GUEST CURATOR: Mary Aldrich
What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A Servant who writes a good Hand … may hear of a Place.”
Having a servant “who writes a good Hand” would be most valuable to his master, along with the other duties that he would perform: shaving, dressing a wig, helping with the accounts, and “the Business of a Butler.” Having a servant doing these tasks would have freed up his master to pursue other activities and would have provided standing among his peers. The emphasis on writing implies that the person who placed the advertisement was keen to find a servant that would possibly assist in managing his household by doing his writing for him as well as keeping track of his accounts.
This person that the advertiser was going to hire could not be just anyone; he needed to be well recommended. Recommendations in some cases had more weight than experience, especially in a busy port city like Boston with people coming and going.
In this case, it seems like the man looking for a servant did not want to deal directly with those responding to the advertisement but instead went though the newspaper printers, Green and Russell.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes
When I decided to combine my own research with my teaching duties by inviting students in my Public History course to take on responsibilities as guest curators for the Adverts 250 Project I hoped that their relative unfamiliarity with eighteenth-century print and consumer culture would uncover elements of various advertisements that I take for granted.
I have appreciated, for instance, how some of the guest curators have interrogated the language used in the advertisements they selected, demonstrating how usage has changed over time. Similarly, for today’s featured advertisement Mary suggested in her first draft that Green and Russell were an employment agency of some sort, not realizing that “enquiring of GREEN & RUSSELL” was a variant of “Enquire of the Printers.” Other guest curators have reached similar conclusions when working with advertisements that directed readers to printers when those men were identified by name rather than occupation. Given the modern process for matching applicants with jobs through agencies, this seems like a natural assumption.
In turn, it opens the door for productive conversations about the role of printers in eighteenth-century America. Their print shops were hubs of activity – commercial and political. Many printers also served as postmasters in addition to publishing their newspapers, which meant that people visited their offices to send and pick up letters. Information, including employment possibilities, circulated through printing offices. Local residents, unlike twenty-first-century readers, would have recognized the printers by name and would have been familiar with the practice of instructing interested parties to gain more information at the local print shop.
In this regard, today’s advertisement is a nice companion to the two advertisements concerning wet nurses featured yesterday. In each of them printers played a role as intermediaries after the advertisements were published.
“May hear of a Place by enquiring of GREEN & RUSSELL.”
“Enquire of the Printers.”
“Inquire of W. Weyman.”