November 20

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

Nov 20 - 11:20:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 20, 1767).

“He keeps neither negroes nor apprentices, but hires white journeymen.”

Donald Harper, a tailor, made a rather unique appeal to prospective customers in an advertisement in the November 20, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. Unlike most of his competitors, he mentioned the assistants who worked for him, acknowledging that he was not solely responsible for all the garments produced in his shop. In the process, he underscored that “he keeps neither negroes nor apprentices, but hires white journeymen.”

What was Harper attempting to communicate to potential clients? From the distance of a quarter millennium, the racial aspect of this appeal may seem most prominent. It might be tempting to assume that since being fitted for clothing could be a rather intimate experience that required close personal contact that Harper suspected some customers would prefer not to interact with enslaved assistants. Yet other newspaper advertisements, as well as all kinds of other sources from the period, indicate that colonists had little objection to sharing spaces, even close quarters, with enslaved men, women, and children, provided that contact was temporary and that everyone behaved according to the expectations of prevailing social and racial hierarchies. The same issue of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, for instance, included advertisements for enslaved domestic servants, including seamstresses, cooks, and other “house wenches.” In serving white colonists, slaves became invisible and unremarkable, which would have made Harper’s marketing strategy out of place had his intention been exclusively to promote a workshop free of enslaved workers.

The advertisement might better be understood by noting that Harper relied on the labor of “neither negroes nor apprentices.” Instead, he “hires white journeymen,” an aspect of his business that he connected to clients “being served to their satisfaction” because the journeymen did their work “with the greatest dispatch and in the genteelest manner.” Seen through the eyes of eighteenth-century readers, Harper made an appeal to quality. He did not resort to untrained or barely trained workers, whether enslaved or apprenticed, but instead hired artisans who had demonstrated some level of skill and competence in order to achieve journeyman status. As a result, customers could depend on a certain level of quality when they chose to acquire garments from Harper’s workshop.

October 14

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

Oct 14 - 10:14:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 14, 1767).

“Henry Steerman and Jonathan Remington, TAYLORS and PARTNERS.”

The advertisement placed by Henry Steerman and Jonathan Remington, as well as all of the other advertisements on the same page of the October 14, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette, creates a bit of a mystery for modern historian who consult databases of digitized newspapers to conduct their research. These advertisements appeared on the fifth page of that issue.

Why would this be a mystery? Most newspapers published in 1767 followed a standard format: four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half. Occasionally printers issued a supplement, either two (using half a broadsheet) or four pages (using an entire additional broadsheet). Usually these supplements had their own masthead that identified them as supplements, though sometimes they were inserted in the center of the newspaper without additional identification. Due to the scarcity of paper, printers carefully filled both sides of any supplement with news items, advertisements, or both, leaving no empty space. If they did not have enough material to issue an even number of pages – four, six, or eight – they inserted notes indicating that news items would be continued in the next issue or advertisements omitted would be in the next.

The Georgia Gazette rarely issued a supplement. The layout sometimes suggested that the printer had difficulty even filling four pages. On such occasions the advertisements featured generous amounts of white space in order to occupy as much space on the page as possible. That Steerman and Remington’s advertisement, along with twenty others, appeared on the fifth page of the Georgia Gazette was out of the ordinary. What was perplexing to this historian, however, was the absence of a sixth page in the database of digitized newspapers. It would have been extraordinary for the printer not to print on both sides of the sheet, yet the sixth page seemed to be missing. Even more curious, the fifth page did not have a masthead that identified it as a supplement. Had Steerman and Remington’s advertisement actually appeared on the fifth page? Or was it on the sixth page and the fifth page, for whatever reason, was missing from the database?

These questions could not be answered merely by examining the digital surrogates. I found definitive confirmation only when I visited the American Antiquarian Society to examine the original issue of the Georgia Gazette that had been photographed and later digitized by Readex. To my surprise, the October 14, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette did indeed consist of only five pages. More accurately, it consisted of five printed pages and a blank sixth page, but this was not at all evident from the database. It did not include a photograph of the blank sixth page to provide context and a complete record for researchers.

This points to two lessons when it comes to the creation and use of digital surrogates in historical research. First, digital surrogates should be used in addition to, rather than instead of, original sources. Digital surrogates are valuable resources that have made original documents much more accessible to historians, other scholars, and the general public, but sometimes they hide elements of the past rather than reveal them. They must be consulted with caution and with knowledge of what kinds of questions to also ask about original documents in order not to be misled by digitized ones.

Second, the example of the October 14, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette underscores the necessity of content providers, like Readex, consulting with librarians, archivists, historians, and other scholars who are familiar with the original sources and the most likely users of digital surrogates when designing and implementing databases. To a layperson unfamiliar with eighteenth-century newspapers it seemed unnecessary, wasteful, and perhaps even confusing to include a photo of a blank page of a newspaper. To someone who works with eighteenth-century newspapers, both original and digital surrogates, every day, the absence of a blank page in the database actually created confusion that could have been avoided.

