May 22

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

May 22 - 5:22:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 22, 1766).

“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.

May 22 - Madeira Map
Map showing location of Madeira.

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.

May 22 - Azores Map
Map showing location of the Azores.

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.

May 22 - Ortelius Map
Abraham Ortelius, Acores Insulae (Antwerp, 1608).

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.

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:19:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (May 19, 1766).

“CATALOGUES to be had gratis at the London Book-Store.”

Bookseller John Mein published an advertisement that offered to deliver and distribute another advertising medium to potential customers: his book catalogue. Residents of Boston could pick up a free catalogue “at the London Book-Store, a few Days before the Sale.” While they were there, they could also examine the books, stoking their anticipation of the auction scheduled to take place at the end of the month. Mein also offered to send catalogues to potential customers who lived in the city’s hinterland. (Mein addressed them as “GENTLEMEN in the COUNTRY,” though women read books too.)

May 20 - Catalog Cover
John Mein, A Catalogue of Curious and Valuable Books, To Be Sold at the London Book-Store (Boston:  William McAlpine(?), 1766).  American Antiquarian Society.

Some early American bookseller’s catalogues have been lost over the years, but Robert B. Winans has compiled A Descriptive Checklist of Books Catalogues, Separately Printed in America, 1693-1800 that includes 278 catalogues still extant.[1] In addition, Winans identified eight others not extant but for which good evidence can be found that they were printed, 138 other unlocated catalogues, and 265 references to additional unlocated catalogues from another bibliographer’s American Book Auction Catalogues. Though less than half have survived, book catalogues were a common marketing medium in eighteenth-century America.

May 20 - Catalog Interior
John Mein, A Catalogue of Curious and Valuable Books, To Be Sold at the London Book-Store (Boston:  William McAlpine(?), 1766).  American Antiquarian Society.

Here’s the main body of Winan’s entry for the catalogue mentioned in today’s advertisement:

Bookseller’s catalogue: total of 1741 consecutively numbered short author entries, 367 in the first catalogue , arranged by format, and 1375 (numbers 368-1741) in the second, arrangement not consistent, partly by format and partly by subject. Subject headings: [miscellaneous]; classics; law; physic and surgery; books of entertainment (the largest group); divinity; tragedies; comedies and operas; pretty little books for children; magazines; political pamphlets, poems, &c.; maps; Bibles, prayerbooks, &c. Date: Mein advertised the catalogue in the Boston Evening-Post, May 19, 1766.

May 20 - Catalog Final Page
John Mein, A Catalogue of Curious and Valuable Books, To Be Sold at the London Book-Store (Boston:  William McAlpine(?), 1766).  American Antiquarian Society.

**********

[1] Robert B. Winans, A Descriptive Checklist of Book Catalogues Separately Printed in America, 1693-1800 (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1981).

Review of T.H. Breen, “George Washington’s Journey to the Nation”

Last night I attended the penultimate presentation in the American Antiquarian Society’s Spring 2016 Public Programs series, T.H. Breen’s examination of “George Washington’s Journey to the Nation,” a lecture cosponsored by the Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series at Becker College. Breen recently published George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation (2016). I have not yet had a chance to read this book; I offer here a review and reactions to the lecture presented in Antiquarian Hall.

May 20 - George Washington's Journey
George Washington’s Journey

In his opening remarks, Breen commented that he particularly enjoys making presentations about his books because doing so gives him opportunities to share “all the wonderful aspects of the book.” Public lectures allow him to set the record straight in the wake of reviewers who misinterpret or miss the point of his work. What follows here may or may not miss the point, in Breen’s estimation, but it does seek to engage with the narrative he presented.

In researching George Washington’s Journey, Breen set out to trace a series of trips that the nation’s first president undertook during the first two years of his first term in office, journeys to all thirteen of the original states, from Georgia to the Maine frontier (then still part of Massachusetts), between 1789 and 1791. Washington made these journeys, Breen contended, as a means of bringing the federal government to “the people.” To a greater degree than other founders, according to Breen, Washington realized that the new republic would succeed or fail based on the attitudes of the people, the masses that were still organizing their thoughts about the meaning of the Revolution and attempting to figure out what they wanted the new nation to be. Washington realized that common men had replaced the quiet deference that existed before the Revolution with new modes of interacting in everyday life and raucous participation in local politics. All too often the focus was too local, privileging the needs of the individual states over the nation as a whole. More than once Breen reminded the audience that Washington favored a stronger federal government as a means of strengthening the nation, an aspect of the drafting, ratification, and implementation of the Constitution that all too many of the devotees of the founders seem unaware. Republican government was an experiment, one that Washington (as well as others in the founding generation) feared could fail. Washington worried for the economic stability and military security of the new nation. This made his journeys to the states – to the people – imperative. He understood “that the threads that bound the American people to a single political identity were fragile and untested.” To knit those threads together, he took the federal government to the people, in the form of his own person, to help those overly fixated on local interests realize that the nation amounted to more than the sum of its parts.

