May 9

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

Massachusetts Spy (May 9, 1771).

“An ODE set to Music, consecrated to the memory the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

In the months immediately after the death of George Whitefield on September 30, 1770, a variety of printers, booksellers, authors, and others produced and marketed an array of commemorative items that simultaneously commodified one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  This trend tapered off by the end of the year, only to be reinvigorated in the spring of 1771 when vessels arrived from England carrying copies of Whitefield’s will and sermons preached in his memory in London.  Colonial printers produced and sold American editions.  They also distributed them to booksellers and other retailers, enlarging the market for such items.

The May 9, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette carried an advertisement for yet another piece of Whitefield memorabilia, one not previously promoted in the public prints.  John Boyles informed prospective customers that he sold “An ODE set to Music, consecrated to the memory of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD, A.M. By one of his friends in Boston, New England.”  According to the catalog entry maintained by the American Antiquarian Society, this broadside featured eight stanzas and included music for four voices, making it a unique entry among the broadsides, hymnals, and other commemorative items advertised in colonial newspapers.

The catalog entry also indicates that this broadside was presumably published in Boston by an unknown printer in 1770.  This advertisement, however, suggests that Boyles may have been the printer and that he published the broadside in the spring of 1771.  According to his advertisement in the April 1, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, Boyles ran a “PRINTING-OFFICE, next Door to the THREE DOVES in Marlborough-Street.”  In advertisements for other Whitefield items published in the fall of 1770, Boyles appeared among the list of printers and booksellers who sold those items.  Upon seeing a resurgence of marketing for Whitefield memorabilia in the spring, Boyles may have decided to produce a commemorative item of his own, hoping to take advantage of renewed interest and consumer demand.  If so, he likely experienced steady sales of Whitefield items he carried in the fall and did not want to miss out on a potentially lucrative means of generating additional revenue.  In producing his own broadside, Boyles assumed greater risk, but also stood to earn more profits.

Advertisements for Whitefield memorabilia became a familiar sight in several newspapers in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania in the spring of 1771.  Printers and booksellers offered colonists several opportunities to commemorate the minister’s death by purchasing items created in his memory.  The “ODE set to Music” was a novel item that likely attracted interest among both consumers who previously purchased other memorabilia and those who had not yet expressed their regard for the minister through participation in the marketplace.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 9, 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 (May 9, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (May 9, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (May 9, 1771).

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New-York Journal (May 9, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 9, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (May 9, 1771).

May 8

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (May 6, 1771).

“Mr. SAUNDERS’s stay in this City will be but a few weeks.”

Like many other itinerant performers, Hyman Saunders, an illusionist, placed newspaper advertisements to inform the public when he arrived in town and to attract audiences throughout his stay.  In February 1771, he placed a notice in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury to announce that he planned to “CONTINUE his PERFORMANCES a few Nights” longer in that city, presumably extending his stay.  Anyone who wished to see him perform had only a limited time to do so.

Saunders apparently exaggerated how quickly he would move to a new town.  Three months later he arrived in Philadelphia and ran an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, asserting that his “stay in this City will be but a few weeks.”  Once again, he attempted to attract audiences by proclaiming that they could see his show for a limited time only.  Local audiences had two options for seeing Saunder’s show, general admission at Josiah Davenport’s tavern or private functions.  He gave performances at the Bunch of Grapes on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday evenings.  At other times, he “also performs in private to any select company, at any place they please to appoint.”

Describing his act helped Saunders incite interest among prospective audiences.  He declared that they would witness “a variety of new astonishing and entertaining performance, by dexterity of hand, surpassing any thing of the kind that has hitherto been seen or attempted on this side the Atlantic.”  Saunders promised a spectacle unlike anything audiences had ever seen.  Spread over three acts, his illusions would “deceive the eye of the nicest observer, and appear in a manner supernatural.”  Some of those previous observers included “his Excellency the Earl of DUNMORE, governor of New-York” as well as “nobility and gentry” on both sides of the Atlantic.  Saunders expected that performing before such dignitaries testified to the quality of the illusions he would soon present to audiences in Philadelphia.

In announcing his arrival and describing his act, Saunders relied on anticipation and exhilaration to entice audiences to catch a performance at the Bunch of Grapes or to hire him for a private exhibition.  He asked readers to imagine his show, building a sense of anticipation that would transform into exhilaration when they witnessed the spectacle of illusions unlike any others previously seen in the colonies.  Saunders also encouraged readers to anticipate his departure after a few weeks, warning them not to wait to attend his performance or risk not having an opportunity to see his “dexterity of hand” for themselves.

May 7

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

“Booksellers in Boston, New-York, Philadelphia, or … Charles-Town.”

Like many other colonial printers, Charles Crouch also sold books, pamphlets, and broadsides.  In the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, he advertised titles available at his “Great Stationary and Book Shop.”  He also acted as a local agent for printers and booksellers in other cities, publishing subscription notices and handling local sales.  He did so on behalf of Robert Bell, the flamboyant bookseller responsible for publishing a three-volume American edition of “ROBERTSON’s celebrated History of CHARLES the Fifth.”  Bell coordinated an advertising campaign that extended from New England to South Carolina.  Local agents simultaneously published his subscription notice inviting readers to participate in an “elegant XENOPHONTICK BANQUET” through purchasing his American edition.

