January 18

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

Providence Gazette (January 18, 1772).

“He has likewise procured an European Blue-Dyer.”

In January 1772, John Nichols placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to remind the community that “he carries on the Weaving Business, as usual,” at his house on Broad Street.  He devoted most of his advertisement, however, to promoting an ancillary service he recently added to his business.  Nichols informed readers that he “procured an European Blue-Dyer, who will warrant his Colours to be equally durable with those from that Country.”  Nichols made that appeal to quality in hopes of convincing prospective customers to support services provided in the colonies rather than resort to imported goods.  When they did so, the weaver suggested, customers would also save money and reap other benefits.  In particular, he pledged that items committed to the care of his dyer would not become saturated with “the (generally detested) Smell of a common Dye-Pot.”  Customers could enjoy vivid colors without having to tolerate the unpleasant odors often associated with dyes.

On behalf of his dyer, Nichols also offered advice to prospective customers to help them achieve and maintain those vivid colors.  “Those who intend bringing Yarn to dye,” he instructed, “are requested to have it well cleaned.”  If they did not, the yarn “will not take the Dye so well.”  This made it easier for the dyer, but it also contributed to the quality that Nichols promised.  Colors had a tendency to fade over time, so producing colors “equally durable” as imported textiles required careful attention of both the dyer and the customers who delivered yarn for processing.

When it came to textiles, Nichols and his dyer offered alternatives to some of the imported good promoted by other advertisers.  Like many others who engaged in domestic manufactures, they attempted to make goods produced in the colonies attractive to consumers by emphasizing both price and quality.  Customers would actually pay less, Nichols declared, without sacrificing quality.  Consumers still clamored for the imported goods that so many other advertisers hawked in the Providence Gazette, but some may have considered seeking out the services of Nichols and his dyer rather than favoring imported goods over items produced locally.

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

Today is an important day for specialists in early American print culture, for Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 (January 6, 1705, Old Style), in Boston. Among his many other accomplishments, Franklin is known as the “Father of American Advertising.” Although I have argued elsewhere that this title should more accurately be bestowed upon Mathew Carey (in my view more prolific and innovative in the realm of advertising as a printer, publisher, and advocate of marketing), I recognize that Franklin deserves credit as well. Franklin is often known as “The First American,” so it not surprising that others should rank him first among the founders of advertising in America.

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Benjamin Franklin (Joseph Siffred Duplessis, ca. 1785).  National Portrait Gallery.

Franklin purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729. In the wake of becoming printer, he experimented with the visual layout of advertisements that appeared in the weekly newspaper, incorporating significantly more white space and varying font sizes in order to better attract readers’ and potential customers’ attention. Advertising flourished in the Pennsylvania Gazette, which expanded from two to four pages in part to accommodate the greater number of commercial notices.

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Advertisements with white space, varying sizes of font, capitals and italics, and a woodcut from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette (December 9-16, 1736).

Many historians of the press and print culture in early America have noted that Franklin became wealthy and retired as a printer in favor of a multitude of other pursuits in part because of the revenue he collected from advertising. Others, especially David Waldstreicher, have underscored that this wealth was amassed through participation in the colonial slave trade. The advertisements for goods and services featured in the Pennsylvania Gazette included announcements about buying and selling enslaved men, women, and children as well as notices offering rewards for those who escaped from bondage.

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Advertisement for an enslaved woman and an enslaved child from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette (December 9-16, 1736).

In 1741 Franklin published one of colonial America’s first magazines, The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, for all the British Plantations in America (which barely missed out on being the first American magazine, a distinction earned by Franklin’s competitor, Andrew Bradford, with The American Magazine or Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies). The magazine lasted only a handful of issues, but that was sufficient for Franklin to become the first American printer to include an advertisement in a magazine (though advertising did not become a standard part of magazine publication until special advertising wrappers were developed later in the century — and Mathew Carey was unarguably the master of that medium).