Breen made convincing arguments about the purpose and effects of Washington’s journeys, but I couldn’t help but feel that he overstated his case. A significant undercurrent that ran throughout his lecture could be summed up by the subtitle of his book: The President Forges a New Nation. (Yes, I understand that publishers, rather than the historians who write the books, often craft the titles in order to appeal to broad audiences. That being said, Breen’s presentation embraced the general sentiment of that subtitle.) Breen told a story in which the fate of the nation depended on a single individual, suggesting that without Washington’s itinerary through cities, towns, and villages in each of the states that the people in those separate states would not have coalesced as a unified nation. I question to what extent the president alone forged the new nation. I do not disagree that Washington’s journeys played an important role in knitting together geographically distant constituencies that had their own interests. I’ll incorporate this aspect of Washington’s presidency into the coursework and classroom discussion the next time I teach my course on the Era of the American Revolution and the Constitution.

Yet Washington did not singlehandedly unify the new nation. A variety of people, events, and factors also played significant parts in the process, including merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, authors, artists, and printers who promoted patriotic and nationalist consumer and visual cultures in the 1780s and 1790s. I do not object to acknowledging the purpose of Washington’s journeys throughout the nation, but I am cautious when doing so skates right up to hagiographical depictions of the first president by suggesting the survival and success of the republican experiment could be traced back exclusively to a single cause, one insightful leader who engaged with and made himself accessible to the people.

Breen stated that the Washington who made these journeys was a Washington that most people, even the most ardent fans of the first president, probably do not know. When considering the constellation of founders that served in Washington’s administration, the president sometimes recedes into the background. He was genial, but not usually depicted as a particularly daring risk taker or bold innovator when considered in the company of his more intellectual peers, especially Jefferson and Hamilton. Not as comfortable interacting with others in social situations as those men, Washington often seemed awkward in comparison and lacking their charm, despite his general amiability. The Washington who made himself accessible to the people, who made a point of traveling to visit them in their own towns, who insisted on staying in public inns (Washington slept here!) rather than secluding himself in the homes of the local elite and powerful, who interacted with men, women, and children throughout the nation, is a Washington perhaps unfamiliar to most Americans. Washington was a man among the people, not just a man of the people.

Yes, this may be a new Washington that historians and the public may not have previously encountered, but the overall tone of Breen’s presentation – all the superlatives concerning the first president and his intentions for undertaking his journeys – does little to shift general perceptions of Washington. Overall, Breen seemed to reify Washington as exceptional and extraordinary. Certainly it must be possible to recognize Washington as the gifted and effective leader that he was, to honor his achievements and contributions to the nation, without implying that his actions were the only (or even the most important) factor in unifying the new nation. Breen tells an important and powerful story, but it is a story that would benefit from more context. It needs to be situated within other narratives and interpretations of the politics and culture of the first decades of the new American republic.

May 19

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

May 19 - 5:19:1766 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (May 19, 1766).

“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.

May 18

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

May 18 - 5:17:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 17, 1766).

“Ladies in the Country may be supplied by sending measures.”

It was not necessary to visit William Harvey’s shop for a fitting. He made “WOMEN’s and children’s stays, … women’s riding dresses, cloaks and cardinals, vests and tunicks” for “Ladies in the Country” who sent their measurements to him. Mail order and catalog shopping became especially popular at the end of the nineteenth century, but this service offered by a “STAY-MAKER and TAYLOR” in eighteenth-century Philadelphia” could rightly be considered a precursor of those methods of marketing and selling goods.

In addition to capturing a greater portion of the market, there were other advantages to conducting portions of the staymaking business solely through letters. Taking measurements required close personal contact between the staymaker and the customer. Harvey could avoid potential accusations of impropriety, at least as far as his patrons “in the Country” were concerned, by eliminating face-to-face encounters.

That Harvey acknowledged “Ladies in the Country” also demonstrates the reach of colonial newspapers and the advertisements in them. Newspapers did not serve only the city in which they were printed. Instead, they were distributed throughout a vast hinterland, in part because there were so few newspapers. In 1766, only four newspapers were printed in the entire colony of Pennsylvania, three in Philadelphia (two English and one German) and one in nearby Germantown (in German). That meant that the Pennsylvania Journal was a “local” newspaper for colonists who lived outside Philadelphia and William Harvey was a “local” staymaker and tailor. He advertised accordingly.

