June 4

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

Jun 4 - 6:1:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (June 1, 1769).


John Calvert and Company placed a brief advertisement in the June 1, 1769, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette to advise readers that they sold “ALE, TABLE and SHIP BEER.” The partners also offered a convenient service for their customers: delivery to “any part of the town,” provided that the buyer purchased at least five gallons.

Decorative typography, however, rather than the copy accounted for the most notable part of Calvert and Company’s advertisement. Like some other advertisers, they included a headline to draw attention: “BREW-HOUSE.” Unlike other advertisers, they arranged for a decorative border to enclose the headline, distinguishing the advertisement from almost every other in the South-Carolina Gazette. One other notice did feature a similar layout, an advertisement for the “Sloop MONTAGU” to be sold at public auction. Its headline announced “SALE by the Provost-Marshal,” also enclosed in decorative type.

The South-Carolina Gazette frequently featured such advertisements for goods, property, or enslaved men, women, and children seized by the provost marshal and to be sold to settle debts or resolve other legal disputes. Such notices benefited from the unique format, the headline in the decorative border, but other advertisements for goods and services placed by merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others did not incorporate such distinctive typography. Although the compositor could have made the decision independently, this suggests that Calvert and Company negotiated for that particular element of their advertisement, realizing that the headline and border would make it more visible among the advertisements that filled the final pages of the South-Carolina Gazette. Alternately, the partners could have commissioned a woodcut to spruce up their advertisement, but that likely would have incurred greater expense compared to utilizing decorative type the printer already had in hand.

In general, advertisers generated copy for newspaper notices in eighteenth-century America, but printers and compositors made decisions about graphic design. Calvert and Company’s notice suggests that advertisers sometimes observed distinctive design elements that they wished to incorporate into their own advertisements. Some likely suspected that distinctive visual elements made advertisements more effective and yielded a greater return on their investment, prompting them to borrow styles that they regularly encountered when they perused the newspapers.

December 1

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

Dec 1 - 12:1:1768 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 1, 1768).


Two days after their advertisement for “A LARGE AND COMPLEAT ASSORTMENT OF EUROPEAN GOODS” dominated the front page of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Webb and Doughty inserted the same advertisement in the December 1, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. The advertisements featured identical copy but variations in typography. The most significant aspect of the advertisement’s format, however, carried over from one newspaper to the other. Webb and Doughty’s advertisement spanned two columns, distinguishing it from all others on the same page.

For most eighteenth-century newspaper notices the advertiser wrote the copy but the compositor determined the format. Some advertisers placed the same notice, at least as far as the copy was concerned, in multiple newspapers, but those notices varied in appearance as the result of decisions made by compositors. Advertisements that retained particular features across multiple publications, such as the decorative border that enclosed Jolley Allen’s advertisements, testify to explicit instructions given by advertisers. Most advertisers seemed content to entrust the graphic design to the printing office, but it was possible for advertisers to exert more control over the appearance of notices they paid to insert in colonial newspapers.

It appears that Webb and Doughty did offer instructions to the compositors at the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. It seems unlikely that the two would have independently made the same decision to create advertisements that spanned two columns. (Unfortunately, Webb and Doughty did not place the same advertisement in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. Perhaps they tried but the printer rejected any special instructions.) The compositors still exercised the discretion to make other decisions about the format of Webb and Doughty’s advertisement. The list of goods appeared as a paragraph in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, but as three narrow columns in the South-Carolina Gazette. The names of the merchants appeared in the largest font in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, but “EUROPEAN GOODS” appeared as the most prominent headline in the South-Carolina Gazette.

Although Webb and Doughty’s advertisement was the only one that spanned two columns on its page, two notices on the front page also spanned two columns. One for “SALES by the Provost-Marshal” was a somewhat regular feature. The headline enclosed in a decorative border occasionally graced advertisements of various lengths. The other, an advertisement for “A COMPLEAT ASSORTMENT OF GOODS” placed by Mansell, Corbett, and Roberts,” had the same format as Webb and Doughty’s advertisement. It spanned two columns. The list of goods was organized into three columns. What explains its appearance? Did Mansell, Corbett, and Roberts see Webb and Doughty’s advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and choose to adopt its format themselves? Or did the compositor at the South-Carolina Gazette decide to experiment with that format in other advertisements of sufficient length?

