January 27

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

Jan 27 - 1:27:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (January 27, 1766)

“To be SOLD by JANE BLUNDELL, Near the FORT; A fresh and general Assortment of GARDEN SEEDS.”

Eighteenth-century advertisements make it clear that women did not act solely as consumers during the period.  They were also producers, suppliers, and retailers who marketed goods and services to the general public.

It is difficult, however, to describe how frequently they placed commercial notices in the public prints.  It seems to vary from place to place, from newspaper to newspaper.  Women rarely resorted to advertising in smaller cities and towns.  They were more likely to use advertising to attract potential customers in larger port cities:  Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston, and New York.  Even in those urban centers, however, women were underrepresented on the advertising pages.  By numbers, they operated a significant proportion of shops, yet their male counterparts were more likely to place advertisements.

Jane Blundell not only advertised, she offered specialized merchandise that set her apart from the female shopkeepers, seamstresses, and milliners more likely to market their goods and services.  Advertisements like this one demonstrate what was possible (rather than what was most probable) for women in the commercial realm in eighteenth-century America.  Jane Blundell and other “she-merchants” pursued many different kinds of entrepreneurial activities, even as men outnumbered them.  Perhaps advertising helped Blundell to operate a viable business in the face of competition from male competitors.

2 thoughts on “January 27

  1. What do we know about this sort of business–retailing seeds? I”m waiting for Marina Moskowitz’s book on this topic, but in the meantime where should one look?

  2. I am also eagerly awaiting Marina Moskowitz’s book! Until then, you might want to consult:

    Daniel J. Kevles, “A Primer of A, B, Seeds: Advertising, Branding, and Intellectual Property in an Emerging Industry,” U.C. Davis Law Review 47, no. 2 (December 2013): 657-678.

    Barbara Wells Sarudy, Gardens and Gardening in the Chesapeake, 1700-1805 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).

    Sarudy also maintains a blog that includes several entries about seed dealers: Early American Gardens (http://americangardenhistory.blogspot.com).

    The first American seed catalogs were published in the 1780s. I’m adding those to my list of “Bonus Advertisements” to feature in future posts.

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