April 30

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

Apr 30 - 4:28:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (April 28, 1766).

“May depend on having their commands executed with expedition, and in the neatest manner.”

Breechesmaker John Baster understood the importance of customer service, and he wanted potential customers to know that he would treat them well if they called on him. He promised that his clients “may depend on having their commands executed with expedition, and in the neatest matter.” In other words, he did the job quickly but well, not sacrificing quality for speed.

In choosing to use the word “commands” rather than “orders” or “instructions,” he also established the relationship between artisan and customer. Whether elite, middling, or more humble, all customers could expect deference from Baster throughout their commercial interaction, regardless of their relative status and relationship to each other beyond his shop at the Sign of the Buck and Breeches.

Baster thanked former customers for their patronage (letting potential customers know that others had visited his shop) before stating that he “only requests the continuance of it, no longer than he makes it his study to please.” This convoluted passage was the eighteenth-century method of assuring customers that he understood that if he failed to offer good customer service that he realized that they would seek out other breechesmakers. Not only did he realize that was the case, he expected it.

Customer service is a major aspect of running a retail enterprise today, but colonial Americans understood its value as well, though they may have expressed it differently.

April 29

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

Apr 29 - 4:28:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (April 28, 1766).

“Just published, and to be sold by the Printer hereof, CONSIDERATIONS upon the RIGHTS of the COLONISTS.”

When the Stamp Act was repealed a major political crisis came to a close (though the simultaneous passage of the Declaratory Act signaled that not all was resolved between Parliament and Britain’s colonies in North America). Colonial merchants imported goods from Britain. Advertisers encouraged consumers to purchase those goods.

Printers and booksellers continued to market other wares that had been for sale during the Stamp Act crisis: books and pamphlets about the “RIGHTS of the COLONISTS to the PRIVILEGES of British SUBJECTS.” Such items had been advertised frequently before the Stamp Act went into effect in 1765 and continuing through its repeal in the spring of 1766. The Stamp Act may have been repealed, but existing stock of these pamphlets did not disappear. Printers and booksellers needed to sell the leftovers in order to profit or at least break even on their investments. Surplus pamphlets did not suit their needs.

Apr 29 - Advertisement Extraordinary
Newport Mercury (April 28, 1766).

So they continued to advertise. Today’s featured advertisement was not the only one of its kind in the April 28, 1766, issue of the Newport Mercury. Other notices promoted books and pamphlets that advanced a similar political position. They appeared in the same issue that reprinted an “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary” from the Boston Gazette (which we saw also reprinted in the New-Hampshire Gazette earlier this week) celebrating the repeal of the Stamp Act.

In all fairness, decisions to continue selling and marketing pamphlets about the “RIGHTS of the COLONISTS” did not necessarily depend solely on financial considerations to the exclusion of sincere political anxieties. Although the immediate crisis was over, the Declaratory Act dampened the colonists’ victory. Astute printers and booksellers likely realized that Parliament and the colonies would continue to experience tensions. By selling pamphlets like the one from today’s advertisements, printers and booksellers performed a civic duty that kept their fellow colonists informed and helped to frame future debates and discourse.

Reflections on Working with Guest Curators, Once Again

The semester is coming to a close and the guest curators from my Public History class have completed their responsibilities. In a series of interview questions, they each reflected on their experiences once again at the end of a second week guest curating. I would like to do the same now that the classroom project has concluded (for the moment: guest curators will return as part of future courses).

Working with my students on this collaborative project has been immensely rewarding, one of my favorite endeavors in nearly a decade of teaching. Why? There are several reasons. For one, this has been the most effect method for incorporating my own research into the classroom. In the past I’ve brought eighteenth-century advertisements to class to analyze as primary sources or assigned chapters I’ve written to supplement other readings about the confluence of commerce, culture, and politics in early America. While I will continue to do so, neither of those approaches allowed the sustained inquiry that guest curating the Adverts 250 Project for a week fostered and required.

I also believe that this was an effective method of instruction because students played such an important role in shaping the outcome. Although I did set some basic parameters (establishing a methodology for which issues of colonial newspapers should be consulted and insisting that they had to select advertisements for consumer goods and services, with only one exception each week), the guest curators chose the advertisements that interested them. This engaged their creativity, but it also gave them ownership of the work they were doing. For many assignments – in history and other disciplines – they respond to a prompt provided by a professor. They research and write about something that professor has specified they must investigate. For this project, however, they had much more freedom to choose what interested them.

