February 28

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-28-2281767-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (February 28, 1767).

“Excellent Bohea Tea.”

This advertisement directed colonists to “the Sign of the Golden Eagle” in Providence to buy a variety of English goods imported from London as well as other goods that passed through London, including Bohea Tea. During the colonial period the colonists heavily invested in the importation of luxury goods and general commodities from London and other territories of the British Empire. The purchase of imported goods from across the Empire showcased colonists’ view of themselves as subjects of the British crown, thereby possessing the same rights as other Britons.

In “Baubles of Britain,” T.H. Breen draws attention to the common language of consumer culture throughout the colonies that helped join the colonists in a common language of complaints and issues regarding the British taxes on imported goods. He draws attention to the Tea Act of 1773, which drew particular ire towards British rule due to the place tea held at the time as a staple of American life, available to “the wealthiest of merchants and the poorest of labourers.”[1] It’s really remarkable how such a simple product could spark the tinder of a socio-political revolution, and turn it into a raging wildfire that could bring about a new nation. I can only liken the colonists’ response to the tax on tea to the response modern day Americans might have if coffee beans were suddenly subject to special taxes.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Joseph and William Russell certainly stocked “a large and compleat Assortment of English GOODS” at their shop, at least according to the full-page advertisement that appeared in the Providence Gazette a week earlier. Most likely the Russells could have depended on readers to remember that advertisement because it had been included in several issues since late November 1766, running for a few weeks at a time, disappearing for a few issues, and then appearing once again. As I have previously suggested, it is not clear if its publication history resulted from directions by the Russells or instead from the printers attempting to fill space when lacking other content or possibly a combination of the two.

Even in the absence of their full-page advertisement, the Russells maintained a presence in the Providence Gazette, regularly publishing shorter advertisements, such as the one featured today, to remind potential customers of the merchandise they offered “at the Sign of the Golden Eagle.” In so doing, they resorted to some of the most common marketing strategies of the eighteenth century – appeals to choice and price – even when they did not provide a list of their wares.

Like many other shopkeepers who placed short advertisements, they selected one product to highlight. In this case, as Sam has noted, they promoted their “Excellent Bohea Tea.” To draw attention to this commodity, they advanced yet another sort of appeal by underscoring its quality. In terms of its “smell and flavor,” the Russells’ tea “exceeds most any ever imported.” That was a bold claim to make, one that virtually challenged readers to purchase this tea and decide for themselves whether such a description was warranted. Without being heavy-handed about it, the Russells also made a nod toward the luxury consumers could expect to experience when they drank this “Excellent Bohea Tea.”

The Russells managed to incorporate multiple appeals – choice, price, quality, luxury – into just a couple of lines of advertising copy. Shrewdly promoting one notable product may have also generated additional foot traffic into their shop, exposing potential customers to the “compleat Assortment of English GOODS” they carried.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 119 (May 1988): 87.

February 27

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-27-2271767-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

“LONDON, New-York, and other MADEIRA WINE, by the Pipe, Hogshead, Quarter Cask, or Dozen.”

Colonial Americans drank alcoholic beverages all the time and at any time they wanted. According to Ed Crews, colonists commonly had a drink for breakfast, brunch, lunch, pre-dinner snacking, during supper, and right before bed. Colonists enjoyed drinking at social events, work, and, even during studies at colleges. In fact, Crews reports, in 1639 Nathaniel Eaton, the President at Harvard College at the time, “lost his job” when he did not provide enough beer for students and staff. Alcohol was a wonder drink believed to have many beneficial properties ranging from warming the body, making people stronger, aiding the sick, and generally causing people to have a good time.

Today’s notice advertised the sale of a variety of wines and spirits imported from across the Atlantic, including Madeira, Port, Burgundy, Claret, and Brandy, as well as Jamaican Rum from the Caribbean. Colonists had a variety of different drinks they preferred, including mixers called Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle, Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip, and just as many names for being drunk.

Wine, rum, and whiskey were favored drinks among the colonists, with rum being king amongst the common man. Elites imported wine, especially Jefferson who loved French wine and attempted to produce wine in America, a failed endeavor. George Washington, on the other hand, owned and operated a private whiskey distillery on his property at Mt. Vernon.

American colonists consumed a large variety of alcoholic beverages for various occasions and at times throughout the day, with wine, rum, and whiskey being especially favorite drinks.

For more on “Drinking in Colonial America,” see Ed Crews’ article on the Colonial Williamsburg website.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Cunningham and Sands, purveyors of all sorts of alcohol, emphasized quality and service in their advertisement. Whether customers purchased any of a dozen different varieties of wine or instead opted for rum from Jamaica and other locales in the West Indies, all were “warranted to be excellent in Quality.” This was possible because Cunningham and Sands took “the greatest Care” in choosing which wines and rum to import and sell, implying a certain level of expertise on their part. They also took great care in “the Management” of the wines they stocked, suggesting that they were shipped and stored under the best conditions in order to avoid any sort of contamination or turning. Cunningham and Sands implied that they knew wine as well as artisans knew their trades.