When Wells inserted that advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and listed himself as a local agent, he contributed to the creation of a community that extended far beyond Charleston.  Yet settling in for the “XENOPHONTICK BANQUET” was not the only means of joining a larger community that Wells offered to readers and prospective customers.  He appended to Bell’s subscription notice a brief note that he also sold “The Trial of the Soldiers of the 29th Regiment, for the Murders committed at Boston,” printed by John Fleeming in Boston, and “A Funeral Sermon on the Death of the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, by the Rev. Mr. Zubly,” printed by James Johnston in Savannah.  Those two items commemorated two of the most significant events of 1770, the Boston Massacre on March 5 and the death of George Whitefield on September 30.  Both events received extensive coverage in the colonial press.  Both of them also generated commemorative items ranging from broadsides and prints to sermons and orations.

In a single advertisement, Wells linked consumers in South Carolina to geographically dispersed communities that shared common interests not defined by the places individual members resided.  Colonists from New England to Georgia mourned Whitefield, just as they expressed outrage over British soldiers firing into a crowd and killing several people in Boston.  Many colonists also sought to participate in genteel communities defined in part by the books they read, joining in the “grand Feast of historical Entertainment” that booksellers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and other towns offered to them.  Wells did not merely advertise three titles available at his shop; he marketed a sense of community.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 7, 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.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

May 6

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

Boston-Gazette (May 6, 1771).

“AN ORATION … to COMMEMORATE the BLOODY TRAGEDY.”

In the spring of 1771, colonists had several opportunities to purchase memorabilia that marked the first anniversary of the Boston Massacre.  For the fourth consecutive week, Benjamin Edes and John Gill advertised James Lovell’s “ORATION … to COMMEMORATE the BLOODY TRAGEDY” in the May 6 edition of the Boston-Gazette.  Edes and Gill, printers of that newspaper, also printed the oration “by Order of the Town of BOSTON,” according to the imprint on the title page.

Lovell delivered the first oration commemorating the Boston Massacre sanctioned by the town of Boston on April 2, 1771, though Thomas Young also gave an address on the same theme a few weeks earlier and closer to the first anniversary of British soldiers firing into a crowd and killing several colonists.  No copy of Young’s address survives, but Edes and Gill took Lovell’s oration to press less than two weeks after he spoke to the residents of Boston.  Starting on May 15, they promoted the oration in the Boston-Gazette, informing readers that they could acquire copies of this commemorative item.  A week later, Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette, advised residents of Salem and its environs that he also carried Lovell’s oration.

Edes and Gill simultaneously marketedINNOCENT BLOOD CRYING TO GOD FROM THE STREETS OF BOSTON,” a sermon that John Lathrop, “Pastor of the Second Church in BOSTON,” delivered just days after the Boston Massacre.  Edes and Gill reprinted a London edition delivered to them by a ship captain who carried both news and consumer goods across the Atlantic.  In the case of the sermon, news and merchandise came packaged in a single pamphlet, ready for reprinting and dissemination throughout the busy port and into the countryside.  According to their advertisement, Edes and Gill sold the sermon single and by the dozen, an invitation to retailers to purchase and sell it in their shops.

Civic leaders in Boston encouraged a culture of commemoration around the Bloody Massacre, just as colonists in many towns marked the anniversary of the repeal of the Stamp Act.  Printers like Edes and Gill eagerly participated in that process, inspired by both their political principles and their desire to generate revenues.  Printing and marketing orations and sermons about the Boston Massacre helped to keep the event fresh in popular memory by making those addresses readily accessible long after the speakers delivered them.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 6, 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.

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 6, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 6, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 6, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (May 6, 1771).

May 5

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (May 2, 1771).

“They manufacture and sell as usual at Frederick-Town.”

According to their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Hamilton and Leiper sold tobacco and snuff at several locations.  For consumers in Philadelphia, they listed their location as “Second-street, between Market and Arch-streets.”  The primary purpose of their advertisement in the May 2, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, however, was to inform customers in Maryland that they had “established a MANUFACTORY in Market-street, Baltimore.”  At that location, they sold “the various kinds of manufactured TOBACCO and SNUFF (of the best quality) on the most reasonable terms.”  In addition, the tobacconists declared that they “manufacture and sell as usual at Frederick-Town” in western Maryland.  Altogether, Hamilton and Leiper sold tobacco and snuff in three towns in two colonies, their multiple locations providing for “the conveniency of their customers.”

