What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Loaf Sugar to be sold for CASH … by the Loaf.”
Advertisements and other eighteenth-century sources demonstrate that some staple foods that seem very familiar to us today were packaged much differently in the colonial era. Granulated sugar and cubes were introduced in the late nineteenth century, but prior to that the sugar loaf was the traditional form in which refined sugar was produced and sold.
Enjoying this product required investing in other household goods, especially sugar nippers. Advertisements for sugar often conceal other purchases consumers needed to make, specialized equipment they needed to buy and possess in order to make use of some everyday grocery items. Some consumers may have purchased utilitarian sugar nippers to meet their basic needs, but others likely moved beyond mere practicality to collect and display accoutrements that adhered to the latest fashions or matched companion pieces in a tea set.
As part of my ongoing research, I am interested in all kinds of media used to market goods in the eighteenth century, including labels. Sugar loafs were wrapped in paper. If you happen to know of any loaf papers with printed labels, please let me know.
Follow these instructions if you would like to make your own sugar loaf.