January 26

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

Jan 26 - 1:24:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 24, 1766)

“A Boy 12 or 14 Years old, that can be well Recommended, is wanted as an Apprentice in this Town.  Enquire of the Printer.”

Employment advertisements regularly appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers.  Men and women regularly sought to buy and sell their services and labor or the services, assistance, and labor of others.  In that regard, employment advertisements could be considered variations on advertisements for enslaved people or indentured servants, which also marketed labor.  They are also variations on advertisements that promote the skills and services offered by artisans.  All of these kinds of advertisements often rely on similar language and appeals.

This advertisement seeking an apprentice, though brief, includes one of the standard phrases in notices arranging for an exchange of services:  “well Recommended.”  A person’s reputation in and of itself was an increasingly valuable commodity in the eighteenth century, an attribute that facilitated all kinds of social interactions in addition to commercial exchanges.

I also chose this advertisement because it raises an interesting question.  What kind of trade would the prospective apprentice learn?  “Enquire of the Printer” suggests that he might have learned that trade.  However, it was not uncommon for advertisers to remain anonymous and simply instruct that anybody interested in responding to their notices should “Enquire of the Printer.”

Given its ambiguity, who would have responded to this advertisement?  Some job seekers in the twenty-first century are sometimes willing to try their hand at anything that will give them a chance to gain some experience and make a living.  Perhaps a young man — or his family — adopted a similar approach in New London in the eighteenth century upon seeing an advertisement like this one.

Once again, I find myself intrigued by the partial stories told in the advertisements, wondering about the lives of those who placed and responded to such notices.

A Counterfeit Advertisement for Counterfeit Currency

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR:  Katherine Smoak

NY Gazette 1777 Apr 14
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (April 14, 1777)

On April 14, 1777, the above advertisement appeared in Hugh Gaine’s New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. Printed in New York City, which was occupied by the British during the American Revolution, the unusual advertisement alerted readers that anyone “going into the other Colonies” could buy “any Number of counterfeited Congress-Notes, for the Price of the Paper per Ream.”

Americans eagerly seized upon the advertisement as evidence of British support for the counterfeiting of Continental currency. Four days after its publication, George Washington wrote to Congress and included, among other intelligence, a copy of the advertisement, noting “that no Artifices are left untried by the Enemy to injure us.”[1] When on May 12, the Connecticut Courant informed readers that two men had been taken north of New York City with quantities of counterfeit notes on them, it re-printed the advertisement, noting that “it seems they are tempted to follow this desperate employment by the terms offered in the following advertisement, taken from Hugh Gaine’s gazette.” The account of the counterfeiters’ capture and the re-printed advertisement subsequently appeared in newspapers throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia.[2] By 1778, this one advertisement had been exaggerated into “weekly” and “repeated” advertisements in New York papers.[3] Similarly, when nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians have weighed the possibility that the British sponsored counterfeiting, they have pointed to this advertisement as a smoking gun. The only problem with all of this? The advertisement is almost certainly a fake!

Counterfeit paper money proved a significant problem during the American Revolution. In the early years of the war, printing paper money was one of the only ways the Continental Congress could finance the war effort. Maintaining the integrity of the paper money was thus of the utmost importance. Counterfeiting, however, began from virtually the first emission of Continental bills by Congress in 1775. American newspapers were full of notices warning people about various counterfeits, both of Continental notes and notes printed by individual states. And it is clear that some of these counterfeits came from New York—for those with the skill to do it, the occupied city provided a perfect base of operations: British officials in New York had little incentive to prosecute people for producing the money of the rebel government.

While some people did produce counterfeits in the New York City, and likely sold them to others to pass, it seems unlikely that the advertisement in the New-York Gazette is a real advertisement for them. Appearing on the third page of the New-York Gazette, in form and in placement in the paper it looks much like any other advertisement. Though the items being sold are a bit unusual, the description of their quality seems like what we would expect from such a piece of marketing: the bills are “exactly executed” making “risque” of passing them minimal, as “proved” by the many that had already, according to the advertisement, been circulated. It’s the last line of the advertisement that raises suspicion: the hours to inquire are listed as “11 p.m. to 4 a.m.”—the middle of the night. Even more suspicious is the pseudonym given to direct enquiries to: Q.E.D., an abbreviation for the Latin quod erat demonstrandum, a phrase typically used in mathematical proofs to indicate that what was set out to be proven has been proven.

