An important part of most newspapers is the advertising section known as the “Classifieds”. They are not a new form of finding an item to buy or sell or to report on some matter or other. Being an inveterate newspaper reader curiosity was aroused as to the background of these specific notices.
A classified advert dating back three thousand years has been found advising the public that a slave called Shem had run away from his master, Hapu the weaver. The slave’s return would enrich the finder by a gold coin. Various other pieces of information were given – all on a piece of papyrus! Bill boards were found in the ruins of Pompeii advertising rooms to let! But most forms of information were by word of mouth until, that is, the Caxton printing press was introduced in 1476.
As more and more people learned to read and write the usefulness of advertising became more popular. In fact the London Gazette of June 1666 became quite annoyed as the demand grew. By 1803 paper was becoming machine made. A few years later an American newspaper began to be published by steam and classifieds began to be grouped under “Wanted” and “for sale” columns. In 1870 yet another machine had been designed to fold newspapers – printing and publishing was speeding up.
In 1876 The Cape Times was founded in Cape Town. Readers now had a morning paper to peruse. Approximately four years later the manufacture of paper began to change from the use of linen and rags to wood pulp. Display styles changed and classifieds had headings. The possibilities for commercial gain resulted in employees being used to actually go out and canvass for the usage of the classifieds. Of course the number of advertisements increased hugely when acceptance of an advertisement was by way of the telephone. It also became customary to display logos, trade marks in the announcements. Later the Litho printing method would be a huge step forward in this particular industry.