October 16

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

Oct 16 - 10:16:1768 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1768, but misdated October 16, 1768).

“A FRESH ASSORTMENT of GOODS, proper for the present and approaching season.”

At a glance, Paul Townsend’s advertisement for a “FRESH ASSORTMENT of GOODS, proper for the present and approaching season” would seem to have been published on October 16, 1768. After all, it appeared on the front page of the October 16, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. Most modern readers would not think twice about that date when examining a single issue of the South-Carolina Gazette, but anyone perusing several consecutive issues would notice a discrepancy.

Like other newspapers of the colonial era, the South-Carolina Gazette was published only once a week, with the exception of occasional supplements and extraordinaries. According to the dates embedded in the masthead of the issues from October 1768, Peter Timothy distributed new editions on October 3, 10, 16, 24, and 31. The issue from October 16 deviates from the seven-day interval that usually fell between issues, suggesting something out of the ordinary with that issue.

It was possible that Timothy could have released an issue a day early. Others printers did so on rare occasions. However, the South-Carolina Gazette was regularly published on Mondays. Colonial printers did not circulate new issues on Sundays. Indeed, Sunday was the only day of the week that did not see the publication of at least one newspaper somewhere in colonial America. Most printers published their newspapers on Mondays and Thursdays, but a few also published on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. It would have been extremely exceptional for Timothy to publish the South-Carolina Gazette on a Sunday. Nothing in the issue under consideration merited doing so.

Indeed, the masthead reads “MONDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1768.” A summary of local news from “CHARLES-TOWN” on the third page, however, bears that date “October 17.” All of this evidence makes it clear that the compositor made a mistake when updating the issue number and date of what should have been the October 17 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.

This minor discrepancy may not seem to matter much in telling the story of the American experience during the period of the imperial crisis that ultimately became the American Revolution. It does, however, provide a stark example for demonstrating to students the importance of noticing the details and identifying patterns among the sources they examine. If the date on the issue had been accurate, if it had been published on October 16, the contents would have demanded even greater scrutiny to determine what the printer considered so momentous to deem publication on a Sunday imperative. The details led to a false alarm in this instance, but in other cases noticing such deviations from the printing practices of the era can lead readers to coverage of significant events. For instance, the New-Hampshire Gazette, usually published on Fridays, appeared a day early on Thursday, May 22, 1766. Colonial newspapers rarely incorporated headlines. This one, however, announced “Total Repeal of the STAMP-ACT.” The printers rushed to press a day early to spread the breaking news about such a significant story.

September 19

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

Sep 19 - 9:19:1768 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (September 19, 1768).

“ABSENTED himself … a negro fellow named BROMLEY.”

Throughout the summer of 1768 Thomas Shirley inserted the same advertisement in all three newspapers published in Charleston, South Carolina. Dated June 8, Shirley’s notice had two parts. In the shorter first portion Shirley described a yawl either “DRIFTED or STOLEN from the Brigantine Prince-of-Wales, Thomas Mason, Master.” He offered a “TWO DOLLARS reward” for its return. In a much lengthier second portion Shirley described Cyrus and Bromley, two enslaved men, who had “ABSENTED themselvesfrom the Schooner Mary, John Doran, Master.” Shirley did not suspect that the runaways had stolen the yawl but instead reported that he suspected “they went off in a Canoe for Ponpon, where Bromley has a wife who belongs to William Harvey.” Shirley provided approximate ages and heights for both fugitives. He also noted that Cyrus “has both his ears cropt” and “his cheeks branded,” likely as punishment for prior acts of disobedience. The enslaved man must have earned some notoriety in the area. Shirley determined that he was “so well known as to need no further description.” As for Bromley, Shirley indicated that he sometimes went by the name Chippenham and “speaks good English.” He concluded by offering rewards for the capture and return of the runaways as well as rewards for information leading to the conviction of anyone who provided them assistance.

