August 26

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

Aug 26 - 8:26:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (August 26, 1766).

“George Beattie, From LONDON … works next Door to Mr. Jepson’s the Tinman.

George Beattie seems to have been a metalsmith who produced a variety of relatively small objects for his customers, from “Pocket Books, with the newest fashioned Locks and Clasps” to “Tooth & Ear-Pickers” to “several other Articles in the Toy way.” He also “mends broken China,” most likely using metal rivets.

(Yes, Ear-Pickers! I confess that I was previously unaware of this accouterment for personal hygiene before reading this advertisement. I was delighted to discover Historic Jamestowne’s description of ear pickers and brief history of their use in the early days of settlement in Virginia. Apparently styles varied, from plain and completely utilitarian to ornate pieces intended for display and personal adornment.)

Aug 26 - Ear Picker
Silver Ear Picker.  Historic Jamestowne.

In the headline of his advertisement, Beattie announced that he was “From LONDON,” perhaps expecting that this would give him and the merchandise he made some cachet by being associated with the cosmopolitan center of the British Empire. He did not mention how long since he had left London and took up residence in Boston, perhaps purposefully so. He left it to potential customers to make their own assumptions about how recently he plied his trade in the capital city, but he planted the idea that he had a connection to the cosmopolitanism of London that perhaps competitors who had spent their entire lives in the colonies lacked. He doubled down on his association with the metropole when he concluded his advertisement with a promise that customers could expect “to be served as reasonably as in London.” He did not make comparisons to local vendors; instead, he positioned his the quality, fashion, and price of his wares as equivalent to those in the most important city in the empire.

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