May 24

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

May 24 - 5:21:1767 New-York Journal
Supplement to the New-York Journal (May 21, 1767).

“SUPPEMENT to the NEW-YORK JOURNAL.”

John Holt printed a four-page supplement to accompany the May 21, 1767, issue of the New-York Journal. It included one page of “ARTICLES left out last Week, for Want of Room,” but the remainder of the supplement consisted primarily of advertisements. Almost every issue of the New-York Journal published in April, May, June, and July that year had a corresponding supplement, but the length, size, and purpose of the supplements varied. Sometimes they were mechanisms for delivering advertisements, but on other occasions few, if any, advertisements appeared. In an era when the standard issue for any American newspaper was four pages (created by folding a broadsheet in half) with only occasional supplements, Holt regularly adjusted his publication according to the amount of news and advertising of the week. In so doing, he was responsive to the needs of both readers and advertisers.

The May 21 supplement first caught my eye because of its strange format: two regular columns (as opposed to the usual three) with four short columns that ran perpendicular to the other two. Since I was working with a digitized copy, the size of the sheet was not readily apparent, but, having encountered something similar previously, I suspected that the supplement had been printed on a different size sheet than the regular issues. Consulting an original issue at the American Antiquarian Society confirmed that was indeed the case. The regular issue had been printed on a 9 ½ x 15 ½ sheet with three columns, the supplement on an 8 ¼ x 13 ½ sheet in the configuration described above. All columns measured 2 ¾ inches across. Holt rotated type that had already been set to create the four short columns that ran perpendicular to the rest of the content. For instance, shopkeeper Ennis Graham’s dense and lengthy list-style advertisement was divided into four columns. The printer maximized the amount of content he provided when printing on a smaller sheet.

May 24 - Graham 5:21:1767 New-York Journal
Supplement to the New-York Journal (May 21, 1767).

When I have encountered this trick of the trade in the past, most often it resulted from the printer not having access consistently to paper of the size usually used to publish the newspaper. That does not seem to have been the case in this instance. Sometimes Holt printed the supplement on the smaller sheet, but other times on a sheet the same size as the regular issue. The regular issue always appeared on the larger sheet. Whether on a smaller or larger sheet, sometimes Holt issued a half sheet (two-page) supplement and other times a full sheet (four-page) supplement. Usually the supplement included advertising, but not always. News from England and elsewhere merited immediate publication rather than waiting until the following week.

The supplements that accompanied the New-York Journal in 1767 sometimes had a strange layout because the printer carefully calculated the size of the sheet needed to deliver the content for the week, not because shortages of paper made peculiar layouts necessary. When other newspapers pledged that advertisement omitted would be printed in the next issue, Holt resorted to supplements to disseminate both advertising and the most current news as quickly as possible.

January 30

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

jan-30-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 30, 1767).

“TO BE SOLD … ALL the estate of said deceased.”

Today’s advertisement had an exceptionally unusual layout: four columns of about twelve lines each, rotated counterclockwise relative to other items, positioned on the left side of the final page of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. Another advertisement on the other side of the sheet had a similar layout, rotated clockwise and positioned on the right side of the page.

When I first encountered similar layouts in the New-Hampshire Gazette I hoped to make an argument that advertisers played a role in the graphic design decisions, that they attempted to draw attention to their notices through creative and jarring layouts that departed from readers’ expectations. Upon consulting original copies of the New-Hampshire Gazette, however, I discovered that the printers’ paper supply had apparently been disrupted temporarily and they compensated by finding means to squeeze as much type as had already been set to completely fill smaller broadsheets.

Something similar seems to have happened here. Unfortunately, my local archive does not have copies of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette in its collections and Accessible Archives, like other databases of digitized images of eighteenth-century newspapers, does not provide metadata concerning the dimensions of each page. Still, based on experience working with other newspapers printed in the 1760s as well as their digital surrogates in multiple databases, I can advance a reasonable explanation for the unusual layout of today’s advertisement.

jan-30-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-page-6
Final page of South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 30, 1767).

