September 30

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Commesso

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

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Occasional Supplement to W. Weyman’s Gazette of Yesterday [New-York Gazette] (September 30, 1766).
“LINENS and SHEETINGS, … Russia Iron, … Ware’s Snuff.”

Today’s advertisement features Greg, Cunningham, & Company and their vast assortment of all different types of goods recently “imported in the last Vessels from Europe.” Fairly unlike any other advertisements I have looked at this week, this shop offered more than a surplus of different textiles and clothing materials, such as “LINENS and SHEETINGS,” laces, velvets, and handkerchiefs, Greg, Cunningham, and Company also carried products that would be found in a modern hardware and sporting goods store. Materials like “Russia Iron,” gunpowder and musket balls were available as well as “Plate Copper” and “dry White Lead.” I had not seen these products advertised before; they stood out because they show that colonists needed supplies that allowed for expansion, growth, and opportunities for new development. From the hardware products to clothing to even a selection of medicines, Greg, Cunningham, and Company offered a diverse selection of goods to consumers.

The advertisement also listed “Ware’s Snuff.” Since it was listed with “middling pipes” and different alcoholic beverages, at first glance I assumed “Ware’s Snuff” was just another pleasure for adults. In fact snuff was extremely popular among men, not only as a product to enjoy, but as a social measure as well. According to Edwin Tunis, “Nearly every man carried the most expensive [snuff box] he could afford.” Some had a different box for every day. Even women took advantage of the readily available product, but only in private.[1] However, after researching further, I found that “Ware’s Snuff” was actually used as a cure for some sicknesses as well. Taking this up the nose would often lead to “a very large discharge of mucus.”[2]

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Nick focused on the content of the advertisement he selected for today, but I am also interested in the context in which it appeared. Today’s advertisement was included in a half sheet Occasional Supplement to W. Weyman’s Gazette of Yesterday. Like nearly half of colonial American newspapers published in 1766, William Weyman distributed the New-York Gazette on Mondays – and, usually, only Mondays. Typically, each issue consisted of four pages, two printed on each side of a broadsheet that was then folded in half. In most cases, that was the extent of the news and advertising made available by any particular newspaper during any particular week.

At this time the Pennsylvania Gazette did provide a notable departure. It frequently inserted an additional half sheet in its standard four-page issue, bringing the entire issue to a total of six pages. Even with this additional content, however, the Pennsylvania Gazette did not attempt to distribute additional full issues more than once a week. In the 1770s some newspapers experimented with printing two or three issues per week, but it was not until after the Revolution that newspapers in the largest cities began daily publication.

This brings us back to Greg, Cunningham, and Company’s advertisement and the Occasional Supplement to the New-York Gazette in which it appeared. Why deviate from the usual publication schedule? Considering the amount of labor involved in producing an additional half sheet, why have an Occasional Supplement appear just one day after Monday’s regular issue, rather than later in the week? The “Subject of the Day is quite altered,” the first line of the Occasional Supplement proclaimed, due to “the Arrival of the Lord Hyde Packet” and the news it carried “with regard to the Change in the Ministry.” At the end of July, Lord Rockingham had been dismissed as prime minister. The king instructed William Pitt the Elder to form a government and granted him a title, making him the first Earl of Chatham. Pitt was popular among American colonists, both for his incisive leadership during the Seven Years War and, especially, for his opposition to the Stamp Act. Yet the Occasional Supplement noted that in Britain “there is pro and con, for and against Mr. PITT.” Weyman selected excerpts from letters that arrived on the packet ship “to give both Sides a Chance, and must leave our Readers to judge for themselves.” This news was too significant to wait an entire week to report it in the next issue of the New-York Gazette, hence Weyman’s decision to rush to press with an Occasional Supplement.

This news filled almost the entire first page of the Occasional Supplement, but the other side featured advertisements (including Greg, Cunningham, and Company’s advertisement) exclusively. Sometimes supplements and additional half sheets (like those that accompanied the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1766) were mechanisms for distributing additional advertising, the demand for advertising space exceeding the what was available in regular issues. In this case, however, we see that political reporting opened an opportunity to distribute greater numbers of advertisements. Weyman and others who worked in his shop could have cut their work in half by printing a broadside that reported the news, but instead chose to print advertising on the other side before distributing the Occasional Supplement on September 30, 1766.

