What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“STOLEN out of the Subscriber’s House in the Night … Two silver Watches.”
As a general rule, most advertisements featured on the Adverts 250 Project promoted consumer goods and services. As its primary purpose, the project explores how eighteenth-century advertising incited consumer demand and convinced colonists to purchase an expanding array of goods and services.
Today’s advertisement, however, demonstrates that buying new goods from shopkeepers and merchants was not the only way that colonists could participate in the consumer economy. Some purchased used goods (which were sometimes advertised, but also changed hands in an informal economy that did not rely on public commercial notices), but others resorted to theft to obtain the items they desired or intended to sell for their own gain.
In Simon Rhodes’ case, a thief made off with “Two Silver Watches” and “a pair of Silver wrought Buckles with Steel Chapes and Tongues.”
Rhodes wanted his watches and buckles back, so much so that he paid to insert this advertisement in the New-London Gazette at least three times. (It appeared on August 15, 22, and 29. It may have appeared in earlier issues, but they are no longer extant.) He also offered a reward of five dollars to anybody who captured “the Thief or Thieves, so that the above things may be had, and he or they brought to Justice.” At the very least, Rhodes wanted to make it difficult for the thief or thieves to benefit from the crime. He requested that if any readers noticed his stolen property “offered for Sale” that “they may be stopped.” In addition, his descriptions of the stolen goods, including their flaws and repairs, were designed to make it more difficult to sell them.