What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Baggammon tables, … flutes and fifes, … fishing reels.”
Peter Goelet presented many choices to potential customers in an advertisement that listed dozens and dozens of items that he stocked in his shop “At the Golden Key, in Hanover-Square, New-York.” What else possibly could have been included among the “great variety of other articles” listed at the end of the advertisement?!
This assortment of goods could be used to glimpse many different aspects of daily life in colonial America, from the types of tools that many artisans would have used to housewares and cooking equipment to supplies for writing letters, accounts, and other documents, to name a few.
This advertisement also suggests leisure activities pursued by some early Americans. Goelet sold “baggammon tables” on which colonists would have played the game now commonly known as backgammon. He also carried musical instruments, including violins and “German and common flutes and fifes,” and supplies, such as “hautboy [oboe] reeds, violin strings, bridges, and pins, [and] brass and steel harpsichord wire.” Although the advertisement does not list other sorts of books or pamphlets, “newest tunes, &c.” may have referred to music. Goelet concluded his advertisement with a list of fishing rods, reels, hooks, and flies.
Games, music, and fishing: advertisements offered colonial Americans the goods they needed to pursue a variety of leisure activities that in turn helped them to express their own status and gentility.