Newspaper Ads from William Ramsey collection, about 1750
Reading eighteenth century newspaper advertisements provides an amazing window into an everyday life in such contrast to our contemporary world. The Wednesday March 6th, 1793 edition of The Columbian Mirror in Alexandria, Virginia ran its advertisements on the front page in chunky blocks of text with content appealing to the client who read them: men. Women were not yet extensively in charge of buying household goods and so were not the focus group for these advertisers.
Like other newspaper advertisements of the period nearly all led off their pitch with large type either with the name of the merchant selling such as “BRYAN HAMPSON” or with a product to be sold – “Fresh GRASS SEED.” Advertised goods were meant for local consumption in Alexandria, and likely the same advertisements ran in the two other Alexandria newspapers of the time. In each paper the typeface constituted the design with the printer making the choice – occasionally dropping in the repeating image of a vessel to break up the text. Though most disturbing to us today, the sale of a human –“A healthy strong Negro Girl” – was normal advertising material in the 18th century.