November 26

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

Connecticut Courant (November 26, 1771).

“WE also return out sincere thanks to all our good customers.”

In the fall of 1771, Thomas Converse placed an advertisement in the Connecticut Courant to inform prospective customers that he stocked a “Neat Assortment of English and India GOODS” at his store in Hartford.  In addition, he and a partner continued to make breeches at the same location, conveniently marked by the “sign of the Leather Breeches.”  Converse and Stone had on hand “a number of breeches already made” as well as “leather of the neatest kind,” both options sure to suit the “gentlemen” of the town.

Converse and Stone devoted a significant portion of the advertisement to expressions of gratitude directed at both current and prospective customers.  “WE also return our thanks,” the partners declared “to all our good customers for past favours, and doubt not but our continuance to do our work well … will insure their further favours.”  In addition, Converse and Stone emphasized customer service, stating that they provided “courteous and kind treatment.”  Eighteenth-century advertisers, especially artisans who produced the goods they sold, regularly acknowledged their customers in their advertisements.  Doing so suggested to those who had not yet availed themselves of the goods and services being offered that an advertiser already had an established clientele.  In the case of Converse and Stone, prospective customers may have felt more confident engaging their services if they believed that their “good customers” were also satisfied customers.  This served as an invitation to join a community of consumers that the breeches makers already cultivated.  Extending “sincere thanks” in print also contributed to the customer service that Converse and Stone purported to practice at the “sign of the Leather Breeches,” demonstrating to current and prospective customers that their attention to their patrons continued after they departed their store.  Converse and Stone sought to be “the public’s humble servants” if customers would give them the opportunity.

Slavery Advertisements Published November 26, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

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

Connecticut Courant (November 26, 1771).

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Essex Gazette (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 26, 1771).

November 25

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (November 25, 1771).

“Last Saturday was published … The CENSOR, No. 1.”

Ezekiel Russell distributed the first issue of The Censor on November 23, 1771.  Two days later, he promoted his new publication in an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  Russell announced that he published the inaugural issue “Last Saturday” and invited prospective subscribers to reserve their copies.  “The Receiption this Paper has already met with,” he confided, “gives the Publisher Encouragement to hope for a large Subscription for the same, and that he shall be enabled to continue it on Saturday next.”

Russell apparently had some doubts about whether The Censor would achieve a second issue.  It did, but publication lasted less than six months.  Russell distributed the last known issue on May 2, 1772.  In his monumental History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, Clarence Brigham describes The Censor as “a political magazine rather than a newspaper, somewhat in the style of the ‘Tatler’ or ‘Spectator.’”  Frank Luther Mott indicates that it was one of only three American magazines founded between 1760 and 1774, but otherwise gives The Censor little attention beyond including it in a chronological list of magazines in an appendix.  “The political state of the Colonies was unfavorable to literature,” Mott intones.[1]  Brigham present a more sanguine view of The Censor, especially “its occasional ‘Postscripts’ [which] bore every appearance of being newspapers and contained certain local news and a large number of advertisements.”[2]

If such a Postscript accompanied the first issue, it has not survived.  Unlike printers who launched newspapers during the period, including Richard Draper and the Pennsylvania Packet in the fall of 1771, Russell did not seek advertisers in his notice.  Instead, he focused on attracting subscribers, expressing his desire that “every Subscriber will deposit something on subscribing” in order to defray the “great Expence” associated with the publication and “setting up a new Office.”  As Brigham notes, advertising supplements accompanied certain subsequent issues.  In the coming months, the Adverts 250 Project will examine some of those Postscripts to the Censor.

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[1] Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1939), 26, 788.

[2] Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester: Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1947), 275.

Slavery Advertisements Published November 25, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

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

Boston Evening-Post (November 25, 1771).

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Boston-Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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Boston-Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (November 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 25, 1771).

November 24

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (November 22, 1771).

“Proper Allowances made to those that sell again.”

Numerous merchants and shopkeepers regularly placed advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter as well as the other newspaper published in Boston in the early 1770s.  While the shopkeepers aimed their notices at consumers, some merchants address both retailers and consumers.  William Bant, for instance, stocked a “large and general Assortment of GOODS … to sell by Wholesale and Retail.”  Not every advertiser identified their intended customers so explicitly; some instead made more specific appeals that invited both retailers and consumers to purchase their merchandise.

