May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1766 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 21, 1766).

INGLIS and HALL, have just imported … A NEAT ASSORTMENT of India and English chintzes.”

This is the first time the Adverts 250 Project has featured an advertisement from the Georgia Gazette. Although I make every effort to select advertisements from as many different newspapers, cities, colonies, and regions as possible, but the Georgia Gazette, which commenced publication in 1763, was not previously available for inclusion in this project due to political considerations from the period.  It had been suspended in November 1765 in response to the Stamp Act and did not resume publication until May 21, 1766.

Examining newspapers from more than one region sometimes demonstrates striking differences, such as the sheer number of advertisements for runaway slaves that appeared in the Virginia Gazette compared to publications from New England and the Middle Atlantic colonies.

Today’s advertisement, however, demonstrates an important similarity among advertisements throughout the colonies. At a glance, this advertisement resembles others placed by shopkeepers in other regions. It could have appeared anywhere in the colonies and it would have looked familiar to readers. They would have recognized the variety of merchandise offered for sale.

T.H. Breen has previously described this as the standardization of consumer culture in colonial America. Even as consumers encountered greater amount of choice in the marketplace, the goods that were available in Georgia were largely the same goods available in Boston. Merchants and shopkeepers throughout New England, the Middle Atlantic, the Chesapeake, and the Lower South imported and sold the same items. As a result, this gave residents throughout the colonies a shared experience and a shared language of consumer culture. It helped to tie them together as a community, Breen argues, that facilitated conversations about political rights, especially concerning commerce and taxation within the British Empire. Colonists used consumer culture as one starting point for understanding their position in the empire.

This advertisement, almost indistinguishable from advertisement that appeared in newspapers in colonies far away, testifies to those shared experienced and that common language of consumer culture.

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