One student was especially interested in women’s history. Whenever possible, she selected advertisements placed by women. That turned out to be just a starting point. As she examined those advertisements she learned a lot about the communities in which those women lived and the culture, politics, and economics that shaped their lives. The advertisements led her to a variety of primary and secondary sources that enriched her understanding of eighteenth-century America more broadly. She developed better research skills, tracking down maps, trade cards, and paintings from the period. Throughout the process, she enthusiastically learned about early America because her curiosity propelled her forward. I could have designed a series of readings and document exercises to impart similar knowledge, but the sense of discovery involved with locating and choosing which sources to consult enhanced the learning experience by giving the student both authority and responsibility for shaping her inquiry in the manner she desired and found most compelling.

The collaborative nature of this project also contributed to its success as a classroom exercise. I tell all of my students that I expect them to be junior colleagues throughout the semester, that we will investigate the past together. The extent to which students actually accept my invitation to become junior colleagues depends in part on the individual and in part on the type of class. Due to their previous experience, greater exposure to primary and secondary sources, and the projects they are expected to produce, seniors conducting their own research in the capstone seminar are much more likely to comport themselves as junior colleagues than students in introductory survey courses.

For this project, students could not avoid acting as junior colleagues, in large part because we interacted so extensively beyond the classroom. During the past semester I had more sustained contact with my Public History students than with any other students in any course I previously taught, with the exception of a student who researched and wrote a senior thesis under my direction and the possible exception of some of the best and most ambitious seniors in the research seminar. One at a time, the guest curators were immersed in the Adverts 250 Project for an entire week, which meant working closely with me.

Each student selected a slate of proposed advertisements and then met with me to have them approved. Most received my blessing, but I explained why some were rejected and gave advice for making new selections. Once an advertisement was approved, the guest curator independently conducted research on some aspect of it, though I sometimes made suggestions or provided context that I thought would be helpful. Writing a rough draft followed the research stage. Guest curators sometimes met with me in my office to review their drafts; other times we had conversations via email. Some drafts required a bit of polishing before being posted online, but others needed more extensive revisions. I made suggestions for revising prose and reorganizing material. I identified occasional historical errors, flagged incorrect assumptions, and challenged interpretations. I suggested additional sources to consult and explained why some online sources were problematic. We worked together on writing, research, and information literacy skills. Most entries went through more than one draft.

Then came another collaborative element of the project. Once a student’s entry was ready, I contributed my own “additional commentary” about the advertisement. Sometimes I expanded on the theme the guest curator had developed. Sometimes I addressed another aspect of the advertisement that interested me. In both instances I analyzed the advertisement selected by the student. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the guest curators did not always select the advertisements that I would have chosen, but each of their advertisements was significant in its own right. I believe that letting them take the lead, putting them in a position of authority in which I applied my expertise to the material they had selected, helped my students to conceive of themselves truly as junior colleagues.

There’s one more explanation for why this project was such a successful part of my Public History class: I worked with good students. Part of me fears attempting to replicate this experience in a future class with a different cohort of guest curators! As much as this method of instruction aided my students in learning and achieving their potential, it’s imperative to acknowledge that I benefitted from working with good students, each of them simultaneously smart, responsible, conscientious, and hard working. This experiment could have had a very different outcome this semester. I’m grateful that the guest curators took it seriously and, as a result, made such significant contributions to the Adverts 250 Project.

April 28

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?

Apr 28 - 4:28:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (April 28, 1766).

“TAKEN out of the Shop … two Beaver Hatts supposed to be Stolen.”

Advertisements did not always serve a single purpose in the eighteenth century, as we saw last week in a notice that seemed to squeeze two separate advertisements – one for a sloop and the other for an enslaved woman – together into a single square. Neither seemed to be the primary purpose for the advertisement; instead, an auctioneer placed relatively equal emphasis on both sales.

Lazarus LeBaron, however, did have a purpose when he placed his notice. He proclaimed that a thief had stolen “two Beaver Hatts” from his shop and warned readers against “any suspicious Person” selling similar hats. LeBaron was agitated and he wanted justice, offering a reward to “any Person that can give Information so that the Person who took them may be convicted.” His indignation was apparent.

His demeanor in the notice made the nota bene that much more jarring: “Hatts of all Sorts made and Sold at the above Shop.” As long as he was paying for an advertisement in hopes of recovering his stolen goods, LeBaron likely figured that he might as well attempt to attract some business in the bargain. Even if the pilfered hats never turned up, perhaps the nota bene might have yielded new business to offset the loss and the price of the notice. Still, promoting his shop seemed to be an afterthought relative to his crusade to track down “any suspicious Person” who had absconded with his “Beaver Hatts.”