John Adams and Company advertised a “complete Assortment of Cream-colour’d China, Glass, Delph and Stone Ware” as well as groceries and a “small Assortment of English Goods” available at their shop near the Old South Meeting House.  Adams and Company informed prospective buyers that they sold their wares “very low for Cash – with proper Allowances made to those that sell again.”  In other words, retailers who bought in volume received discounts.  Similarly, William Bant concluded his extensive advertisement that listed dozens of items with a nota bene that alerted “Traders and Shopkeepers” that they “may be supplied with Assortments of the foregoing Articles, upon as good Terms, as at any Store in Town.”  Bant hoped to entice retailers by offering to match the prices set by his competitors.

In another advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Smith and Atkinson made it clear that they intended to deal with retailers exclusively.  They acquired a “Large and General Assortment of European and India Goods … on the very best Terms,” allowing them to sell their merchandise “(by Wholesale only) at such Prices as shall give full Satisfaction to those in Town and Country who purchase their Assortments here.”  In addition, they encouraged retailers who imported goods on their own to supplement their inventories and “compleat their Assortments” by selecting from among the items Smith and Atkinson had on hand.

Readers encountered numerous advertisements for consumer goods in just about every issue of newspapers published in Boston in the early 1770s.  Merchants and shopkeepers hoping to sell directly to consumers placed the majority of those advertisements, but not all of them.  William Bant, John Adams and Company, and Smith and Atkinson were among the many merchants who sold imported goods wholesale, designing marketing materials aimed at retailers rather than consumers.

November 23

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

Providence Gazette (November 23, 1771).

“SCHEME of a LOTTERY.”

Colonists in Rhode Island held lotteries to fund a variety of public works projects in the early 1770s.  After receiving approval from the colonial legislature, the sponsors kept readers informed about the progress on those projects and promoted the lotteries via newspaper advertisements.  The November 23, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette, for instance, contained four advertisements about lotteries conducted to fund various projects, including “repairing and rebuilding the BRIDGE over Pawtucket River,” “reparing the ROAD … in I,” “purchasing a PARSONAGE, for the Use of the PRESBYTERIAN or CONGREGATIONAL SOCIETY, in the Town of Providence,” and “building a STEEPLE to the Church in Providence, and purchasing a CLOCK to be affixed therein, for the Use of the Public.”  A fifth notice indicated that the “Managers of the Warwick Bridge Lottery” would draw numbers on December 6.

In three of those advertisements, the sponsors explained the benefits of the projects to encourage colonists to participate.  The directors of the lottery for Whipple’s Bridge noted that “keeping of Bridges in Repair” served “the Good of the Public in general.”  Residents of Providence, they continued, “more especially” had an interest in maintaining this particular bridge because “the Road over said Bridge leads directly to several large Towns in the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay.”  Similarly, the directors of the lottery to fund repairs to the road in North Providence hoped to “meet with every Encouragement in the Sale of their Tickets” because “this Road leads directly through the Colony.”  In both instances, the sponsors asked colonists to do their part in supporting infrastructure that facilitated travel and the circulation of information and goods throughout the colony and beyond.

The General Assembly appointed John Smith, a merchant, to serve as manager of the lottery for building a steeple and adorning it with a clock.  In the advertisement outlining the “SCHEME of a LOTTERY” to support those projects, Smith opined that it was “universally allowed, that Steeples are in a particular Manner ornamental to a Town,” but that was not the only reason colonists, even those not affiliated with that particular church, should support the lottery.  “Reasons of a more important Nature,” he declared, “induce him to believe, that the Public-spirited, of all Denominations, will afford it every Assistance” … because “the former Church Steeple … was serviceable to Navigation as a Landmark.”  All residents of Providence would benefit from a new steeple, just as they would benefit from a town clock.  “The Utility of a Town-Clock,” Smith declared, “must appear obvious to every one.”  That being the case, he decided not to “offend the public Understanding, by offering Arguments to evidence its Usefulness.”  Smith believed that colonists needed less convincing about that part of the project.

The sponsors of the lotteries encouraged readers to follow their progress, noting that “the Prizes will be Published in the Providence Gazette, and punctually paid off.”  They also cautioned that any prizes not claimed within a specified period, six months or one year depending on the lottery, “will be deemed generously given to the Public” for the further maintenance of the projects they funded.

Slavery Advertisements Published November 23, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

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

Providence Gazette (November 23, 1771).

November 22

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

Connecticut Journal (November 22, 1771).

“Whoever will bring said Saddle to the Printers hereof … shall be fully rewarded.”

