Slavery Advertisements Published February 24, 1768

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

Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

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Feb 24 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 9
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

February 23

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

Feb 23 - 2:23:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country-Journal (February 23, 1768).

“FINE BOHEA TEA.”

William Greaves opened his advertisement by announcing that he sold “FINE BOHEA TEA, At twenty-seven shillings and six pence per pound.” The format distinguished it from other advertisements for consumer goods and services that ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in the late 1760s. Advertisers tended to follow certain conventions when they wrote copy, but Greaves experiments with something different. That variation likely drew greater attention to his advertisement.

Advertisements, especially list-style advertisements that enumerated an assortment of merchandise, in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers usually opened in one of two ways. Some merchants and shopkeepers used their own names, all in capital letters, as a headline, followed by a description of their origins of their goods or their location as a distinct section of text, and then the list of goods in stock. Such was the case in an advertisement that advised readers “JAMES McCALL, HAS just imported in the London, Captain Curling, and the Mary, Captain Gordon, from London, and Indian King, Captain Baker, from Bristol, a large supply of GOODS, amongst a great variety of other articles.” McCall’s advertisement then listed scores of items. Similarly, “WILLIAM WILLIAMSON, In Broad-street, next door to Mr. Lockwood’s watchmaker, &c. hath received per consignment, for sale” several sorts of spirits. Each of these advertisements was divided into three segments, each of them familiar to reader, each of them with a purpose easily identifiable.

The same was true of the other popular method for writing copy for advertisements for consumer goods and services. That format reversed the order of the first two elements. The advertiser’s name appeared as a headline, but only after introductory remarks about the origins of the goods offered for sale. For instance, an advertisement for dry goods began with “JUST imported in the ship Bacchus, Daniel Jackson, Master, from Liverpool, and to be sold by WILLIAM HARROP.” Another advertisement more simply started with “JUST IMPORTED, and to be SOLD, By NATHANIEL RUSSELL.” In all of these, the name of the advertiser appeared in larger type than any other text in the advertisement.

Greaves included the same information in his advertisement, but he used one item from among his merchandise to draw the attention of potential customers and encourage them to peruse the rest of his list of goods. Unlike the advertisements placed by his competitors, Greaves’ notice had two headlines: “FINE BOHEA TEA” at the beginning of the advertisement, followed by his name. Both appeared in all capital letters of a larger font than the remainder of the text. Rather than rely on an implicit appeal to consumer choice through publishing an extensive list of his wares, Greaves explicitly marketed one item in order to set the tone for prospective customers to read the rest of the advertisement. He underscored the quality, price, and freshness of his “BOHEA TEA” before giving any of the other information about his business that usually appeared first in advertisements. When it came to innovation, the format of this advertisement alone made Greaves’ notice distinctive, both in a newspaper crowded with advertisements and in a port city busy with commercial exchanges.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 23, 1768

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

Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 11
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 12
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 13
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 14
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 15
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

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Feb 23 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 16
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 23, 1768).

February 22

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

Feb 22 - 2:22:1768 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (February 22, 1768).

“TO BE SOLD BY Jolley Allen.”

The graphic design elements of Jolley Allen’s advertisement did little to distinguish it from other notices in the February 22, 1768, edition of the Boston Post-Boy. It looked much the same as those placed by shopkeeper Gilbert Deblois and chairmaker Nathaniel Russell and others. That Allen’s advertisement followed the same format as others merits notice only because this deviated from the signature visual element that Allen previously incorporated into his advertisements: a decorative border composed of printing ornaments that enclosed the list of goods he offered for sale. Allen previously went to great lengths – and probably some expense – to have the compositors for multiple newspapers create borders that made his advertisements recognizable at just a glance. In the summer of 1766, for instance, his advertisements in four newspapers – the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, the Boston Post-Boy, and the Massachusetts Gazetteall featured a decorative border. Readers familiar with his advertising in one publication would have readily identified his advertisements when they glimpsed them in others. Even when Allen discontinued the borders in his advertisements in 1767, he still incorporated distinctive visual elements in notices that appeared in multiple newspapers. He consistently strove to enhance the visibility of his advertisements via graphic design, a strategy not employed by the vast majority of advertisers who left it to compositors to determine the layout and other visual aspects of their advertisements.

