October 21

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 21, 1771).

“The newest fashionable muffs [and] tippets.”

A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet adorned the advertisements that the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon placed in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal in the fall of 1771.  The advertisers did not rely on the image alone to market their “large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” and garments made from those furs, but it almost certainly helped draw attention to their advertisements.  That woodcut also represented an additional expense.  Unlike the type used to print the copy in their notices, the woodcut belonged to the advertisers rather than the printers.  That being the case, Fromberger and Siemon collected their woodcut from one printing office and delivered it to another when they expanded their advertising campaign.

The furriers first inserted an advertisement in the September 26 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  It ran again the following week.  Nearly three weeks elapsed before the same advertisement appeared in the October 21 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  It featured identical copy, though the compositor made different decisions about line breaks, as well as the familiar woodcut that occupied nearly half the space allotted to the advertisement.  Careful examination of the image reveals that it was indeed the same woodcut, not a similar image.  Fromberger and Siemon commissioned only one woodcut, but they aimed to garner a greater return on their investment by disseminating it in more than one newspaper. For many readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the image would have been new and novel when they encountered it.  Those who also happened to peruse the Pennsylvania Journal, however, would have recognized the woodcut.  The repetition of the image likely helped Fromberger and Siemon achieve greater visibility for their enterprise.  Had they published it more regularly, they might have encouraged readers to consider the image a trademark of sorts, but their notices appeared too sporadically.  Although Fromberger and Siemon did not seize the opportunity to further enhance their marketing efforts through consistent repetition of the image of the muff and tippet in the fall of 1771, they did devise advertisements that stood out from others because of the woodcut that accompanied them.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 21, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

Newport Mercury (October 21, 1771).

**********

Newport Mercury (October 21, 1771).

**********

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 21, 1771).

**********

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 21, 1771).

**********

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 21, 1771).

**********

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 21, 1771).

**********

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 21, 1771).

October 20

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

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).
“I have also made it known that I would never pay any of his Debts.”

Readers regularly encountered “runaway wife” advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers.  Aggrieved husbands placed such notices to warn the community not to extend credit to women who absconded from their households without permission.  In many instances, husbands complained about various infractions committed by their wives, but such narratives privileged husbands’ perspectives.  On those rare occasions when wives responded in print, they described misbehavior and abuses perpetrated by their husbands.  For those women, running away from their husbands constituted acts of resistance and self-preservation.

Newspaper advertisements sometimes captured other kinds of familial discord.  For instance, in 1771 William Macon, Sr., placed a notice in Purdie and Dixon’s Virginia Gazette to instruct others not to extend credit under his name to his son, Hartwell Macon.  The elder Macon lamented that his son had, “by his imprudent Conduct, spent all that he had any Right to, and reduced himself to such unhappy Circumstances that he is unable to discharge his just Debts.”  The situation exasperated William.  “Notwithstanding that this has been well known to the World for some Time past, and that I have also made it known that I would never pay any of his Debts,” he declared, “many People still let him have Things on Credit, expecting I will discharge his Debts, or leave him some Part of my Estate which they may seize upon after my Decease.”  Those who made such assumptions were bound to be disappointed, William warned.  He placed his notice “to prevent any One from being deceived, or rather deceiving themselves, that I am determined never to give my said Son any Thing during my Life, nor to leave him any Thing by my Will.”  William suggested that those who extended credit to Hartwell enabled further misconduct, implying that some of them did so opportunistically for their own financial benefit without taking into account what the community already knew about William and Hartwell’s fractured relationship.

Hartwell may have had his own version of events that differed from the narrative presented by his father, but the story William told made it seem unlikely that his son engaged in the sorts of resistance and self-preservation common among runaway wives who appeared in advertisements in the public prints.  Rather than taking place within the household, beyond public observation, Hartwell’s transgressions occurred in full view of the community over an extended period.  Readers of the Virginia Gazette had means of assessing and confirming William’s claims about his son that did not rely on competing accounts of what occurred within the private spaces of the Macon household.

