November 30

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Sears

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

nov-30-11291766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (November 29, 1766).

“JUST IMPORTED … silk and worsted mitts … silk knee straps … sewing silk of all coulours.”

James Green’s advertisement was full of different types of clothes, clothing accessories, and types of fabric to make clothes, including cotton, velvet, linen, and silk. What caught my attention was the amount of silk clothing and accessories that came over from England. It caused me to ask, “Why were there so many items made of silk coming from England?” I was curious whether the English imported clothing made with silk themselves and then shipped it to the colonies or if they made it themselves.

I read Gerald B. Hertz’s article discussing “The English Silk Industryin the Eighteenth Century.”[1] According to Hertz, England had its own silk weavers, comprised mainly of Flemish refugees in the early seventeenth century. It was not until 1685 when Huguenots, a Protestant group from France, started to emigrate to England that the amount of silk produced rose. Even with the silk industry rising, there was still a large amount of silk being imported from other countries. To combat this, England continued to pass laws that prohibited the importing of manufactured silk items from 1765 to 1826. In 1780 the annual import of raw silk rose to 200,000 pounds and later to 500,000 pounds after 1800.[2] England also tried to produce raw silk in their American colonies, specifically Georgia, but abandoned that plan after 1742.

The amount of silk items shipped to the English colonies rose during the consumer revolution, which in turn helped the economy of England.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

According to his advertisement, James Green’s shop was located “at the Sign of the Elephant, opposite JOHN ANGEL’s, Esq.” Eighteenth-century shop signs often incorporated animals and birds of various sorts. In choosing the elephant as the device to identify his business, Green prompted potential customers to associate the goods he stocked with exotic and faraway places. The elephant conjured images of some of the lands where raw silk was produced and acquired by European merchants in the eighteenth century.

Nick notes two overlapping streams of silk production that eventually entered colonial markets. The first, raw silk, was a necessary resource for producing the second, manufactured silk goods. Nick focuses primarily on the English silk industry as it pertained to the production of manufactured goods that were then exported for colonists to purchase, often listed alongside the myriad of other goods increasingly on offer by merchants and shopkeepers as part of the consumer revolution.

To produce manufactured silk goods for export, the English silk industry needed raw silk. What were their sources in the eighteenth century? Hertz provides answers to that question as well. In the early eighteenth century, “Turkey and the Levant were most important,” Hertz explains.[3] The English silk industry used Turkish silk to produce silk stockings, damasks (figured woven fabrics with a pattern visible on both sides, typically used for table linen and upholstery), and galloons (narrow ornamental strips of fabric, typically a silk braid or piece of lace, used to trim clothing or finish upholstery). According to Hertz, “The Turkey Company’s most valued import was sherbaffee, fine raw silk from Persia.”[4] The English silk industry also obtained unwrought silk from Italy and India and elsewhere in the east. Over time, raw silk from India and China became one of the East India Company’s most important imports. As Nick notes, the English silk industry stood to benefit when colonists experimented with silk cultivation in Georgia when the colony was founded, but their efforts were largely unsuccessful and the endeavor concluded fairly quickly.

As a result, the raw silk transformed into manufactured goods continued to come primarily from places on the other side of the globe, like Turkey and India. In choosing the elephant to identify his shop, James Green evoked images of trade and exchange that were not merely transatlantic but global. Many of the items listed in his advertisement, including tea and spices as well as silk, came from places far beyond England and continental Europe. The “Sign of the Elephant” did more than identify Green’s shop. It also encouraged consumers to attribute meaning and value to the goods they purchased. Visiting a local shop could be as fun or adventurous as browsing through the markets in faraway places most colonists only encountered in stories and their imaginations.

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[1] Gerald B. Hertz, “The English Silk Industry in the Eighteenth Century,” English Historical Review 24, no. 96 (October 1909): 710-626.

[2] Hertz, “English Silk Industry,” 712.

[3] Hertz, “English Silk Industry,” 711.