Most likely the type for the rest of the newspaper had already been set when the copy for a notice about a missing saddle arrived at the printing office of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy.  That would explain the unusual placement of an advertisement that ran in the right margin of the November 22, 1771, edition.  The advertiser, eager to recover lost property, apparently felt some urgency to publish the notice and did not want to wait an entire week until the next issue.  To accommodate the advertiser, the compositor placed the notice in the only empty space still available, the margin.  As a result, the text ran perpendicular to the masthead and the three columns containing news.  To make it fit, the compositor also divided the advertisement into four short columns, the first two featuring three lines and the last two with two lines.  Each of those short columns was the same width as the standard columns, allowing the compositor to gather all of them together to republish the advertisement in the next issue without having to start over with setting the type.

It was a common strategy deployed by printers and compositors throughout the colonies when they wanted to work additional items into newspapers, though most such notices usually appeared on the second or third pages rather than on the first.  The advertiser may have negotiated for a spot most likely to attract attention in hopes of recovering a “SADDLE, not entirely new, yet whole and sound” that had been “LOST out of the Shop of Captain John Mix.”  The notice offered a reward to whoever brought the saddle to the printing office (rather than the shop where it had been lost or perhaps stolen) or provided information about where it could be found.  Beyond publishing the advertisement, the printers of the Connecticut Journal would play a role in recovering the saddle if anyone wished to collect the reward.  They facilitated the transaction, just as they did for the sale of a “Likely, strong NEGRO LAD” described in an advertisement placed by an unnamed enslaver who instructed interested parties to “Enquire at the Printing Office.”  Squeezing the advertisement about the missing saddle into the newspaper as soon as they received it was one of multiple services offered by the printers.  They not only agreed to broker information in print but also to act as agents on behalf of the advertiser if anyone brought any leads or the saddle itself to the printing office.

Slavery Advertisements Published November 22, 1771

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Chloe Amour served as guest curator for this entry.  She completed this work while enrolled in an independent study for HIS 390 – Digital Humanities Practicum at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Spring 2021.

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

Connecticut Journal (November 22, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (November 22, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (November 22, 1771).

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Massachusetts Spy (November 22, 1771).

November 21

GUEST CURATOR:  Victoria Ostrowski

New-York Journal (November 21, 1771).

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

“An apprentice-lad … named Richard Sweetman.”

In the fall of 1771, Elijah Weed and Samuel Simpson placed an advertisement describing two runaways, Thomas Jones, an indentured servant, and Richard Sweetman, an apprentice.  The advertisement mentioned that Sweetman was sixteen years old and learning to be a shoemaker.  This stood out to me because it was so different from the experiences of teenagers today.  At sixteen, most teenagers go to high school before embarking on their jobs.  Some receive vocational training and others go to college.  They do not become apprentices at age sixteen or younger, bound to masters who teach them a trade until they turn twenty-one years old.  According to an article about “Colonial Teenagers,” children “grew into adulthood more quickly than they do today, and by the time a child entered their teen years, they were already on a path toward their life’s occupation.”  In addition, “young men usually learned their trade through some form of apprenticeship.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Although he had not yet completed his apprenticeship, Richard Sweetman acquired sufficient skill that Elijah Weed and Samuel Simpson described the runaway as “a stuff-shoe-maker by trade.”  Their advertisement did not elaborate on the reasons that Sweetman fled, but the “sour countenance” that they attributed to him may have been the result of dissatisfaction with the treatment that he received from the master who was supposed to provide training, lodging, food, and other necessities during the time of his apprenticeship.  If Weed or Simpson had been cruel or negligent, Sweetman might have decided to depart.

Weed and Simpson cataloged a variety of items that Sweetman took with him, many of them garments that almost certainly did not belong to him.  He may have taken them with the intention of disguising himself or selling or trading them.  He also carried “sundry cordwainers tools” that he likely stole.  Rather than sell or trade those items, he may have thought that he could support himself by making and repairing shoes once he arrived in a place that he believed that Weed and Simpson would not locate him.

For their part, however, Weed and Simpson cast their net widely.  They resided in Philadelphia, but placed an advertisement in the New-York Journal to alert readers there and throughout the region to keep to keep their eyes open for a runaway apprentice who may have been traveling with an indentured servant with a distinctive walk due to one leg being shorter than the other.  The power of the press worked to their advantage.  Their advertisement did not reveal any of Sweetman’s grievances that might have prompted him to run away, but it did enlist the assistance of readers who could engage in surveillance of strangers they encountered in hopes of detecting the apprentice and earning a reward for his capture.