What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He will also bake every day … any thing for dinner that may be sent to him.”
Joseph Williams promoted the bread and biscuits he baked “at his house opposite to the Dutch church,” a landmark so familiar that no other directions were necessary in Savannah in 1766. In addition to the bread and other baked goods he made each day, Williams announced that he provided an additional service: “He will also bake every day between 11 and 1 o’clock any thing for dinner that may be sent to him.” What exactly did Williams mean “any thing for dinner that may be sent to him”? Did he anticipate that patrons would send him orders that he would fulfill? Or did he envision that customers would drop off items that they had prepared but wished for him to bake in his ovens? Whatever the answer, Williams peddled more than bread and biscuits. He sold convenience to readers in Savannah, aiding them in preparing that day’s dinner, and provided a service that would have been attractive to a variety of customers, from single laborers to wives burdened with a myriad other domestic chores. Williams offered an eighteenth-century version of take-out food. In so doing, he commodified convenience.
One thought on “June 4”
Bakers traditionally would bake the dinners of those who could not afford the facilities to handle a large meal. It is mentioned in A Christmas Carol. The Crachits could not afford an oven, and the children walked by the bake shop and KNEW it was their goose cooking.
This continued into living memory. My parents, growing up in 1920s Malden, MA (Italian immigrants on one side, Irish on the other and poor as church mice on both sides) had experience of it. As late as the 1980s, when our one oven was inadequate to the numerous dishes for a holiday dinner, my father suggested taking the main dish to the baker. Seriously. I thought it was the oddest suggestion I had ever heard. Until I learned the history of bakers doing that. He was surprised to learn that bakers don’t do that anymore.
When you think about it, it makes sense. The baker had labor in the forms of journeymen and apprentices who were not paid by the hour and we’re living on the premises anyway, plus large oven capacity. So, he would charge the poor a penny or two to bake their dinner in his oven. Meets a need his customers and neighbor’s had, and probably makes a small profit on the transaction.