April 30

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

Apr 30 - 4:30:1767 Boston News-Letter
Massachusetts Gazette (April 30, 1767).

“Genteel Assortment newest fashion Fans and Masks.”

At his shop at the sign of the Three Doves in Boston, William Blair Townsend sold “A Fresh Assortment Goods for the Season” recently imported from London. Many of his competitors advised potential customers that they stocked fashionable goods, especially textiles, accessories, and adornments for garments, but most deployed some sort of blanket statement to that effect. Townsend, on the other hand, underscored that he carried dry goods à la mode, inserting the word “fashionable” five times in his list of merchandise. For instance, he carried “Ducapes, with Fashionable Trimmings” and “fashionable white Blond Lace.” For those worried that merchants in England attempted to pawn off inventory already going out of style to colonial shopkeepers to pass along to their customers far removed from the cosmopolitan center of the empire, Townsend asserted that his customers could purchase “new fashion black and white Silk Mitts” as well as a “variety newest fashion figured and plated Silver Ribbons.” Both could have been used to dress up garments that might otherwise have been already passing out of style. Townsend adopted even more expansive language as he continued describing his wares: “genteel Assortment newest fashion Fans and Masks.” Other eighteenth-century advertisers commonly made appeals to fashion, but Townsend made it the centerpiece of his marketing strategy.

Not all colonists were as keen on keeping up with current fashions as the customers Townsend sought to cultivate. The Massachusetts Gazette Extraordinary, a supplement for “other News and New-Advertisements,” included a notice that “In a few Days will be Published, AN ADDRESS TO PERSONS of FASHION.” The author did not look upon the consumer revolution, its rituals of purchasing and display, with fondness. This pamphlet was a warning “worthy the serious Attention of every Christian, especially at a Time when Vice and Immorality seem to have an Ascendancy over Religion.” This advertisement stood in stark contrast to the array of advertisements hawking all sorts of consumer goods that surrounded it. Seemingly separated from Townsend’s advertisement by several pages according to modern archival practices, the Extraordinary may have been inserted in the Massachusetts Gazette as a means of keeping the two publications for April 30 together. If that was the case, the advertisement for the “ADDRESS TO PERSONS of FASHION” appeared on the far left of the page that faced Townsend’s advertisement. Readers would have encountered the critique of fashion almost immediately before perusing the shopkeeper’s efforts to extoll his stylish merchandise.

Slavery Advertisements Published April 30, 1767

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

Apr 30 - Boston News-Letter Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette (April 30, 1767).

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Apr 30 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette (April 30, 1767).

April 29

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

Apr 29 - 4:29:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

“Hand-Bills, Advertisements, &c. printed at the shortest Notice.”

In the colophon for each edition of the Georgia Gazette, James Johnston informed readers that they could submit “Advertisements, Letters of Intelligence, and Subscriptions for this Paper” at his “Printing-Office in Broughton-Street” in Savannah. In effect, Johnston used the colophon to advertise advertisements. To some extent, it seemed to work. Advertising filled three out of eight columns of the April 29, 1767, issue, making the balance of news items and paid notices comparable to what appeared in many other newspapers throughout the colonies in the 1760s (at least those that did not distribute supplements devoted primarily to advertising). The nature of the advertising, however, differed significantly from the notices printed in newspapers in cities like Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. Advertisements for consumer goods placed by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans accounted for a significant portion of all paid notices in those places. The Georgia Gazette, on the other hand, did not attract many advertisers promoting the assortment of goods featured so prominently in newspapers from other places.

Did this matter to Johnston? Did the printer care which sorts of advertisements he published as long he had enough to fill the pages of each issue and generate additional revenue to supplement the subscription fees? Perhaps not, but when he received newspapers from other colonies he almost certainly realized that he was missing out on a potentially lucrative opportunity. Many of his counterparts operated businesses that benefited from purveyors of consumer goods and providers of services competing with each other for potential customers in the public prints, placing new advertisements week after week.

Why did so few shopkeepers and merchants advertise in the Georgia Gazette? Certainly Savannah was a smaller town than most others with newspapers, but the shipping news did indicate the arrival of two vessels since the previous issue. The brigantine Ann had sailed from London, presumably carrying a similar assortment of consumer goods as those advertised regularly throughout the rest of the colonies. Did the relatively small size of the town alone account for the absence of any advertisements at least announcing the arrival of new merchandise? Merchants and shopkeepers in Savannah probably did not face the same level of competition as in bustling port cities, yet it was still in their own best interests to attempt to incite demand in their wares.