That advertisement appeared for the last time in early September. Starting with the September 19 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, a much shorter notice replaced it. Shirley no longer advertised the missing yawl or the infamous Cyrus, but he continued to seek the capture and return of Bromley. He offered a little more information to help readers recognize the fugitive, noting the clothing he wore when he made his escape: “a seaman’s jacket, trowsers and check shirt.” Shirley also stated that Bromley was “well known in Charles-Town and Winyaw, having sailed a considerable time with Captain Henry Richardson.”

What promoted theses revisions to an advertisement that ran for nearly three months? Had Cyrus been captured? Did Shirley receive information indicating that Cyrus was somehow beyond his reach? Had something else happened that caused Shirley to cease advertising Cyrus? The new advertisement no longer mentioned Bromley’s wife in Ponpon. Why not? Had she undergone so much interrogation and surveillance that Shirley determined that his assumption that Bromley would make his way to her was a false lead? What kinds of experiences did she have after her husband and an accomplice fled from Shirley? Perhaps the slaveholder placed too much emphasis on Bromley’s possible attempt to seek refuge with his wife. In the new advertisement he acknowledged that Bromley previously experienced a fair amount of mobility when hired out as a sailor with Captain Richardson. That may have given Bromley more room to maneuver and make good on his escape rather than placing his wife in greater danger by drawing her into a conspiracy.

Like every other runaway advertisement, this one tells a truncated story filtered through the perspective of the slaveholder who composed and placed the notice in the public prints. Unlike most other runaway advertisements, this one provides a second chapter, yet it still raises as many questions as it answers. It does confirm that Bromley continued to elude Shirley, at least for the moment, but it does not definitively reveal anything more about Cyrus or Bromley’s unnamed wife.

May 10

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

May 10 - 5:9:1768 South Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (May 9, 1768).


John Rutledge placed a particular sort of advertisement in the May 9, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette: a subscription notice for a proposed book that had not yet been printed. This was a common practice among printers and publishers in eighteenth-century America. It allowed them to promote a book in advance, yet also gauge interest to determine if publication would yield profits. Buyers made commitments in advance to purchase proposed books, becoming “subscribers” to the enterprise. Not all subscription notices yielded publications.

Rutledge proposed publishing the acts and ordinances passed by the “GENERAL ASSEMBLY of this Province.” In a separate subscription notice in the same issue, he also proposed publishing a related work consisting of statutes passed in Great Britain “Which are expressly made of Force in this Province, by ACTS of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY.” Publication of one, however, was not contingent on publication of the other.

To encourage as many subscribers as possible, Rutledge described several attractive aspects of the proposed book. In addition to the acts and ordinances, it would also include an index, marginal notes, and references to aid readers in navigating and understanding the contents. Rutledge also commented on the material aspects of the text, noting that it would be “printed on good Paper, with a fair new Type.”

The publisher also warned that interested readers needed to reserve their copy in advance rather than assume that they could purchase a surplus copy after the book went to press. “No more Copies will be printed,” he declared, “than shall be subscribed for by the first Day of November next, when the Subscriptions will be closed.” Furthermore, “if a sufficient Number be not then obtained, the Work will not be put to the Press.” Rutledge allowed six months for subscribers to commit to paying “Thirty Pounds Currency” for the proposed work, but it was an all-or-nothing proposition. He would not move forward unless he had enough subscribers and he would not print additional copies. Rutledge cultivated a sense of urgency by suggesting that prospective customers would miss out if they lacked the necessary resolution to subscribe promptly.

Rutledge advertised a product that did not yet exist. Doing so allowed him to assess the market as well as incite demand. The minimal cost for inserting subscription notices in the South-Carolina Gazette presented an alternative to publishing a book that ended up being a poor investment.

