February 12

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 6, 1769).

“The following large assortment of GOODS.”

In January and February 1769, Daniel Benezet, John Benezet, and Thomas Bartow attempted to maximize exposure for their advertisement concerning a “large assortment of GOODS” by running it in multiple newspapers. Over the course of several weeks, they first inserted it in the Pennsylvania Journal and then the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Gazette. The iterations in the Gazette and the Journal had strikingly similar appearances, almost as if the compositor for the former referred to an edition of the latter when setting type. The version in the Chronicle, however, looked quite different, even though it featured, for the most part, the same copy.

Rather than a lengthy paragraph of dense text that extended all or most of a column, the advertisement in the Chronicle treated each item separately. To achieve the necessary space for doing so, the compositor allowed the advertisement to extend more than one column. It filled two full columns and overflowed into a third. In addition, the compositor divided each column in half, thus giving the advertisement the appearance of running for four columns. That further underscored the appeal to consumer choice implicitly made within the advertisement, yet the format also made the contents easier to read. Prospective customers interested in particular kinds of merchandise could peruse the advertisement much more quickly and efficiently. The advertisement in the Chronicle left the order of the goods mostly intact, though instead of leading with “Blue, green, scarlet, claret, cinnamon, drab and copper coloured middling and low priced broadcloths” it instead moved “BEST bohea tea, by the chest” from the middle of the advertisement to become the first item.

This advertisement ran in the same issue that William Goddard, the printer, inserted a notice to subscribers and advertisers. In it, he informed advertisers that “due Care will be taken” that their notices would “appear in a correct, fair, and conspicuous Manner.” In addition, he asserted that since some advertisers were “unable to write in a proper Manner for the Press” that he “offers his Assistance gratis.” In other words, Goddard edited advertisements as a free service for his clients. Perhaps the familiar advertisement placed by the Benezets and Bartow demonstrates Goddard’s efforts in that regard. That could explain the significance differences in format when compared to the same advertisement in the Gazette and the Journal. Goddard may have also suggested listing tea first among their merchandise as a means of highlighting a popular product as well as making it immediately clear that the merchants carried grocery items as well as dry goods. Most evidence suggests that throughout the eighteenth century newspaper advertisers generally assumed responsibility for copy and compositors for format, but this advertisement considered in combination with Goddard’s notice suggests that sometimes printers took a more active role in designing advertisements to appeal to readers. In so doing, they anticipated an essential service provided by the advertising industry in the twentieth century.

February 6

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 7, 1769).

“Those Persons who are pleased to send their Advertisements to the CHRONICLE.”

When the Pennsylvania Chronicle completed its second year of publication and began its third, William Goddard, the printer, inserted a notice to mark the occasion. Colonial printers often marked such milestones, though the length of the notices varied from newspaper to newspaper.

Goddard used the occasion to express his appreciation to subscribers and advertisers. He offered “his most sincere Thanks to his kind and numerous Customers,” pledging that he would make it “his constant Study” to continue to earn their “Favours” as he tended to “their Amusement and Satisfaction.” To that end, he envisioned making “several Improvements” in the third year of publication, stating that he would do so “when a large and valuable Quantity of Materials arrive.” He did not, however, elaborate on those improvements. All of Goddard’s commentary was designed to retain current customers as well as attract new subscribers and advertisers from among readers who had not yet done business with him.

In his efforts to drum up additional advertising revenue, he emphasized the “extensive Circulation” that made choosing the Pennsylvania Chronicle “very advantageous,” though he did not make any direct comparisons to the circulation of competitors like the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal. To aid advertisers in maximizing the impact of their notices, Goddard requested that they submit their notices “as early as possible,” thus allowing time for the “due Care” necessary to make them “appear in a correct, fair, and conspicuous Manner.” In addition, he edited advertising copy as a free service, noting that “Foreigners, and others” sometimes did not “write in a proper Manner for the Press.” This was a rare instance of an eighteenth-century printer offering to participate in generating advertising copy or suggesting that he possessed particular skills in shaping messages that advertisers wished to disseminate in the public prints.