So what exactly is going on here? Why would a loyalist newspaper run a counterfeit advertisement for counterfeit notes? And why was the advertisement re-printed and referenced so often by the Americans, despite the signs that it was a hoax?

As historian Benjamin Irvin has pointed out, Continental bills were widely ridiculed by British commentators.[4] On October 28, 1776, for example, the same New-York Gazette that printed the counterfeit advertisement ran a mock wanted ad for Continental money:

NY Gazette 1776 Oct 28
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 28, 1776)

In this context, it becomes easy to see the advertisement for counterfeits as a humorous piece meant to denigrate Congress’s paper money—it was not worth more, the notice implied, than the paper it was printed on. Perhaps, in a tongue-in-cheek way, it was a joking answer to assertions that American officials were beginning to make about British-sponsored counterfeiting; the reference to Q.E.D. certainly suggests that the advertisement might be playing with the idea. The counterfeit advertisement joined other items, ranging from poems about Continentals to reporting on their depreciation, that regularly appeared in New York papers during British occupation.

For American officials, however, the advertisement was the perfect polemical tool. The Continental had depreciated severely—by the end of 1777, the notes had lost 70 percent of their face value.[5] In January 1777, Congress had been forced to pass a resolution maintaining that paper money should pass on par with gold and silver; they also urged states to put in place legal tender laws that would make it possible to prosecute those who did not accept paper money at its full value. As faith in Continentals waned and notices of counterfeits in American newspapers mounted, it became politically convenient to blame the British for the currency’s woes. As the war wore on, British counterfeiting became one of a series of accepted explanations for paper money’s depreciation and a common trope in articles that mocked or criticized the British, including a faux runaway advertisement for General William Howe, which included, in a list of his misdeeds, “being concerned in counterfeiting the currency of this Continent.”[6]

Continental Journal 1777 Aug 14
Continental Journal (August 14, 1777).

Unpacking and tracing the history of this advertisement for counterfeit notes allows us to see the political significance of counterfeits during the American Revolution. In a loyalist paper, the advertisement served as a humorous commentary on the worthlessness of Continentals; in patriot hands, it became proof of a nefarious British plot to, as one commentator put it “cut the sinews of war.” It’s also a testament to the richness of early American advertisements—a form that could include humor and pointed political critique!

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Katherine Smoak is a Ph.D. candidate in the History department at Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation, tentatively entitled “Circulating Counterfeits: Making Money and its Meanings in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic,” recovers the importance of counterfeits to economic and political life in the eighteenth century.

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[1] “From George Washington to John Hancock, 18–19 April 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-09-02-0184 [last update: 2015-12-30]). Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 9, 28 March 1777 – 10 June 1777, ed. Philander D. Chase. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999, pp. 201–204.

[2] Connecticut Courant, May 12, 1777 and reprints in Pennsylvania Gazette, May 14, 1777; Continental Journal, May 15, 1777; Providence Gazette, May 17, 1777; Boston Gazette and Country Journal, May 19, 1777. A version that condenses the story of the counterfeiters’ capture, but still reproduces the full advertisement, appears in Virginia Gazette (Dixon and Hunter), May 23, 1777.

[3] See Thomas Paine’s open letter to Howe in a 1778 pamphlet that remarks that there were “repeated advertisements of counterfeit money for sale,” The Crisis, Vol. 5 (Middleton, NJ, 1839), 135 and a letter printed in multiple newspapers describing the British’s behavior in America which observes they “weekly advertised their money for distribution in a New York paper.”

[4] Benjamin Irvin, Clothed in the Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and People Out of Doors (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 92-96.

[5] Ben Baack, “Forging a Nation State: The Continental Congress and the Financing of the War of American Independence,” Economic History Review, LIV, 4 (2001): 643.

[6] Continental Journal, August 14, 1777.

January 25

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

Jan 25 - 1:24:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 24, 1766)

“Crim-¶son Chiney; green & blue ¶ print; cartridge paper; ¶ paste board; Starch by the ¶ cask; Brimstone by the ¶ hundred, or smaller quan ¶ tity; powder and Shot.”