Most issues of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, like newspapers printed throughout the colonies, were four pages, created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. Each page had four columns of news, advertisements, and other content. For the January 30, 1767, issue, these pages were numbered [19] through 22. Pages 23 and 24, featuring the unique layout, appeared to be printed on smaller sheets with just enough room for two regular columns and a third made from dividing an advertisement into four shorter columns and rotating each. Both of the advertisements given this treatment had appeared in a single column in the previous issue. The type had been set, making it relatively easy to reposition it for the smaller sheet. The previous issue also had two extra pages, but apparently on a slightly larger sheet that allowed for three full columns on each side. In neither case were these additional sheets entitled a supplement.

Most likely pages 23 and 24 did not appear sequentially when delivered to, or read by, subscribers. Instead, the smaller sheet would have been tucked inside the larger newspapers. These extra pages featured advertising exclusively, as did the extra pages in the previous issue. Robert Wells, the printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, may have taken in so many advertisements that he considered it necessary to provide the extra sheet as a means of not falling behind in their publication. After all, the colophon encouraged readers to submit advertisements, an important revenue stream for any newspaper publisher in eighteenth-century America. If Wells, who competed with printers of two other newspapers in Charleston, wanted to continue to receive advertisements then he needed to publish and distribute them quickly rather than resorting to an apology sometimes issued by printers: “advertisement omitted will appear in our next.”

In the end, Samuel Wise most likely had little control over the unique layout of today’s advertisement. Still, he and all the other advertisers whose notices appeared on the supplemental sheet perhaps benefitted from the extra attention it may have garnered among readers.

September 30

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Commesso

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

sep-30-9301766-supplement-new-york-gazette
Occasional Supplement to W. Weyman’s Gazette of Yesterday [New-York Gazette] (September 30, 1766).
“LINENS and SHEETINGS, … Russia Iron, … Ware’s Snuff.”

Today’s advertisement features Greg, Cunningham, & Company and their vast assortment of all different types of goods recently “imported in the last Vessels from Europe.” Fairly unlike any other advertisements I have looked at this week, this shop offered more than a surplus of different textiles and clothing materials, such as “LINENS and SHEETINGS,” laces, velvets, and handkerchiefs, Greg, Cunningham, and Company also carried products that would be found in a modern hardware and sporting goods store. Materials like “Russia Iron,” gunpowder and musket balls were available as well as “Plate Copper” and “dry White Lead.” I had not seen these products advertised before; they stood out because they show that colonists needed supplies that allowed for expansion, growth, and opportunities for new development. From the hardware products to clothing to even a selection of medicines, Greg, Cunningham, and Company offered a diverse selection of goods to consumers.

The advertisement also listed “Ware’s Snuff.” Since it was listed with “middling pipes” and different alcoholic beverages, at first glance I assumed “Ware’s Snuff” was just another pleasure for adults. In fact snuff was extremely popular among men, not only as a product to enjoy, but as a social measure as well. According to Edwin Tunis, “Nearly every man carried the most expensive [snuff box] he could afford.” Some had a different box for every day. Even women took advantage of the readily available product, but only in private.[1] However, after researching further, I found that “Ware’s Snuff” was actually used as a cure for some sicknesses as well. Taking this up the nose would often lead to “a very large discharge of mucus.”[2]

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Nick focused on the content of the advertisement he selected for today, but I am also interested in the context in which it appeared. Today’s advertisement was included in a half sheet Occasional Supplement to W. Weyman’s Gazette of Yesterday. Like nearly half of colonial American newspapers published in 1766, William Weyman distributed the New-York Gazette on Mondays – and, usually, only Mondays. Typically, each issue consisted of four pages, two printed on each side of a broadsheet that was then folded in half. In most cases, that was the extent of the news and advertising made available by any particular newspaper during any particular week.

