December 31

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

Dec 31 - 12:31:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 31, 1767).

“Every bar that leaves the forges for the future will be stamped.”

Curtis Grubb and Peter Grubb were the victims of counterfeiters! The Grubbs produced and sold bar iron, but someone was passing off an inferior product that masqueraded as bar iron that came from their forge. To address the situation, the Grubbs inserted an advertisement in the supplement that accompanied the December 31, 1767, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

In the process of describing how they had been “gros[s]ly imposed upon” by the impostors who peddled the fraudulent bar iron, the Grubbs also promoted the positive aspects of their own product. The bar iron falsely attributed to the Grubbs “was neither of so good a quality, nor so well drawn, as that which they have heretofore made, and do now make.” The spurious bar iron actually served as an endorsement of sorts: the counterfeiter and the unwitting buyers both acknowledged the quality of the Grubbs’ bar iron. The deception depended on the Grubbs having already established a reputation as producers of bar iron. The incident allowed them to further augment that reputation by publishing their tale in the public prints, positioning themselves as both victims and skilled producers of quality bar iron.

As a remedy to this imposition, the Grubbs devised a new means of protecting the stature of their product: “Notice is hereby given, that every bar that leaves the forges for the future will be stamped.” The Grubbs created a trademark for their bar iron; they literally marked their product to make it easily identifiable for customers who acquired it from third-party sellers. This modification benefited both producers and customers. Preventing further frauds meant that “the public [will] no longer [be] abused.” It also restored the reputation – or, as the Grubbs described it (twice), the “character” – of their bar iron.

When it came to counterfeit merchandise, eighteenth-century advertisements most often flagged the possibility of bogus patent medicines, but other products could also be imitated to the disadvantage of both the original producers and customers duped into buying something other than what they intended. In the case of bar iron, the Grubbs attempted to turn the situation to their advantage. They also devised a trademark that not only marketed their product but also helped to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 31, 1767

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

Dec 31 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette (December 31, 1767).
Dec 31 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (December 31, 1767).
Dec 31 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 31, 1767).
Dec 31 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 31, 1767).
Dec 31 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 31, 1767).
Dec 31 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 4
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 31, 1767).
Dec 31 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 5
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 31, 1767).

December 30

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

Dec 30 - 12:30:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

“GEORGE NORMAN, PERUKE-MAKER and HAIR-DRESSER … has opened a shop.”

When he opened a new shop in Savannah in 1767, George Norman placed an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette to offer his services as a “PERUKE-MAKER and HAIR-DRESSER” to readers in town and throughout the countryside. Although the term “peruke” has fallen into disuse today, colonists knew that it referred to wigs.

In their examination of “Wigmaking in Colonial America,” Thomas K. Bullock and Maurice B. Tonkin, Jr., summarize the activities of Norman and his counterparts in cities and towns throughout the colonies: “The work of the wigmaking craft in Colonial America consisted primarily of three types of activities; making and selling wigs and false hair pieces for men and women, cutting and dressing ladies’ and gentlemen’s hair, and shaving men.”[1] Individual wigmakers engaged in each of these activities to varying extents. Although Norman did not mention shaving in his advertisement, it may have been an ancillary service he provided for male clients who visited his shop.

The presence of Norman’s advertisement in the Georgia Gazette testifies to the growth of Savannah in the second half of the eighteenth century. According to Bullock and Tonkin, the “wig custom … was primarily an urban practice” in colonial America. Although small in comparison to busy urban ports like Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, the largest town in Georgia achieved a sufficient “concentration of people and wealth [to create] a society in which the wig was considered a social or economic asset.” Whether they resided in town or country, planters, merchants, and clergy commonly wore wigs, but the practice was not always limited to elites. Bullock and Tonkin indicate that “certain craftsmen, small shopkeepers, and other skilled workers and artisans, whose jobs brought them in contact with the public, found it advantageous to wear wigs.”[2] More than a mere fashion accessory, wearing a wig served as a symbol of respectability in colonial society.

