February 19

GUEST CURATOR: Shannon Holleran

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

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Massachusetts Gazette (February 19, 1767).

At the Corner Shop East End of Faneuil-Hall Market … Lemmons by the Box.”

This advertisement caught my attention because of the location of the marketplace. I live less than an hour south of Boston and have visited Faneuil Hall many times. This landmark is an exciting and unique marketplace, one of the most famous spots in Boston. I found this advertisement especially interesting because Faneuil Hall served as a marketplace and a meeting hall for the colonists 250 years ago and it still serves as a marketplace, selling food and clothes to countless tourists and Bostonians. This historic spot was especially significant to the colonists during the Revolutionary era because it served as a meeting place to discuss important events, such as the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party.

In late 1767, after Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, “the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston” held a meeting at Faneuil Hall, according to the headline for a broadside published for the Boston selectmen and printed by Edes and Gill. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society, this broadside “outlines why the colonists’ dependence on imported goods is a problem and what can be done. A petition is presented, a plan is laid out, it is unanimously endorsed and there is a way to ensure commitment from all those who endorse it, and communication with those who did not attend.” This broadside reveals how significant Faneuil Hall was for colonists in 1767. Not only did it serve as a market, but it also provided a place for patriots to meet to discuss plans for resistance to new acts and commercial regulations from Parliament.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Faneuil Hall was indeed an important gathering spot for colonists to discuss resistance during the years of the imperial crisis, including, as the broadside Shannon consulted outlined, the encouragement of American production of popular imported goods and, in turn, nonimportation of those goods via English ports. Faneuil Hall was also a landmark that merchant Thomas Webb realized potential customers would recognize without needing further directions beyond indicating that he occupied the “Corner Shop South East End.” A quarter of a millennium later, the marketplace still stands, inextricably bound into the history the American Revolution.

Yet revolution was a process. Neither the colonists who placed advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette in February 1767 nor those who met in Faneuil Hall to protest the Townshend Acts later that year were ready to declare independence rather than seek redress of grievances. Thomas Webb’s advertisement for “Lemmons by the Box” and other grocery items appeared to the right of an announcement for a vendue sale of “twice-laid Cordage” slated to take place “at the Royal Exchange Tavern in King-Street.” That notice appeared immediately above two others that listed addresses that testified to colonists’ sense of British identity: “the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in King-Street” and “the British Coffee House in Boston.” Elsewhere in the same issue, John Mein promoted his “MASSACHUSETTS REGISTER With and ALMANACK for 1767,” which he sold “At the LONDON BOOK STORE North Side of KING-STREET, BOSTON.” That volume included valuable reference material, including lists of colonial officeholders, “the sittings of the Superior and Inferior Courts in the four Provinces of New England,” and a “Table of Interest at 6 perCent.” Mein led the advertisement, however, by noting that the Massachusetts Register listed the members of “the Royal Family of Great-Britain.” Several other advertisers, including shopkeeper Jolley Allen, emphasized that they sold goods “Just imported from LONDON.”

In terms of their landmarks and sense of spatial geography within the city of Boston, their print culture, and their consumer culture, colonists continued to think of themselves as Britons in 1767, even as they increasingly began to assert that they were Britons with unique American perspectives and needs within the empire. Eventually Bostonians and others throughout the new nation would rename streets, buildings, and other landmarks. Similarly, printers and authors of almanacs would replace the royal family with the president and other important officials. Yet colonists were not ready to do so in 1767. Revolution was a process, one that was underway but also one that would gain much more momentum over the course of the next decade.

Welcome, Guest Curator Shannon Holleran

Shannon Holleran is a sophomore majoring in Education and History at Assumption College. She has always had a love for history, but truly recognized her passion for the past when she visited Washington, DC, to participate in the finals for the National History Day competition. She spent a week in DC exploring the city and delving into our nation’s history. After that incredible experience, she was certain she wanted to pursue a career in history. She will be the guest curator of the Adverts 250 Project during the week of February 19 to 25, 2017. She will also curate the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of March 19 to 26, 2017.

Welcome, Shannon Holleran!

Slavery Advertisements Published February 19, 1767

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

Compiled by Daniel McDermott

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Massachusetts Gazette (February 19, 1767).

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New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (February 19, 1767).

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New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (February 19, 1767).

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New-York Journal (February 19, 1767).

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New-York Journal (February 19, 1767).

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New-York Journal (February 19, 1767).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (February 19, 1767).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (Februar 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 19, 1767).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (February 19, 1767).

February 18

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

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

“SILK-WORM SEED.”

