February 19

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Feb 19 - 2:17:1766 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (February 17, 1766).

“A large Assortment of Kilmarnock Carpets.”

Lewis and Bant posted this advertisement to advertise their carpeting and flooring company. They also say they have a good assortment of other English goods which would be sold to the consumer for “very low for cash.” Their shop was located in Cornhill Street, which is now part of Washington Street in Boston.

The advertisement describes their carpets as Kilmarnock and being imported from Glasgow. Glasgow is a major river port city, whereas Kilmarnock is in west central Scotland. Many goods were made in the country and they would be brought into populated port cities to be sold or exported.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 9.32.04 AM
Location of Kilmarnock in Scotland.

The carpet is being sold in ½ , ¾, and yard measurements, which is not much different than today. Unless you are buying a standardized size (usually 8×12 ft or 6×9 ft) today, carpets are custom measured in either yards or feet. Also parts of the advertising style haven’t changed much for carpet companies in the Boston area. Lechmere Rug Co. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a local family-owned carpet company that has been in the area since 1975.

This advertisement grabbed my attention because I have worked at Lechmere Rug since I was little, alongside my father, who owns the business, and my brother. I have measured homes and dropped off rugs, so naturally I chose this advertisement because it reaches close to home for me.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

One of the things that I enjoy most about working on the Adverts 250 Project is discovering the ways that eighteenth-century advertisements resonate with others. For some readers, specific advertisements speak to their own scholarly interests. Others draw connections between certain advertisements and their everyday lives, their occupations, their hobbies, their interests, their choices as consumers in the early twenty-first century.

I would not have predicted that Elizabeth would select this particular advertisement. It appeared right above shopkeeper Jane Eustis’s much lengthier advertisement. Knowing that Elizabeth is especially interested in women’s history and sought to include as many advertisements from women as possible during her time as guest curator, I would have guessed Jane Eustis’s advertisement would have been at the top of her list.

But that was before I knew that Elizabeth had worked in the family business at Lechmere Rug Co. Her father’s name is listed on the web site, but not the names of their expert installers or other staff. Patrick Curley speaks with pride on behalf of the craftsmen he employs. Lewis and Bant’s advertisement does not indicate the names of others who worked in their shop either, but many historians of women in early America have demonstrated that wives and other female relations often assisted in operating family businesses in the colonial era. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has described them as “deputy husbands” because these women temporarily assumed traditionally masculine responsibilities in the marketplace when their husbands were not available.

Today’s advertisement may not explicitly feature a woman, unlike others Elizabeth has chosen, but it does allow us to explore women’s history as we question who else might have been working in Lewis and Bant’s shop. Then and now, many members make valuable contributions to family businesses. Elizabeth has assisted her father and brother at Lechmere Rug Co. It is possible that wives and daughters worked in Lewis and Bant’s shop as well.

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