It appears that Joseph Bass liked to advertise.  I’ve previously featured a different advertisement from Bass (on December 6, when Adverts 250 was confined to Twitter exclusively).  Either he or the printer of the New-Hampshire Gazette liked to experiment with breaking his list of merchandise into columns.  Bass may have requested a particular format, but the printer was ultimately responsible for the execution.  From a graphic design perspective, some attempts appear more successful than others.

Dec 6 - 12:6:1765 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 6, 1765)

This particular advertisement drew my eye because the design seems particularly poor.  The pilcrows (¶¶¶) that form the dividing line are distracting and disruptive.  They do not make it easy to read the advertisement.  Many eighteenth-century printers created works of art using ornamental type.  Even in the hurry of setting type for newspapers, their efforts usually yielded better, more attractive results than this.

I am left wondering how eighteenth-century readers would have approached this advertisement.  It looks ugly to my twenty-first-century eyes and the possibilities presented by modern technologies, but would it have been so off-putting to potential customers in 1766?  To what extent would they have acknowledged the differences between today’s advertisement and the one from December?

On the other hand, the design elements of this advertisement got my attention.  I examined it more closely as a result.  In that regard, maybe it was successful.

January 24

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

Jan 24 - 1:24:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 24, 1766)

“It appears that his Advertisement was the invidious product of Malice, and not of Prudence.”

A week ago I featured an advertisement for a runaway wife.  Robert Hebbard cautioned against “trusting, trading or dealing with” his wife, Joanna.  I noted that the advertisement was a little of the ordinary for this project.  My intention is to explore advertising used to market consumer goods and services.  Still, I included an advertisement for a runaway wife because earlier in the week I had featured another runaway, an indentured servant who had been captured (who was indeed a commodity for the term of his indenture), as well as an advertisement announcing the impending sale of an enslaved woman (another person who was also a commodity, though most likely permanently in this case).  Like those two, the advertisement for the runaway Joanna featured a person on the margins being further marginalized in an advertisement bought and paid for by somebody who regularly exercised greater power and authority in colonial society and commercial interactions.

Jan 17 - 1:17:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766)

Runaway wives appeared frequently in the advertising pages of colonial newspapers.  I encountered at least one other while selecting advertisements for the past week.  On occasion, such advertisements spark a response, as we see here.  The response is much more extensive than the original advertisement, which could perhaps be explained in part by Joanna, as a woman, being at a disadvantage in any sort of public dispute with Robert, the head of household and, according to the laws of coverture, her master in many ways.  Sometimes runaway wives published answers to their husband’s notices themselves, but I do not believe that it is inconsequential that Joanna Hebbard deferred to a man to defend her in print.  It may have been one thing to exercise such agency in departing from her husband, but quite another to engage him directly in a very public dispute.  Aaron Cleaveland makes quite clear that Joanna “now resides in this Town, in good Credit” (which may refer to her character or her ability to engage in commercial exchanges) “and has never contracted the least Debt on his Account” (which certainly refers to the marketplace and Joanna’s capacity for behaving responsibly).  Despite Robert Hebbard’s efforts, it doesn’t seem that he was able to obstruct his wife’s ability to make the necessary purchases to support herself independently.

I offer this advertisement for those who were intrigued by Robert Hebbard’s notice last week, as an update and continuation of the story.  Will this be the last we hear from the Hebbards?  I’m not certain.  Starting next Sunday one of my students will begin guest curating.  I am leaving the selection of advertisements up to her, but I will be looking through subsequent issues of the New-London Gazette so I can provide further updates if the Hebbards or any of their acquaintances did indeed turn to the public prints to hash out their family affairs.

January 23

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

Jan 23 - 1:23:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (January 23, 1766).

“Choice COCAO TO BE SOLD By William Dennie, at his Store in King-Street.”

Colonial Americans loved stimulating beverages:  coffee, tea, and chocolate.  Each of these products testifies to the ways diets and rituals associated with food and drink evolved as a result of the webs of exchange that crisscrossed the Atlantic World and beyond in the early modern era.

Chocolate has become such a significant part of western culture that most people are not aware of its Mesoamerican origins.  Europeans did not encounter chocolate until they came into contact with the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America, where it had been consumed for at least three thousand years.  Chocolate indeed has a long history, but it’s relatively new to most of the world.