[4] Hertz, “English Silk Industry,” 711.

November 29

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Sears

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

nov-29-11291766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (November 29, 1766).

“A large Assortment of English Goods and Braziery Ware.”

Joseph and William Russell sold a lot of items at their shop, which made it slightly difficult to digest this advertisement when I first looked at it. They listed many different types of products, ranging from clothing to cooking supplies to other household items. What I found interesting about this advertisement was how it reflected the consumer revolution in colonial America.

According to Colonial Williamsburg’s description of the consumer revolution, colonists wanted to show their “rising standard of living and their style and worth” through their purchases. In addition, “[a]s society became more mobile, houses, land, and livestock alone no longer communicated social rank. By the end of the seventeenth century, ordinary men and women began to demand consumer goods that indicated their status.” For example, in this advertisement the Russells sold things like “superfine green, blue, and crimson velvets” as well as “Dutch quills and sealing wax,” “Watch strings,” “Table and tea-spoons,” and even “Ivory handle forks and knives.”

Many people in the colonies wanted to live more refined lives. They bought imported fabrics to make fashionable clothes. They also bought chairs and other furniture, silverware and other housewares, latches and other hardware, and other imported goods in stores like the one from this advertisement. The consumer revolution made life easier for colonists who bought more items since they had more disposable income.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Today’s advertisement may look familiar to readers who visit the Adverts 250 Project regularly. It was the second printing of the first full-page advertisement for consumer goods in an American newspaper, which was the subject of a special feature last week. While the project’s methodology usually forbids repeating an advertisement, I do make exceptions for good cause. In this case, today’s advertisement helps to demonstrate one of the limitations of working with digitized sources: portions of a source can be separated from the remainder of the source in ways not possible when working with an original document. This alters the way scholars then interpret those truncated sources.

Near the beginning of the semester each guest curator submitted the seven advertisements that he or she wished to study in greater detail. They were not required to submit the entire issues of the newspapers that contained their advertisements, just the advertisements themselves. As a result, I sorted through a pile of advertisements printed one per page, completely disembodied from the context of their original sources. I approved each advertisement based on whether it marketed consumer goods and services and whether it had been featured previously.

When Nicholas submitted this advertisement I noticed that its format deviated from that of standard eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements, but it did so in the same ways as earlier advertisements by Thompson and Arnold and other shopkeepers who experimented with decorative borders around oversized advertisements that spanned multiple columns. At a glance, I assumed that Joseph and William Russell’s advertisement was yet another example of a trade card transformed into a newspaper advertisement in the pages of the Providence Gazette. I approved this advertisement for inclusion in the project, figuring that I would note that it provided further evidence that advertisers paid attention to their competitors’ marketing and adapted new and innovative methods when they saw them.

Before I write my commentary on any of the advertisements selected by the guest curators, I always look through the entire issue in order to gain a greater appreciation for the context in which they appeared. That was how I first discovered that the Russells’ advertisement did not merely replicate a new mode recently adopted by other shopkeepers. Their full-page advertisement in the November 22, 1776, issue of the Providence Gazette was different, a further evolution of innovations involving the size of newspaper advertisements.

I made this discovery about the original November 22 publication of the Russells’ advertisement only after I had approved Nick’s submission of the November 29 iteration and dispatched him to do his research. I did not want to be a week late drawing attention to the importance of this advertisement in my additional commentary section attached to his analysis, so I went ahead and wrote a special feature on November 22. In his use of this advertisement to provide an overview of the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century, Nick demonstrates how much more there was to say about this advertisement (and how much remains to be said given the extensive list of merchandise). In that regard, it hardly matters that Joseph and William Russell’s advertisement has been featured twice on the Adverts 250 Project.

Still, my appreciation for the significance of this advertisement occurred belatedly because the processes of digitization and reproduction altered its size and separated it from the rest of the issue. As a result, I did not understand the nature of the advertisement when I first viewed it. In contrast, had I been working with an original copy of the Providence Gazette the materiality of the text would have made this advertisement’s significance apparent at a glance.

