What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The WHARF and STORES belonging to Capt. Francis Arwen.”
In late December 1767, Van Rensselaer and Peat turned to the Georgia Gazette to advertise “Good West-India and Northward Rum [and] Muscovado Sugar and Pigtail Tobacco; with sundry other Dry Goods,” but that was not the primary purpose of their advertisement. Instead, they promoted a new venture they had just commenced, “having taken the WHARF and STORES belonging to Capt. Francis Arwen.” They offered their services to planters and merchants in Savannah and its hinterland.
Van Rensselaer ad Peat petitioned planters to send rice and other commodities to them for storage before being loaded on ships for transport to other markets for sale. They promised that they had “regular weights and measures” that allowed them to “do justice” in determining the value and volume of goods they received. This benefited planters when it came to charging them for storage and loading commodities onto vessels docked at the wharf, but it also worked in favor of merchants who purchased those commodities. Van Rensselaer and Peat proclaimed that they kept “true and accurate accounts.” Their fair dealing meant that neither planters nor merchants needed to worry that they were being cheated in transactions conducted at Van Rensselaer and Peat’s wharf and stores.
The partners also addressed two other aspects of the services they provided. Savannah competed with the older and larger port at Charleston. Planters might have been tempted to send their rice and other commodities there instead of shipping them via Savannah, anticipating that access to more storehouses meant lower prices. For their part, Van Rensselaer and Peat asserted that they “charg[ed] no more than the Carolina prices” in order to keep their services competitive with those offered by their competitors in the neighboring colony. They also made themselves available to work with planters and merchants at their convenience: “Constant attendance will be given.” This also suggested that watchful eyes safeguarded any commodities deposited for storage, preventing theft.
Many advertisements in colonial newspapers offered goods and services to consumers, but others facilitated the production and distribution of commodities locally and throughout the Atlantic world. The rice and other commodities exported via Van Rensselaer and Peat’s storehouses and wharf were part of large networks of exchange that made possible the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century.