GUEST CURATOR: Trevor Delp
What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Pork by the Barrell. – BUTTER by the Firkin. … English Sail CANVIS – One ANCHOR.”
This advertisement offers insight into the economy of New Hampshire during the late 1700s. Although many of the goods listed were common during this time period, the diversity and quantity of the goods is what I found interesting. Many of the goods were preserved foods being sold in large quantities, suggesting they were expected to last long durations of time. In the New Hampshire area during this time, the port of Portsmouth was thriving, leading me believe these goods were being marketed towards sailors.
Furthermore, after the advertisements for different foods there are two advertisements, one for English sail canvases and another for an anchor. These final two products further support the idea that this advertisement is being marketed towards sailors. When comparing the two different groups of goods being sold they seem out place, but when taking into account the variety of goods and the time period, it is suggestive that the advertisement was meant primarily for supplying ships and the sailors on them.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes
The New-Hampshire Gazette was printed by Daniel Fowle, the newspaper’s founder (1756), and his nephew, Robert Fowle (admitted to a share in the management in 1764), in Portsmouth. As Trevor notes, this was a maritime community. Advertisers wished to attract a variety of customers, including sailors, captains of vessels, and merchants and quartermasters responsible for outfitting ships headed to sea. In this advertisement, John Wheitfield highlighted goods that would have been of particular interest to seafarers.
That being said, I suspect that he intended to address multiple audiences with this advertisement. While the goods he specifically enumerated would have been of interest to sailors, he first mentioned “A Variety of English Goods” that he did not describe in detail. Perhaps he could not afford or did not wish to purchase the space for a lengthier advertisement to list some of those wares. Perhaps he hoped to draw in customers curious about what that “Variety” might include and intentionally avoided listing specific goods. Whatever his reasoning, his advertisement suggests that his store did not cater to one clientele exclusively. He highlighted merchandise for crews of sailing vessels, but also indicated that he stocked assorted other wares for other members of the Portsmouth community.