May 16

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

May 16 - 5:16:1770 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 16, 1770).

“WILLIAMS and MACKAY’s Copartnership will expire in June next.”

It would have been nearly impossible for readers of the Georgia Gazette not to know that “WILLIAMS AND MACKAY’s Copartnership will expire” in June 1770.  The partners ran an advertisement to that effect in every issue for several months.  They commenced their efforts to notify “all indebted to that concern” to settle accounts in the January 3 edition of the Georgia Gazette.  That advertisement, the first item on the first page, bore a dateline at its conclusion: “Augusta, 1st January, 1770.”  The following week they published a slightly revised version, adding “Pack Horses, Indian Debts” to the list of items they continued to sell at “Their Trading House in Augusta.”  Doing so required resetting the type for the second half of the advertisement, but the compositor left the first half intact.

That advertisement ran for thirteen weeks before Williams and Mackay updated it again.  (I am assuming that it appeared in the March 14 edition.  The fourth page, usually reserved for advertisements in the Georgia Gazette, is missing from the digitized copy available via America’s Historical Newspapers).  Throughout that time, that advertisement advised that they sought to sell the trading house itself, “which may be entered upon the first of April next.”  Apparently, they did not find any purchasers by that time.  On April 11, they further revised the copy to state that the trading house “may be entered upon immediately.”  This required resetting type in the second half of the advertisement once again.  At that time, the dateline also disappeared from the advertisement.

For at least twenty consecutive weeks one iteration or another of Williams and Mackay’s advertisement ran in the Georgia Gazette.  It may have continued past the May 16 edition, but those issues have not survived.  America’s Historical Newspapers includes the first two pages of the May 23 edition, but by that time this advertisement had migrated to the last two.  That’s the end of both known copies of the Georgia Gazette and digitized editions that make them more accessible.  Inserting their advertisement that many times would have been a significant investment for Williams and Mackay.  For James Johnston, the printer, this advertising campaign yielded revenues that supported the dissemination of the news that appeared elsewhere in the Georgia Gazette.  Regular readers likely became accustomed to seeing the advertisement over the course of nearly half a year.  By inserting it so often, Williams and Mackay increased the chances that even those who read the Georgia Gazette only sporadically would see their notice.