June 30

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

Jun 30 - 6:30:1766 New-York Mercury
New-York Mercury (June 30, 1766).

“BOOKS & STATIONARY, Just imported, and to be sold by HUGH GAINE.”

Hugh Gaine printed the New-York Mercury, though it is clear from the masthead that he considered himself more than just a printer. He listed his occupations as “Printer, Bookseller, and Stationer.” In that regard, Gaine was not much different from other printers who published newspapers in colonial America. They often supplemented the income from operating the newspaper by selling a variety of other products and services associated broadly with the book trades.

Jun 30 - 6:30:1766 Masthead New-York Mercury
Masthead for the New-York Mercury (June 30, 1766).

Gaine devised a headline for his advertisement, which was not a standard practice but also not unknown. He announced that he sold “BOOKS & STATIONARY,” merchandise associated with the book trades. Upon closer examination of his advertisement, however, potential customers would have discovered that in addition to books, stationery, and writing supplies (including “Leather Ink-pots,” “most excellent Sealing-Wax,” and “Office Quils and Pens”), he also sold “a great Variety of other Articles,” including musical instruments, telescopes, and paper hangings (what we would today call wallpaper). Gaine stocked a good deal of merchandise beyond the newspaper he printed.

Setting aside those items, half of his lengthy advertisement promoted a patent medicine, the pectoral balsam of honey, and concluded with a “BEAUTIFYING LOTION.” (One of the benefits of printing the newspaper must have been inserting his own advertisements of whatever length he wished.) Gaine may or may not have written the copy for this portion of the advertisement; he may have copied it directly from other promotional materials sent to him by the suppliers of this remedy. It may seem strange today that a “Printer, Bookseller, and Stationer” peddled patent medicines in the eighteenth century, but Gaine was certainly not the only one who did so. A variety of printers and booksellers included a few lines devoted to patent medicines in their book catalogues, demonstrating that they really diversified the merchandise they offered to customers.

June 29

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

Jun 29 - 6:27:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (June 27, 1766).

Edward Westmore’s advertisement tells only a portion of the story of “a Negro fellow named JAMES” who had been “COMMITTED to the publick gaol [jail] in Williamsburg,” Virginia. It appears that Westmore believed that James was a runaway slave; he refers to James having an owner, but it seems less clear that James acknowledged that he was a runaway or that anybody had alerted Westmore and other Virginians to be alert for a runaway fitting James’ description (including the distinctive “gashes of his country” that marked each cheek, an African practice).

James apparently revealed a portion of his past to Westmore, including a sale that took place six years earlier when Colonel Hunter sold him to David Sallen. Did Sallen still own James? Did James acknowledge that Sallen was his master and admit to being a runaway? It’s difficult to reach a definitive conclusion based on the truncated narrative in this advertisement. James reported that he had most recently been in Philadelphia, but whether he was there with his master – either Sallen or someone else – was ambiguous, at least as far as what was reported in Westmore’s advertisement. After all, it states that “The owner may have him” rather than “said Sallen may have him.”

James may very well have been a runaway slave. It was the most probable scenario, but it wasn’t the only one. It was also possible that he had achieved or been granted his freedom, yet as an African man traveling through Virginia he would have been subject to suspicion. His word would not necessarily have been enough to keep him from being captured and committed to the local jail with the expectation that a master was looking for him and would eventually claim him. His appearance alone – the color of his skin and his African origins – made him a target for harassment and incarceration that would not have been directed at most white colonists.

June 28

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

Jun 28 - 6:27:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (June 27, 1766).

“JUST arrived … two hundred choice healthy Windward and Gold Coast slaves.”

Eighteenth-century advertisements for consumer goods often deployed formulaic language, especially for goods “just imported from” London or other ports in England or the Caribbean. This advertisement offers several variations on those familiar advertisements.

First of all, “the ship Apollo, Capt. Elias Glover,” carried human cargo – slaves – rather than the “bauble of Britain” so frequently advertised in newspapers throughout the colonies. Although slaves were often offered for sale in the New England and the Middle Atlantic colonies, ships loaded with two hundred Africans usually did not sail into those ports. Here we encounter a regional difference in the kinds of advertisements that appeared in local newspapers. Rather than a ship loaded with textiles, housewares, and grocery items, Captain Glover’s vessel delivered people who had been reduced to commodities to be put up for sale.

The slave traders who sold this human cargo – Thomas Tabb, William Bolden, and John Lawrence – reported that the Apollo had come from Africa, but they do not make clear whether it had made any stops along the way. Were these slaves being imported directly from Africa? Or had the Apollo stopped in the Caribbean or other ports on the North American mainland before making its way to the James River?

