What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Sundry Sett of the largest and best Size of POTT ASH Kittles and Coolers.”
By 1760, “potash was an important farm and home industry. … It was worth silver in the foreign markets, where the textile industry desired tons and tons of it to make the scouring and bleaching agents they needed. … There were entrepreneurial storekeepers accepting ashes in payment for their goods, and operating an ashery in conjunction with their stores,” according to Ralmon Jon Black, author of Colonial Asheries: Potash, an Eighteenth-Century Industry.
Black contends that nearly every family that settled the New England frontier in the second half of the eighteenth century participated in the potash industry to some extent, “even if only to save the ashes from the fireplace to pay their taxes.” He depicts an economy in which bartering was a standard practice and potash sometimes substituted for currency.
This advertisement helps to illustrate those circumstances. John-Pantry Jones, Oliver Pomroy, and Benjamin Henshaw sold sets of potash kettles (thick-walled iron pots used in the small-scale manufacture of potash) and coolers. They accepted cash or bartered for “Pot-Ash, or Country Produce.” Henshaw also sold a variety of imported goods. He may or may not have operated an ashery of his own as part of his commercial venture, but he certainly incorporated potash production into his business enterprise.