In terms of service, the partners offered several options to potential customers interested in obtaining their products. Consumers could visit Cunningham and Sands at one of two locations in Charleston, either “at their Counting-House fronting the Bay, on Mr. Burn’s new Wharf, or at their Store in Union-street.” Realizing that not all readers of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette – and prospective customers – resided in the Charleston or had easy access to either of their two locations, Cunningham and Sands also announced that “All Orders from the Country will be punctually complied with.” In effect, they offered mail order service! They apparently believed this convenience would attract customers. Not only did they include it in their advertisements, they also drew special attention to it by inserting it as a separate nota bene rather than including it in the paragraph of dense text that detailed the other aspects of quality and service they provided. (Whether Cunningham and Sands or the printer decided that the nota bene should be printed in italics is much more difficult to determine. Advertisers generally wrote their own copy and printers generally made decisions about layout, but occasionally advertisers exercised some influence over format.)

Sam notes that Americans consumed a fair amount of alcohol and enjoyed various sorts of wines and spirits. Today’s advertisement reveals some of the options available to them as well as part of the process involved in shopping for these items.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 27, 1767

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

Compiled by Shannon Dewar

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

**********

feb-27-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-slavery-10
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

February 26

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-26-2261767-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (February 26, 1767).

“TO BE SOLD A standing Top-Chaise … and a very neat Sulkey.”

The advertisement featured today offered two types of carriages, “A standing Top-Chaise” and “a very neat Sulkey.” As the colonies expanded and populations grew, carriages became an important means of travel within cities and between colonies. Colonists made, bought, and used a variety of carriages, also commonly referred to as chairs, chaises, chariots, gigs, whiskeys, and sulkies.

According to Mary R.M. Goodwin, a chaise, which was interchangeable with the term chair, was a “light open carriage for one or two persons, often having a top or calash; those with four wheelers resembling a phaeton, those with two the curricle; also loosely used for pleasure carts and light carriages generally.” Goodwin consulted William Felton’s Treatise on Carriages, published in London in 1796, to describe sulkies. Sulkies were single seated “small, light four-wheeled vehicle, ‘built exactly in the form of a Post-chaise, Chariot, or Demi-Landau.’” Although some accounts referred to them as two-wheelers, the defining feature of the sulkey was its single person carrying capacity, basically making it a private and personal means of transportation. (For more information about the different kinds of carriages Goodwin mentions, see “Wheeled Carriages in Eighteenth-Century Virginia.”)

Carriages were either privately owned by the wealthy who could afford to purchase either locally built or imported carriages. By the 1760s, sometimes they were operated by local companies that charged for transportation.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

As Sam indicates, affluent colonists imported carriages of all sorts from England, but by the 1760s coachmakers set up shops and advertised their wares in the largest American cities, sometimes noting that they consulted imported pattern books in order to produce carriages of the same style and quality as those available in London and other English cities. For instance, just a few days after today’s featured advertisement appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette, Hawes and Company, “Coach-makers,” inserted a lengthy notice about their services in the Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette.

Today’s advertisement does not indicate the place of production for any of the conveyances it offered, but it does reveal a significant aspect of the marketplace in the revolutionary era. Just as many colonists acquired secondhand clothing and other goods, a market for used carriages emerged. The previous summer Adino Paddock, who followed “the Coach and Chaise-making Business” at a shop in Boston, advertised that he “always [had] a Number of second-hand Chaises to dispose of, very cheap.” Similarly, Hawes and Company’s advertisement noted that in addition to new carriages they also sold “on the most reasonable Terms, TWO second hand POST-CHAISES, a FAMILY COACH, and several CHAIRS.” Consumers who could not afford new carriages could discover a bargain when considering used ones instead.

The anonymous seller of “a very neat Sulkey” and a “standing Top-Chaise” may have found that maintaining these carriages was no longer practical or affordable. Alternately, the seller may have been in the process of acquiring a new – perhaps more impressive or fashionable – carriage and hoped to apply the proceeds from the sale of the chaise and sulkey to the purchase. If that was the case, the seller presumably was not dealing with Paddock, who pledged that he “will take old Chaises as Part of Pay for new.” These examples reveal that the marketing and financing of cars in twentieth and early twenty-first century resemble techniques launched by coachmakers in the eighteenth century.

 

Welcome, Guest Curator Samuel Birney

Samuel Birney is a junior majoring in History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has completed the department’s capstone seminar, researching and writing “The Emergence of International Aid and Relief: Comparing the Disaster Responses of Naples and Lisbon.” He will present that work at the college’s annual Undergraduate Symposium in April. He has made the Dean’s List every semester. Sam is interested in how human belief and behavior have changed over the course of history and the development of cultures across the world. He believes history is one of the means we have of coming to understand humankind’s place in the world, in the past, present, and future.  He will be the guest curator of the Adverts 250 Project during the week of February 26 to March 4, 2017.  He will also curate the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of March 12 to 18, 2017.

Welcome, Sam Birney!

Slavery Advertisements Published February 26, 1767

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

Compiled by Shannon Dewar

feb-26-massachusetts-gazette-extraordinary-slavery-1
Massachusetts Gazette Extraordinary (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-new-york-gazette-or-weekly-post-boy-slavery-1
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-new-york-journal-slavery-1
New-York Journal (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-pennsylvania-gazette-slavery-1
Pennsylvania Gazette (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-virginia-gazette-slavery-1
Virginia Gazette (Februar 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-virginia-gazette-slavery-2
Virginia Gazette (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-virginia-gazette-slavery-3
Virginia Gazette (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-virginia-gazette-slavery-4
Virginia Gazette (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-virginia-gazette-slavery-5
Virginia Gazette (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-virginia-gazette-slavery-6
Virginia Gazette (February 26, 1767).

**********

feb-26-virginia-gazette-slavery-7
Virginia Gazette (February 26, 1767).