Not unlike advertisements for dry goods or hardware, this notice emphasized the quality of the commodities offered for sale: they were “choice” and “healthy.” Furthermore, they came from specific places in Africa, the Windward and Gold Coasts. Plantation owners often desired slaves from particular regions, associating specific skills or knowledge with those places.

All in all, even though the wording differed from advertisements for goods imported from England, this and other advertisements for slaves took a similar tone. What seems horrifying from a twenty-first-century perspective was business as usual for slaveholders and slave traders. None of that even takes into account the perspectives of the enslaved Africans themselves.

June 27

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

Jun 27 - 6:27:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 27, 1766).

“Eloped from me Frances Doyne of Pembrook, my Wife Jerusha Doyne.”

Frances Doyne was an anxious and disgruntled patriarch.

Advertisements for runaway wives were a common feature in eighteenth-century newspapers. Any given issue of a newspaper was likely to carry such an advertisement. On occasion some four-page issues included two or more advertisements for runaway wives. Depending on the town where the newspaper was published, advertisements for runaway wives might appear as often as announcements about other runaways, including slaves, indentured servants, and apprentices.  The Adverts 250 Project has previously featured other advertisements for runaway wives, including Robert Hebbard and a response on behalf of his wife Joanna (and further consideration by historian J.L. Bell) and the competing claims of Cornelius M’Carty and Jonathan Remington concerning Lydia M’Carty.

Readers of eighteenth-century newspaper were familiar with the conventions of the runaway wife advertisement. They tended to follow a formula and often used boilerplate language, making them virtually interchangeable except for the names of the husbands and wives. In most instances a husband reported that his wife had departed from their home (often using the phrase “eloped from me” in contrast to “eloped with me” – a very different meaning of eloping than its most common usage today). The husband further warned merchants and shopkeepers not to extend any credit to the disobedient wife because he would not cover any debts for his recalcitrant spouse.

Many scholars have used advertisements for runaway wives to explore the domestic relationships and marital relationships in the eighteenth century. Several have used them as evidence of women making use of informal or extralegal means of expressing agency and pursuing their own best interests in a society that formally excluded them from full participation in the public realm. For a wife reduced by colonial laws to the status of feme covert, running away from an abusive or unpleasant husband was a means of resistance.

Frances Doyne offered an interesting variation at the conclusion of his advertisement warning against his wife, Jerusha. In a nota bene he stated, “If she returns, she will be kindly received upon reasonable Terms.” Most husbands who placed these sorts of advertisements did not address the possibility of the wife returning; most likely assumed that it was the duty of the woman to return and assume her proper place in the household. After all, a runaway wife already undermined her husband’s authority and reputation as a man capable of properly ordering his household. Why seem to be negotiating or pleading with her to return. Doyne, however, presented that as a possibility. While the rest of the advertisement was for all readers, the nota bene was directed at Jerusha Doyne specifically. It very well could have been, however, that Frances and Jerusha had very different notions of what it mean to be “kindly received upon reasonable Terms.”

June 26

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

Jun 26 - 6:26:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 26, 1766).

“He undertakes to cure Consumptions, and the Golden Vein.”

Today’s advertisement demonstrates the shifts in everyday language and medical terminology that have taken place between the eighteenth century and today. To most modern readers it is not readily apparent which affliction John Peter Steg, “Practitioner in Physick and Surgery,” promised to cure when he included “Consumptions, and the Golden Vein” in his advertisement. Though tuberculosis continued to be known as consumption throughout the nineteenth century and is still familiarly known by that term, it is possible that Steg had other symptoms or maladies in mind as well. What is more certain is that reference to “the Golden Vein” has passed out of our daily lexicon.

So what was the Golden Vein? This affliction was also known as the piles (another term we do not employ today), but is commonly called hemorrhoids today. (Given all the euphemisms deployed in marketing a variety of remedies to be administered at home for some of the most sensitive and delicate health issues, modern purveyors of a variety of ointments, creams, medicated pads, and other products should revive the use of “the Golden Vein” in their advertising, don’t you think?!)

