Reflections from Guest Curator Mary Aldrich

GUEST CURATOR: Mary Aldrich

Working for the Adverts 250 Project has made me more appreciative of advertisements. It is interesting to be working with material that today many of us just skim over or are slightly annoyed by. We generally see advertisements as things that get in the way of what we are actually interested in. It has made me wonder what the people reading newspapers in the colonial and Revolutionary periods thought about advertisements. Did they skip over them or were advertisements an integral part of a newspaper which contributed to the reading experience? No matter what they thought about advertisements in their newspaper, here we are 250 years later analyzing them. What will people do with our advertisements 250 years from now? Will they even care about them? Initially when I was introduced to this project, I thought it would be boring: how interesting could 250-year-old advertisements be? I was still operating in the mindset of a twenty-first-century individual dealing with advertisements. As I progressed throughout the project, I began to find many of the advertisements to be really interesting and informative.

People put advertisements for a wide verity of goods and services as well as other things in newspapers:  advertisements for runaway slaves, people looking for good servants, or even just looking for a person that they may have lost contact with (as was the case in an advertisement I commented on this week). In the process of my search for advertisements to include this week I stumbled across a few where people were airing the state of their relationships or asking for the return of their stolen or lost property. People used the newspaper as their primary source of communication with the general public in a similar way to the verity of platforms we use to communicate with people anywhere in the world in the twenty-first century. This project utilizes two such platforms to communicate with the public, Twitter and blogging. Doing this puts the concept of ‘doing history in public’ directly into practice. Anyone with a connection to the Internet can view it and that is what makes this project wonderful. It also makes doing research correctly and writing with the audience in mind especially important. Even when choosing advertisements, I thought about what other people might like to learn about and what sort of content they would be interested in.

This project enriched my understanding of the products and services that people in the colonial and Revolutionary periods relied upon. Through my research about the products that people used I was able to flesh out my understanding of the period and what their needs may have been on a daily basis. These advertisements packed a lot of information into just a few lines and choosing what to research and write about was, in some cases, the hardest part of this project. Each advertisement has the potential to be dissected in a much more lengthy setting and yet I did not have the space to do so. Overall, this project was interesting and I do hope that all the work that is being done here can be used by others to further or provide more insight in their own projects.

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ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:  Carl Robert Keyes

Thank you, Mary, for a great selection of advertisements during the past week.  I also appreciate your efforts to provide more context for understanding many of the advertisements.  Your research turned up some great sources and valuable links to include here so readers can find out much more about patent medicines, paint, and a variety of other eighteenth-century goods.  Mary will be returning for a second week as guest curator later in the semester.

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