonerate those merchants and shift the focus solely to himself.

Relatively little local news appeared in colonial newspapers, in part because most were published once a week so anything of consequence spread via word of mouth before it could appear in print.  In some instances, however, advertisements carried news and supplemented coverage that ran elsewhere in the newspaper.

January 30

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

Jan 30 - 1:30:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

“Valuable PLANTATION … THIRTY VALUABLE NEGROES.”

John Rose and Alexander Rose, administrators of the estate “of the deceased Dr. WILLIAM ROSE,” turned to the newspapers published in Charleston, South Carolina, to announce the sale of the late doctor’s “valuable PLANTATION” as well as “About THIRTY VALUABLE NEGROES,” livestock, furniture, and tools. The Roses included visual images in their advertisements to help draw the attention of prospective buyers. Indeed, they included two woodcuts, one depicting a house and another an enslaved man, in their advertisement in the January 30, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. If they included a visual image at all, most advertisements featured only one, even in similar advertisements that offered both real estate and enslaved men, women, and children for sale.

The inclusion of two woodcuts seems not to have been a choice made by the compositor working independently at the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. The following day an advertisement with identical copy ran in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. It also included two woodcuts, one of a house and fields and another of several enslaved people. It was not a coincidence that the two advertisements each had more than one visual image. A notice with the same copy also ran in the February 1, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. It also had two woodcuts, one depicting a house and the other several enslaved people, both adults and children. The typography (fonts, fonts size, capitalization, italics) varied among the advertisements, but the copy was consistent, as was the inclusion of two visual images that set these advertisements apart from others. It seems clear that the Roses instructed each printing office that their notice must include both. Although the compositors made most of the decisions about the format of these advertisements, the Roses did exert some influence over the graphic design. They were certainly not the first or only advertisers to adopt this strategy for drawing attention to their notices, but they did experiment with an uncommon approach to visual images when they submitted the copy and specified that their advertisements must include two woodcuts rather than one or none.

January 23

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

Jan 23 - 1:23:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 23, 1770).

“SUBSCRIPTIONS are taken in by the Printer of this Paper.”

The many and various advertisements for consumer goods and services in the January 23, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal included a subscription notice for “Essays on … the Indians, on the Continent of North-America” by James Adair, who had resided “the greater Part of 33 Years among the Indians themselves.” Those essays focused “Particularly” on the Catawbas, Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws “inhabiting the western Parts of the Colonies of Virginia, North and South-Carolina, and Georgia.” Given their proximity, the author or publisher expected that the proposed book would resonate with prospective subscribers in South Carolina … and in Georgia. The same subscription notice ran on several occasions in the Georgia Gazette in late 1769 and early 1770.

Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, and James Johnston, printer of the Georgia Gazette, acted as local agents on behalf of the author or publisher. The book would not go to press until enough “subscribers” expressed interest and confirmed their intention to buy it by putting down a deposit in advance. By enlisting local agents and seeking subscribers in South Carolina, Georgia, and likely other places as well, the author or publisher aimed to enlarge the market and make the proposed book a viable endeavor.

The advertisements in the two newspapers contained exactly the same copy (except for the final word, “Paper” instead of “Gazette”). The author or publisher may have written out the advertisement once and then carefully copied it into letters directed to multiple printing offices. Alternately, the subscription notice may have appeared once in one newspaper and then the author or publisher forwarded clippings along with requests to insert the notice in other newspapers when soliciting the cooperation of additional local agents. Depending on the sophistication of the marketing efforts, the author or publisher may even have distributed broadside subscription notices with space for subscribers to sign their names. The copy for newspaper advertisements could have been drawn directly from such broadsides.

Regardless of how the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and the Georgia Gazette ended up publishing advertisements with identical copy, readers in the two colonies encountered the same subscription notice within a single week. This contributed to the creation of an imagined community among colonists, a common identity as readers and consumers, as the press presented the same news items, reprinted from one newspaper to another to yet another, and, sometimes, the same advertisements as well.