May 17

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

May 17 - 5:17:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 17, 1766).

Hosier Daniel Mause made assertive claims about the value of purchasing stockings produced domestically. Note from the date of the advertisement (May 8) that Mause and other colonists certainly knew that the Stamp Act had been repealed; this advertisement was not a holdover reprinted from weeks or months earlier. That Mause considered it necessary or persuasive to insert an advertisement that so stridently promoted “the produce and manufacture of AMERICA only” suggests that even though the Stamp Act crisis was over the rift between the colonies and Britain had not closed completely. Mause eyed the parent country with suspicion and knew that others did as well.

It might be tempting to argue that Mause was merely being opportunistic and making whatever appeal was necessary in an attempt to increase business. Such an explanation by itself, however, remains unconvincing. Even if Mause did not firmly embrace the political ideas he pronounced in this advertisement, he certainly expected that they would resonate with readers. Mause’s politics and desire to make a living and earn a profit were not necessarily mutually exclusive. In addition, this advertisement depicts the anxieties other colonists felt and the solutions they embraced.

To help concerned consumers know where they could purchase his “PENNSYLVANIA MADE STOCKINGS” Mause informed them that they were available at “the sign of the Hand in Hand stocking manufactory” as well the store operated by “THOMAS BOND, jun. & Company.” In effect, he designated an approved vendor of his merchandise.

May 16

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

May 16 - Subscription 5:16:1766 Rind's Virginia Gazette
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (May 16, 1766).

“THE Publisher of the GAZETTE, will esteem it as a Favour.”

Special circumstances prompt me to deviate from the usual “featured advertisement” format today. On this day 250 years ago William Rind published the first issue of Rind’s Virginia Gazette, as promised in an advertisement featured last week. This presents an opportunity to look at advertising as it appeared from the very start of a publication. Considering that colonial newspapers tended to make any profit from advertising, not from subscriptions, I was curious to examine to what extent advertising appeared in the first issue of Rind’s Virginia Gazette.

May 16 - Advert Extra 5:16:1766 Rind's Virginia Gazette
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (May 16, 1766).

Rind inserted an “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary” originally published in the Boston Gazette (April 21, 1766); the Adverts 250 Project previously featured this “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinaryreprinted in the New-Hampshire Gazette (April 25, 1766) and noted when it also appeared in the Newport Mercury (April 28, 1766). It quite likely appeared in many other newspapers in April and May 1766. The original and the reprints in the New-Hampshire Gazette and the Newport Mercury all included this final line: “P.S. All Printers throughout this Continent are desired to publish this Advertisement.” Although this “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary” did not generate any revenue for Rind, it was valuable content that demonstrated to readers that they could depend on the printer’s connections to deliver news of interest from throughout the colonies.

May 16 - Lee 5:16:1766 Rind's Virginia Gazette
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (May 16, 1766).

The next two advertisements that appeared in the first issue of Rind’s Virginia Gazette took a distinctly partisan tone, making them appropriate complements to the “Advertisement Extraordinary.” In one, Francis Lightfoot Lee, member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and future signer of the Declaration of Independence, warned friends and acquaintances against picking up letters addressed to him at the post office because “he is determined never willingly to pay a Farthing of any TAX laid upon this COUNTRY, in an UNCONSTITUTIONAL MANNER.”

May 16 - 5:16:1766 Rind's Virginia Gazette
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (May 16, 1766).

The other advertisement with a partisan valence marketed a pamphlet that examined ‘THE PROPRIETY OF IMPOSING TAXES IN THE BRITISH COLONIES, For the Purpose of raising a REVENUE, by ACT of PARLIAMENT.” Although “LATELY PUBLISHED, And to be SOLD by WILLIAM RIND,” these two descriptions need to be separated from each other. Rind likely sold a pamphlet that had recently been published by another printer. This same advertisement, except for the information about where it was sold, previously appeared in a variety of newspapers in New England and the Middle Atlantic. Either the pamphlet’s printer provided printers and booksellers with copy to place their own advertisements or Rind borrowed the copy from other newspapers (just as he had done with the “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary.” Either way, the newspaper did not generate any revenue from this advertisement; Rind inserted it to advance his other branches of his printing and bookselling business. (This calls into question whether Lee paid to insert his advertisement, dated a month earlier, into Rind’s Virginia Gazette or if Rind reprinted it from another publication.)

May 16 - Stray Horse 5:16:1766 Rind's Virginia Gazette
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (May 16, 1766).