Early American printers did not frequently comment on the business of advertising or the particular practices they adopted in their printing offices. The annual messages that marked the completion of one volume and the beginning of another, however, sometimes included acknowledgments to advertisers as well as subscribers. On such occasions, printers provided details about how they managed advertising in their newspapers.

January 18

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

Jan 18 - 1:18:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 18, 1768).

“THE Publisher of this Paper … shall ever esteem it his Duty to serve and oblige them.”

As was his privilege as the printer and publisher, William Goddard placed his advertisement first among those inserted in the January 18, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, which happened to be issue “NUMB. 53” of its publication. The newspaper had just completed its first full year! Goddard used the occasion for reflecting on publication and distribution during the previous year and promoting the newspaper, especially certain improvements, as he continued to supply the public with new issues.

Goddard opened his advertisement with an expression of gratitude to subscribers and other readers for their “generous Encouragement,” especially recommendations for “the Improvement of his Paper.” He pledged to continue serving them “to the utmost of his Ability” and offered “Proof” that he listened to their suggestions. He pledged to continue publication “upon the same extensive Plan” in terms of content and schedule, but planned to alter the dimensions of each issue to “Quarto Size … which will render it much more convenient … to his kind Readers and Friends.” Goddard suggested that the smaller size would make the issues much more manageable for reading than the broadsheet issues distributed by competitors. He requested that potential subscribers enthusiastic about this modification “transmit their Names and Places of Abode, as soon as possible” so he could print sufficient copies to meet demand for future issues.

Goddard also acknowledged that the Pennsylvania Chronicle had faltered at various times during its first year of publication. He noted that he had experienced difficulty “obtaining faithful and capable Journeymen” to work in his printing office. As a result he had hired “the most inartifical of the Profession … which made it impossible for him to execute or dispatch the Paper in the Manner he could have wished.” Goddard resolved to improve on that. He had just hired, “at a great Expence, a regular and valuable Set of Hands” with the necessary skill and experience that would allow him to publish and deliver the newspaper “with much greater Regularity and Expedition.”

The publisher concluded by offering premiums to his customers. Realizing that some had “preserved the Paper for binding” rather than discarding issues after reading them, he promised to issue a title page and print a notice “when it is ready to be delivered.” He also proposed, but did not promise, a table of contents, “if Time permits.” He also offered back issues for free, allowing anyone who had misplaced one to complete the set before sending it off to the binder. In making it possible for readers to compile complete runs of the first year of publication Goddard also encouraged them to continue to purchase subsequent issues in order to maintain their collections.

All in all, Goddard proclaimed that the Pennsylvania Chronicle had experienced a good first year. Yet he also proposed improvements that would allow his newspaper to compete with the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal, both of which had been published in Philadelphia for decades. He acknowledged some of the difficulties that had an impact on serving customers to the best of his ability, but bookended that portion of his advertisement with plans to publish a more convenient size at the start and premiums, both title pages and back issues, at the conclusion. Goddard knew that colonists passed newspapers from hand to hand, sharing issues beyond just the subscribers. As he commenced a new year of publication, he worked to retain his initial subscribers as well as attract new subscribers who previously read copies acquired from others.

February 9

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

feb-9-291767-pennsylvania-chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 9, 1767).

“A neat Assortment of DRY GOODS, which he will sell cheap.”

Today the Adverts 250 Project features its first advertisement from the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and Universal Advertiser. Likewise, the Slavery Adverts 250 Project includes its first advertisement from that newspaper. William Goddard had been publishing proposals for the Pennsylvania Chronicle in Philadelphia’s newspapers (and even the Providence Gazette) for weeks before it commenced publication on January 26, 1767. The third issue, published February 9, 1767, is the first included in Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers database, though copies of the first two issues are extant in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society.(*)

Goddard’s proposal included a call for advertisers to submit notices they wished to appear in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. In addition, the colophon advised readers that Goddard “gratefully received” all sorts of submissions for his newspaper, including advertisements, articles, and letters of intelligence. He achieved early successes attracting advertisers, devoting nearly half (seven of sixteen columns) of the third issue to thirty-five paid notices of varying lengths. Most promoted consumer goods and services, but some offered real estate for sale or called on debtors to settle accounts. One even offered a reward upon the return of “a young DOG of the Spaniel Breed” that had strayed from its master.