Many newspapers published in the quarter century before the Revolution contained a vibrant array of advertisements for consumer goods and services, testifying to a consumer revolution experienced in both Britain and the colonies. As they read their local newspaper, residents of Savannah (and New London and, to a lesser extent, Providence and Portsmouth) experienced a very different textual landscape of advertising for consumer goods compared to the multitude of advertisements for consumer goods that filled the pages of newspapers in larger cities and sometimes even flowed over into advertising supplements. Consumer culture was widespread throughout the colonies, but advertising was uneven.

Slavery Advertisements Published April 29, 1767

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

Compiled by Samuel Birney

Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 9
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

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Apr 29 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (April 29, 1767).

April 28

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

Apr 28 - 4:28:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

“The Proprietor’s stay in Charles-Town, will be about a Month.”

This advertisement presented residents of Charleston an opportunity to depart from their daily routines and view a spectacle: “JERUSALEM, Or a View of that famous City” as depicted in a painting that measured “seventeen Feet long, and nine Feet wide.” The advertisement aroused curiosity by describing in great detail the various landmarks visible in the scene, including “the Temple of SOLOMON, his Royal THRONE, the noted HOUSES, TOWERS and HILLS.” In addition, the painting also told the story of “the SUFFERINGS of our SAVIOUR, from the Garden of GETHSAMENA, to the CROSS on the Hill of GOLGOTHA.”

This attraction, “now to be seen at Mr. HOLIDAY’s,” was new to Charleston, though this form of entertainment was a familiar part of eighteenth-century popular culture. Proprietors of similar paintings of faraway places and historical scenes moved from place to place, charging admission (fifteen shillings in this case) to “the Curious” interested seeing something out of the ordinary. Other itinerants with magic lantern shows also amused colonists with scenes and stories, for a price. They were part of a larger community of entertainers (including acrobats, actors, musicians, wire dancers, and trick riders) that traveled from town to town, often generating interest and drawing audiences by advertising in local newspapers.

Like many other itinerant entertainers, the unnamed proprietor of this view of Jerusalem attempted to create a sense of urgency among those who might wish to see it. The advertisement stated that his “stay in Charles-Town, will be about a Month.” That may have accurate, but Peter Benes has demonstrated that this was often a marketing ploy. Many eighteenth-century entertainers regularly underscored that they planned to stay for a short time only, encouraging potential audiences not to miss out on the novelty of their performances. Taking out advertisements announcing an extended stay was another strategy for drawing viewers or audiences. Not only did doing so suggest popularity among the locals, it also gave readers a second chance to participate in the popular culture that had attracted their friends and neighbors. Such “limited time only” advertisements warned potential audiences not to miss out!

Slavery Advertisements Published April 28, 1767

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

Compiled by Samuel Birney

Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 11
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 12
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 13
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 4
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 5
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 6
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 7
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

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Apr 28 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 8
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 28, 1767).

April 27

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

Apr 27 - 4:27:1767 New-York Mercury
New-York Mercury (April 27, 1767).

“I will work for the following prices.”

Charles Oliver Bruff, “Gold-smith and Jeweler,” was in a price war with “three different Silver-smiths” in New York. Bruff frequently advertised in the New-York Mercury, but he departed from his usual description of his merchandise and promises to provide good service to “the Gentlemen and Ladies of this city and country” to address a problem created by some of his competitors. He accused those “three different Silver-smiths” of undervaluing his work, making it seem as though he charged unreasonable prices.

To protect his reputation and avoid losing more business to his unscrupulous competitors, Bruff went to the rather extraordinary measure of listing his prices for the entire community to see, assess for themselves, and compare to the rates charged by other “Gentlemen of the trade.” He specified nine prices, including “For making a silver tankard, 3s. per ounce,” and “For making a soop-spoon, 20s.”

Bruff may not have been the innocent victim that he tried to portray himself. His initial prices may have been inflated, but he could not admit to that in his advertisement. Instead, he offered an alternate narrative that depicted his competitors as lacking in sound judgment when it came to assessing the quality of his work and the value of products in their trade more generally. At the same time, he lowered his own prices, seemingly forced to do so in order to continue to attract clients. As a result, new customers would receive quite a bargain since Bruff did not wish to “hurt myself for others” by charging full value for his workmanship only to be undercut by competitors. He concluded his advertisement by stating definitively that he would “work as cheap as any in this city.” Even if Bruff had overcharged in the past, intentionally or not, potential patrons need not worry about that happening if they now chose to deal with him.

