What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“MADEIRA, Fyall and Lisbon Wine, by the Quarter Cask, Dozen, or lesser Quantity.”
In the 1760s many advertisements announced that merchants and shopkeepers sold an assortment of goods recently imported from London and other locations throughout England and the British Empire. Cornelia Smith’s advertisement, however, demonstrates that colonists participated in a transatlantic and increasingly global network of exchange that extended beyond the holdings of any single nation-state or empire. An array of foods, raw materials, and finished goods moved around and among extensive empires. Consumers regularly purchased merchandise from exotic and faraway places.
Smith sold wines from three different parts of Portugal’s maritime trading empire. The “Lisbon Wine” came from the capital city on the Iberian peninsula, but “MADEIRA” and “Fyall” wines came from two of the island chains in the eastern Atlantic that Europeans encountered in the fifteenth century as they searched for trade routes that would connect them to marketplaces in Asia.
Portuguese settlers arrived in Madeira in 1418 by accident when they were blown off course by a storm as they were attempting to navigate the western coast of Africa. A year later they returned to the archipelago to officially claim if for the Portuguese crown. Settlement began in the 1420s.
Faial (often spelled “Fyal” or “Fyall” in the eighteenth century) is one of the Azorean islands. Portuguese sailors first arrived in the Azores in 1427, exploring the easternmost islands (São Miguel, Santa Maria, and Terceira) first. They did not arrive in Faial, the westernmost of the central group of islands, until 1451.
Most residents in England’s North American colonies were unlikely to ever visit Lisbon, Madeira, or Faial, but they were familiar with the wines that came from those places. At a time that they were working out their relationship to England in the wake of the Stamp Act and frequently promoting the virtues of goods produced in America, they were also citizens of the world who participated in networks of exchange that crisscrossed the Atlantic and beyond.