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[1] Edwin Tunis, Colonial Craftsmen and the Beginnings of American Industry (New York: World Publishing Company, 1965), 53.

[2] Thomas John Graham, Modern Domestic Medicine (London: Published for the Author, 1827), 369.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 30, 1766

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

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Occasional Supplement to W. Weyman’s Gazette of Yesterday (September 30, 1766).

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Occasional Supplement to W. Weyman’s Gazette of Yesterday (September 30, 1766).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal (September 30, 1766).

 

September 29

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Commesso

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

sep-29-9291766-boston-evening-post
Boston Evening-Post (September 29, 1766).

“Warranted of the best Kind; and if they prove otherwise, will be taken back, and the Money returned.”

Jolley Allen’s lengthy advertisement from the Boston Evening-Post features countless common products seen in numerous other advertisements, including tea, silks, textiles, and jewelry. In addition to a long list of merchandise, this one had something else included at the end. Many of the advertisements I have looked at claimed to be selling their assortment of goods the cheapest, and they promised the highest quality products around. However, Allen is the first one I have seen who actually backed it up. This advertisement concluded with a guarantee that if the “Teas and Indigo” were not of the “best Kind,” they “will be taken back, and the Money returned by the said Jolley Allen.

Allen put his name and reputation on the line. He displayed his character in a way favorable to consumers. With the expansion of consumer culture in the colonies, it would have been easy for shopkeepers to make all sales final, yet with more shops opening, consumers could take their business elsewhere. Allen was committed to his name, his shop, and his goods, and made it a point for his shop to stand out from the rest. After further research, however, I also learned that Allen was a Loyalist entrepreneur; it’s interesting that he became a successful businessman regardless of his controversial political views.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Jolley Allen operated his business in an increasingly politicized colonial marketplace. His own politics, however, were not apparent in this particular advertisement. That he was a Loyalist, we learn from other sources from the period.

That’s not to say, however, that all newspaper advertisement published during the imperial crisis of the 1760s and 1770s lacked a political valence. As soon as the colonists learned of the Stamp Act, many advertisers made explicitly partisan appeals as part of their marketing messages, often promoting domestic manufactures or condemning the effects that Parliament’s actions would have on commerce. After the Stamp Act was repealed, some entrepreneurs inserted their own brief celebratory proclamations into their advertisements; even when they did not directly connect the Stamp Act to the merchandise they advertised, they assumed that their political views would influence potential customers to visit their shops.

As a Loyalist, Jolley Allen certainly did not condemn Parliament nor celebrate the demise of the Stamp Act in his advertisements. The advertisements he published in 1766 were devoid of politics, yet Boston was not so large that his political views would have been unfamiliar to friends, neighbors, and potential customers. Perhaps that played a role in inspiring some of the innovative aspects of his advertisements: he needed to overcome suspicions of his allegiances and used distinctive marketing to do so. Nick identified Allen’s reputation and stature as an honest trader as one means of promoting his shop “Opposite the Heart and Crown in Cornhill, BOSTON.” Although not the first colonial advertiser to offer some form of money-back guarantee, he did make an offer that was not a standard part of eighteenth-century advertising. In addition, his advertisements consistently featured distinctive graphic design elements, namely a decorative border, intended to draw more eyes than competitors’ advertisements that appeared elsewhere on the page. Allen also advertised extensively, placing the same advertisement in all four newspapers published in Boston in 1766, thus reaching the largest possible audience of potential customers despite the political leanings of any particular newspaper or its printer.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 29, 1766

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

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Boston Evening-Post (September 29, 1766).

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Boston Evening-Post (September 29, 1766).

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Boston-Gazette (September 29, 1766).

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New-York Mercury (September 29, 1766).

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New-York Mercury (September 29, 1766).

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New-York Mercury (September 29, 1766).

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New-York Mercury (September 29, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (September 29, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (September 29, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (September 29, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (September 29, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (September 29, 1766).

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South Carolina Gazette (September 29, 1766).

September 28

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Commesso

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

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Providence Gazette (September 27, 1766).

“Said Greene, wants … Flax-Seed, for which he will pay Cash, or any of the above Goods.”

