December 26

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

Dec 26 - 12:26:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 26, 1767).

“He hopes his kind Cust’mers will once again call, / And for their past Favours he thanketh them all.”

Benoni Pearce, a shopkeeper, frequently advertised in the Providence Gazette. His commercial notices usually incorporated some of the advertising strategies most popular in eighteenth-century America, including appeals to price, quality, and consumer choice. Such was the case in a new advertisement that first appeared in the final week of December 1767, though Pearce gave the method of delivery a twist that surely attracted notice from readers of the Providence Gazette. A series of rhyming couplets and a final tercet comprised the advertisement.

Pearce certainly was not the first or only advertiser to promote his wares or his business in verse, but such efforts were infrequent enough that they retained a novel quality when they appeared in newspapers or on broadsides. Their format likely garnered greater attention from prospective customers who would have merely glanced through a list of familiar merchandise but instead carefully examined Pearce’s rhymes. The short poem entertained even as it sought to stimulate consumption, making it – and Pearce’s shop – all the more memorable.

In just half a dozen couplets, Pearce moved through a series of appeals. After reminding readers of his location “upon the West Side,” he announced that he stocked “fresh Goods” selected with care. He made nods toward quality (“the best Kind”) and price (“as cheap as any you’ll find”), before thanking former customers and encouraging them to “once again call.” He concluded by lightheartedly addressing two aspects of commerce and consumer culture that colonists increasingly associated with contemporary political debates.

While other shopkeepers starkly stated that they sold their wares “For CASH” (as Thompson and Arnold did in the advertisement immediately below), Pearce pledged “To take the March Money* for what it was made.” A note at the end of the advertisement, the only portion not in verse, clarified that the “March Money” had been issued in 1762. Paper currency tended to depreciate, so Pearce indicated the current rate: “6 s. equal to a Dollar.” This method of naming a particular currency then in circulation in Rhode Island cleverly addressed the same issue that J. Mathewson raised in the advertisement immediately above. Mathewson plainly stated that he “takes lawful Money, of any Date, equal to Dollars.” Discussions of how to pay could be troublesome, but through his witty rhyme Pearce attempted to make that awkward part of potential transactions at least somewhat amusing.

Finally, in the tercet that concluded the advertisement Pearce weighed in on questions about what kinds of goods should be bought and sold in order to best serve the political and economic welfare of the colonies. An imbalance of trade between Britain and the colonies contributed to a recession. The imposition of new taxes on certain imported goods when the Townshend Act went into effect in November 1767 further exacerbated tensions. Residents of Boston, followed by other towns in New England, had pledged to limit their consumption of imported goods in favor of purchasing local products instead. Pearce endorsed these efforts and indicated that he did his part when he acquired merchandise to sell to his customers because “the Good of his Country doth near his Heart lie.”

Benoni Pearce made several appeals to customers in his advertisement. He had previously made the same appeals in a series of advertisements in the Providence Gazette, but a creative new format – a short poem – enticed readers to take note of this particularly memorable advertisement. Once he had their attention, Pearce increased his chances of making sales.

December 25

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

Dec 25 - 12:25:1767 Connecticut Journal
Connecticut Journal (December 25, 1767).

“Dunstable Hats, being a new Fashion.”

In December 1767, shopkeeper William McCrackan began placing advertisements for “very neat Assortment of Winter Goods” in the Connecticut Journal, a newspaper founded just two months earlier. Almost as soon as it was established, colonial retailers used the advertising pages of the new publication to teach potential customers about consumer goods in order to incite demand and generate sales.

McCrackan operated his shop in New Haven in the midst of a consumer revolution. Prospective customers spoke the language of consumption. In particular, they could identify and distinguish among a variety of imported textiles – like “Callimancoes,” “Camblets,” and “Ratteens” – without descriptions from those who sold them. Some products, however, especially those recently introduced to the market, required at least some explanation. Such was the case for “Dunstable Hats” and consumers in New Haven and its hinterland. Realizing that some colonists might not be familiar with that particular item, McCrackan advertised them as “Dunstable Hats, being a new Fashion.” Almost simultaneously, shopkeeper Henry Wilmot advertised “Leghorne, Dunstable and Skelliton hats, trimmed in the newest fashion” in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy. Unlike McCrackan’s perspective on colonists in rural Connecticut, Wilmot assumed that residents of the busy urban port were already acquainted with Dunstable hats, yet he did make a point of asserting that the ones he stocked had been “trimmed in the newest fashion.” Even familiar accessories could be updated to reflect evolving tastes.

McCrackan provided no description of Dunstable hats beyond the short interjection that they represented “a new Fashion.” Still, that likely would have been sufficient to provoke curiosity among some prospective customers, drawing them into his shop to view and converse about the hats and other merchandise. For those who desired to imagine that they participated in the same culture of consumption as residents of cosmopolitan London, despite their distance from the metropole, McCrackan offered a helpful update about prevailing tastes, alerting them to the latest trends. His advertisement did more than merely announce the availability of goods. It encouraged an interest in the novel and the new in order to stimulate consumer demand.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 25, 1767

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

Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 10
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 11
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 12
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

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Dec 25 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 13
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 25, 1767).

