What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“BALTIMORE COFFEE-HOUSE and TAVERN.”
In the fall of 1772, William Goddard proposed publishing a newspaper in Baltimore as soon as he recruited enough subscribers. Robert Hodge and Frederick Shober also announced their intention to establish a newspaper in Baltimore. Hodge and Shober left the city just a couple of months later. Goddard did not take the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser to press until August 1773. Until then, the town did not have its own newspaper. Instead, residents relied on the Maryland Gazette, published in Annapolis, and the various newspapers published in Philadelphia as their local newspapers.
That meant that advertisers in Baltimore sent their notices to printing offices in other towns. Goddard, the printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, may have determined that Baltimore could support its own newspaper in part as a result of the number of advertisements he received from that town. The November 14, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, for instance, carried several advertisements that concerned Baltimore, including two on the front page. In one, Sarah Chilton invited prospective patrons to the “BALTIMORE COFFEE-HOUSE and TAVERN,” an establishment she recently opened in a “large and commodious brick house” and kept stocked with “excellent liquors and other necessaries.” In another, John Gordon described Robert Lewis, an indentured servant who ran away before his contract ended, and offered a reward for his capture and return to Gordon’s residence on Gay Street in Baltimore. Recognizing both Lewis’s mobility and the reach of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Gordon adjusted the award depending on whether Lewis was “within ten miles” of Baltimore, “out of the county,” or “out of the province.” A third advertisement promoted a “STAGE from the city of Philadelphia to Baltimore-Town” and provided a schedule, including the transfers between the “stage-waggon” and the “stage-boat,” for travel in both directions.
Even if Baltimore had its own newspaper in 1772, each of these advertisements would have been of interest to many readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle in Philadelphia and other towns. The coffee house and the stage, however, also testified to the growth of Baltimore as a commercial center that had the potential to support its own newspaper, especially if a publisher could enlist merchants and shopkeepers to advertise their wares and other residents to submit the various kinds of notices that comprised a significant portion of the content of newspapers published in other cities and towns.