October 19

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

Providence Gazette (October 19, 1771).

“To enumerate the Articles, would exceed the Limits of an Advertisement in a News-Paper.”

Nicholas Brown and Company took a very different approach to advertising their wares than Edward Thurber did in his advertisement in the October 19, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette.  Both advertisers emphasized the choices they made available to consumers.  Brown and Company promoted a “general and compleat Assortment of GOODS,” while Thurber used similar language in marketing a “Very compleat Assortment of Goods.”  To help prospective customers imagine the choices, he included a list of everything from “Mantua silks” to “Dutch looking glasses” to “Frying and warming pans.”  For several categories of goods, he further underscored consumer choice, including a “compleat assortment of broadcloths,” a “fine assortment of womens cloth shoes,” and “All sorts of nails and brads.”  His catalog of goods lacked only an “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) at the end to suggest even more choices.

Brown and Company, on the other hand, did not attempt to impress consumers with lengthy lists or to overwhelm readers with the amount of space their advertisement occupied on the page.  Instead, the partners declared, “To enumerate the Articles, would exceed the Limits of an Advertisement in a News-Paper; but among them are a Number not usually imported into this Town.”  That proclamation may have suggested to some readers that Thurber’s list of goods was too brief and too limited in comparison.  Extending half a column, it was finite and not at all “compleat.”  Brown and Company’s notice filled only half as much space, but only because the partners deemed it impossible to “enumerate” the contents of their store and, as a result, did not attempt to provide even a truncated list.  Brown and Company relied on curiosity to propel consumers to their store, curiosity about what the “general and compleat Assortment” included and curiosity about what kinds of goods might have been among those “not usually imported into this Town.”  Surprises awaited anyone who ventured to Brown and Company’s store.

Although these notices do not reveal which strategy was more effective, they demonstrate that advertisers experimented with how to represent consumer choice to prospective customers.  Neither Thurber nor Brown and Company merely proclaimed that they recently imported goods and expected that would have been sufficient to draw customers to their stores.  Instead, they devised different means of elaborating on choice to make their inventory more attractive to readers of the Providence Gazette.

October 18

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

Connecticut Journal (October 18, 1771).

“Much cheaper to the buyer than can be purchased at Retail in Boston or New-York.”

Several purveyors of goods inserted advertisements in the October 18, 1771, edition of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy.  Each of them made some sort of appeal to price in their attempts to entice consumers into acquiring goods from their shops.  Levi Ives of Derby, for instance, advised readers that he stocked a “good Assortment of GOODS, which he will sell on very moderate Terms.”  Most advertisers made even bolder claims about their price.

That was the case for John Sherman.  He “acquaint[ed] the PUBLIC” that he had just received a “fresh supply of GOODS … which he intends to sell at the very lowest advance.”  Unlike the “moderate Terms” offered by Ives, this pledge implicitly suggested to prospective customers that they would not find better bargains in the vicinity.  The partnership of Morgan and Shipman made a similar statement, declaring that they were “determined to sell as cheap as any Person in Town.”  They matched the prices set by Sherman and other competitors in New Haven.

The estate of Stephen Whitehead Hubbard did not limit their comparison to the prices set by local merchants and shopkeepers.  That advertisement commenced with a pronouncement that the “English and India GOODS” would be sold “at PRIME COST.”  In a nota bene, the executors proclaimed that because the goods “were bought on the best Terms by Wholesale, consequently [they] will be afforded much cheaper to the buyer than can be purchased at Retail in Boston or New-York.”  The estate acknowledged that it operated within a regional marketplace in which consumers and retailers both looked to major ports for the best deals.

Price was one of the most common marketing appeals made in eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements, but advertisers devised a variety of means of deploying the strategy.  Sometimes they simply promoted reasonable prices, but other times they implicitly or explicitly made comparisons to local and regional competitors as they sought to convince consumers to visit their shops instead of others.

