GUEST CURATOR: Kathryn J. Severance
What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“To be sold about 80 tons of good salt and English hay, for boards or staves.”
During Colonial times, items were often bartered, rather than sold. In this case, salt and hay are being offered in exchange for boards or staves, which were materials that might be used for carpentry projects, such as putting up buildings. In modern times, we would call a ‘stave’ a post, or a piece of wood used to make a wooden barrel and most individuals in the lumber industry today would not know what you meant if you asked them for a stave.
In this advertisement, it seems that the project that a person is trying to collect materials for might be one that will take place over a period of time, as it says that the individual seeking these materials has between now (which, remember, is February 1766) and ‘next’ July 1 for people to respond.
A final thing that catches my eye with this advertisement, is the mentioning of Jonathon Moulton of Hampton. Each time I see a name in an old newspaper, I have to see if there’s a trail that will lead me to understand what the mentioned individual was after and what information is available about their life and death. This will be a recurring theme within my posts this week. I often find individuals to be an intriguing area of history. I feel that in some cases, some historians favor learning about events, while others favor learning about individuals.
In researching Moulton, I was delighted to find a plethora of information available about him from a Hampton library website page. Johnathon Moulton was born on July 21, 1726, and is the descendant of some of the first settlers of Hampton, a group that came to the Colonies from Norfolk, England. Moulton died on September 18, 1787. To learn more about Moulton of Hampton, check out this link.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes
While Kathryn focuses on evidence of bartering in colonial advertisements and a more extensive biography of this particular advertiser, I am interested in the format of this advertisement and the layout of the rest of the issue. I sometimes insert an entire page of a newspaper to provide both visual and textual context, but today I think it would be helpful to see the entire issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette that included this advertisement.
The advertisement that Kathryn selected appeared at the bottom of the first page. It extends across both columns. This is unusual, but not completely uncommon. Printers sometimes used this method to fill space or perhaps to insert advertisements received just before going to press. Compare this advertisement to yesterday’s featured advertisement for a lottery, which appeared at the end of the final column of the final page. The page – and the issue – were set perfectly thanks to its inclusion.
In contrast, this issue includes several advertisements laid out in unusual ways. Short advertisements from Jonathan Moulton run across both columns at the bottom of both the first and final pages. These two pages would have been printed on the same side of the broadsheet before it was folded in half to make a four-page newspaper. It is likely that both were added after the remainder of the issue had been set. In making each page the same length, the advertisements provided balance on the first and last pages (which others would have seen next to each other when looking at a subscriber reading the second and third pages). This suggests conscientiousness about the appearance of the newspaper on the part of the printer.
The advertisements on the third page, however, were laid out in an extremely unusual manner. That page features two columns of advertisements, as expected, along with four additional advertisements rotated ninety degrees clockwise to form a third column. This would be very visually striking. It might draw attention to the advertisements. Perhaps this was the printer’s intention, but I hesitate to make this claim without evidence that other similar experiments appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette over the next several weeks or months. Something else may have explained this decision, such as advertisers clamoring to have commercial notices for which they had already paid appear in print. After all, the New-Hampshire Gazette had recently printed relatively few advertisements in favor of covering the Stamp Act crisis throughout the colonies. The printer may have been attempting to insert advertisements usually any layout necessary to do so.
This is an instance in which digitized sources reveal some questions that cannot be answered without consulting the original sources in an archive. I’d like to know about the amount of space covered in print on the second and third pages relative to each other, but both appear exactly the same size on my computer screen, making it impossible to make such an assessment. Indeed, I assumed above that Jonathan Moulton’s advertisements mirroring each other on the first and fourth pages caused the text on both to cover the same amount of space. This seems like a reasonable conclusion, but it must be tested by consulting an original (rather than photographed, microfilmed, or digitized) issue of the February 7, 1766, New-Hampshire Gazette.