November 28

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Sears

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

nov-28-11281766-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (November 28, 1766).

“Scotch Snuff.”

This advertisement showcased a public vendue held at an “Auction-Room in Queen Street” in Boston. J. Russell, the auctioneer, sold mainly clothing and household items, but what I found interesting was the “Scotch Snuff.” I know that tobacco was a major cash crop in the colonies, along with sugar, rice, and indigo, but I figured that tobacco was only smoked during this time.

As I researched this product I realized that there was an interesting history behind it. With the amount of trade that was flowing throughout the Atlantic, snuff thrived in the colonies and Europe. According to an exhibit by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American history, the labels on snuff packages even “reflected the trade links between Virginia and England.” Plantation owners who sold tobacco to be made into snuff prospered from this product. Since it became so popular in the colonies, by 1750 tobacconists changed the way it was produced. According to Edwin Tunis, author of Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry, initially tobacco was grounded into snuff by using had mortars by hand and was produced it small quantities. Later, tobacconists began “grinding it with water power, either between ordinary milestones, like flour, or in large mortars.”[1] Tobacco was a commodity that was high in demand in the colonies so it is no surprise that snuff also became popular.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Most advertisers of consumer goods and services extended open invitations for potential customers to visit their shops, examine their merchandise, and make purchases whenever they wished. Public vendues (or auctions) operated differently. In her recent work on auctions in early America, Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor underscores the importance of setting a specific time for public vendues and, as a result, gathering colonists together to socialize and be entertained during the sale. Purchasing consumer goods, Hartigan-O’Connor argues, did not occur solely in transactions between shopkeeper and customer. Instead, some purchases were on display as part of larger events.

By necessity, advertisements for auctions specified a time that the sale would be held. Such information was as critical as the location or the list of goods up for bid. When they advertised in newspapers, most colonists selling goods at auction ran their advertisements at least a week in advance and often much earlier. A successful sale depended on attracting as many potential customers as possible. Letting others know when an auction would occur was especially critical if it was a one-time-only or irregularly scheduled event.

Russell, however, regularly held public vendues in his “Auction-Room in Queen Street” in Boston. His frequent advertisements alerted readers to at least one auction a week. In the advertisement that Nicholas selected for today, the time of the auction received first billing. “THIS DAY” appeared in a larger font than anything else in the advertisement, signaling that the rest of the content merited attention immediately because it was so time-sensitive. The notice continued by specifying that the auction would take place “At ELEVEN o’Clock in the Morning, AND At THREE o’Clock Afternoon.” In addition to placing this advertisement, Russell may have displayed a red flag outside his “Auction-Room,” another method of announcing a sale would take place that day (but one that did not rely on print or the distribution of newspapers or other advertising media).

That Russell scheduled his auction for “THIS DAY” caught my attention because R. & S. Draper usually published the Massachusetts Gazette on Thursdays in 1766, but for some reason this issue was delayed and appeared on Friday, November 28, 1766, rather than Thursday, November 27. Considering the news items and dozens of advertisements, had the Drapers remembered to adjust the date accordingly from “TOMORROW” (what should have appeared if the newspaper had been published on the 27th, just as it appeared in Russell’s advertisement printed in the issue from the 20th) to “THIS DAY” instead? Did this advertisement actually appear the day after the announced sale took place?

Given how often Russell advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette, constantly updating his copy to reflect auction dates and times as well as merchandise, it seems likely that the Drapers would have given special attention to his advertisement for that week, realizing that it needed to be revised accordingly to fit the schedule of their newspaper’s delayed publication. Not inconsequentially, Russell’s advertisement appeared immediately below a notice that read, in its entirety, “New Advertisements. THE Committee of the House of Representatives, to consider the Difficulties of the Trade of the Province, will meet again this Afternoon at 3 o’Clock, at the Representatives Room.” Russell had some competition for his auction “At THREE o”Clock Afternoon” that day, but the proximity of the two advertisements suggests that the Drapers made any necessary adjustments to the copy when they decided to distribute the issue a day later than usual.