January 4

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

Jan 4 - 1:4:1767 South-Carolina Gazette
South Carolina Gazette (January 4, 1767).

“A Large assortment of JEWELLERY and PLATE.”

Jonathan Sarrazin, a jeweler in Charleston, used a woodcut of a teapot, one of the items he sold, to distinguish his newspaper advertisements from others that also appeared among the pages of dense type. Throughout 1767 and into 1768, his advertisements in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette regularly included this device. Sarrazin’s enthusiasm for associating an image of a fashionable teapot with his business, however, has been partially obscured by a gap in the archive.

Sarrazin could have advertised in any of the three newspapers published in Charleston. In addition to Robert Wells’ South-Carolina and American General Gazette, Peter Timothy printed the South Carolina Gazette and Charles Crouch printed the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Although all three newspapers had print runs that extended through 1767 and 1768, not all of the issues have been converted into digital surrogates that are digitally accessible to historians, other scholars, and the general public. Accessible Archives provides a complete digital archive for the South-Carolina and American General Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal for 1767 and 1768, but lacks images of the South-Carolina Gazette for several months of 1767. (The database does include transcripts of the text of issues published during the period.) As a result, consideration of Sarrazin’s advertising campaign in 1767 has been truncated. Working with the available issues reveals that the jeweler advertised regularly in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, but not in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Consulting the transcripts of the South Carolina Gazette could establish whether Sarrazin also advertised in that publication, but that process requires much more time and labor than examining photographs of the original issues. This method also eliminates the most striking feature of Sarrazin’s commercial notices, the woodcut that made it so easy for readers – then and now – to identify his advertisements. (Keyword searches are notoriously unreliable, rendering them inconclusive as well.) Furthermore, the transcripts do not include metadata that indicates when woodcuts accompanied advertisements and news items. In the absence of photographs of the original issues, Sarrazin’s advertising campaign cannot be reconstructed definitively.

Fortunately, Accessible Archives does make available photographs for extant issues of the South Carolina Gazette for all of 1768. Those issues reveal that not only did Sarrazin opt to advertise in a second publication but that he also included a woodcut depicting an ornate teapot in his notices. This demonstrates the jeweler’s commitment to establishing a trademark for his business. He wanted consumers in Charleston and its hinterland to readily identify his advertisements and associate his wares with the fashionable and genteel teapot that appeared in his notices and perhaps doubled as the sign that marked the location of his shop. This testifies to a thoughtful effort to achieve consistency in his advertising in multiple newspapers.

February 24

GUEST CURATOR: Shannon Holleran

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

South Carolina Gazette (February 24, 1767).

“For LONDON, DIRECTLY, The Snow JUDITH, JOHN DAVIS Master, FOR freight of skins or indico.”

This advertisement is unique for the Adverts 250 Project because it did not advertise goods or services, but it instead advertised the shipment of raw materials (skins and indigo). Advertisements for this project usually focus on the consumption of goods, not the shipment of goods.   Earlier this week, I posted an advertisement regarding the cultivation and use of indigo in the colonies during the eighteenth century. When indigo appeared in today’s advertisement, I decided to look more closely at its shipment between England and the colonies.

In “Indigo Production in the Eighteenth Century,” Kenneth H. Beeson, Jr., notes major producers of indigo at this time were Guatemala, Venezuela, and Mexico.[1] However, Great Britain preferred to get indigo from its own colonies, exploiting the colonies for their goods and resources. As I mentioned in my post about indigo earlier this week, the most significant producers of indigo in the colonies were Georgia and South Carolina. Once Great Britain collected what they needed from the colonies, they would then ship back British manufactured goods. Many of the advertisements posted in eighteenth-century newspapers mentioned “English goods.” The influx in importation of British goods ultimately resulted in the countless advertisements, seen in part in the Adverts 250 Project.

Map showing exportation of indigo and importation of British manufactured goods in the eighteenth century.  Infobase Publishing.