Caleb Greene posted not only what items he had to sell, but also certain commodities he wanted to acquire. This stood out to me because most of the advertisements I have examined simply listed the various goods offered at a certain shop, most of them having just been imported. However, Greene’s advertisement showed his role as a consumer; he hoped to barter for “a Quantity of good and well-cleaned Flax-Seed.” As we have seen in many other advertisements, many shopkeepers only dealt with cash, but Greene noted that he was willing to trade his freshly imported goods.

This process was widely known as barter. Although it was common, the practice of barter was often much more difficult and sometimes more costly. According to David T. Flynn in “Credit in the Colonial American Economy,” what made bartering so much more complicated was a need for a “double coincidence of wants,” which was essential for the barter to take place. In other words, “For exchange to occur in a barter situation each party must have the good desired by its trading partner.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Colonists resorted to a variety of mechanisms for payment in their financial transactions. Sometimes they paid in cash, other times they relied on credit, and on many occasions they bartered one sort of goods for another. The first two types of transactions appeared most often in newspapers advertisements during the eighteenth century. Many shopkeepers and others who provided goods and services specified that they sold their wares “for ready Money,” as Caleb Greene did in the advertisement Nick selected for today. Sometimes they specified that they accepted cash only, signaling to potential customers that credit was not an option. The consumer revolution, however, occurred in part because merchants, shopkeepers, and customers became enmeshed in networks of credit that often originated in England and crossed the Atlantic to the colonies, extending to urban ports, towns and villages, and the colonial frontier. Advertisements sometimes specified that potential customers could purchase goods “on short credit” or offered the options of cash or credit.

To what extent did proposals to barter appear in eighteenth-century advertisements? Shopkeepers and other suggested barter less often than cash or credit, but not so infrequently that barter would have been considered uncommon or extraordinary.  (See advertisements previously featured on February 7, February 22, March 1, May 19July 14, and August 4.) Financial ledgers from the period, as well as household accounts, also suggest that many colonists continued to resort to bartering throughout much of the eighteenth century, even given the advantages offered by both cash and credit. Nick has already indicated that bartering required a “double coincidence of wants” that would have made such exchanges less attractive than cash or credit. In this advertisement, for instance, Greene did not offer to barter for just any commodities. He offered to trade “any of the above Goods” specifically for “a Quantity of good and well-cleaned Flax-Seed.” Only prospective customers in possession of that commodity were invited to barter with Greene. Despite that obstacle, placing an advertisement in the Providence Gazette increased the likelihood that Greene would indeed encounter a bartering partner who possessed the commodity he desired. Although Greene’s primary purpose in placing his advertisement was to sell a variety of goods, it may have also resulted in obtaining the “Flax-Seed” he wanted thanks to a successful bartering transaction.

September 27

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Commesso

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

sep-27-9271766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (September 27, 1766).

“A fresh and large Assortment of English and India Goods.”

This advertisement in the Providence Gazette features a lengthy list of newly imported goods at the shops of Thompson and Arnold. “TO BE SOLD, FOR READY MONEY ONLY,” these goods had been imported from both from England and India. Included in this “FINE assortment” were different textiles, clothing, and related items, such as “Irish and Russia linens of all sorts,” satin bonnets, shalloons, tammies, “colored threads of all sorts,” and countless other products. Why was importation so important? Business for the British was truly booming in colonial America. As T.H. Breen notes, newspapers “carried more and more advertisements for consumer goods,” and all Americans were a part of this “consumer revolution.”[1]

This shop clearly emphasized fashion, as they offered many different options in terms of colors and materials, which especially interested women. For women, shopping was an exhibition of liberty, and “with choice came a measure of economic power.” They had choices of products and choices of shops to visit. A variety of options allowed customers to gain leverage as they asked questions and made demands. Additionally, Breen argues, choice “reinforced the Americans’ already strong conviction of their own personal independence.”[2]

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

I originally intended to feature this advertisement a week ago today, but when Nick submitted the same advertisement (printed a week later) for approval I decided to hold off for a week. I figured that the chances were quite probable that he and I would approach the advertisement from very different perspectives, that discussion of this advertisement would be enhanced from both of us examining it.

That turned out to be the case. I initially selected this advertisement because I wanted to discuss its format. In some regards it looks quite similar to an advertisement previously published by Thompson and Arnold (which appeared for the first time in the August 9, 1766, issue of the Providence Gazette and then many more times in subsequent issues.) The original iteration of this advertisement deployed graphic design in several unique ways. It surely caught the attention of readers and potential customers.