December 24

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

Dec 24 - 12:24:1767 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (December 24, 1767).

“Newest fashioned hat trimmings.”

At his shop on Hanover Street in New York, Henry Wilmot stocked an impressive array of goods “imported in the last Vessels from LONDON.” His advertisement in the December 24, 1767, edition of the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy described all kinds of personal adornments, from lace and ribbons to hairpins and combs to jewelry and gloves. To incite demand for these baubles from Britain, Wilmot deployed one of the most common marketing strategies of the period, an appeal to fashion. Many shopkeepers made general statements about the fashionable qualities of all of their wares, but Wilmot instead reiterated this point throughout his advertisement. He repeated some variation on the phrase “newest fashion” five times in the list of his inventory: “newest fashioned coloured ribbands,” “newest fashioned hat trimmings,” “Leghorne, Dunstable and Skelliton hats trimmed in the newest fashion,” “new-fashioned combs,” and “new-fashioned bindings and laces.”

This method may have been intended to convey to potential customers that Wilmot exercised careful attention to detail when it came to keeping abreast of the latest trends in London. Rather than make sweeping claims about all of his merchandise, he highlighted particular items that consumers could trust reflected tastes currently on display in the cosmopolitan center of the empire. In turn, this suggested that he could provide guidance in selecting from among his other merchandise, steering customers away from items too far out of style in favor of those that suitably complemented the “newest fashioned” garments and adornments. At the very least, repeating the phrase “newest fashion” may have induced potential customers to associate all of Wilmot’s merchandise with current styles, as did the use of adjectives like “best” and “elegant.”

Colonial consumers often worried that shopkeepers hawked whatever merchandise they could acquire, that English merchants sent castaways no longer popular in the London market. Wilmot addressed those suspicions with repeated assertions that he stocked and sold goods of the “newest fashion,” stylish items that had not been lingering in his shop but instead arrived on the vessels that most recently entered port.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 24, 1767

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

Dec 24 - Massachuestts Gazette Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - New-Hampshire Gazette Slavery 1
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 4
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette P&D Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette P&D Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette P&D Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette P&D Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette P&D Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette P&D Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette P&D Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Purdie & Dixon] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (December 24, 1767).

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Dec 24 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (December 24, 1767).

Summary of Slavery Advertisements Published December 17-23

These tables indicate how many advertisements for slaves appeared in colonial American newspapers during the week of December 17-23, 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 17-23, 1767:  By Date

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Date Dec 17

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Slavery Advertisements Published December 17-23, 1767:  By Region

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Region Dec 17

December 23

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

Dec 23 - 12:23:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

“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.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 23, 1767

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

Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

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Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

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Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

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Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

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Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

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Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

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Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

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Dec 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

December 22

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

Dec 22 - 12:22:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 22, 1767).

“He most earnestly intreats the Favour of all Persons indebted to him, to discharge their Arrears.”

Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, marked the completion of the second year of publication with an advertisement that called on subscribers and other “Persons indebted to him” to settle accounts so he, in turn, could pay down his own debts. His notice first appeared in the December 15, 1767, issue. It ran for four weeks, appearing immediately below the masthead as the first item in the first column on the first page in the final three issues of 1767 and the first issue of 1768. Crouch invoked his privilege as the printer to determine his advertisement’s placement on the page, choosing the spot likely to garner the most notice by those he wished to see his message and follow through on his request for payment.

The printer resorted to several tactics to encourage his debtors to “discharge their Arrears.” He emphasized that he assumed “great Expence” in publishing such a “useful and entertaining” newspaper “with Credit and Punctuality.” He offered a service to the public, and did so with competence, but that potentially put “himself and Family” at risk of “very bad Consequences” if those who owed him money did not pay as soon as possible. He also sought to downplay the amount of any particular debt, asserting that if many made small payments that the total would be sufficient for him “to discharge those Demands” against him. Considering these various appeals together, Crouch implicitly argued that the value of his newspaper amounted to much more than the small costs subscribers, advertisers, and others incurred when they did business with him.

Crouch also addressed advertisers in particular, attaching a nota bene about inserting advertisements in subsequent issues of his newspaper. First, he underscored their efficacy, assuring those who contemplated placing notices that advertising in his gazette “will certainly answer their End, as it has a very extensive Circulation.” The South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal was one of three newspapers published in Charleston at the time, so Crouch needed to convince advertisers to select his newspaper instead of, or along with, the others. He also made a request for new advertisers to “be so kind as to send the CASH” when they submitted their copy, though this was not necessary if he already happened to have “an open Account.”

The continuation of advertising, along with the inclusion of other “useful and entertaining” content, depended in part on an advertisement published by the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Even as he instructed potential advertisers that inserting notices in his gazette “will certainly answer their End,” Crouch depended on that being the case for his own advertisement, trusting that it would induce his debtors to settle their accounts.