At this time the Pennsylvania Gazette did provide a notable departure. It frequently inserted an additional half sheet in its standard four-page issue, bringing the entire issue to a total of six pages. Even with this additional content, however, the Pennsylvania Gazette did not attempt to distribute additional full issues more than once a week. In the 1770s some newspapers experimented with printing two or three issues per week, but it was not until after the Revolution that newspapers in the largest cities began daily publication.

This brings us back to Greg, Cunningham, and Company’s advertisement and the Occasional Supplement to the New-York Gazette in which it appeared. Why deviate from the usual publication schedule? Considering the amount of labor involved in producing an additional half sheet, why have an Occasional Supplement appear just one day after Monday’s regular issue, rather than later in the week? The “Subject of the Day is quite altered,” the first line of the Occasional Supplement proclaimed, due to “the Arrival of the Lord Hyde Packet” and the news it carried “with regard to the Change in the Ministry.” At the end of July, Lord Rockingham had been dismissed as prime minister. The king instructed William Pitt the Elder to form a government and granted him a title, making him the first Earl of Chatham. Pitt was popular among American colonists, both for his incisive leadership during the Seven Years War and, especially, for his opposition to the Stamp Act. Yet the Occasional Supplement noted that in Britain “there is pro and con, for and against Mr. PITT.” Weyman selected excerpts from letters that arrived on the packet ship “to give both Sides a Chance, and must leave our Readers to judge for themselves.” This news was too significant to wait an entire week to report it in the next issue of the New-York Gazette, hence Weyman’s decision to rush to press with an Occasional Supplement.

This news filled almost the entire first page of the Occasional Supplement, but the other side featured advertisements (including Greg, Cunningham, and Company’s advertisement) exclusively. Sometimes supplements and additional half sheets (like those that accompanied the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1766) were mechanisms for distributing additional advertising, the demand for advertising space exceeding the what was available in regular issues. In this case, however, we see that political reporting opened an opportunity to distribute greater numbers of advertisements. Weyman and others who worked in his shop could have cut their work in half by printing a broadside that reported the news, but instead chose to print advertising on the other side before distributing the Occasional Supplement on September 30, 1766.

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[1] Edwin Tunis, Colonial Craftsmen and the Beginnings of American Industry (New York: World Publishing Company, 1965), 53.

[2] Thomas John Graham, Modern Domestic Medicine (London: Published for the Author, 1827), 369.

June 16

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

Jun 16 - 6:16:1766 Supplement to the Boston-Gazette
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (June 16, 1766).

“A Fresh and neat Assortment of English and India GOODS.”

Business was booming in Boston at the beginning of summer in 1766. The pages of the Boston-Gazette were filled with advertisements, most of them marketing consumer goods. Perhaps it was because a greater number of ships arrived in port with “English and India GOODS” now that winter was over and conditions for traveling had improved. Or perhaps it was because in the wake of the repeal of the hated Stamp Act a greater number of sellers felt comfortable announcing to the public that they sold imported goods.

Frederick William Geyer was just one of many advertisers in the June 16, 1766, issue of the Boston-Gazette. Indeed, the printer had received so many advertisements that a two-page supplement featuring nothing but advertisements was necessary, increasing the length of the newspaper for that week by half! Geyer’s advertisement appeared on the second page of that supplement. Many of the other advertisements were fairly short, at least in comparison to Geyer’s extensive list of textiles and other dry goods. His advertisement extended an entire column, catching the eye because it took up so much space on the page. Such a lengthy advertisement would have certainly been an investment for the merchant and shopkeeper (he sold the goods (“Wholesale or Retail”), one that he hoped would more than pay for itself by bringing customers into his shop. Given how many competitors were also advertising in the Boston-Gazette and the city’s other three newspapers, Geyer may have considered his own advertisement a necessity.

Jun 16 - 6:16:1766 Supplement to the Boston-Gazette fullpage
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (June 16, 1766).