This map depicts the British Empire’s transatlantic trade routes during the eighteenth century. It shows the exportation of indigo from South Carolina to Great Britain. The map also shows the importation of manufactured goods from Great Britain to the colonies. This trade was supposed to benefit the colonies and Great Britain, but Parliament’s attempts to regulate that trade in the 1760s and 1770s led to resistance and eventually independence.



In preparing the image of today’s advertisement, Shannon and I made a decision to include a header that appeared immediately above it rather than the advertisement alone. That header, in an ornate font and larger than other text on the front page of the South Carolina Gazette, proclaimed “New Advertisements.” Peter Timothy, the printer, intended it guide readers as they examined the contents of the newspaper.

In general, advertisements did not appear according to any sort of classification system during the eighteenth century. Rather than categorize and organize them according to purpose or products, printers instead inserted paid notices in the order received or, depending on length, whatever order deemed necessary to format an issue into columns of equal length. Depending on the preferences of the printer, advertisements could appear anywhere throughout the newspaper. Some printers placed advertisements on the first page. Others exhausted all other content on the first several pages before inserting all of the advertising at the end. In such instances, they sometimes, but not always, inserted a header that simply stated “Advertisements” without revealing which, if any, were new to that issue.

Peter Timothy experimented with providing more guidance to readers of the South Carolina Gazette. To help them navigate the February 24, 1767, issue, he inserted headers for “New Advertisements” and “SALES by the Provost-Marshal” on the first page. The “New Advertisements” header again appeared on the third page, distinguishing nine advertisements from another ten on that page and fourteen on the next that followed an “Advertisements” header and line of printing ornaments that attracted even more attention by dividing the column. Those two dozen advertisements presumably ran in previous editions. Although Timothy inserted a note that “ADVERTISEMENTS unavoidably left out this week, will be in our next,” he also distributed a two-page supplement that included an “Advertisements” header in ornate font for the convenience of readers.

Unlike some newspapers published in smaller colonial cities, the South Carolina Gazette was overflowing with advertisements in the 1760s. Although the printer made little attempt to classify commercial notices and other paid announcements, he did experiment with headers that guided readers to new content. Given that some advertisements ran for weeks or months, such headers were a valuable innovation that likely gave a boost to advertisements running for the first time.


[1] Kenneth H. Beeson, Jr., “Indigo Production in the Eighteenth Century,” Hispanic American Historical Review 44, no. 2 (May 1964): 214-218.

October 21

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

“RUM … superior in quality to what is usually imported.”

This advertisement is interesting because it closely resembles advertisements we would see today, playing on people’s emotions that this rum was better than what they usually drank. I learned about types of persuasion in my Social Psychology class taught by Professor Maria Parmley. I think the type of persuasion the seller used is peripheral route to persuasion. The advertisement called for consumers to make the decision based on emotion, not facts (like how the rum was made or why it was better quality). Potential customers were told that the rum they were used to drinking was lesser quality than this rum “FROM the Island of Grenada.” This type of precaution tactic is commonly seen in advertisements today; when many people see a commercial with a beautiful model using the product they are more likely to buy it because the product then becomes associated with the model’s beauty. It’s interesting that the way of inciting people to buy one product over another has changed very little in 250 years.

John J. McCusker shows the importance of rum in the colonial American economy.[1] Rum, which was made from sugar that was being produced in the Caribbean colonies, was an important part of the import and export trade. Drinking alcohol, like rum, became an essential part of life for many of the colonists, providing an escape from the pressures of everyday life. Social drinking was something that the colonists have in common with people today. Even though we may not always realize it we have more in common with the people who lived in colonial America than we might assume. Through this advertisement you can see two things that the colonists and people of the twenty-first century had in common, the way consumers can be persuaded to buy goods and how both people today and people then care about the quality of the alcohol they drink.



Lindsay’s analysis of the sophisticated tactics Anthony Lamotte used to market his rum made me wonder how it compared to other advertisements for rum in the same issue of the South Carolina Gazette. Two other notices featured rum prominently.