Compared to newspapers published in some smaller towns, the new Pennsylvania Chronicle overflowed with advertising, especially advertisements for consumer goods and services. The third issue even included advertisements from two entrepreneurs who branded their businesses with woodcuts that presumably replicated the shop signs that marked their locations: saddler John Young, Jr., “At the sign of the ENGLISH HUNTING SADDLE” and druggist Nathaniel Tweedy “At the GOLDEN-EAGLE.”

feb-9-291767-tweedy-detail-pennsylvania-chronicle
Detail of Nathaniel Tweedy’s advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 9, 1767).

This stands in stark contrast to other newspapers, such as the Providence Gazette that seemed to struggle to attract advertisers in late 1766 and early 1767. Goddard appears to have experienced no difficulty generating advertising from entrepreneurs in the busy urban port of Philadelphia. The third issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle offered dozens of advertisements to its readers. A quarter of a millennium later, I am simultaneously excited by the range of advertisements that could potentially be incorporated into the Adverts 250 Project and disappointed to choose only one at a time.

I am also frustrated to skip over so many interesting and significant advertisements, though I continue to affirm the methodology that requires doing so. Part of this disappointment stems from the dearth of advertisements available at other times during the week. For instance, since the Providence Gazette was the only newspaper published on Saturdays in 1767 and no newspapers were published on Sundays, each week the Adverts 250 Project gives disproportionate attention to advertisements from the Providence Gazette in the process of featuring advertisements published exactly 250 years ago that day or as close to that day as possible. As a result, the Providence Gazette is overrepresented and other newspapers with much more advertising remain underrepresented. On the other hand, this means that marketing efforts in at least one smaller city are subject to examination alongside the copious newspaper advertisements published in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.

Again, I stand by the project’s methodology, but recognize that both researchers and readers must take into account both its strengths and limitations.

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(*) Although this project relies primarily on digitized primary sources, I also examined original copies of the first two issues of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. From the very first issue William Goddard managed to attract advertisers.  A total of twenty-two advertisements spread over five (out of sixteen) columns appeared in the first issue (January 26, 1767), including an advertisement by Nathaniel Tweedy (without the woodcut).  The second issue (February 2, 1767) included thirty-three advertisements amounting to nearly seven columns, including advertisements by John Young, Jr., and Nathaniel Tweedy (both with woodcuts).

January 25

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

jan-25-1241767-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (January 24, 1767).

Subscriptions for the PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, and UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER, will be taken in by the Printer.”

Throughout January 1767, William Goddard inserted his “PROPOSALS for printing by Subscription … The PENNSYLVANIA CHRONICLE, And UNIVERSAL ADVERTISER” in newspapers printed in Philadelphia. Although he focused most of his efforts on luring subscribers from that city and its hinterland, he also welcomed subscribers from faraway places who already had access to local newspapers published where they lived.

For instance, his lengthy proposal appeared in the Providence Gazette two days before Goddard published the first issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. He recognized three categories of customers and pledged that each would receive their subscriptions in a timely manner: “ladies and gentlemen … shall, in the city, receive [the newspaper] at their respective houses; or, if in the country, forwarded to them by the first opportunity; nor shall any care or industry be wanting to transmit it to the most distant customers with all expedition possible.” To serve that final category, Goddard had appointed agents in “the other colonies on the continent” who collected names of subscribers on his behalf.

Why would residents of other cities and colonies be interested in Goddard’s Pennsylvania Chronicle? After all, even as he pledged “to form his paper on as extensive and universal principles as any other on the continent” he stated that he was not “intending to derogate, in the least, from the merit of any.” Goddard acknowledged that his competitors and counterparts already published fine newspapers.

