Reflections from Guest Curator Lindsay Hajjar

I have always loved learning about colonial America. As silly as it may sound, Plimoth Plantation is one of my favorite places, because it allows the visitor to experience what it felt like to be a colonist. Through this project I got a similar experience; it was very interesting reading though colonial newspapers and putting myself in a colonist’s shoes. I believe there is a misconception that the colonists’ lives were insular and their goods were obtained primarily from trade within the local community. However, from the Adverts 250 Project, it was plain to see that although they did not live in the type of global society on the same scale we live in today, colonists lives were interconnected with faraway places in many ways.

One big difference between people of the twenty-first century and the colonial era is that they lived more simply, with less excess, very much in contrast to the way most people live today. Many colonial newspaper advertisements were very specific to consumers’ needs. Consumers purchased items based on the information in the advertisements. The colonists were sometimes limited in access to products and offers. The insight into commercial behavior that the Adverts 250 Project provided is something that has changed the way I look at colonial America.

Consumerism was never something I really thought of as being part of the culture in colonial America. The large size of the colonial consumer market was very surprising. This intrigued me and made me want to find out about the products, the target consumer, and the methods the sellers used to motivate colonists to buy their products. I always thought of consumer psychology as something much more recent than the colonial era. However, as I was reading the primary sources and the advertisements, I found them to have a psychological component involved in enticing people to want to come to their stores or buy what they were selling over the competition. Using consumer psychology to determine ways to persuade customers to purchase products relies – and relied — on fundamentally understanding human nature, not on learned behavior, which was something that became very evident to me through this project.

When I first started doing this project I thought that the hardest part was going to be writing the analysis for the advertisements. I was worried that I would not have enough to say, or my point would get lost and I would not be able to find primary sources to back it up. However, this was one of the easiest parts. With the help of Professor Keyes, I was able to reflect on colonial consumerism in a logical and cohesive way that was reinforced by primary sources. I really enjoyed looking at the different sources that led me to draw my conclusions. It was a very interesting learning experience because there are not a lot of classes where for seven days you get to learn about something unique that really interests you. I really loved the sense of freedom and independence that I got from doing this project. It allowed me to grow immensely as a student. The hardest part was definitely tweeting for the project. It was hard to condense something that I had become very passionate about into just 140 characters. I like detail, and being succinct proved to be very difficult for me.

This project has made an impact on me. It has forced me to go outside of my comfort zone and has allowed me to research and learn in a new way. I learned much, not only from participating in the project, but also from reading other contributors’ entries. I will continue to be an active reader of the Adverts 250 Project.

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