October 17

GUEST CURATOR: Daniel Carito

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).
“A likely Negro Fellow named PRINCE … he is a Spaniard.”

In the fall of 1771, Robert Donald, an enslaver in Virginia, advertised a reward of forty shillings for Prince, “a likely Negro fellow” who liberated himself by running away.  The advertisement sparked my interest because Donald mentioned that not only did Prince come from Spanish descent but also was “an excellent swimmer, and dives remarkably well” and labeled as a “water Negro.”  My interest grew even further because in “Eighteenth Century ‘Prize Negroes’: From Britain to America,” Charles R. Foy explains how many Black sailors on Spanish vessels were captured by British and North American mariners, labeled as commodities and sold into slavery: “Between 1721 and 1748 at least one hundred and thirty-five black mariners were condemned as prize goods…  Overall, the number of Prize Negroes in North America from 1713 to1783 is estimated to exceed 500.”[1] Also, Foy argues that enslaved Black mariners were sometimes the main instigators when it came to revolting against their enslavers: “Spanish Prize Negroes often were leaders in resisting slavery in British North America.”[2]

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Enslaved men and women who liberated themselves often left few traces in the archival record.  The advertisements that encouraged colonists to engage in surveillance of Black people to determine if they matched descriptions of runaways in the newspapers and offered rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people may have been the only documents that recorded any aspect of their lives.  In such instances, enslaved people seeking freedom did not tell their own stories, but instead had their experiences mediated through the perspectives of the enslavers who composed the advertisements.

If Prince, as he was called by his enslaver, were indeed a Spanish “Prize Negro” then other kinds of documents may have recorded some of his experiences.  Additional archival work might uncover additional traces of Prince’s life before he arrived in Virginia.  Even if we managed to locate Prince in other sources, his wife and children would likely remain elusive, their stories even more fragmented and obscured than that of their husband and father.  Donald suspected that Prince “took the Road to Charles City, where he had a Wife and Children at Mr. Acrill’s.”  That brief reference to Prince’s family raises more questions than it answers.  How long had Prince and his wife been a couple?  How many children did they have?  How old were the children at the time?  How long had it been since the rest of the family had seen Prince?  Were his wife and children still in Charles City?

Donald recorded several characteristics to identify Prince, including his height, his clothing, and his manner of speaking (“fast and thick”).  The enslaver described Prince as an “excellent Swimmer” and diver who “had on such Clothes as Watermen generally wear.”  Prince’s wife and children in Charles City were just one more detail to Donald and colonists who read the advertisement, but they were not just another detail to Prince or his family.  Donald’s brief narrative about Prince certainly did not match how the enslaved man would have described himself or the most important people in his life.

**********

[1] Charles R. Foy, “Eighteenth Century ‘Prize Negroes’: From Britain to America,” Slavery and Abolition 31, no. 3(September 2010): 381.

[2] Foy, “Eighteenth Century ‘Prize Negroes,’” 384.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 17, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

Maryland Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

New-York Journal (October 17, 1771).

**********

Pennsylvania Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

Pennsylvania Journal (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

South-Carolina Gazette (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

**********

Virginia Gazette [Rind] (October 17, 1771).

October 16

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 15, 1771).

“JOSEPH ATKINSON … HAS imported a new and general ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN MANUFACTORIES.”

Joseph Atkinson’s advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal almost certainly caught the attention of readers.  After all, it comprised nearly two-thirds of the front page of the October 15, 1771, edition.  Immediately below the masthead, it filled the first two columns before news from London in the remaining column.  In addition, Atkinson’s name served as a headline, printed in larger font than even the name of the newspaper in the masthead.