This version of the advertisement reverted to some of the more standard aspects of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements. In particular, it inhabited a single column within the issue, whereas the earlier version spanned two columns. The previous version also used three columns to delineate Thompson and Arnold’s merchandise, but in today’s advertisement their inventory collapsed into a dense list instead. This did not have the same visual resonance, nor did it make it as easy for potential customers to locate specific products of interest.

Still, the updated version of Thompson and Arnold’s advertisement featured design elements intended to continue drawing the eyes of readers. Like the previous version, it retained a decorative border made of printing ornaments. Very few newspaper advertisements in the 1760s had such borders (though we have previously seen that Jolley Allen made sure that his advertisements in Boston’s newspapers were easily identified by their borders). In addition, Thompson and Arnold’s advertisement was much longer than most that appeared in the Providence Gazette. Its size alone merited notice. Finally, today’s advertisement appeared in the first column of the first page of the Providence Gazette, right below the masthead. In design, layout, and location, there was no way for readers to overlook Thompson and Arnold’s updated advertisement.

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[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 486-487.

[2] Breen, “Empire of Goods,” 489.

September 26

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Commesso

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

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New-Hampshire Gazette (September 26, 1766).

An Assortment of MEDICINES and GROCERIES.”

Stephen Little’s advertisement displaying “An Assortment of MEDICINES and GROCERIES” did not waste much space.” Not only did Little’s advertisement offer a diverse selection of common goods and medicines, he also claimed they were indeed the best and the cheapest around. Accepting cash only, Little offered everything from a variety of seasonings, like cinnamon, pepper, and allspice, to beverages, like wine, brandy, “French Hungary Water in Bottles,” and tea.

Little’s shop seems like a modern day drug store, advertising an array of different remedies and other products. Included were “Casteel Soap” and “Turlington’s Balsom of LIFE,” along with “Stoughton’s Elixer – Lockyer’s Pills – Dr. Ward’s Essence for Head-Ach.” T.H. Breen has discussed how advertisements like this one were able to “inflame customer desire” by offering so many goods to potential customers.[1]

After researching some of these products, I learned that “Lockyer’s Pills” were one of the most well, widely sold across London and the colonies. The pills have been described as “cure-alls.” They especially worked to relieve intestinal issues and kidney stones. In addition, this hopefully decreased doctor visits over the year.[2]

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

When Nick decided to investigate “Lockyer’s Pills” in greater detail, I decided to do the same, but our research took us in different directions. I visited another digital humanities project and one of my favorite research blog: The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine, conducted by “an international group of scholars interested in the history of recipes, ranging from magical charms to veterinary remedies.”

In an entry devoted to “Medicinal Compounds, Efficacious in Every Case,” Lisa Smith concluded with a few words about Lockyer’s Pills, but she first offered insights that help to better understand Little’s advertisement. Little and his customers did not divide all of his wares between the categories of “MEDICINES” and “GROCERIES.” Instead, they believed that many of the grocery items possessed medicinal qualities, especially the mace, cloves, and nutmegs listed at the beginning of his current inventory. Consulting early modern herbals and pharmacopoeias, Smith states, “reveals that herbs like nutmegs, cloves, mace, aniseeds, lavender and rosemary (for example) had warming and drying properties.” This would have been important to doctors, apothecaries, and patients who believed that the hot, cold, wet, and dry properties of bodily humors needed to be balanced to achieve good health. Little offered several medicines already prepared for clients, but some likely bought what we would today consider grocery items to use in compounding their own remedies.

Smith concludes by noting that “not all cure-alls were created equal – and there were some weird ones out there,” especially the pills marketed by Lionel Lockyer. Those remedies supposedly contained an extract of the sun! For patients interested in medicines with warming and drying qualities, what could have been better?! To my delight, Smith also included an image of a broadsheet advertisement for Lockyer’s Pills.

L0002420 Broadsheet advertsing L.Lockyer's patent medicine
Broadsheet Advertising Lockyer’s Pills. Wellcome Library, London.

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[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 476.

[2] Andrew Wear, Knowledge and Practice in English Medicine, 1550-1680 (Cambridge University Press, 2000): 425-436.