GUEST CURATOR: Carolyn Crawford
What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“To Be Sold at Public Vendue … One Quarter part of a Saw-Mill.”
In this advertisement, Benjamin Estes and Henry Estes, two landowners, promoted the sale of “ONE Hundred Acres of good farm LAND” and “Forty-five Acres of good Land” at a “Public Vendue,” otherwise known as an auction. Both of the landowners stated that their land would be sold to the highest bidder at the inn owned by Gideon Warren, in the town of Berwick. Benjamin Estes was the owner of the hundred acres, which included a house, a barn and “Twenty Ton of HAY.” On the other hand, Henry Estes was selling forty-five acres that included a house, a barn, large bundles of hay, and perhaps, most importantly, a sawmill, an important piece of technology.
Over time, technology has dramatically changed. According to the historians at the Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, “the first water-powered sawmills in New England were built near Berwick, Maine, in the 1630s.” For the next two centuries or so these sawmills used “a wooden waterwheel with a crank connected by the ‘pitman’ arm to a wooden sash (frame) in which was mounted a straight saw blade.” According to Barnes Riznik, “This so-called pitman arm was propelled by an iron crank fixed into the end of the waterwheel shaft.”
During the colonial period, water was used as a source transportation and power. These sawmills “needed to have a dam and millpond to impound water for dry periods and to regulate flow; a millrace to carry water to the wheel itself; a sluice with a gate called a penstock to put the water onto the wheel; and a tailrace to carry off the spent water.” It wasn’t until the 1830s that the sawmills transitioned to circular saws which improved the size and sharpness of the blades. By doing so, the blades were able to produce a larger amount of equal pieces at a rapid rate. Overall, the sawmill technology was beneficial because it allowed for expansion and production to continue and grow.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes
Although the Adverts 250 Project focuses primarily on advertisements for consumer goods and services, each guest curator may select one advertisement that explores some other aspect of life in colonial America. Real estate advertisements seem to be among the most popular. Carolyn has chosen one today, just a few days after Ceara Morse examined a real estate advertisement from the Georgia Gazette. The tracts of land offered for sale in the two advertisements were located about as distant from each other as was possible within the thirteen colonies that became the United States. Despite their differences, advertisers from Berwick, Maine, and Sunbury, Georgia, crafted advertisements that underscored the profits that buyers could earn from the land offered for sale. The dwellings seemed secondary to the resources and ability to earn a livelihood associated with each piece of land.
Benjamin Estes offered “good Farm LAND” that produced significant amounts of hay that could generate revenue for the new owner. Likewise, Henry Estes indicated that his “good Land” yielded nearly as much hay, even though his tract was slightly less than half the size. The hay, however, was not the only resource Henry Estes planned to auction. He also advertised “One Quarter part of a Saw-Mill.” In other words, Estes sold a share of a sawmill; the purchaser would become the new partner alongside one or more other owners. This presented a different sort of opportunity than farming, but one that Henry Estes considered attractive.
The graphic design elements of the advertisement suggest that the seller believed the sawmill merited as much attention as the farmland. Four lines of the advertisement were set in larger type, one announcing the “Public Vendue,” two listing the acreage of the land, and one devoted to the sawmill. Each of these underscored resources associated with the property for sale and the ability to convert those resources into financial security.