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General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, For all the British Plantations in America (January 1741).  Library of Congress.

In 1744 Franklin published an octavo-sized Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Books, including 445 entries. This is the first known American book catalogue aimed at consumers (though the Library Company of Philadelphia previously published catalogs listing their holdings in 1733, 1735, and 1741). Later that same year, Franklin printed a Catalogue of Books to Be Sold at Auction.

Franklin pursued advertising through many media in eighteenth-century America, earning recognition as one of the founders of American advertising. Happy 316th birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

January 17

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

Connecticut Journal (January 17, 1772).

“All Persons Indebted to said Sherman, are desired to make immediate Payment, to prevent Trouble.”

John Sherman had two purposes in placing an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy in January 1772.  He aimed to attract customers for the “large Quantity of GOODS” available at his shop, but he also wished to collect on debts.  As was often the case in colonial newspapers, he pursued both goals in a single advertisement rather than placing multiple notices with distinct purposes.  This may have been a strategy to avoid paying for more than one notice, depending on how the printer set advertising rates, but it also suggests that advertisers expected readers to closely examine the content of advertisements as well as news articles, letters, and editorials that appeared elsewhere in newspapers.

In a slightly longer advertisement, Roger Sherman addressed three different purposes.  Like John, he marketed textiles and “a general Assortment of other GOODS.”  He also demanded that “those indebted to him by Book or Note … make immediate Payment to avoid Trouble.”  That threat of legal action echoed the language deployed in John’s advertisement. Finally, he made a much more specific request: “The Person who has his Province Law-Book is desired to return it.” Rather than place a separate advertisement solely about returning the book, he expected that readers would peruse his entire notice.

Such was the case among colonizers who placed advertisements in other newspapers.  On the same day that these advertisements ran in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, Samuel Noyes, a jeweler, ran a notice in the New-London Gazette.  He devoted the vast majority of it to listing items available at his shop, including shoe and knee buckles, rings, and lockets.  At the very end, he also announced that he “Wanted a likely Boy as an Apprentice to the Goldsmith’s Business.”  Not completely trusting readers to closely examine the conclusion of the advertisement, the compositor used a slightly larger font to draw attention, but that was not usually the case in advertisements with multiple purposes.  Neither of the notices in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy featured variations in font size except for the names of the advertisers (which also served as headlines).

January 16

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

New-York Journal (January 16, 1772).

“He shall receive Encouragement and Assistance from the true Friends of their Country of all Ranks.”

In an advertisement that ran in the New-York Journal for several weeks in January 1772, William Shaffer addressed both the production and consumption of paper.  He issued a call for colonizers to provide him with “all Sorts of Linen Rags and old Paper” that he could use in making new paper, offering “Ready Money” in return.  Shaffer stated that he “continues to manufacture … All Sorts of Paper … to the general Satisfaction of his Customers.”

In addition, he offered an extensive explanation about why current and prospective customers should buy his paper.  The “Establishment of this Manufactory is of great Advantage to the Country,” Shaffer asserted, “by causing the Money that otherwise would be sent out of it, for the Purchase of Paper, imported from abroad, to circulate here, among a great Number of poor People.”  In the recent past, colonizers boycotted paper and other goods imported from Great Britain because Parliament imposed duties, but then resumed trade when Parliament repealed all of the duties except the one on tea.  For Shaffer and others who encouraged “domestic manufactures,” the production of goods in the colonies, that repeal addressed only one problem.  Colonizers continued to face a trade imbalance in which they sent their money across the Atlantic instead of spending it in support of local economies.  Colonial consumers, Shaffer argued, had an obligation to purchase paper and other goods produced locally.