Daniel Baxter’s notice (dated May 12) about a stray or stolen horse was certainly a new advertisement. Similar advertisements appeared frequently in newspapers throughout the colonies. The misfortune of the advertisers financially benefited the printers who published their advertisements.

May 16 - Subscription 5:16:1766 Rind's Virginia Gazette
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (May 16, 1766).

Rind inserted one more advertisement of his own, an abbreviated version of his request for “Gentlemen who have obliged him by taking in Subscriptions” to return the lists to him as soon as possible. A more extensive version appeared a week earlier in the competing Virginia Gazette.

May 16 - Colophon 5:16:1766 Rind's Virginia Gazette
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (May 16, 1766).

Finally, the colophon encouraged readers to become subscribers and presented the terms for advertising in Rind’s Virginia Gazette. “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length are inserted for 3 s. the First Week, and 2 s. each Time after: And long Ones in Proportion.” Rind adopted a price structure that exactly replicated that of the Virginia Gazette. He didn’t seek to undercut the competition (doing so might not have allowed for any profit), but he also attempted to make advertising in his newspaper as attractive as possible.

Even though Rind had previously advertised in the Virginia Gazette that he intended to begin publishing his own newspaper, very little advertising appeared in the first issue. That makes sense since not even Rind seemed certain of how many people had signed up as subscribers. Potential advertisers likely waited to see how successful Rind’s Virginia Gazette would be, delaying decisions to purchase advertising space until they had a better sense that doing so would likely produce a satisfactory return on their investment. For his part, Rind inserted enough advertising to assure others that their marketing efforts would not stand alone in his newspaper.

May 15

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

May 15 - 5:15:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 15, 1766).

“To be sold by MARY HARVEY, … a well chosen and neat Assortment of Dry and wet Goods.”

Female shopkeepers were disproportionately underrepresented among the advertisements placed in colonial newspapers. Consciously seeking to avoid erasing women from the commercial landscape as producers, suppliers, and retailers – not solely as consumers on the other side of exchanges – I take notice every time I spot an advertisement placed by a woman when I am making selections about which to feature here.

It would be unfair, however, to assume that I chose Mary Harvey’s advertisement solely based on her sex. It reveals so much more about early American marketing and consumer culture than “just” demonstrating that women played varied roles (though I contend that is significant in its own right). When I first began studying eighteenth-century advertising I expected to identify distinct methods or appeals made by men and women, but Mary Harvey’s advertisement, like so many others placed by women, demonstrates that male and female advertisers relied on similar appeals. In this advertisement, Harvey promised low prices. By providing an extensive list of her wares she also engaged potential customers to think of the range of choices that will allow them to make selections according to their own tastes.

Harvey also concludes with a political appeal that mirrored those frequently made by male advertisers: “as she has made it her Study to promote Home-made Manufactures, she hopes for the Countenance of her old Friends, and all those who are Lovers of their Country.” Although not allowed to participate in the formal mechanisms of politics due to her sex, Harvey joined many others in imbuing consumer choices with political ramifications. Through her advertising, Mary Harvey gained a voice in public discourse about the Stamp Act, the Declaratory Act, and the relationship between Parliament and the colonies.

May 14

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

May 14 - 5:12:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (May 12, 1766).

“The whole are made from Patterns of the newest Fashion.”

Last week I argued that when Stephen Hardy introduced himself as “TAYLOR from LONDON” that he suggested to potential customers that they could depend on him to outfit them in the latest fashions from the cosmopolitan center of the British Empire. Joseph Beck, “STAYMAKER, from LONDON,” deployed the same strategy, though he did so much more explicitly. Rather than expect readers to make the connection on their own, he stated that the stays (eighteenth-century undergarments similar to corsets) he made were of a fashion “now preferred by Ladies of the first Distinction in London.”

An ocean separated Beck and other New Yorkers from London, but the staymaker assured potential customers that all of his wares were “made from Patterns of the newest Fashion.” This was possible because he remained in contact with others who pursued his occupation in the empire’s largest city: the patterns were “constantly sent him by some of the most eminent Staymakers in London.” Beck had connections. Those connections gave him access to the latest fashions and, in turn, gave cachet to the stays he made and sold.

After establishing that his stays were quite fashionable, Beck made an interesting pivot. He combined a “Buy American” appeal with his promises of London cosmopolitanism. Not only did he sell his stays at a lower price than those imported from England, since they were “made in this City, and the Stuff mostly of the Product of America, it’s hoped the Ladies will give the Preference on that Account.”

American colonists did not smoothly break away from Britain, politically, economically, or culturally. Beck’s advertisement transmitted competing messages about the economic independence of the colonies while shoring up British identity and fashion.