Their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette also testified to the reach of that newspaper in the early 1770s.  Baltimore would not have its own newspaper until August 1773.  Fredericktown (now Frederick) did not have a newspaper until after the American Revolution.  For half a century, the Pennsylvania Gazette served as a regional newspaper for readers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.  Although most of the advertisers who promoted consumers goods and services in its pages were located in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Gazette also carried notices from Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland; Burlington and Trenton, New Jersey; and several other towns in those colonies.  Similarly, the Pennsylvania Gazette carried legal notices and advertisements about runaway apprentices and indentured servants and enslaved people who liberated themselves submitted by colonists throughout the region.  In the same column as Hamilton and Leiper’s advertisement, Henry Wells, a jailer, described a runaway servant who made his escape from William Anders or Andrews in Joppa, Maryland, but had been taken into custody and confined in Dover, Delaware.

Several colonies constituted a single media market for the Pennsylvania Gazette and other newspapers published in Philadelphia before the revolution.  Enterprising entrepreneurs like Hamilton and Leiper also recognized the potential to create larger markets for their wares rather than serve only a single town and its hinterlands.  In the early 1770s, they branched out from locations in Philadelphia and Frederick to a third location in Baltimore.  Advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette alerted consumers in and near all three places about the tobacco and snuff that Hamilton and Leiper sold at their several convenient locations.

May 4

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

Providence Gazette (May 4, 1771).

“They have just arrived from London, in the Ship Providence, Captain Gilbert, a large Assortment of GOODS.”

The arrival of ships in port meant not only new goods in stores and shops but also new advertisements in colonial newspapers.  Such was the case in Providence in the spring of 1771.  The Providence delivered goods to merchants and shopkeepers.  In turn, they placed advertisements in the Providence Gazette.  Joseph Russell and William Russell published a notice to “INFORM their Customers, that they have just arrived from London, in the Ship Providence, Captain Gilbert, a large Assortment of GOODS, suitable for the Season, which are now opened and ready for Sale.”  John Brown placed a similar advertisement for a “compleat Assortment of European and India GOODS.”  He also reported that he imported his wares “from LONDON … In the Ship Providence, Phineas Gilbert, Master.”  Brown and the Russells placed their advertisements very shortly after the arrival of the Providence, hoping to convince customers that new merchandise meant more desirable merchandise.  The Providence had been in port for only three days, according to news accounts elsewhere in the May 4 edition of the Providence Gazette.

In addition to “European and India GOODS,” Captain Gilbert also delivered news, some of it concerning events in England and elsewhere in Europe and some of it concerning other vessels that made transatlantic voyages.  For instance, Gilbert reported that the Providence “met the Snow Tristram, Capt. Shard, of this Port, in the River as he came down” shortly after departing London on February 6.  Families with seamen working aboard the Tristram and merchants with business interests connected to the vessel must have been relieved to learn that it arrived safely in the Thames and continued toward London.  Furthermore, “Capt. Shand was to leave London the 10th of March, and may daily be expected” in Providence.  Gilbert also reported on three other ships the Providence encountered during its transatlantic journey, noting “all well on board each Vessel.”  More extensive news items also arrived via the Providence.  The printer, John Carter, reserved the front page for news from London “By the Ship Thomas, Capt. Davis, arrived at Boston” previously printed in newspapers in that city, but Gilbert and the Providence almost certainly carried other news “From a late London Paper” that Carter inserted in the Providence Gazette.

The arrival of the Providence in Providence on May 1, 1771, generated various kinds of content for the next edition of the Providence Gazette.  Among the advertisements, merchants hawked consumer goods delivered on the ship.  The printer selected items from London newspapers carried by the captain to reprint for local readers.  The news also included updates about the progress of several vessels crossing the Atlantic, providing welcome updates for both families and merchants.

May 3

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (May 3, 1771).

“Ladies Riding Dresses made at Prices in Proportion to the above.”

Edward Griffiths, a tailor from London who migrated to Portsmouth, advertised his services in the May 3, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Like many other artisans, he promised “reasonable Rates” for his work.  He did not, however, expect prospective clients to take his word.  Instead, he published a list of what he charged for more than half a dozen items.  A “lappeled Suit,” for instance, cost one pound and eight shillings, as did a “half trimmed Suit.”  A “frock Suit” was slightly less expensive at one pound and four shillings.  Three more items – a pair of breeches, a jacket with sleeves, and a jacket with lapels – all cost four shillings and eight pence.  In contrast, Griffiths charged only four shillings for a jacket without sleeves.  In addition, he made and sold “Ladies Riding Dresses … at Prices in Proportion” to those enumerated in his advertisement.

Prospective clients knew what they should expect to pay even before they visited Griffiths’s shop.  They could assess for themselves whether he did indeed charge “the most reasonable Rates” for his garments.  Furthermore, the tailor facilitated comparison shopping.  Consumers who previously paid other tailors more for the same items could recognize a bargain among his list of prices.  That depended, however, on Griffiths actually setting prices low enough to survive such scrutiny.  Merely naming prices in his advertisement did not necessarily guarantee that he would attract customers, especially if Griffiths misjudged the local market.  This strategy also limited his ability to haggle with customers.  He could still offer discounts at the time of sale, but the published prices prevented him from setting rates any higher on the spot and then allowing clients to feel as though they negotiated significant bargains.  Providing the list of prices in his advertisement had advantages and disadvantages.  Griffiths apparently felt confident enough in his prices that he believed the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.