November 4

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

Nov 4 - 11:4:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 4, 1767).

“They … carry on the ART of SURVEYING.”

In the November 4, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette, James Anderson and Samuel Savery placed an advertisement “to inform the Publick” that they had formed a partnership and “carr[ied] on the ART of SURVEYING in all its branches.” While Anderson and Savery referred to their work as an art, it was also a technical skill that required both expertise and special equipment. Surveyors needed to understand trigonometry and other mathematics more advanced than most colonists mastered. Given the stakes involved in their work, they also needed to cultivate trust. Anderson and Savery asserted that they drew up plans that were “neatly and accurately done” and did so “with punctuality and dispatch.” They sought to convince potential clients that they were dependable and professional.

Anderson and Savery offered their services to “Gentlemen who desire plans of their islands or estates,” but many other surveyors worked for the colonial government. Their work was essential in transferring land from the crown to the private owners. From the founding of the colony in 1732 until 1752, a Board of Trustees governed Georgia. Throughout most of the period the Trustees designated a public surveyor. On the recommendation of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, George II placed the colony under royal authority and established a civil government that consisted of a governor, an assemble, and other necessary offices. This included the surveyor general, an official responsible for administering land grants and public land surveys. According to Ferris W. Cadle, “In time, the duties of this office increased to such an extent that the surveyor general performed very little of the actual surveying, the office having become primarily administrative with the fieldwork left to deputies.”[1]

Anderson and Savery may have worked on behalf of the colonial government at some point in their careers, but in the late 1760s they advertised a different service. They offered to help landholders gain an even better understanding of their property beyond whatever initial surveys had been conducted. Like other surveyors in colonial America, they contributed to imposing order on a frontier.

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[1] Ferris W. Cadle, Georgia Land Surveying History and Law (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991), 29.

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