Slavery Advertisements Published April 27, 1767

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

Compiled by Samuel Birney

Apr 27 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 1
Boston Evening-Post (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - Boston Evening-Post Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Boston Evening-Post (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 1
Boston-Gazette (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - New-York Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Mercury (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - New-York Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Mercury (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - New-York Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Mercury (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - New-York Mercury Slavery 4
New-York Mercury (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - New-York Mercury Slavery 5
New-York Mercury (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - New-York Mercury Supplement Slavery 1
New-York Mercury (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - Newport Mercury Slavery 1
Newport Mercury (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - Pennsylvania Chronicle Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Chronicle (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South Carolina Gazette (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South Carolina Gazette (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South Carolina Gazette (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 4
South Carolina Gazette (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 5
South Carolina Gazette (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 6
South Carolina Gazette (April 27, 1767).

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Apr 27 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 7
South Carolina Gazette (April 27, 1767).

April 26

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

Apr 26 - 4:23:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (April 23, 1767).

“Will also sell … a Negro Man that understands Brewing and Distilling.”

As he prepared to leave Boston for Nova Scotia, Robert Whatley had the eighteenth-century version of a moving sale. He scheduled a “Public Vendue” (or auction) to sell many of his personal belongings, including beds, tables, chairs, and even a “fine large Canoe with Sails.” Whatley, a brewer by trade, also wished to sell his equipment, including “a Copper Boiler with a brass Cock to it, fit for a Coffee-House or Tavern” and his “Brewing Utensils with all Things necessary for that Business.”

In addition to his household furniture and the tools of his trade, Whatley also offered to sell “a Negro Man that understand Brewing and Distilling.” The Adverts 250 Project recently examined an advertisement that included enslaved artisans, including carpenters and coopers, exploited for their expertise and specialized skills in addition to their labor. Whatley’s advertisement further demonstrates the range of occupations and crafts enslaved men and women pursued in the colonial and Revolutionary eras.

Both the copy and the layout of Whatley’s notice suggest that colonists would not have considered it in any way extraordinary that “a Negro Man that understands Brewing and Distilling” played a role in operating the business. Readers who skimmed the advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette might even have missed the portion of Whatley’s advertisement that mentioned the enslaved brewer; that sentence was nestled in the middle of two dense paragraphs. In some respects, Whatley’s attempt to sell his slave was hidden in plain sight. It was part of his advertisement, but not its main purpose.

As my students and I have pursued the Slavery Adverts 250 Project for the past seven months, the frequency of advertisements like this one has been a striking feature. We expected to encounter advertisements exclusively devoted to slavery, especially those that offered one or more slaves for sale and others concerning runaway slaves. We have been a bit more surprised by how often slaves for sale incidentally appeared in advertisements, listed alongside consumer goods and real estate. The practice of slavery – the presence of slavery in everyday life and commerce – pervaded early American print culture, especially advertising, more subtly and to a much greater extent than we initially expected.

April 25

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

Apr 25 - 4:25:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (April 25, 1767).

“He now performs all Sorts of Writing and Scrivening Business as usual.”

Silas Downer, a scrivener, went out of town on business for some time, making it necessary to place an advertisement announcing his return once he was again in Providence. Downer did not give too many particulars, though he indicated that he was “returned from one of the Southern Colonies, where he hath been a few Weeks transacting some Business of Consequence.” This may have disrupted the services he usually provided to the residents of Providence; he explained that the business that called him out of town “unexpectedly demanded his Presence.” Whatever the cause of his absence, Downer was back in town, open for business, and ready to work with clients.

As a scrivener, he penned a variety of documents, including legal documents. He promised to do so “with Secrecy, Fidelity, and Dispatch.” Perhaps he intended for the first portion of his advertisement to testify to the “Secrecy” that was part of his profession. After all, he offered a substantial explanation for his departure without revealing any specific information. He demonstrated his ability to discuss his own affairs without disclosing any of the other parties involved, the nature of the business that called him away from Providence, or even his destination in “one of the Southern Colonies.” In so doing, he exhibited both “Fidelity” to his clients and “Dispatch” in handling matters so quickly. He also brought his work to a successful conclusion, having “executed his Commission,” whatever it may have been. Without explicitly stating the quality of his own character, Downer provided evidence for potential customers to assess whether he possessed the virtues that made for an effective and trustworthy scrivener.

To supplement that appeal, Downer also acknowledged his “Old Customers” while inviting them and new clients “to favor him with their Business.” Anyone uncertain about hiring the scrivener could put stock in the fact that others had previously trusted his “Secrecy, Fidelity, and Dispatch.”

An unexpected departure may have disrupted and damaged Downer’s services in Providence, but the scrivener crafted an advertisement that transformed his temporary absence into an opportunity to demonstrate the various virtues he brought to his occupation. He conducted “Business of Consequence” and clients could depend on him to do the same when it came to the documents he composed for them as well.