Consulting the original issue of the October 14, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette cleared up the mystery about its original format, yet another mystery remains, one that will be much harder to solve. Given the scarcity of paper, why did the printer issue an additional halfsheet printed on only one side?

October 6

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

Oct 6 - 10:6:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 6, 1767).

“All GENTLEMEN may therefore save themselves a great deal of trouble.”

John Ward, a tailor, advanced a variety of marketing appeals in his advertisement aimed at “All GENTLEMEN” in Charleston, but convenience was foremost among them. Ward detailed how he imported textiles and “trimmings of all colours.” Clients did not need to obtain fabrics from shopkeepers and then contract with a tailor to make their garments. Ward considered that system “a great deal of trouble.” By constructing clothing from the materials he sold in his workshop, Ward saved his customers all of the hassle of going from shop to shop. This also streamlined the process because clients had only one bill rather than “so many different bills for their clothes.” Furthermore, Ward offered the convenience of knowing exactly how much his garments cost, making it unnecessary for prospective customers to do all kinds of tabulations based on which materials they might purchase from which retailers. Ward announced that he “fixes the price of a suit of clothes … from FORTY-FIVE to FIFTY POUNDS currency a suit.”

Realizing that all of this convenience mattered little if the price did not match the rates set by competitors or if potential clients suspected inferior quality, Ward made certain to address those concerns. His supplier on the other side of the Atlantic, described as “as good a judge [of dry goods] as any in England,” purchased the textiles and trimmings “upon the very best terms.” This, in turn, allowed Ward “to sell much lower than the common advance.” Customers who wished to acquire fabrics got a deal when they bought from Ward rather than local shopkeepers. Those who also wanted those fabrics made into garments could “have their clothes made near as cheap as can be sent from England.” Ward acknowledged a slight premium for the convenience he provided, presumably a price worth paying to work directly with a local tailor who could take his own measurements and make adjustments and repairs on the spot. In terms of quality, he also used superlatives to describe his materials: “best superfine London dress’d BROAD-CLOTHS,” “superfine plush,” and “the very best of silk and worsted breeches pieces.”

John Ward marketed convenience in acquiring materials, having garments made, and paying bills, but not at the cost of other considerations important to prospective clients. As he promoted convenience, he simultaneously made traditional appeals to price and quality to reassure skeptical consumers.

August 30

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

Aug 27 - 8:27:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement.jpg
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (August 27, 1767).

“JOHN HOLLIDAY, TAYLOR … UNDERTAKES to make Clothes in the neatest and newest Fashion.”

John Holliday and his wife ran an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette throughout most of 1767. The Adverts 250 Project previously featured that advertisement, examining how the couple surreptitiously inserted information about “Mrs. Holliday’s new-invented curious Compound” for removing unwanted facial hair at the end of an advertisement that, at a glance, focused primarily on John’s services as a tailor.

The Hollidays’ advertisement demonstrates one strategy female entrepreneurs used to promote their participation in the marketplace without independently publishing newspaper notices, yet the initial portion dedicated to John’s enterprise includes fairly rare commentary on attitudes about the effectiveness of advertising in eighteenth-century America. “Mr. Holliday humbly begs Leave to refer to those Gentlemen who have favoured him with their Commands, since the Commencement of this Advertisement, as their Approbation has been equal to his highest Expectation.” In other words, Holliday acknowledged that business had increased since first placing the advertisement and he attributed that development to his marketing efforts rather than other circumstances. Perhaps Holliday’s advertisement had been successfully because he did not merely announce that he had set up shop. Instead, he listed his qualifications, noting that he had previously been employed as “Foreman and Cutter-out to some of the most eminent Master-Taylors in London.” Such a pedigree likely caught the attention of status-conscious residents of the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the colonies!

Furthermore, Holliday attempted to use his new clients to incite additional demand for his services. Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia from London, he promised that “any Gentlemen that shall be pleased to favour him with their Commands … will not be disappointed” with the garments he made “in the neatest and newest Fashion.” According to this advertisement, several “Gentlemen” indeed “favoured him with their Commands” and thought so highly of the work he completed for them that other potential clients should consider that sufficient testimonial to also engage his services.

June 15

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

Jun 15 - 6:15:1767 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (June 15, 1767).

“Just arrived … Thomas Paul, TAYLOR from LONDON.”

George Senneff, “TAYLOR, from LONDON,” and Thomas Paul, “TAYLOR from LONDON” competed for clients in New York. In the process, they resorted to similar advertising campaigns. Senneff’s connection to London was central in his marketing efforts. Not only did he promote his place of origin, he also stressed his familiarity with current fashions in the cosmopolitan center of the empire and pledged to outfit his patrons in the same manner. He promised customers that he made a variety of garments “after the newest and genteelest Taste, as is now worn in London.” To drive the point home, he reiterated that he made riding habits for women “after the newest Fashions now worn in London.”

