Advertisements from the Pennsylvania Gazette, July 6-13, 1738
Throughout the 18th century, the expansion of newspapers enabled a vocal and entrepreneurial population to emerge in the American colonies. The American newspaper industry was so active that there were more newspaper publications printed in North America during the 1700s than in the entire British mainland. Newspapers became the standard medium for economic and social interaction; through newspapers, colonists from every walk of life could sell goods, post warrants, search for work, and hire ships. This excerpt, showing advertisements printed in one issue of the popular Pennsylvania Gazette, reveals the diverse population that used this new mode of communication and helps paint a picture of the social and economic landscape of the mid-Atlantic colonies in 1738.
Merchants such as Charles Read and Peter Delage, who sold goods including sugar, molasses, and teas, tried to expand their client base through advertisements in the paper. These advertisements show that not only goods but people were moving busily across the Atlantic and throughout the colonies. Ship captains such as John Brame and John Reeve used the Gazette's advertisements section to broadcast their "good" and "extraordinary" accommodations for passengers. Slave owners and trade masters also used the paper to hire out, dispose of, and regain control of the individuals whose labor they owned. Advertisements for newly imported slaves and indentured servants—generally European men and women who had sold away years of their service in return for passage to the colonies—abounded, as did calls for the return of slaves, indentured servants, and apprentices (who were also contractually bound to work for their masters for a term of years) who had run away from their masters. To aid their apprehension and return, descriptions of the runaways were generally given; these brief portraits help provide a sense of the ages, genders, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and skills and experiences of these diverse laborers.
Overall, newspapers like the Gazette helped information, goods, and people travel across the Atlantic world faster than ever before. The diversity of the people who could buy advertising space showed the expanding opportunities for social mobility that had never previously existed in the colonies. On the other hand, as these advertisements show, the 18th-century Atlantic world was defined by unequal relationships between master and servant or merchant and slave.