In a fascinating article, Marcy Norton reports that Europeans initially did not care for chocolate, but over time developed a taste for it. [1]  Indeed, many Spaniards worried that in preparing and consuming chocolate according to Aztec methods that they were becoming colonized rather than being the colonizers, that they were being reduced to “savages” rather than “civilizing” the indigenous peoples who were the targets of their conquest.

Over time, however, Europeans learned to love chocolate.  By the 1760s chocolate was affordable to a broad array of colonists, who consumed it at home and in coffeehouses where they gathered to conduct business, discuss politics, and gossip.

Jan 23 - Chocolate Pot
Chocolate Pot (Edward Winslow, Boston, ca. 1700-1710).  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In Colonial Williamsburg’s history of “Chocolate in the American Colonies,” Rodney Snyder offers this recipe from The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769):  “Scrape four ounces of chocolate and pour a quart of boiling water upon it; mix it well and sweeten it to your taste; give it a boil and let it stand all night; then mix it again very well; boil it in two minutes, then mix it till it will leave the froth upon the tops of your cups.”

Colonial Williamsburg also offers this history of “hot chocolate,” which includes a greater number of images and features a gallery of coffee and chocolate pots.  You may also enjoy this National Public Radio story about “How Hot Chocolate Became More American Than Apple Pie.”

William Dennie published a no-frills advertisement for “Choice COCAO.”  Perhaps he figured chocolate was so popular that it would sell itself once potential customers knew he stocked it.

[1] Marcy Norton, “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Meso-american Aesthetics,” American Historical Review 111, no. 3 (June 2006): 660-691.

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When I featured an advertisement for tea earlier this month I also commented that several modern suppliers market tea by drawing connections to its colonial heritage.  The same goes for chocolate, including American Heritage Historic Chocolate, “artisan chocolate made from a recipe from 1750 & made only from ingredients available in the 18th century.”  They also sponsor events, including a chocolate demonstration at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia last October.  I wish I could have gone.  Commodities and the history of consumption provide fertile ground for engaging general audiences in learning about the past.  Chocolate was popular in eighteenth-century America and remains popular today, but the methods of procuring, preparing, and consuming it have evolved significantly, presenting wonderful opportunities to examine changes in culture and consumption over time.

Jan 23 - American Heritage Chocolate
Finely Grated Chocolate Drink sold by American Heritage Historic Chocolate.

January 22

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

Jan 22 - 1:20:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (January 20, 1766)

“Said FOX continues his Business in drawing Deeds of Conveyance, Leases, Mortgages, Charter-parties, Bills of Bottomry, Bills of Sale, Letters of Attorney, and all other Writings.”

Joseph Fox appears to have been an attorney.  (Who other than an attorney would have devised such convoluted directions to his place of business?!)  Many of the services he offered look quite familiar:  leases, mortgages, bills of sale, and letters of attorney.  One of the others grabbed my attention.  What are bills of bottomry?!

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law (2008) offers this definition:  “A contract, in maritime law, by which money is borrowed for a specified term by the owner of a ship for its use, equipment, or repair for which the ship is pledged as collateral.  If the ship is lost in the specified voyage or during the limited time, the lender will lose his or her money according to the provisions of the contract.  A contract by which a ship or its freight is pledged as security for a loan, which is to be repaid only in the event the ship survives a specific risk, voyage, or period.”

Given the risks associated with transporting goods throughout the network of commerce that crisscrossed the Atlantic in the eighteenth century, it’s easy to see why some owners of vessels might find this arrangement attractive.

Apparently bottomry declined significantly during the nineteenth century, to the point that it remains mainly of interest to maritime, economic, and legal historians today.  In the eighteenth century in a busy port city like Newport, however, “Bills of Bottomry” would likely have been a relatively common mechanism well known to much of the seafaring populace, especially owners and masters of vessels.

Calendar Considerations: When Were Newspapers Published?

Last week I documented which newspapers printed during the third week of January 1766 were accessible via my campus library’s subscription to the Readex database of America’s Historical Newspapers. I included the following list, arranged geographically.

