Reflections from Guest Curator Ceara Morse

Before this project, I didn’t really know about the advertising aspect of colonial America. Delving into these advertisements opens many doors into the actual lives of colonists. I got to see what type of items the colonists were interested in and what was offered to them through Britain and other countries that imported goods into the colonies. Not only did I get to learn history that isn’t normally in the textbooks, I also got to work with historical documents and learned how to better navigate through both primary and secondary sources.

Most people think what they are learning in the textbooks is all they need to know about history. However, this project pushes those boundaries of just reading and remembering dates that so many believe is what history is about. Prof. Keyes pushed me to find out what is behind these advertisements, why items were sold, what was their importance, and so on. While this may sound easy, at the same time it was quite challenging. First I had to find something I wanted to look into. Then I delved into secondary or primary sources on that topic, finding information that pertains to what I wanted to talk about. Nonetheless, I was up for the challenge.

I personally found the American Antiquarian Society most helpful in that they have a vast number of newspapers to choose from, which helped make picking these advertisements in the first place much easier. Then for secondary sources, I normally turn to either Google Scholar or JSTOR to help me back up my analysis. This proved beneficial at times, but also hindered because it was harder to find specific articles that pertained to some of my topics.

During this project, I focused on vastly different topics day to day. One of my favorites that I focused on was the advertisement for an almanac. Finding an article about magic and astrology and focusing on the parts that mentioned almanacs was quite interesting. The best part was finding out that there were some people who did enjoy reading the almanacs and even put them up there close to the Bible, which back then definitely meant something since many colonist were very religious. Another one of my favorites (but actually what proved to be one of my harder advertisements) was my last one, about a piece of land being sold in Georgia. With the previous ones, I focused on a certain item or where these items came from. However, with this advertisement I had to take a completely different route. So I researched selling land in Georgia and I came across Jonathan Bryan. The fact that one man could be that influential at one time over so much land astounded me, but that’s what history is about for me: finding out facts and learning something new that I didn’t know before, especially something that expands my knowledge like this project did.

Coming into this project, I didn’t know what to expect from it. Just by going over the gigantic packet of instructions it all seemed very overwhelming and quite frightening. Nonetheless, once I actually got started with researching for articles that backed up my analysis, it became quite easier, especially after I had a few advertisements under my belt.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project. It has succeeded in broadening my horizons into the life of the average colonist. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me on my exploration of history as I work on earning a history degree. I also look forward to spending more time in the American Antiquarian Society.

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