Bullock and Tonkin also comment on the significance of newspaper advertisements in examining the production and sale of wigs in colonial America: “There is a general scarcity of material relating to the practice of the wigmaking craft in America. Newspaper advertisements constitute the bulk of available information, and it is on this we must rely for an insight into the conduct of the craft.”[3] For more on the tools, methods, and processes involved, consult Colonial Williamsburg’s “Wigmaking in Colonial America.”

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[1] Thomas K. Bullock and Maurice B. Tonkin, Jr., “Wigmaking in Colonial America,” (Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library, 1957), 11.

[2] Bullock and Tonkin, “Wigmaking,” 9.

[3] Bullock and Tonkin, “Wigmaking,” 10.

Summary of Slavery Advertisements Published December 24-30, 1767

These tables indicate how many advertisements for slaves appeared in colonial American newspapers during the week of December 24-30, 1767.

Note:  These tables are as comprehensive as currently digitized sources permit, but they may not be an exhaustive account.  They includes all newspapers that have been digitized and made available via Accessible Archives, Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, and Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers.  There are several reasons some newspapers may not have been consulted:

  • Issues that are no longer extant;
  • Issues that are extant but have not yet been digitized (including the Pennsylvania Journal); and
  • Newspapers published in a language other than English (including the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote).

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Slavery Advertisements Published December 24-30, 1767:  By Date

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Date Dec 24

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Slavery Advertisements Published December 24-30, 1767:  By Region

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Region Dec 24

Slavery Advertisements Published December 30, 1767

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

Dec 30 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

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Dec 30 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

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Dec 30 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

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Dec 30 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

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Dec 30 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

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Dec 30 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

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Dec 30 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (December 30, 1767).

December 29

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

Dec 29 - 12:29:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

“Fechtman undertakes to make stays and negligees, gowns and slips, without trying, for any lady in the country.”

Christopher Fechtman, a “STAY and MANTUA-MAKER from LONDON,” promoted his services in an advertisement in the supplement to the December 29, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. After noting his change of address, he launched several appeals intended to incite demand for his services and instill a preference for obtaining stays, mantuas, and other items from him rather than his competitors.

Fechtman offered a guarantee of sorts, pledging to “give entire satisfaction to those who favour him” with their patronage. He did so with confidence, underscoring his own “knowledge of the business.” Yet Fechtman did not labor alone in his shop. He also employed “some experienced hands, who understand their business to the utmost dexterity.” Artisans commonly noted their skill and expertise in eighteenth-century advertisements. Fechtman assured potential customers that his subordinates who might have a hand in producing their garments were well qualified for the task. He staked his own reputation on that promise.

The staymaker also proclaimed that he would “work at a lower rate than any heretofore,” hoping to entice prospective clients with lower prices. High quality garments produced by skilled workers did not necessarily have to be exorbitantly expensive. Quite the opposite: Fechtman indicated that his prices beat any his competitors had ever charged.

Finally, Fechtman offered his services to women who resided in Charleston’s hinterland, widening his market beyond those who could easily visit his shop on Union Street while they ran other errands around town. To that end, he played up the convenience of procuring his services, noting that he could “make stays and negligees, gowns and slips, without trying, for any lady in the country.” His female clients did not need to visit his shop for a fitting. Presumably they forwarded their measurements when submitting their orders from a distance; tailors and others who made garments sometimes included instructions to send measurements with orders in their advertisements.

Fechtman competed with other stay- and mantua-makers in Charleston, a busy port city. To distinguish his garments and services from the competition, he resorted to several marketing strategies in his advertisement. He emphasized skill and expertise, both his own and that of the “experienced hands” who labored in his shop. He also offered low prices as well as convenience to clients unable to visit his shop for fittings. In the process, he encouraged prospective clients to imagine acquiring “stays and negligees, gowns and slips” from him, stoking demand and desire for his wares.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 29, 1767

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

Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 4
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 5
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

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Dec 29 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 6
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).