New Hampshire

  • New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth)

Massachusetts

  • Boston Evening-Post
  • Boston Gazette
  • Boston Post-Boy
  • Massachusetts-Gazette (Boston)

Rhode Island

  • Newport Mercury

Connecticut

  • Connecticut Courant (Hartford)
  • New-London Gazette

New York

  • New-York Gazette
  • New-York Mercury
Massachusetts Gazette Masthead
Masthead for the Massachusetts Gazette (January 16, 1766)

The list for the fourth week of January 1766 is the same. As I indicated last week, each of these newspapers was printed only once each week, making a list organized by chronology rather than geography more helpful in selecting which issues to examine and, eventually, which advertisements to select. This is what the publication history of these ten newspapers for the third week of January 1766 looks like when mapped out on a calendar.

January 16 (Thursday in 1766, but Saturday in 2016)

  • Massachusetts-Gazette (Boston) – plus a Supplement

January 17 (Friday in 1766, but Sunday in 2016)

  • New-Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth)
  • New-London Gazette

January 18 (Saturday in 1766, but Monday in 2016)

January 19 (Sunday in 1766, but Tuesday in 2016)

January 20 (Monday in 1766, but Wednesday in 2016)

  • Boston Evening-Post
  • Boston Gazette
  • Boston Post-Boy
  • Newport Mercury
  • Connecticut Courant (Hartford)
  • New-York Gazette
  • New-York Mercury

January 21 (Tuesday in 1766, but Thursday in 2016)

January 22 (Wednesday in 1766, but Friday in 2016)

Note that January 22, 1766, fell on a Wednesday, while January 22, 2016, fell on a Friday. It is important to realize when during the week these newspapers first came into the hands of eighteenth-century readers. Of these ten newspapers, seven were published on Monday, one on Thursday, and two on Friday. Three of the Boston newspapers appear to have competed with each other at the beginning of the week, while Richard Draper and Samuel Draper may have been attempting to eke out a space of their own with a fresh issue of the Massachusetts-Gazette midway through the week. Similarly, subscribers and other readers in New York enjoyed new issues of John Holt and Hugh Gaine’s newspapers on the same day. Overall, most printers distributed their current issue either at the very beginning or at the end of the week.

The fact that publication was clustered on just a few days affects which advertisements I select to include in this project. Whenever possible, I aim to feature an advertisement published on the same date exactly 250 years ago. As the calendar above demonstrates, this is not always possible because there are dates on which no newspaper was published (or at least no newspaper included in my subscription to Early American Newspapers, but more on that another time). In such cases I work backwards, going to the most recent date on which a newspaper had been published. As a result, I feature an advertisement that would have been among those most recently available to colonial American readers, somewhere, exactly 250 years ago.

Boston Post-Boy Masthead
Masthead for Boston Post-Boy (January 20, 1766)

Here’s how I worked through the past week. I only had one choice for last Saturday; the featured advertisement came from the Massachusetts-Gazette.

But I had two options for Sunday: the New-Hampshire Gazette or the New-London Gazette. I have discovered, however, that few advertisements were inserted in the New-London Gazette in 1766, which means that it rarely gets incorporated into this project. That also means that when I do discover an advertisement for goods or services in that newspaper I select it.

The fact that I do not have access to any newspapers on Monday or Tuesday further contributes to including the New-London Gazette whenever possible because most weeks I find myself in the position of featuring multiple advertisements – as many as three days in a row – from the New-Hampshire Gazette.

By comparison, I have access to an embarrassment of riches on Wednesday: seven newspapers were published on that date 250 years ago. This certainly gives me a lot more choice and flexibility. Looking ahead, I see that no other newspapers were printed on the next two days, which means that I will have to choose from among these seven for three days. In such instances, I do not draw from the same newspaper twice in the course of those three days. Not only do I seek to spread out coverage among multiple publications, I also attempt to achieve the most extensive geographic reach possible.

For Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week I was able to choose from three newspapers printed in Boston, two in New York, and two more from southern New England. This narrowed down my choices. I keep a running tabulation of which newspapers have been included (and how many times) since the project launched as a blog at the beginning of the year. This allows me to rotate through the newspapers to give relatively even coverage of each.