Allen’s advertisement in the Boston Post-Boy was not an aberration. Neither his advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post on the same day or in the Massachusetts Gazette four days earlier had any distinctive visual effects. By that time he had been inserting these relatively plain advertisements in Boston’s newspapers for weeks. What prompted Allen to do this? His previous advertising campaigns had been innovative. They drew the eye and attracted attention. But had they been effective? Did Allen believe that they attracted enough customers to justify the additional effort and expense they required? He apparently still believed in the value of advertising in general or else he would not have continued to place notices in multiple newspapers in early 1768. Perhaps he could not longer justify the cost of advertisements that demanded special attention by the compositor. Note that even though he listed some of his goods he also stated that he stocked “too many to be enumerated in an Advertisement.” This particular advertisement was shorter than most others he previously published. Allen very well may have determined that he need to cut back on length and graphic design in order to afford advertising at all. His advertisements and the pages of several of Boston’s newspapers became much less visually interesting as a result.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 22, 1768

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

Feb 22 - Connecticut Courant Slavery 1
Connecticut Courant (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - Newport Mercury Slavery 1
Newport Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - Newport Mercury Slavery 2
Newport Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - Newport Mercury Slavery 3
Newport Mercury (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - Pennsylvania Chronicle Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 4
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 5
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 6
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 7
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 8
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 9
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 10
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 11
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 12
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

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Feb 22 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 13
South Carolina Gazette (February 22, 1768).

February 21

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

Feb 21 - 2:18:1768 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (February 18, 1768).

“No Man can be more careful, and vigilant, than the Master of said Office.”

John Gerrish had a bone to pick with Elias Dupee. Gerrish operated the North-End Vendue-Office. Dupee, his rival, ran the New-Auction Room. The two competed for both clients who supplied merchandise and bidders who purchased those wares.

On February 15, 1768, Dupee placed advertisements impugning Gerrish’s reputation in two newspapers, the Boston-Gazette and the Boston Post-Boy. Gerrish was so concerned about the accusations leveled against him that he did not wait a week to respond in the publications that originally ran Dupee’s advertisement. Instead, he published his own rebuttal just three days later in the Massachusetts Gazette. After devoting just a few lines to promoting his upcoming auction, Gerrish addressed Dupee’s allegations at length. Though he never mentioned his rival by name, Gerrish did closely paraphrase a portion of Dupee’s advertisement.

Dupee had offered a reward “to be paid to any Body, who shall bring to Justice, one John Taylor, who Stole out of the New Auction Room, the Night the Fire was, a blue Surtout Coat, and had it Sold at the North-Vendue Office.” Anyone who resided in Boston would have know that John Gerrish was the auctioneer at the North-End Vendue-Office, especially anyone who regularly read any of the local newspapers. Gerrish, like Dupee and Joseph Russell from the Auction-Room in Queen Street, advertised regularly in several newspapers.

In his advertisement, Dupee explicitly accused Taylor of being a thief, but he also implicitly alleged that Gerrish was Taylor’s fence when he stated that the stolen coat had been “Sold at the North-Vendue Office.” Such allegations had the potential to do significant damage to Gerrish’s reputation, scaring away bidders who did not wish to obtain stolen merchandise as well as suppliers who did not want their own names or ware associated with illicit business practices. Gerrish answered Dupee’s charges with a detailed timeline. The “Coat Sold for Taylor” had entered the North-End Vendue-Office ten days before the fire at Dupee’s New Auction Room, therefore it could not have been the same coat stolen the night of the fire. In addition, Gerrish identified discrepancies between the quality and price of the coat auctioned at his establishment and the one stolen from Dupee. Furthermore, the coat had been on display and “every Day exposed for Sale,” suggesting that many witnesses could attest to having seen it at the North-End Vendue-Office. Some of them could confirm the quality and value of that coat.