South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

One brief advertisement announced that William Gibbes(?) had “CHOICE JAMAICA RUM, best MUSCOVADO SUGAR, and COFFEE, to be sold cheap.” This advertisement included two of the most common appeals from eighteenth-century advertising: price (“to be sold cheap”) and quality (“CHOICE”). However, Gibbes did not compare the quality of his Jamaican rum to any other rum, whether from the same island, the Windward Islands, or any other place. (The “3M.” in brackets may have been a printer’s note indicating that the advertisement was to run for three months. Perhaps Gibbes relied on repetition of his advertisement, rather than other means of persuasion, to attract customers.)

South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

Thomas Shirley advertised a hodgepodge of imported commodities, from flour to iron to Windsor chairs. “A few Puncheons of Jamaica Rum” appeared in the middle of Shirley’s list. Like Gibbes (“to be sold cheap”) and Lamotte (“TO BE SOLD, reasonably”), Shirley made an appeal to price (“to be sold reasonably”), but he made no other effort to distinguish the rum he sold. Some modern readers may be tempted to think that listing Jamaica in italics was intended to highlight the origins of his rum for consumers that considered production in some places superior to others. However, listing place names in italics was common practice throughout eighteenth-century advertisements. In addition, printers – not the advertisers themselves – usually made the decisions about typography.

As Lindsay notes, rum was an extremely popular commodity in colonial America. Amid already high demand, advertisers like Anthony Lamotte worked to direct that demand in their favor. To do so, Lamotte used a marketing strategy that emphasized more than just price and quality. He promised potential customers that his rum was “superior in quality” to others, playing on their emotions in the absence of providing evidence to explain why it was a better product.


[1] John J. McCusker, “The Rum Trade and the Balance of Payments of the Thirteen Continental Colonies, 1650-1775,” Journal of Economic History 30, no. 1 (March 1970): 244-246.

September 8

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

Sep 8 - 9:8:1766 South Carolina Gazette
South Carolina Gazette (September 8, 1766).

“DAVID & JOHN DEAS, HAVE JUST IMPORTED … an assortment of other goods.”

Contrary to what this short advertisement, rather plain and unremarkable in its appearance, may suggest, David and John Deas made their mark on the history of advertising thanks to the infamous broadsides (what we would call posters today) that they distributed in Charleston, South Carolina, in the decade before the American Revolution.

Not much distinguishes this advertisement for textiles, including “A LARGE supply of WHITE and COLOURED PLAINS,” from other commercial notices about imported goods that appeared in the same issue of the South Carolina Gazette. David and John Deas are much better remembered (and not just by scholars who specialize in economic history or advertising) for this broadside that circulated in Charleston and beyond nearly three years later.

Sep 8 - Deas Broadside
David and John Deas’s broadside for a slave auction (Charleston, 1769). American Antiquarian Society.

This broadside measures 32 x 20 cm (12 ½ x 8 in), which would have made it a good size to post around town or pass out as a handbill. The woodcuts depicting “PRIME, HEALTHY NEGROES” and the graphic design are both crude, but exceptionally memorable, at least to modern viewers. The haunting images of Africans treated as commodities elicit emotional responses today, but that would not necessarily have been the case in the 1760s. While it would have been impossible not to notice the images on the broadside, colonial consumers would not have been shocked by advertisements treating people as commodities. Accustomed to trade cards and billheads with images more skillfully and effectively rendered, colonists likely would not taken particularly favorable notice of the artistic or aesthetic qualities of the broadside.

David and John Deas’s newspaper advertisement for textiles did not indicate any direct involvement with the slave trade, though the merchandise they stocked made them part of transatlantic networks of commerce and consumption that depended on human cargoes and the staple crops produced through the labor of enslaved men, women, and children. Still, the juxtaposition of their newspaper advertisement and their broadside offers an important reminder that advertisements often provide evidence concerning only a portion of a shopkeeper’s, merchant’s, or firm’s business enterprises. How many other advertisers who promoted general merchandise via their advertisements at one time or another imported and auctioned slaves?