April 27

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

Apr 27 - 4:25:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 25, 1766).

Some of Portsmouth’s retailers regularly advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette throughout the winter of 1765 and 1766 while the Stamp Act was still in effect, but it tended to be the same advertisers week after week. In April, the residents of Portsmouth received word of the repeal of the Stamp Act. The news was first published in the April 18 issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. The newspaper published the following week included several new advertisements from retailers who had not marketed their wares during the winter, including Nathaniel Barrell.

This could simply have been a matter of not needing to advertise. Perhaps Barrell and his counterparts had a surplus of goods in stock before the winter or before the Stamp Act went into effect, making it less necessary to advertise. Indeed, throughout the series of non-importation and non-consumption agreements in the decade prior to the Revolution merchants and retailers seized opportunities to clear out surplus wares.

Perhaps Barrell and his counterparts advertised wares recently imported from England after a lull in transatlantic voyages during the winter months. The same vessels that brought news that the Stamp Act had been repealed also brought consumer goods in their cargo holds. This may have simply been a matter of timing.

On the other hand, it is also possible that news about the Stamp Act played a role in Barrell’s decision to advertise in the April 25 issue. With tensions between England the colonies reduced, he may have had more room to maneuver in the public prints and the marketplace, announcing boldly in the first line of his advertisement that he carried goods “Imported from LONDON.” Given his own politics or the views of neighbors and acquaintances who were also his customers, he might have identified the shift in attitudes toward England in the wake of recent news as a signal that he could promote goods imported from London.

It very well could be that all three of these factors, to greater or lesser degrees, played a role in Barrell’s decision to advertise in the April 25 issues of the New-Hampshire Gazette.

April 26

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Apr 26 - 4:25:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 25, 1766).

“RUN away from his Master … a NEGRO Man named Neptune.”

John Moody placed this advertisement when “a NEGRO Man named Neptune” – almost certainly not the name bestowed on him by his parents when he was born – ran away. This advertisement stands in stark contrast to the one featured yesterday, though both came from the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Yesterday’s “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary” encouraged readers to put on all kinds of displays upon receiving word that the Stamp Act had been repealed. This advertisement, however, asserted that black bodies should be on display and encouraged readers to take note of any “NEGRO Man” they encountered. Black bodies were figuratively on display in the crude woodcut that could have been any enslaved man. Black bodies were literally on display – scrutinized closely – any time readers attempted to assess if a black man fit the description in the advertisement. “Neptune” could change his clothing, but the fugitive could not disguise certain physical characteristics: “lost two of his Toes, and can’t move his Under Jaw.” Determining if a black man fit this description could require sustained observation; these are not attributes that would necessarily be noticed at a glance. While many colonial Americans engaged in public spectacles to celebrate the end of the Stamp Act, “Neptune” likely did all he could to avoid becoming a public spectacle, but today’s advertisement encouraged colonial Americans to think of all black bodies as some sort of public spectacle to be observed and scrutinized.

April 25

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?

Apr 25 - 4:25:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 25, 1766).

“ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary.  …  Repeal of the Stamp-Act.”

This “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary” hailed the “Repeal of the Stamp-Act” and encouraged other patriotic Britons to do the same. In particular, the advertisement encouraged a variety of public displays” “general Illuminations, Ringing of Bells, Bonfires, Firing of Guns, or other Fire-Works” to be conducted “in Duty and Loyalty to our most gracious SSEVERIGN” and “in Respect, Love and Gratitude to his patriotic MINISITRY.”

This advertisement helps to demonstrate that the American Revolution did not take place as soon as Parliament passed the first act intended to better regulate colonial commerce and raise revenues after the Seven Years War. Most colonists did not immediately clamor for political independence from Great Britain. Instead, that decision took place only after a lengthy process that extended more than a decade as colonists and Parliament acted and reacted to each other.

In the spring of 1766, however, colonists were overjoyed to return to what they considered their rightful place in the global British Empire. Once “that detestable Act” – a measure also described as “unconstitutional” – was repealed, opponents in Britain’s North American colonies encouraged “Rejoicings and Exhibitions of joy thro-out this Continent” but also desired that “all whom it may concern, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America” would join in their celebrations. In saluting the “Great GEORGE and PATRIOT PITT” along with the king’s “patriotic MINISTRY” colonists signaled that they considered themselves Britons and wished to be part of the British Empire. Only in the wake of greater disruptions and the “Contempt of an infernal, atheistical, Popish and Jacobite Crew” over the course of the next decade would revolution be fomented. The crisis had been averted – temporarily – but the promulgation of the Declaratory Act at the same time the Stamp Act was repealed suggested that “Rejoicings and Exhibitions of joy” might not last long.


