July 11

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

Jul 11 - 7:11:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (July 11, 1766).

To be SOLD, or RENTED, with to without NEGROES, A NEW SAW MILL.”

This advertisement seeking someone to buy or rent “A NEW SAW MILL” on the Chowan River listed a variety of amenities, including the option of “NEGROES” being included in the deal. This differs significantly from commercial and industrial real estate advertisements today. Indeed, before even mentioning any of the other amenities associated with the property, Cullen Pollok announced that the sawmill could be sold or rented “with or without NEGROES.” The enslaved workers were treated like any other part of the infrastructure of the mill.

That slaves could be included in the purchase of this sawmill reveals something about how it operated. While the slaves certainly contributed their labor, the mill’s owner also benefited from the knowledge that slaves brought to the enterprise. Operating a sawmill required specific skills and a routine designed for efficiency. Experience was important as well. A new owner or overseer could certainly train slaves to take on these responsibilities over time, but the advertisement provided the option of a skilled workforce already intact. Reading this advertisement from a twenty-first-century perspective might privilege the labor provided by the enslaved workers, but eighteenth-century readers would have also factored in other advantages – skill and expertise – that those workers provided. Their familiarity with this particular mill would have been invaluable.

Even if a buyer or renter did not wish to set the slaves to work in the sawmill, they were available to work “a small plantation cleared on the river side,” just one of the many amenities listed with the house with “one brick chimney, and a very fine orchard.”

This advertisement seeking someone to buy or rent “A NEW SAW MILL” on the Chowan River listed a variety of amenities, including the option of “NEGROES” being included in the deal. This differs significantly from commercial and industrial real estate advertisements today. Indeed, before even mentioning any of the other amenities associated with the property, Cullen Pollok announced that the sawmill could be sold or rented “with or without NEGROES.” The enslaved workers were treated like any other part of the infrastructure of the mill.

That slaves could be included in the purchase of this sawmill reveals something about how it operated. While the slaves certainly contributed their labor, the mill’s owner also benefited from the knowledge that slaves brought to the enterprise. Operating a sawmill required specific skills and a routine designed for efficiency. Experience was important as well. A new owner or overseer could certainly train slaves to take on these responsibilities over time, but the advertisement provided the option of a skilled workforce already intact. Reading this advertisement from a twenty-first-century perspective might privilege the labor provided by the enslaved workers, but eighteenth-century readers would have also factored in other advantages – skill and expertise – that those workers provided. Their familiarity with this particular mill would have been invaluable.

Even if a buyer or renter did not wish to set the slaves to work in the sawmill, they were available to work “a small plantation cleared on the river side,” just one of the many amenities listed with the house with “one brick chimney, and a very fine orchard.”

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