That Russell’s advertisement announced a sale to be held “At ELEVEN o’CLOCK in the Morning” on “THIS DAY” brings up an issue for consideration another time. How early in the day did the Massachusetts Gazette need to be distributed in order for this to be an effective advertisement? Even with delayed publication, it was not the first time that Russell placed a “THIS DAY” advertisement. He apparently believed the newspaper circulated with sufficient time for potential customers to read it or else he would not have invested in the advertisement.

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[1] Edwin Tunis, Colonial Craftsman: And the Beginnings of American Industry (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1957), 52.

November 27

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Sears

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

nov-27-11271766-new-york-journal-supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (November 27, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD, A plantation in the bounds of Middletown.”

This notice in the Supplement to the New-York Journal advertised a large plot of land that belonged to Obadiah Bowne.

His wife, the executrix for his estate, tried to appeal to certain types of buyers, aiming for someone with some wealth, either “a farmer or a gentleman.” What I wanted to know from this advertisement was more about the type of house offered for sale. From the description of the house it seems that Anna Bowne described a Georgian style home. She wrote that the house was two floors with three rooms on a floor, had two fireplaces on each of the first and second floors, and the first floor was “handsomely finished.” According Historic New England’s Architectural Style Guide, Georgian style houses were popular in the colonies from 1700 to 1780. The article also states that the upper classes in the colonies displayed their adoption of “European taste and station by maintaining codes of dress, speech, and behavior. This status was also aptly displayed by the orderly symmetry of Georgian architecture.”

The style of the house in the advertisement suggests that interest in a higher standard of living was rising in colonial America. Colonists wanted to live more refined lives.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

The trading networks that connected faraway places around the Atlantic world facilitated more than just an exchange of goods. Ideas and cultural practices traveled with people and their possessions. As Nicholas notes, colonists like those who lived in houses like the one offered for sale in today’s advertisement would have looked to Europe for cues about how to dress, which household wares to purchase, and how to comport themselves. They may have lived in a colonial outpost, but many were determined to demonstrate that did not mean they were backwater relations who lacked the taste and gentility of their cousins in England. Through their participation in the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century, colonists outfitted their homes with the vast assortments of European goods listed in so many advertisements regularly featured by the Adverts 250 Project.

In addition to the things that filled these homes, the architecture of the homes themselves also testified to the flow of ideas across the Atlantic. Georgian architecture in the American colonies had its roots in the Italian Renaissance, especially the work of Andrea Palladio. In 1570, Palladio published The Four Books of Architecture, which “emphasized classicism, order, and symmetry regardless of function.” In turn, Palladio influenced English architects, including Christopher Wren, and, eventually, his ideas started appearing in the colonies around 1700. Imported architectural pattern books aided colonists in designing homes during the Georgian period.

Historic New England provides a list of several characteristics of Georgian homes. The exterior features include:

  • Symmetry, centered façade entry with windows aligned horizontally and vertically
  • One or two-story box, two rooms deep
  • Raised foundation
  • Paneled front doors, capped with a decorative crown (entablature); often supported by decorative pilasters; and with a rectangular transom above
  • Double-hung sash window with small lights (nine or twelve panes) separated by thick wooden muntins
  • Center chimneys are found in examples before 1750; later examples have paired chimneys
  • Wood-frame with shingle or clapboard walls

Interior features include:

  • Central hall plan
  • High ceilings (10-11 feet) smoothly plastered, painted and decorated with molded or carved ornament (high style)
  • Elaborate mantelpieces, paneling, stairways and arched openings copied from pattern books (high-style)

While it is impossible to know if the house from Anna Bowne’s advertisement possessed all of these features, it appears that several were present. The “large entry” could indicate a central hall plan. That “the whole house is shingled with cedar” aligns with “shingle or clapboard walls” from Historic New England’s list. The “good stone cellar under the whole house” indicates a raised foundation. Bowne noted that “the lower story is handsomely finished,” which also corresponds with Georgian style. She did not state how elaborately the lower floor had been finished, but the fact that the second floor had not received similar treatment suggests that the house had been completed to a middling, rather than high, style. Even as colonists used consumer goods and architecture to assert their status and identity, they also had to operate within their budgets.