Take note of the first and last lines of this advertisement: “From the Boston Gazette, April 21.” and “P. S. All Printers throughout this Continent are desired to publish this Advertisement.” Just as printers had shared and reprinted news of the Stamp Act and protests against it throughout 1765 and into 1766, they also exchanged and shared news of its repeal. This advertisement, originally printed in Boston four days earlier, was inserted in the very next issue of Portsmouth’s New-Hampshire Gazette. This was how news went viral in eighteenth-century America

April 24

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?

Apr 24 - 4:24:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 24, 1766).

“The Stage Wagon … intends to perform the Journey from Philadelphia to New-York in two Days.”

Today it takes only a couple of hours or less to travel between Philadelphia and New York by planes, trains, or automobiles, but in the eighteenth century going from one of these urban ports to the other required much more time. John Barnhill and John Masherew offered a service intended to transport colonists between the two cities as quickly and efficiently as possible (and as comfortably as well: note that “the Waggon-Seats [were] to be set on Springs”).

This journey could be completed in the impressively short span of two days between April and November, but required three days in the winter months. To make this possible, Barnhill and Masherew pooled their resources. Each offered a service that extended into the hinterland around their respective cities, but neither sent their “Stage Waggon” between the two destinations. Instead, Barnhill operated between Philadelphia and Prince Town (now Princeton, New Jersey) and Masherew offered service from New York to Prince Town. At Prince Town, passengers switched from one “Stage Waggon” to the other. Each leg of the journey took a day (or a day and a half in the winter).

The advertisement indicates Barnhill and Masherew began advertising this service before it appeared in the April 24, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette: “commencing the 14th Day of April next.” The notation on the final line – “* 6 W.” – was likely a reminder to the printer to insert the advertisement in six consecutive issues over the course of six weeks.

Interview with Guest Curator Trevor Delp

Trevor Delp has completed his second and final week as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project.  As we say farewell to him, let’s take a few moments to find out more about her  behind-the-scenes contributions to this project.

Adverts 250: This was your second week as guest curator.  How did it compare to the first time?  Did you make any changes to your research or writing process based on what you learned the first time?

Trevor Delp: In my second week as guest curator I adjusted both my writing style and my research process. To start, I focused on giving my advertisements more of a traditional research build up and then a connection or theme of historical significance. This is something that I found took a significant amount of time, but it gave my analysis more depth and made them more interesting to read. I found that giving my analysis a deeper historical background also gave me more to talk about. The deeper my research went, the more I was able to draw connections to both colonial and modern time, giving my writing more ideas to develop. This also pushed me to grow as a writer and develop my research techniques, using databases, efficiently reading long texts, and developing reliable sources. It also forced me to work on my source development and introducing sources into my writing in new and different ways.

Adverts 250: What is the most important or most interesting thing that you learned about early American history throughout the process of working on this project?

Trevor Delp: The most important thing that I learned working on this project is how diverse and how long history is. While going through years, decades, and even centuries of history I was forced to realize how fast things developed, even in colonial times. I find it is very easy for me to fall into the mindset of generalizing years into almost days or weeks and decades into years. Working in just 1766 forced me to break down just that year that I was researching and find how things developed to be how they are. This is something that I really enjoyed once I slowed down, because it again gave me more to incorporate into my writing. Furthermore, finding different interpretations of the history through the elites, the working citizens, slaves, and the British really developed my understanding of American history.

Adverts 250: What is the most important thing you learned about doing history” as a result of working on this project?

Trevor Delp: While working on this project the most important thing I learned about “doing history” is the structure my writing. I tried to write in a way that was both easy to read and showed development to a common thesis. My first week working on the project I came to a realization that I had not done a lot of short analytical writing; up until this project, a majority of my writing had been essay structured. This forced me to learn how to write in a concise way that did not eliminate important details but was informative. I also had to learn how to structure my writing in a more organized way. I had to spend much more time editing the structure of my writing to make sure that sentences were organized chronologically and logically developing into a common theme or thesis. This also taught me to be more specific with my word choice. I had to adjust to using words that carried more meaning than other more common words. These three things have benefited all of my writing and helped me to develop a more specific writing style that is unique and I am proud of.