Hemorrhoids may have earned the nickname “Golden Vein” in relationship to the medical theory of the humors, the most commonly held view of the human body among European and Anglo-American physicians until the nineteenth century. According to this system, each individual achieved good health by balancing the four humors, black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. This helps to explain why bloodletting was a frequent treatment. Some scholars have suggested that hemorrhoids became known as the “Golden Vein” because they presented an opportunity to discharge excess or unhealthy blood and return balance to the body. Christopher E. Forth indicates that hemorrhoids “were sometimes praised as a cost-saving ‘golden vein’ because they were “an easy way to purge oneself of excess humours (thus obviating the need to pay a physician to do the honours).” Furthermore, Forth reports, “Many physicians even approved o haemorrhoidal bleeding as a healthy male counterpart to menstrual flux, perhaps as a sign that men could withstand losses of blood just as women did every month.”[1]

References to a medical problem called “the Golden Vein” do not register with modern readers, but John Peter Steg certainly used language that colonists would have understood. We continue to deploy euphemisms and code words when talking about the intersection of medicine and the body with consumer goods and services. The words may have changed, but the practice has endured.

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[1] Christopher E. Forth, “Painful Paradoxes: Consumption, Sacrifice, and Man-Building in the Age of Nationalism,” in Medicine, Religion, and the Body, ed. Elizabeth Burns Coleman, and Kevin White (Brill, 2009).

June 25

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

Jun 25 - 6:25:1766 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 25, 1766).

“The surviving Copartners of Alexande Fyffe and Co. Give this Publick Notice.”

“NOTWITHSTANDING the repeated notice the subscribers have from time to time given.”

DANIEL OCAIN in Savannah, HATH opened a house of entertainment.”

This page of the Georgia Gazette has a rather curious layout. Four of the advertisements have been rotated to run perpendicular to the others printed on the page. I previously encountered something similar in the New-Hampshire Gazette. I hypothesized that it might be an attempt to used layout innovatively to draw attention to the advertisements, but upon consulting original copies (rather than digitized surrogates) of the New-Hampshire Gazette I discovered that the paper supply had been disrupted temporarily. The newspaper had been printed on smaller sheets, which prompted the printer to rotate some of the advertisements already set in type as a strategy for squeezing in as many as possible on a smaller page.

I wondered if that might be the case in this instance. I consulted the original issue of the Georgia Gazette in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society, but I encountered something rather different this time around. In addition to the usual broadsheet folded in half to create a four-page issue, the printer also distributed an additional quarter sheet with advertisements printed on one side only. Fairly regularly in the eighteenth century an additional half sheet (printed on both sides) accompanied the four-page broadsheet newspaper, especially in urban ports with well-established presses and periodical publications. This quarter page advertising supplement, however, was quite unique. I have not previously encountered others like it.

Jun 25 - Quarter Sheet
Quarter sheet advertising supplement accompanying the Georgia Gazette (June 25, 1766).  American Antiquarian Society.

Why did the printer of the Georgia Gazette do this? It was not uncommon for printers to insert messages alerting readers (and presumably the advertisers themselves) that advertisement excluded in the current issue would be printed in the next. Why not do that in this instance? Was there such a backlog of advertising that the printer needed to publish these as soon as possible in order to satisfy readers and advertisers alike? Or was there another explanation for this curious quarter sheet?

June 24

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

Jun 24 - 6:23:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (June 23, 1766).

“Said PADDOCK has always a Number of second-hand Chaises to dispose of.”

Coachmaker Adino Paddock made a variety of appeals intended to incite demand for his products and services among readers of the Boston Post-Boy. He promoted his own expertise and the care that went into overseeing everything produced in his workshop. He emphasized his prices (“cheaper than in any other Province on the Continent”) and the fine customer service he provided (“those who employ him may depend upon being served in the best Manner”).

In a separate paragraph, Paddock included two final offers that likely look very familiar to modern consumers, especially anyone who has ever purchased a car. Not unlike today, owning a means of transportation in the eighteenth century was expensive. Paddock, like modern car dealers, offered means for potential customers to purchase his wares while reducing the costs, thus making owning carriage a more achievable goal for a greater number of colonists. While Paddock still addressed a relatively small market, only a portion of colonial Bostonians, he did what he could to bring in as many customers as possible.

Paddock underscored that he “has always a Number of second-hand Chaises to dispose of, very cheap.” Today many consumers purchase used cars because they are a less expensive alternative to new cars. In selling “second-hand Chaises,” Paddock became the eighteenth-century equivalent of a used car dealer.

He also indicated that he “will take old Chaises as part of Pay for new.” Trading in a car to offset the price of a new one has long been a standard practice, but this advertisement suggests that it was not especially innovative in the twentieth century. For significant investments in vehicles for personal transportation, coachmakers like Adino Paddock already devised a trade in system more than a century before automobiles were invented.