March 16

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

Mar 16 - 3:14:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 14, 1766).

“A likely Negro Girl, about 16 Years of Age.”

I’ve previously made it clear that I wish to feature a new and different advertisement every day. This short advertisement is indeed new to the Adverts 250 Project, though it looks so similar to several others that it’s easy to understand why somebody might question whether it appeared here before.

So why choose it as today’s advertisement? How does it help us to understand early American advertising, consumer culture, or slavery better than any of the previous advertisements for enslaved men, women, and children analyzed here?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that this has become such a familiar type of advertisement. I have not disproportionately selected advertisements seeking to buy or sell enslaved Africans and African Americans. If advertisements for enslaved people have become a familiar part of this project, imagine just how commonplace they appeared to colonists in the eighteenth century. Any reader of a colonial newspaper would have seen far more advertisements for enslaved people than have appeared here, and far more regularly. An advertisement for “A likely Negro Girl” and its counterparts may startle many modern readers, but those advertisements would have been just part of the commercial and cultural landscape in early America.

Only six advertisements for consumer goods and services appeared in this issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Two of them offered to sell enslaved youths, “A likely Negro Girl” here and “A NEGRO BOY” (printed just below an advertisement for “BARBADOS whitest LOAF SUGAR,” as featured last week).

These are some of the reasons that I consider it important to continue to feature advertisements for enslaved people. Even in colonial New Hampshire, far removed geographically from the plantations of the Chesapeake, the Lower South, and the Caribbean, slavery was an integral part of advertising as well as commerce more generally. To overlook or ignore these advertisements because they resemble or replicate others would be to misconstrue the past.

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