Other graphic design elements also demanded notice.  Atkinson’s name and an introduction to the imported goods available at his store near the New Exchange in Charleston ran across two columns, making that portion of the advertisement even more distinctive.  Most of the notice, however, was divided into two columns that matched the width of others throughout the rest of the issue.  In those columns, Atkinson listed his merchandise.  Instead of dense paragraphs of text common in many advertisements of the period, he placed only one or two items on each line.  That left a significant amount of white space, having the simultaneous effects of making the list easier to read and separating it visually from other content.  A line of ornamental type ran between the two columns, an additional flourish.

Atkinson’s advertisement served as a catalog for prospective customers.  Indeed, the size and format suggest the possibility that it did not appear solely in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Instead, the merchant may have hired Charles Crouch, the printer, to produce handbills or broadsides to distribute or post around town.  In that case, Crouch would have streamlined his efforts in creating marketing materials for Atkinson, choosing to set type just once in a format that fit the newspaper but also lent itself well to printing handbills and broadsides.  Unfortunately, such items were more ephemeral than newspapers, making them much less likely to have survived to today.

October 15

GUEST CURATOR:  Colleen Barrett

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

Essex Gazette (October 15, 1771).

“Apothecary’s SHOP, AT THE Head of Hippocrates.”

On October 15, 1771, Nathanael Dabney advertised his apothecary shop in the Essex Gazette. Dabney sold “Drugs, Medicines, AND Groceries” in Salem, Massachusetts. This is one of many examples of advertisements for medicines in the newspapers of the period. Dabney sold medicines and other items imported from London, including “Patent Medicines of every sort from Dicey & Okell’s Original Wholesale Warehouse.”  According to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, patent medicines, like those mentioned in the advertisement, “are named after the ‘letters patent’ granted by the English crown.” Furthermore, the maker of any of these medicines had “a monopoly over his particular formula. The term ‘patent medicine’ came to describe all prepackaged medicines sold ‘over-the-counter’ without a doctor’s prescription” in later years.  Dabney also mentioned the services he provided at his shop, letting customers know that he “will wait on them at all Hours of the Day and Night.”

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

As Colleen notes, customer service was an important element of Nathanael Dabney’s marketing efforts.  He concluded his advertisement with a note that “Family Prescriptions” were “carefully put up, and Orders from the Country punctually obeyed.”  A manicule helped to draw attention to these services.  That Dabney “put up” prescriptions suggests that he was an apothecary who compounded medications at his shop rather than merely a shopkeeper who specialized in patent medicines.  He likely possessed a greater degree of expertise about the drugs and medicines he sold than retailers who included patent medicines among a wide array of imported goods.

Prospective customers did not need to visit Dabney’s shop “AT THE Head of Hippocrates” in Salem.  Instead, the apothecary offered the eighteenth-century equivalent of mail order service for clients who resided outside of town.  He assured them that they did not have to worry about receiving less attention than those who came into his apothecary shop.  Instead, he “punctually obeyed” their orders, echoing the sentiments of other advertisers who provided similar services.

In addition to customer service, Dabney attempted to entice potential customers with promises of quality, declaring that he imported his drugs “from the best House in LONDON.”  He made a point of mentioning that he received “Patent Medicines of every Sort from Dicey & Okell’s Original Wholesale Warehouse,” an establishment well known in London and the English provinces.  According to P.S. Brown, newspaper advertisements published in Bath in 1770 referred to “Dicey and Okell’s great original Elixir Warehouse.”[1]  Dabney may have hoped to benefit from name recognition when he included his supplier in his advertisement.

The apothecary promised low prices, stating that he sold his wares “at the cheapest rate,” but he devoted much more of his advertisement to quality and customer service.  He waited on customers whenever they needed him “at all Hours of the Day and Night,” compounded medications, and promptly dispatched orders to the countryside, providing a level of care that consumers did not necessarily receive from shopkeepers who happened to carry patent medicines.

**********

[1] P.S. Brown, “Medicines Advertised in Eighteenth-Century Bath Newspapers,” Medical History 20, no. 2 (April 1976):  153.