GUEST CURATOR: Trevor Delp
What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Will give Cash for Forty HEIFERS or young COWS.”
Jonathan Moulton’s advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette gives insight into a society where bartering was accepted in lieu of cash or credit at times. Although Moulton’s advertisement does state he will give cash payment in exchange for cows, he initially asks for “ABOUT Eighty Tons of good Salt and English HAY, for Boards or Staves.” The decision to offer a trade in replacement of cash allowed Moulton to target a wide range of people that may not have had consistent access to cash.
In order to be successful in the colonies, entrepreneurs needed to be flexible and work with their fellow colonists in the developing economy. Moulton’s decision to accept boards or staves instead of cash and then later to pay cash for young cows likely made his advertisement applicable and appealing to more people.
The second half of Moulton’s advertisement is directed towards people with livestock, giving him a targeted audience, one that did not always have large sums of cash readily available. The opportunity for people to choose either to trade or to use local currency was appealing to many colonists.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes
In the wake of Currency Acts passed by Parliament in 1751 and 1764, colonists feared “the likelihood of a diminished supply of local currency and a return to a heavier reliance on the more burdensome, less flexible alternatives: barter, commodity money (e.g., tobacco or sugar), and foreign gold or silver coin.” Trevor has chosen an advertisement that suggests how some colonists incorporated both currency and barter into their business practices, resorting to one or the other depending on the circumstances. Given the relatively short supply of currency, Moulton’s offer to pay cash for heifers and young cows may indeed have been all the more attractive to colonists looking to sell some of their livestock.
Does this advertisement sound familiar? It should, even if it does not visually look familiar, because a portion of it was previously featured on the Adverts 250 Project. This advertisement was printed in two separate pieces in the February 7, 1766, issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. The first half appeared at the bottom of the first page, running across both columns. The second half appeared at the bottom of the final page, also running across both columns.
When Trevor and I discussed the advertisements he wished to feature this week, I approved this one because, technically, it is a different advertisement than the previous one. It includes new material and the type for the entire advertisement was reset for this variant. Besides, as I have previously explained, our methodology (requiring us to consult the most recently published newspaper in the colonies) disproportionately privileges the New-Hampshire Gazette. The paucity of advertisements for consumer goods and services in that publication, compared to others from the period, can be frustrating. The guest curators and I have learned to make do with the slim pickings in the New-Hampshire Gazette.
Why did the printer reset the type and combine two advertisements into one? Friday’s extended commentary will explain how I solved that mystery when I examined the original copies at the American Antiquarian Society.
 John J, McCusker and Russell L. Menard, The Economy of British America, 1607-1789 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1985), 337.