The February 18, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette included only a small number of advertisements for consumer goods and services. Instead, the production of local commodities for export played a much more prominent role among the notices in that issue. In one advertisement, an overseer “who understands the planting of Rice, and making of Indico” sought employment. In the lengthiest advertisement, filling more than half a column on the final page, George Baillie announced that “the Hemp seed ordered to be purchased at the Publick charge is now received” and invited “all persons who are inclinable to make any trial or experiment in planting seed” to contact him. That part of the notice was fairly short. The bulk of the advertisement was given over to extensive “Directions for the Culture, Raising, and Curing of Hemp.” Due to its exceptionally strong and durable fibers, hemp was a valuable commodity for making rope, used widely aboard ships pursuing Britain’s maritime commercial ventures as well as its navy.

The shortest advertisement simply stated, “Notice is hereby given, That the SILK-WORM SEED Is now ready to be distributed as usual at the house of JOSEPH OTTOLENGHE.” This “seed” was actually the eggs of silkworms. From its founding in 1732, the trustees of the Georgia colony encouraged silk production. In 1735, Governor James Oglethorpe famously transported eight pounds of silk to England, which was then used to make a dress for the queen. In 1749, England eliminated duties on silk imported from Georgia. According to Frank P. Bennett, silk produced in Georgia “was of such a high grade that it commanded a price in the London market three shillings higher than any other silk in the world.”[1] The silk industry in Georgia, however, declined in the 1770s and disappeared after the Revolution, in part because the invention of the cotton gin at the end of the century made that commodity so much more profitable.

American colonists were able to participate in the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century because they produced surplus goods for export as a means of affording the vast array of goods imported from London and other English ports. (Networks of credit also helped colonists acquire those baubles of Britain.) The advertisements promoting the colonial production of rice, indigo, hemp, and silk in the Georgia Gazette were counterparts to other advertisements hawking goods to prospective customers.

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[1] Frank P. Bennett, History of American Textiles: With Kindred and Auxiliary Industries (Boston: 1922), 108

Summary of Slavery Advertisements Published February 12-18, 1767

These tables indicate how many advertisements for slaves appeared in colonial American newspapers during the week of February 12-18, 1767.

Note:  These tables are as comprehensive as currently digitized sources permit, but they may not be an exhaustive account.  They includes all newspapers that have been digitized and made available via Accessible Archives, Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, and Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers.  There are several reasons some newspapers may not have been consulted:

  • Issues that are no longer extant;
  • Issues that are extant but have not yet been digitized (including the Pennsylvania Journal); and
  • Newspapers published in a language other than English (including the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote).

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Slavery Advertisements Published February 12-18, 1767:  By Date

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Slavery Advertisements Published February 12-18:  By Region

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Slavery Advertisements Published February 18, 1767

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

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

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Georgia Gazette (February 18, 1767).

February 17

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

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 17, 1767).

“Men, women, boys and girls worsted, cotton, thread, and silk stockings.”

Thomas Radcliffe’s lengthy advertisement filled more than two-thirds of a column in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, but it could have been published in any of the nearly two dozen newspapers printed in colonial America in 1767. Radcliffe promoted his “large and neat Assortment of Goods” that he “sold on the most reasonable Terms.” He listed scores of specific imported items included in his inventory, yet concluded with “&c. &c.” (the eighteenth-century version of “etc. etc.”) to suggest an even more vast array of goods customers would encounter in his shop. In so doing, he emphasized that customers could make their own choices based on personal tastes and budgets. The appeals he made to consumers matched appeals other advertisers made in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and throughout the colonies.

Yet it was not only Radcliffe’s marketing strategies that would have looked familiar to visitors from other colonies who read his notice in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Shopkeepers throughout the colonies would have hawked the merchandise he stocked, a result of so much of it being imported from London and other English ports. T.H. Breen has labeled this the standardization of consumer culture in eighteenth-century America. Unique markets or regional tastes did not develop.

As a result, the letter by the pseudonymous Anthony Afterwrit published in the Providence Gazette just a few days before Radcliffe’s advertisement made its way into print hundreds of miles to the south could have appeared in any of South Carolina’s newspapers. The Afterwrit character might have expressed dismay at the bounty of goods offered to colonial shoppers, especially the “women’s fashionable hats, shades, handkerchiefs and scarfs” and “new fashionable stuffs for ladies gowns” intended the catch the attention of women, like his wife, interested in using conspicuous consumption to attest to their social status. Radcliffe’s advertisement even concluded with a “compleat set of tea china,” one of his wife’s acquisitions that Afterwrit explicitly lamented. Afterwrit conveniently ignored, however, merchandise marketed directly to men, such as “men’s silk, worsted and cotton caps” and “gentlemen’s watch chains.”

That demonstrates yet another aspect of colonial commerce common throughout the colonies: editorials that complained about feminized luxury achieved via consumption that appeared in the same newspapers that ran advertisements that marketed all sorts of goods to both female and male consumers.