Adverts 250: What is your favorite advertisement from your two weeks as guest curator?  Why?

Trevor Delp: My favorite topic throughout my second week as guest curator would have to be my final advertisement for “Benjamin Faneuil, Junr.” shop in Boston. Having grown up in Massachusetts and visited Boston many times, Faneuil Hall has always been something I am familiar with. When I first started my research into the Faneuil family name I was not confident that it would directly connect. After after researching the family history and identifying similar locations I was convinced that the author of the advertisement, Benjamin Faneuil Jr., was in fact the brother of Peter Faneuil who donated Faneuil Hall. This advertisement gave me insight into something I had always known about but never know the true history of.


Thank you, Trevor.  You’ve made some great contributions to the project during your time as guest curator, diving into the advertisements and examining their context in depth.  You’ve also don a wonderful job identifying public history sites that provide even more information about the events and historical processes you’ve discussed.

Trevor recently gave a public presentation about his work as a guest curator at Assumption College’s 22nd annual Undergraduate Symposium.

April 23


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

Apr 23 - 4:21:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (April 21, 1766).

By Benjamin Faneuil, Junr. At his Store in Butler’s Row

Today’s advertisement caught my eye because of the author’s name, “Benjamin Faneuil Junr.” As a Massachusetts native, Faneuil Hall is a place I have always loved to visit and explore. According to Faneuil Hall’s website, Faneuil Hall was first a “home to merchants, fishermen, and meat and produce sellers, and provided a platform for the country’s most famous orators.” Furthermore, it tells how Samuel Adams organized the citizens of Boston to seek independence from Britain and “George Washington toasted the nation there on its first birthday.” Faneuil Hall is a cornerstone of American culture and history. As excited as I was, I could not jump to the conclusion that this Benjamin Faneuil, Jr. was a relation to the prominent Boston Faneuil family name until further researching it.

To start, I looked into the history of the Faneuil name, starting with Peter Faneuil, the merchant who donated Faneuil Hall. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, Peter’s father, Benjamin, and two uncles emigrated from France. One of the uncles, Andrew Faneuil, made a name for himself as one of New England’s wealthiest men through trading and Boston real estate investments. Benjamin Faneuil fathered two sons, Peter and Benjamin Jr., and three daughters. Peter worked tirelessly as a trader between Europe and the West Indies, acquiring a lot of money and eventually donating Faneuil Hall. There is little history on Benjamin Jr., except that he married against his uncle Andrew’s wishes, making Peter “heir to most of his fortune.” This means that although Benjamin Jr. did not have the same financial notability that his brother had, he may have had the help of his brother as a merchant. I hypothesize that this would greatly benefit Benjamin Jr.’s business as a store owner and give him recognition among other colonists.

Apr 23 - Fanueil Hall on Map
Location of Butler’s Row in relation to Faneuil Hall in modern Boston.

After researching the Faneuil family name I wanted to find the location of Benjamin Jr.’s store to further my understanding of who he was. In the advertisement it reports that Benjamin Jr.’s store was located on Butlers Row. After using Google Maps to find the current location of Butler’s Row, I found that is it bordering Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

After researching both the Faneuil family name and Butler’s Row, I believe that the author of today’s advertisement was indeed Peter Faneuil’s brother. This advertisement gave me the opportunity to dig deeper into the history of Faneuil Hall and, more specifically, the rich history of the Faneuil family.



This advertisement, like so many others, suggests that eighteenth-century consumers spoke a very different language than we do today. Some of this is a matter of non-standardized spelling: “Fyal Wines” most likely refers to wine from Faial, one of the islands in the Azores. Other words and phrases have passed out of everyday usage: “Russia and Ravens Duck, Ticklinburg, Oznabrigs.” What were these?!

Each was a kind of fabric. Today I’d like to examine “Ravens Duck.” The term duck most likely comes from the Dutch word doek, meaning cloth. Considering that Holland was a major supplier of sailcloth in the early modern era, it makes sense that “duck” came to mean a heavy fabric among English speakers. According to Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles, sailcloth imported to the colonies was often trademarked for identification: “The light flax sail fabrics imported mostly from England and Scotland bore the trademark stencil of a raven [commonly referred to as ravens duck at the time] while the heavier weights bore the trademark picturing a duck.”[1]

To learn more about this textile, check out “The Great Age of Duck” from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.


[1] Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles (New York: 1967), 99.