However, he also underscored that he had “established an extensive correspondence in Europe, and the several Colonies in America” that would allow him to collect in one publication all sorts of items that would “tend to the improvement, instruction, and entertainments of the PUBLIC.” Other newspapers might (and certainly did) print some of the same material that appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but Goddard cultivated a network of “learned and ingenious” correspondents who not only forwarded accounts of “the most remarkable and important occurrences foreign and domestic” but also submitted original “judicious remarks, pieces of wit and humor, essays moral, political, geographical, historical, and poetical.” Considering the editorial care that Goddard devoted to the Pennsylvania Chronicle, subscribers could expect a publication “as complete as possible,” one that provided both news items printed and reprinted throughout the colonies and original features for their edification and amusement.

Goddard’s lengthy proposal, which filled almost an entire column, did not appear alongside other advertisements in the Providence Gazette. There certainly would have been space for it on the final page, had the printer chosen to place a poem submitted by a reader earlier in the issue. Instead, Goddard’s proposal appeared in the final column on the third page, to the left of news items from Williamsburg, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Boston, and Newport. As a result, Goddard’s proposal took on the appearance of a news item as opposed to the commercial notices for consumer goods and services clustered on the following page.

Given its placement within the Providence Gazette, Goddard’s proposal was an advertisement that was not an advertisement, a puff piece that seemed to deliver news but also promoted a product. That Goddard’s proposal received this sort of preferential treatment hardly comes as a surprise when we remember that he formerly published the Providence Gazette before the Stamp Act and when the newspaper once again began publication it did so under the stewardship of his mother, Sarah Goddard.

January 22

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

jan-22-1221767-pennsylvania-gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (January 22, 1767).

“All those who may be pleased to favour him with Advertisements for the first publication … to send them to the Printing-Office.”

William Goddard published proposals for a new newspaper, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and Universal Advertiser, in Philadelphia’s other newspapers for several weeks in late December 1766 and early January 1767. He pledged “to give his readers a weekly relation of the most remarkable and important occurrences, foreign and domestic, collected from the best magazines and papers in Europe and America, as well as from other sources, having a particular regard to such matters as shall most intimately relate to the welfare of the Colonies.”[1]

In addition, he offered space for advertisements, though the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal already featured extensive advertising, sometimes extending to half-sheet supplements devoted exclusively to commercial and other notices. “The Rates of the paper and advertisements,” Goddard promised, “shall be the same … with those heretofore and now printed in this city.—All advertisements shall be punctually inserted, in order as they come in, and be neither delayed or displaced, but shall appear in a fair and conspicuous manner.”

Readers of the newspapers already printed in Philadelphia encountered Goddard’s proposal, dated December 23, 1766, for nearly a month before he published an update that he expected to commence publication of the Pennsylvania Chronicle on January 26. In that shorter notice, he requested that “all those who may be pleased to favour him with Advertisements for the first publication, which will be very extensively circulated, to send them to the Printing-Office … as soon as possible.”

Goddard had experience with publishing newspapers, having previously printed the Providence Gazette for several years. He knew that profits from such an endeavor usually did not arrive from subscriptions but rather from the additional revenues generated by selling advertising space. He also knew that advertisements drew readers. As attractive as those “most remarkable and important occurrences, foreign and domestic” may have been to prospective subscribers, colonists also desired the news and marketing appeals delivered via advertisements. Assorted legal notices kept citizens informed. Notices about runaway servants, slaves, and wives kept residents cautious of strangers they encountered. Notices promoting consumer goods and services kept potential customers aware of current fashions and the availability of products that were part of the ongoing consumer revolution.

Goddard’s proposal also revealed how advertisers could expect the notices they purchased to be handled by the printer: no privileges or preferences when it came to when or how they were inserted in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Although Goddard’s promise about the timing for printing advertisements may have been accurate, the requirements for laying out columns and pages within any issue almost certainly prohibited publishing advertisements in the same order that they arrived in the printing office. In his advertisement to solicit advertisements, Goddard engaged in his own sleight of hand that savvy consumers expected from any sort of marketing.

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[1] For Goddard’s original proposal, see Pennsylvania Gazette (January 8, 1767).