May 23

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

May 23 - 5:23:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (May 23, 1767).

“WILLIAM ROGERS, Of Newport, Rhode-Island … has newly furnished his Shop with a neat Assortment of GOODS.”

In general, eighteenth-century advertisers tended to place notices only in their local newspapers, though members of the book trades sometimes accounted for exceptions as they cooperated with colleagues to create larger markets for promoting and distributing reading materials. What qualified as a local newspaper depended on the perspective of readers and advertisers since newspapers were printed only in slightly more than a dozen cities and towns in 1767. Most publications thus served an extensive hinterland, often an entire colony and sometimes a region that included portions of other colonies as well. The Pennsylvania Gazette, for instance, had subscribers throughout the colony as well as Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey. In the absence of local newspapers to carry their marketing messages, shopkeepers and others in those colonies sometimes advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette and the other newspapers printed in Philadelphia but distributed widely.

William Rogers “Of Newport, Rhode-Island, on the Parade opposite the Custom-House” did not want for a local newspaper to carry his advertisements. Samuel Hall published the Newport Mercury from his printing shop on Thames Street. The Mercury was Newport’s only newspaper. This did not, however, prevent Rogers from advertising in multiple publications. He took the rather extraordinary action of injecting himself into the Providence market when he placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette. Several shopkeepers who advertised regularly in the Gazette (including Thompson and Arnold, Joseph and William Russell, Benjamin and Edward Thurber, and James Green) already competed with each other to gain both attention in the public prints and customers in their shops. Rogers presented the “neat Assortment of GOODS” in his shop as a viable alternative, especially since “he intends to sell as cheap as can be bought at any Shop in PROVIDENCE.” In the course of the week, Rogers’ advertisement appeared in both the Providence Gazette and the Newport Mercury.

Rogers may not have expected to garner many customers from Providence, but he almost certainly aimed to attract readers of the Providence Gazette elsewhere in Rhode Island, especially those who lived between Providence and Newport. Shopkeepers in Providence served the city’s hinterland as well as their neighbors in the city. William Rogers wanted some of that business for himself.

May 22

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

May 22 - 5:22:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 22, 1767).

Fraught with Entertainment.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, also sold books that they imported from England or exchanged with other printers in the colonies. Their advertisement filled an entire column and nearly half of another on the final page of the May 22, 1767, issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Such lengthy advertisements were not uncommon for printers and booksellers, but the length of this one resulted from an innovative format not featured in most newspaper notices. Printers and booksellers usually followed one of two standard practices when advertising books. Either they provided a list of titles for sale, a catalog of sorts, or they marketed a single volume via lengthy explications of the contents and their practical usefulness for readers.

The Fowles did a little bit of each but more in this advertisement. They included a short list of additional titles at the conclusion, but first they described several books in chatty blurbs that took a very different tone than most advertisements for books inserted in newspapers in the 1760s. The Fowles aimed to entertain readers rather than strictly instruct them (though a heavy dose of instruction was still embedded in their marketing), offering an alternate rationale for why consumers should purchase their wares.

Consider, for example, the description of “The Clandestine Marriage, A COMEDY: As it is acted at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.” According to the blurb, the play was “fraught with Entertainment. Some of the Scenes are truly comic, others inculcate the strictest Morality.” It also included a description of the characters, including “the conceited, infirm, and antiquated yet generous Lord Ogleby – the vulgar, money loving Sterling – the sensible Lovewell – the sycophant Canton – the impudent Brush – Mrs. Heidelberg the Dutch Widow, an ignorant Pretender to Quality Mannersthe pert, spiteful Miss Sterling, displaying in reality the modern fine Lady, and the amiable, gentle, and delicate Miss Fanny – who altogether form a Group that must afford greta [sic] Entertainment to every Reader.” In addition, the Epilogue, in particular, was “very remarkable for its Singularity and Humour.”

This shift in tone, telling readers that they would be entertained as well as receive moral instruction, made sense as part of the reading revolution that took place in the eighteenth century. Reading habits experienced a transition from intensive reading of the bible and devotional literature to more extensive reading of works of all sorts for entertainment. The Fowles demonstrate that one mode of reading did not simply replace the other. Instead, they framed several of their books to appeal to whichever purpose their customers wished to achieve in their reading habits.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 22, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

May 22 - New-Hampshire Gazette Slavery 1
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 10
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 11
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

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May 22 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 12
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 22, 1767).

May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1767 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1767).

“Such Work as is not executed in the best Manner, he does not expect to be taken.”

Joseph Beck made “all Kinds of Stays for Ladies and Misses” at his shop on Queen Street in New York. In marketing his corsets one of the city’s newspapers, he utilized several of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements for consumer goods and services. He claimed that his stays were fashionable (“in the newest Taste”) and that potential customers could not find a better deal (“at the lowest Prices”). Like many others in the clothing trades, he also underscored that he had migrated “from LONDON,” establishing a connection to the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the empire.

To distinguish his advertisements from others, Beck added one more element: a guarantee, of sorts, concerning the quality of the stays he made. This testified to the staymaker’s confidence in his own skills and the value of the goods he produced for the market. In a separate nota bene, he advised prospective clients that “Such Work as is not executed in the best Manner, he does not expect to be taken.” Customers not satisfied with the quality of his work had the option from the very start to reject it. Refusing to accept work deemed inferior may not have seemed especially novel to most readers. After all, customers and those who provided services haggled all the time in the regular course of their interactions and transactions. Yet this sort of guarantee was not yet widely stated in advertisements. By including it, Beck further transformed what some might consider a mere announcement into a notice that actively marketed Beck’s services. This advertisement did not simply inform the residents of New York that Beck made and sold women’s stays. Instead, it worked to incite demand along multiple trajectories: fashion, price, connections to London, and, especially, an explicit promise about the quality of the work. Like many other eighteenth-century advertisers, Beck sought to incite demand rather than just reacting to pre-existing consumer desires.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 21, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

May 21 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 2
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 3
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 4
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:20:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

“RUN AWAY … a MUSTEE WENCH.”

Jenny, an enslaved woman, made her escape, prompting Archibald Bulloch to place an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette. He offered a reward to “Whoever apprehends and delivers the said wench to me in Savannah.” To help readers identify Jenny, Bulloch described her as a “MUSTEE WENCH,” mobilizing one of the many categories for describing both the physical appearance and heritage of mixed race men, women, and children in the early modern Atlantic world.

Mustee, now chiefly an historical term according to the Oxford English Dictionary, specifically means “a person with one white-skinned parent and the other one-quarter black.” In other words, Jenny may have been one-eighth black, presumably fairly light-skinned, as the result of having one African great-grandparent. However, the OED also indicates that mustee sometimes also referred to “a person of mixed European and African descent” and, even more generally, “a person of mixed racial descent” (including indigenous Americans as well as Africans). Mustee was likely a shortened form of mestizo arising from non-standardized spellings. That being the case, Bulloch may not have intended to be any more descriptive than simply indicating that Jenny had a mixed racial heritage.

Whatever the case, Bulloch mobilized print culture to put black bodies on display. By advertising Jenny and describing her as a “MUSTEE WENCH,” he encouraged readers to engage in surveillance of all black women they encountered, to carefully examine their physical characteristics to assess whether they might be the runaway. This advertisement called attention not only to Jenny; it cast suspicion on all black women, the reward offering added incentive to take note of their bodies.

Research note: I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary for an authoritative definition and etymology of mustee. Among its historical sources, the OED included a runaway slave advertisement published in the South Carolina Gazette in 1732.

May 20 - 11:4:1732 South Carolina Gazette
South Carolina Gazette (November 4, 1732).