New-London Gazette Masthead
Masthead for the New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766)

Here’s what this process yielded for the past week:

  • Saturday, January 16: Moses Deshon, advertisement for female slave in Massachusetts-Gazette (January 16, 1766)
  • Sunday, January 17: Robert Hebbard, advertisement for runaway wife in New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766)
  • Monday, January 18: Thomas Bell, advertisement for tailoring services in New-Hampshire Gazette (January 17, 1766)
  • Tuesday, January 19: Jonathan Jackson, advertisement for imported goods in New-Hampshire Gazette (January 17, 1766)
  • Wednesday, January 20: Samuel Fletcher, advertisement aimed at women in Boston Post-Boy (January 20, 1766)
  • Thursday, January 21: Thomas Green, advertisement for almanacs in Connecticut Courant (January 20, 1766)
  • Friday, January 22: Joseph Fox, advertisement for legal services in Newport Mercury (January 20, 1766)

This is an interesting glimpse of early American advertising, commerce, and consumer culture during the third week of January 1766. In some ways it is representative, but in a variety of others it is also problematic. I believe that I have developed a methodology that is well-crafted and appropriate given the sources available, but I will devote next week’s extended commentary to an examination of some of the shortcomings that are apparent to those who work with early American newspapers regularly.

This may seem like excessive detail to some, but I had two purposes in writing this post. I wanted those who have not previously worked systematically with colonial newspapers to gain a better understanding of the process. In addition, my Public History students will soon be guest curating. I hope that this is a resource that will help them through selecting advertisements, in addition to our in-class workshops.

January 21

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

Jan 21 - 1:20:1766 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (January 20, 1766)

“To be sold at the Heart and Crown, Hartford:  Ames, Hutchins, and Ellsworth’s Almanacks.”

Historians who study newspapers in colonial America usually argue that if printers made any money at all from publishing newspapers that the profits derived from the advertisements rather than subscriptions.  Given the number of advertisements that appeared in many colonial newspapers, this is not hard to believe.

That being the case, did Thomas Green make any money when he printed this issue of the Connecticut Courant?  Only two advertisements appeared in the broadsheet folded in half to create four pages.  One was a legal notice; the other was this advertisement for almanacs, seemingly placed by the printer himself and thus not generating any revenue except for whatever sales might result from its inclusion.  Still, it is an odd advertisement:  presumably most consumers would have purchased almanacs much earlier, not nearly three weeks into the new year.  In addition, the lower edge of the advertisement is not even with the column on the left (unlike the two columns on the other three pages in this issue), suggesting that the advertisement was included as filler, and hastily at that.  Did Green have a bit of extra space and decide to fill it with an attempt to get rid of merchandise that was going out of date with each passing week?

Much of this is speculation.  This advertisement interests me because it raises so many questions about printers and their practices in the 1760s.

Jan 21 - 1:20:1766 - Connectictu Courant - full page
Final Page of Connecticut Courant (January 20, 1766)

January 20

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

Jan 20 - 1:20:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (January 20, 1766)

“At his STORE … Where LADIES may find as compleat an Assortment as at any Store in Town.”

Consumption is feminized in the twenty-first century.  After all, ladies love shopping, right?  At first glance, Samuel Fletcher’s advertisement might suggest that this is a natural conclusion, that consumption has always been a feminine pursuit because women more inherently possess a desire to shop than men do.

However, reaching such a conclusion based on Fletcher’s advertisement would be faulty.  This advertisement, listing so many of the different goods for sale in Boston and so many other colonial American port cities and villages, is rather unique among those published in the 1760s.  Very rarely did advertisers in this era identify potential customers by gender (though there were exceptions, such as seamstresses who made clothes for women and tailors who specialized in men’s garments).  In explicitly identifying “LADIES” with consumption, Fletcher engaged in a mode of marketing not yet widely practiced, but one that eventually became a largely unquestioned part of American consumer culture.

I choose many advertisements because they include common or standard aspects of eighteenth-century marketing, but this advertisement caught my attention precisely because the appeal to the “LADIES” was extraordinary, rather than ordinary, in the 1760s.

Announcement: Adverts 250 Featured by The Exchange

I am excited that The Exchange:  The Business History Conference Weblog included the Adverts 250 Project in its most recent issue of Over the Counter, a monthly roundup of projects, programs, and papers with a business history component, as well as other news of interest to the business history community.  This issue also included a link to “Lottery Mania in Colonial America” from the American Numismatic Society, which I mention because lotteries were frequently advertised in the colonial newspapers (though I have not yet included an advertisement for a lottery in this project).

The Business History Conference is “a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization devoted to encouraging all aspects of research, writing, and teaching of business history and the environment in which business operates.”

Many thanks to The Exchange and the Business History Conference for “advertising” the Adverts 250 Project.