June 9

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

Jun 9 - 6:9:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (June 9, 1766).

“Sattin … Persians … Taffeties … Patches … Callicoes … Bengals … Ginghams … Cherederies.”

When Jane Gillam announced that she stocked “a Variety of English Goods” she was not exaggerating. The shopkeeper named approximately fifty textiles, but that may not have been an exhaustive list. Even if it was, she offered a dizzying assortment of fabrics, especially considering that some fabrics came in multiple colors or patterns.

To many modern readers, this advertisement may seem disorienting. What’s the difference between “Cherederies” and “Garlicks” or between “Callamancoes” and “Ozenbrigs”? Gillam expected eighteenth-century readers – her potential customers – recognized all the variations, but most of the distinctions are likely lost among modern Americans. Fortunately, historians of material culture have created a variety of resources documenting the different types of fabrics that made their way across oceans and into merchants’ warehouses and retailers’ shops.

Advertisements like those placed by Gillam have aided historians in determining which fabrics were available in early America. Consider the subtitle for one of the standard works in the field, Florence M. Montgomery’s Textiles in America, 1650-1870: A Dictionary Based on Original Documents, Prints and Paintings, Commercial Records, American Merchants’ Papers, Shopkeepers’ Advertisements, and Pattern Books with Original Swatches of Cloth (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).

Initially I set about providing a short description of each fabric in Gillam’s advertisement as described in Montgomery’s dictionary, but I quickly discovered that the distinctions were too numerous and too complicated to do that here. Instead, how about a quick definition of the four textiles listed above, just to get a sense of what colonial Americans knew about textile that most Americans never learn.

Cherederies = Cherryderry (charadary, carridary): “Striped or checked woven cloth of mixed silk and cotton imported from India from the late seventeenth century.” (199)

Garlicks = Garlick (garlits, garlix, gulick, gulix): “A linen cloth first imported from Goerlitz, Silesia. It could be fully or partially bleached.” (245)

Callamancoes = Calimanco (calamande, calamandre): “A worsted ‘stuff … [with] a fine gloss upon it. There are calamancoes of all colours, and diversly wrought; some ate quite plain; others have broad stripes, adorned with flowers; some with plain broad stripes; some with narrow stripes; and others watered.’” (185)

Ozenbrigs = Osnaburg (oznabrig): “Coarse, unbleached linen or hempen cloth first made in Osnabrück, Germany. It was commonly used for trousers, sacking, and bagging.” (312)

As we can see from the descriptions of just four of the fabrics listed in Gillam’s advertisement, colonial consumers imagined different uses for different kinds of cloth. At a glance, they would have made assumptions about which they desired and which they could afford.

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