January 28

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

Jan 28 - 1:28:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (January 28, 1768).

“Committed as a Runaway … 8 11.”

In most instances it is impossible to determine what happened as the result of advertisements for runaway slaves or captured fugitives. Some runaways likely made good on their escapes, but the odds were stacked against them. Many slaveholders likely reclaimed their human property after seeing notices that they had been committed to jail or the workhouse, though the dates in those advertisements sometimes indicated that inmates remained for weeks or months without an owner collecting them.

In the case of “a well set Negro Man, who calls himself James Gale” who had been thrown in jail in Orange County on suspicion that he was a runaway, however, the notations inserted into the advertisement by the compositor suggest that the notice had its intended effect. Gale’s master likely claimed him shortly after the advertisement first appeared in the New-York Journal on January 28, 1768.

Consider the notation at the conclusion of the advertisement: “8 11.” These numbers appear unrelated to the content of the advertisement. Instead, they indicate which issues of the newspaper needed to include the advertisements. The “8” referred to the first issue that contained the advertisement, “NUMB. 1308,” published on January 28, 1768. The “11” referred to when the compositor should discontinue the advertisement, removing it from “NUMB. 1311” scheduled for publication on February 18. The notation indicates that it was slated to run in three issues, numbers 1308, 1309, and 1310.

Examination of other advertisements from the January 28 issue suggests that this was indeed the case. Mark Feely, an attorney, placed an advertisement for his legal “WRITINGS” that also featured the notation “7 10.” This advertisement originated in number 1307 and ran in the next two issues, but did not reappear in number 1310. Similarly, an advertisement announcing the auction of a “Corner House and Lot of Ground” had a notation that read “8 12” on the final line. As expected, it first ran in number 1308, continued for the next several issues, but disappeared with the publication of number 1312.

That being the case, the advertisement concerning the suspected runaway being held in jail in Orange County should have been in the three issues indicated by the notation “8 11.” However, it only ran for two weeks. Why? James Gale’s owner most likely became aware of the advertisement and made arrangements for the fugitive’s return quickly enough that John Hudson, the sheriff who placed the notice, requested that the printer discontinue it. This unfortunate conclusion demonstrates the power that print played in policing black men and women in eighteenth-century America.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 28, 1768

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

Jan 28 - Massachusetts Gazette Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette (January 28, 1768).

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Jan 28 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (January 28, 1768).

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Jan 28 - New-York Journal Slavery 2
New-York Journal (January 28, 1768).

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Jan 28 - New-York Journal Slavery 3
New-York Journal (January 28, 1768).

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Jan 28 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette (January 28, 1768).

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Jan 28 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette (January 28, 1768).

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Jan 28 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette (January 28, 1768).

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Jan 28 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette (January 28, 1768).

January 27

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

Jan 27 - 1:27:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

To be sold … ALL the PERSONAL ESTATE of said BENJAMIN GOLDWIRE.”

Some colonial newspapers seemed to overflow with advertisements places by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans seeking to sell consumer goods. This was especially true of newspapers published in the largest urban ports, including Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. Many newspapers from those cities frequently issued supplements devoted entirely to advertising. Other newspapers, however, featured far fewer advertisements for the wholesale or retail sale of consumer goods. Such was the case for the Georgia Gazette, published in Savannah by James Johnston. Even given the smaller population of the colony, shopkeepers placed relatively few advertisements in the Georgia Gazette. Perhaps the smaller population and fewer shops meant that the proprietors had less need to resort to the public prints rather than worrying about familiarity and word of mouth to promote their businesses.

The January 27, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, for instance, did not include any advertisements placed by shopkeepers. That did not mean, however, that it lacked evidence of participation in the vibrant consumer culture of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Several advertisements encouraged colonists to acquire goods at venues other than shops and warehouses in Savannah. Instead of purchasing new items at those locations, consumers could get similar items at bargain rates at estate sales and auctions. In four of the thirty-one advertisements in that issue, executors announced such sales. Each of them included either “Household Furniture” or “HOUSEHOLD GOODS” in addition to slaves and livestock. Unlike advertisements placed by merchants and shopkeepers, these notices did not incorporate any of the most popular marketing strategies, although the appeal to price was implicit when it came to the possibility of low bids at auctions. In the absence of appeals to quality, fashion, or consumer choice, advertisements for estate sales and auctions stimulated the market for secondhand goods, expanding the realm of consumer culture for greater numbers of colonists who may not have had the means to acquire solely new goods from merchants and shopkeepers.

Summary of Slavery Advertisements Published January 21-27, 1768

These tables indicate how many advertisements for slaves appeared in colonial American newspapers during the week of January 21-27, 1768.

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 January 21-27, 1768:  By Date

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Date Jan 21

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Slavery Advertisements Published January 21-27, 1768:  By Region

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Region Jan 21

Slavery Advertisements Published January 27, 1768

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

Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

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Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

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Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

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Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

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Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

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Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

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Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

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Jan 27 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (January 27, 1768).

January 26

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

Jan 26 - 1:26:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

“She was with child when she went away.”

Every advertisement about a runaway slave tells a story of resistance and the struggle to claim the same liberty enjoyed by the slaveholder who placed the advertisement. Yet these advertisements contain much more. They often reveal family histories or suggest bonds of affection among enslaved men, women, and children. As much as slaveholders may have wished to pretend otherwise, such stories embedded in advertisements intended to reclaim their property testified to the humanity of men, women, and children held in bondage.

Consider Sampson and Miley. The two ran away from the same plantation at the same time, quite likely departing together. Alexander Kerr described both of them in an advertisement. Sampson, approximately thirty, was missing two of his front teeth. Miley, a “slender made wench,” may have been even more recognizable by her “yellow complexion” and the “country marks on her face.” In addition, she was “with child” when she ran away. Her pregnancy would only become more apparent until she delivered the baby. After that, caring for an infant would continue to distinguish her from other black women.

What was Sampson and Miley’s relationship? He may have been the father of Miley’s child. Perhaps they made a decision that as parents they needed to escape together rather than allowing their child to be born into bondage. Perhaps Sampson and Miley had been in a relationship that their master refused to recognize. Miley’s child may have been the result of sexual assault by their master or an overseer, in which case Sampson could have aided her escape as a means of providing more protection for both mother and child than he previously had been capable of providing for Miley. Perhaps Sampson and Miley were friends, siblings, or otherwise related. They may have determined that they had better chances to make good on their escape if they assisted each other.

Despite all the details included in the descriptions of Sampson and Miley, Alexander Kerr did not specify their relationship to each other. It simply may not have mattered to him. After all, the stakes were much different for him than for the fugitives. Kerr demanded the return of his property, but the pregnant Miley and her companion sought freedom for themselves and a child on its way. Unwillingly, Kerr’s advertisement for runaway slaves revealed bonds of affection that would extend to another generation upon the birth of Miley’s child. Unintentionally, he gave voice in print to the sincerest desires of slaves that he otherwise attempted to keep silent.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 26, 1768

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

Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 11
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 12
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 13
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 14
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 15
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 16
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 17
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 4
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 5
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 6
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 7
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 8
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).

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Jan 26 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 9
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 26, 1768).