Thomas Paul deployed the same appeal in his advertisement. He noted his origins before stating that he produced “Mens Cloaths, both trim and plan, in the newest and genteelest Taste, as is now worn in London.” To enhance this claim, he added an element not present in Senneff’s advertisement. Paul noted that he had “Just arrived in the Ship New-York, Capt. Lawrence.” Senneff, on the other hand, gave no indication of how long he had been in New York or how recently he had migrated from London.

This created an interesting tension between their advertisements, especially when they appeared in close proximity, as they did in the June 15, 1767, edition of the New-York Gazette. Senneff’s notice was at the bottom of the first column on the first page and Paul’s notice two columns to the right. Through repetition, Senneff more forcefully asserted that his garments accorded to “the newest Fashions now worn in London,” but Paul’s recent arrival may have trumped that declaration since his familiarity with current tastes certainly derived from direct observation. Faced with a choice between Senneff and Paul, the latter’s recent residence and work in London may have been the deciding factor for some potential customers.

May 27

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

May 27 - 5:27:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 27, 1767).

DAVID GIONOVOLY, Taylor.”

David Gionovoly’s advertisement may have been short, but it was visually stimulating, especially compared to the other commercial notices that appeared on the same page of the Georgia Gazette. Amid a series of advertisements that consisted of dense blocks of text, the format of Gionovoly’s advertisement likely drew the attention of prospective clients. The visual aspects of the advertisement eclipsed the contents.

Most of the evidence suggests that advertisers submitted copy to printers who then determined the format, though negotiations took place and special requests were sometimes honored (perhaps for an additional fee). Gionovoly may have worked closely with James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, to create an advertisement with distinctive visual appeal. Alternately, he may have made a general request but offered no specifics. On the other hand, the format of the tailor’s advertisement may have been entirely due to the printer’s own initiative.

Regardless of who was responsible for each visual element of the advertisement, it effectively deployed varied fonts and sizes. It also included just enough white space to accentuate those variations. The headline of the advertisement – “DAVID GIONOVOLY, Taylor” – was set in the largest font used on that page (or anywhere else in the issue, with the exception of the masthead). Both capitals and italics further emphasized the tailor’s name, giving him an appropriate sense of style that anyone in the garment trades would have wanted to communicate to potential customers. The ornate font for the next line – “Gives this Publick Notice” – also appeared in other advertisements, but not so many that it did not seem novel in Gionovoly’s notice. The remainder of the advertisement had a standard format and incorporated the usual sorts of appeals – “work done after the best manner, and with the greatest dispatch” – but the lack of innovation in the copy may not have mattered as much as making sure that readers noticed the advertisement at all.

May 27 - Entire Page 5:27:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 27, 1767).

May 18

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

May 18 - 5:18:1767 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (May 18, 1767).

“Cloaths, after the newest and genteelest Taste, as is now worn in London.”

George Senneff adopted a marketing strategy commonly deployed by tailors and other artisans. To imbue his services with extra cachet, he included his origins in his introduction: “George Senneff, Taylor, from LONDON.” Colonists were preoccupied with the latest trends in England, especially London, when it came to both dress and adorning private and public spaces. They experienced anxiety that they might appear pretenders in provincial backwaters as they participated in transatlantic consumer culture that changed increasingly rapidly as the eighteenth century progressed. Tailors and others in the clothing trades, as well as hairdressers and cabinetmakers, offered reassurances that their goods and services were à la mode when they asserted their connections to the cosmopolitan center of the empire.

Many considered announcing that they were “from LONDON” sufficient for the purpose, but Senneff treated that merely as an opening salvo in his bid to win clients concerned about wearing the latest fashions and demonstrating their awareness of the most current trends. Not only was he “from LONDON,” Senneff proclaimed that he made men’s garments of “plain and lac’d Cloaths, after the newest and genteelest Taste, as is now worn in London.” He reiterated this claim when he described the riding habits he made for women: “after the newest Fashions now worn in London.” Senneff had his finger on the pulse of changing tastes in the metropole. In turn, his clients in New York would exhibit that insider’s knowledge in their attire as they attended to business and socialized in the colonial outpost.

Senneff’s decision to repeatedly state that his garments conformed to “the newest Fashions now worn in London” may not have merely reassured customers. Instead, such intensive focus on the latest styles in that faraway city could have stoked anxiety among local consumers. Repetitively invoking current tastes in London may have prompted some potential customers to dwell on this aspect of their own apparel, encouraging them to seek out Senneff’s services since he seemed to be in the know and could provide appropriate guidance in outfitting them “after the newest and genteelest Taste.” Senneff craftily induced such uneasiness and simultaneously offered his services as an especially effective way to experience relief. His notice was no mere announcement but rather a clever attempt to manipulate potential customers into visiting his shop.