They also had a responsibility to contribute to the production of paper by “supplying [Shaffer] with Linen Rags and old Paper, (Articles absolutely necessary to the Support of this Manufactory, and otherwise of little or no Use).”  This was an endeavor that could be undertaken by “the true Friends of their Country of all Ranks,” though Shaffer imagined different roles based on status.  “Gentlemen and Ladies in Town and Country,” he suggested, should “give proper Orders to their Servants” to collect and save linen rags and old paper and then send it to Shaffer.  In turn, he would “supply Country Merchants, Printers and others in this and the neighbouring Governments … with Paper of all Sorts, at the most reasonable Rates.”  Colonizers did not need to depend on imported paper, Shaffer proclaimed, when he offered a viable alternative, but the production of paper in New York depended in part on their cooperation in providing the necessary materials.  Colonizers could demonstrate that they were “Friends of their Country” by participating in both the production and consumption of paper.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 16, 1772

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 colonizers 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. Colonizers 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 (January 16, 1772).

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Maryland Gazette (January 16, 1772).

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Maryland Gazette (January 16, 1772).

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Maryland Gazette (January 16, 1772).

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Massachusetts Spy (January 16, 1772).

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New-York Journal (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 16, 1772).

January 15

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

Boston-Gazette (January 13, 1772).

“Any Person, by attending to the Instructions given in this Book, may soon attain to a competent Knowledge in the Art of Cookery.”

Cox and Berry sold “Modern Books of all Kinds” as well as “School Books” and “Prayer Books of various Sizes” at their store on King Street in Boston, but they targeted women and children (or parents and others who bought books to give to children) as prospective customers in an advertisement that ran in the January 13, 1772, edition of the Boston-Gazette.  That notice listed several “Little Books for the Instruction and Amusement of all good Boys and Girls,” including “Brother Gift, or the Naughty Girl Reformed” and “Sister Gift, or the Naughty Boy Reformed.”  They also stocked abridged versions of popular novels by Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson.

The partners devoted half of their advertisement to promoting “THE FRUGAL HOUSE-WIFE, OR COMPLETE WOMAN COOK … by SUSANNAH CARTER, of London” to female consumers (or others who believed that women they knew would benefit from the guidance offered in that volume).  Quoting from the extensive title, Cox and Berry explained that the book provided instruction in “the Art of Dressing all Sorts of Viands [or Foods] with Cleanliness, Decency and Elegance.”  It contained five hundred “approved Receipts” or recipes as well as the “best Methods” for “Preserving, Drying, Candying, [and] Pickling” various foods.  In addition to the recipes, readers would encounter menus or “various Bills of Fare, for Dinners and Suppers in every Month of the Year” as well as a “copious Index to the Whole” to help them navigate so much content.  To further entice prospective customers, Cox and Berry declared that The Frugal House-Wife “contains more in Quantity than most other Books of a much higher Price.”  Such a bargain!

The booksellers promised that “Any Person, by attending to the Instructions given in this Book, may soon attain to a competent Knowledge in the Art of Cookery.”  That theme ran throughout Cox and Berry’s advertisement.  They targeted women and children as consumers out of a belief that they merited special instruction in performing their household duties or behaving appropriately.  They deployed consumer culture, especially choices about which books to purchase, as a means of promoting good order within households, though they suggested that the readers of these books would experience “Amusement” as well as “Instruction” in the process of learning their proper roles.

January 14

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

Essex Gazette (January 14, 1772).

“Two LIGHT-HOUSES on Thatcher’s Island for the Safety of Navigation.”

Advertisements in colonial newspapers often carried important news that supplemented the contents that appeared elsewhere.  Consider, for example, an advertisement that first ran in the Essex Gazette on December 31, 1771, and then continued to appear in subsequent issues in 1772.  “WHeras the Government having at their own Charge erected Two LIGHT-HOUSES on Thatcher’s Island for the Safety of Navigation,” the advertisement informed readers, “This is to give Notice, that said LIGHT-HOUSES are finished.”  Furthermore, “the LAMPS in said HOUSES have been light ever since the 21st of this Month.”  According to the National Park Service, “The original towers [constructed in 1771] were replaced by the present 124-foot tall, twin granite towers in 1861.”  Now known as the Cape Ann Light Station, those towers are a distinctive site (and sight!) in the region.