Welcome, Guest Curator Nicholas Sears

Nicholas Sears is a sophomore majoring in History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.  He previously attended Bridgewater State University and Regis College. One of his essays, “Narcan and the Heroin Epidemic in Massachusetts,” appeared in the seventh edition of Embracing Writing: First- and Second-Year Writing at Bridgewater State University (2015). He will be guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project during the week of November 27 to December 3, 2016.  He previously curated the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of November 6 to 12, 2016.

Welcome, Nicholas Sears!

Slavery Advertisements Published November 27, 1766

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

Compiled by Megan Watts

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Pennsylvania Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-pennslyvania-gazette-supplement-slavery-2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-rinds-virginia-gazette-slavery-1
Rind’s Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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Rind’s Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-virginia-gazette-slavery-1
Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-virginia-gazette-slavery-2
Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-virginia-gazette-slavery-3
Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-virginia-gazette-slavery-4
Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-virginia-gazette-slavery-5
Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-virginia-gazette-slavery-6
Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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nov-27-virginia-gazette-slavery-7
Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

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Virginia Gazette (November 27, 1766).

 

 

Reflections from Guest Curator Patrick Keane

To me the best part about this project was learning about some of the background information about the people or products that were being sold. William Ewen, for example: I had no idea what “vendue master” meant. After looking it up I found out about William Ewen and that he had a very significant role in the colony of Georgia. At first I thought that with such small advertisements there wouldn’t much to it, but I could find out very significant information to give my entries more meaning. For other aspects of what I researched, such as the European goods, other people might not have known why colonists wanted to buy them. I learned in class that colonists did it to keep up with the styles in Europe.

Looking at the advertisements and then doing research on them really helped make it easier. I learned where these products were being made and by whom. Others might not have known that sugar was made in the Caribbean by slaves working at the sugar plantations during the colonial times. While knowing where these products were coming from this was a good way to inform others who had no idea about this information to really understand what these times were like. This could also give the reader more motivation to do some research of their own to learn more about certain questions they have about these times.

The background information could sometimes be the most difficult aspect of the project. Some advertisements that I chose really didn’t give me much information to research. Picking out specific parts of the advertisements is what made it easier. With one of my advertisements I didn’t even really talk about the goods it was selling, but how the shopkeepers had a lot of competition from others in Boston due to it being one of the biggest cities. Just talking about the products being sold probably doesn’t really make other people want to read, so I wanted to talk about the significance of those advertisements and even compare them to others. Advertisements sometimes gave me a lot of information that could help me find more information, or very little, making it harder. Not directly speaking about the advertisements sometimes helped. Instead of talking just about the advertisement sometimes I talked about who was in it (such as William Ewen) or why colonists loved to buy what was in it.

This project wasn’t just about me learning about these advertisements; it was also to show other people my ideas about them. That is why this project was fun to do, creating a way for others to do their own research, whether the part of the advertisement I chose or something else that they wanted to do research on. There is so much information about these advertisements that I didn’t know about: colonial America was such a different age. When I read the advertisement about real estate I had no idea I would end up learning about the person in that being a patriotic leader in the American Revolution.

It’s those little things that made the project that much better: one search of a name or product in the advertisement and I could learn so much about it, making me want to show everyone else what I found. When I found out about that I couldn’t wait to show others how significant that advertisement really was. There is significance to every advertisement on the newspapers during these times. All the products and people (whether leaders or not) played a huge part in their colonies. These people all helped develop their colonies. They also left behind sources that still bring attention to their communities: we are still reading their advertisements today.