The National Park Service also explains that Thacher Island, located about a mile offshore from Rockport, Massachusetts, gained its name “when the General Court granted it to Anthony Thacher in 1636-1637.”  Thacher and his wife were the sole survivors of a shipwreck near the island in 1635.  Over the next four decades, several other shipwrecks occurred in the area, prompting the Massachusetts colonial government to purchase the island with the intention of establishing a light station.  Only nine lighthouses operated in North America prior to the twin lights on Thacher Island.  The two towers made the site easy for mariners to identify.  The other lighthouses guided ships to entrances to harbors, making these lights the first to mark a hazardous location.  As the advertisement in the Essex Gazette noted, they contributed to “the Safety of Navigation.”  They were also the last lighthouses built before the colonies declared independence.

Readers of the Essex Gazette may very well have been aware of the construction of the lights on Thacher Island, but this advertisement confirmed for the entire community that the project had been completed and the lights now lit.  In addition, printers and merchants participated in extensive networks for exchanging newspapers and the information contained in them.  An advertisement in the Essex Gazette, the newspaper printed closest to the location of the new lighthouses, almost certainly helped in disseminating news that the lights on Thacher Island now warned vessels of treacherous waters.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 14, 1772

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 colonizers 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. Colonizers 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.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 14, 1772).

January 13

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (January 13, 1772).

A Mahogony Desk and Book-Case.

This advertisement presents a conundrum.  It attracted my attention because someone made manuscript notations on the copy of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy that has been preserved in an archive and digitized for greater accessibility.  They crossed out “FRIDAY” in the portion of the headline that gave the date of an auction, crossed out “a Mahagony Desk and Book-Case” midway through the advertisement, and placed three large “X” over most of the rest of the content.  I suspected that either Joseph Russell or John Green, the partners who published the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, made those notations to guide the compositor in setting type for a revised version of the advertisement to appear in a subsequent issue.  Russell, the auctioneer who placed the advertisement, focused primarily on operating the “Auction Room in Queen-Street” while Green oversaw the newspaper and the printing office.

A revised version did not appear in a subsequent edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  The same advertisement did run in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Gazette on Monday, January 13, 1772, the same day it appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  Those newspapers ran the same copy, but with variations in line breaks because the compositors made their own decisions about format.  I also looked for revised versions of the advertisement in other newspapers published in Boston between January 13 and the day of the sale.  The Massachusetts Spy published on Thursday, January 16, the day before the say, did not carry the advertisement, but the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter distributed on the same day did feature a slightly revised version.  Only the first line differed from the original version, stating that the auction would take place “TO-MORROW” rather than “On FRIDAY next.”

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 16, 1772).

The rest of the advertisement was identical to the one that ran in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy earlier in the week.  The copy was identical and the format (including line breaks, spelling, and capitals) was identical.  Even the lines on either side of “FRIDAY next, TEN o’Clock” on the final line were identical.  Both advertisements lacked a space between “by” and “PUBLIC VENDUE” on the third line.  The manuscript notations on the original advertisement may have directed someone in revising the first line, but not the remainder of the notice.  Even more puzzling, it looks as though Green and Russell shared type already set at their printing office with Richard Draper, the printer of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  This is not the first time that I have detected such an instance in newspapers published by these printers in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  It raises questions about both the logistics and the business practices of those involved, questions that merit greater attention and closer examination of the contents, both news and advertising, in the two newspapers.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 13, 1772

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 colonizers 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. Colonizers 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.

Boston Evening-Post (January 13, 1772).

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Boston Evening-Post (January 13, 1772).

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Boston-Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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Boston-Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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Boston-Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (January 13, 1772).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 13, 1772).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 13, 1772).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 13, 1772).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 13, 1772).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 13, 1772).