Gerrish acknowledged the possibility that Taylor had stolen a coat from Dupee, but if he had it was not the one that Gerrish auctioned. “Taylor may be a Thief,” he stated, “but verily he did not look more like one, than the Advertiser.” Dupee had attacked Gerrish’s reputation. Gerrish responded in kind. He also underscored, just in case readers had not followed all the complexity of his timeline, that “there is not the least probability, that the Coat Advertised, is the same that was Sold at the North-End Vendue-Office.”

Gerrish concluded with a message for prospective clients and potential bidders. “No Man can be more careful, and vigilant, than the Master of said Office, in endeavouring to detect suspected persons, –he has detected several, –let others beware.” Many colonists participated in the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century via an informal economy that included secondhand and stolen goods. Newspaper advertisements frequently alerted readers about stolen goods. In addition, court records show that theft and fencing regularly occurred. That being the case, Gerrish devoted significant effort to demonstrating that he conducted a legitimate business that did not truck in stolen wares. He needed buyers and sellers, as well as the community more generally, to trust in his character if he wished to continue his business and compete against the rival auction houses in Boston.

Feb 21 - 2:15:1768 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (February 15, 1768).

February 20

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

Feb 20 - 2:20:1768 New-York Journal Supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (February 20, 1768).

“SAMUEL BROOME, And COMPANY, Have just imported … a beautiful assortment of European and India Goods.”

In general, printers published three types of newspaper supplements in eighteenth-century America: advertising supplements delivered the same day as the regular issue, news supplements distributed sometime during the week between issues, and mixed supplements published on the day of the regular issue.

The first were the most common, especially in the largest port cities. A standard issue consisted of four pages, created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. Given the size of the population in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, printers often found that they had too much content, especially advertisements, to squeeze everything into just four pages. In such cases they simultaneously distributed a two-page supplement comprised exclusively of advertising. Such was the case with the February 18, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Space in the standard issue was almost evenly divided between news and advertisements, but paid notices alone filled the pages of the supplement. Hugh Gaine charted a similar course for the February 22, 1768, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, though the standard issue contained nearly three full pages of advertising. No news items appeared in the supplement.

On February 20, 1768, John Holt distributed a Supplement to the New-York Journal, two days after the regular issue made its usual weekly appearance. This supplement consisted of four pages rather than two, but otherwise followed the pattern for midweek supplements. It contained mostly news items with very few advertisements. What little advertising did appear, including Samuel Broome and Company’s notice, served as filler that completed the supplement. Two days earlier, James Parker issued a two-page New-York Gazette Extraordinary as a midweek supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Post-Boy. Like the Supplement to the New-York Journal, it contained mostly news items with very few advertisements.

During the same week, Richard Draper included a supplement with the Massachusetts Gazette on the day of its usual publication. The supplement balanced news items and advertisements. On the same day, John Holt issued a Supplement to the New-York Journal that accompanied the regular issue, not to be confused with the midweek supplement released two days later. (All three publications bore the same issue number, 1311, but the regular issue and the first supplement were dated February 18 while the second supplement was dated February 20.) This supplement also devoted significant space to both news items and advertisements; neither eclipsed the other.

Supplements from the latter two categories became more common during periods that the imperial crisis intensified. The number of commercial notices and other types of advertisements had been sufficient justification for publishing supplements to accompany the regular issues during times of relative harmony between colonists and Parliament. During periods of unrest, however, the volume of advertising no longer served as the determinative factor in whether or when printers published supplements. The proliferation of supplements certainly disseminated more advertisements to colonists, but the understanding of the purpose of supplements likely shifted as both publishers and readers conceived of them as more than just mechanisms for circulating advertising. The revenues collected from advertisements made possible the publication of supplements in times of political turmoil. In turn, these extraordinary issues may have stoked demand for newspapers – featuring news items – published more frequently. Printers soon experimented with semiweekly and triweekly publication. Not long after the American Revolution, newspapers in the largest cities commenced daily publication.

February 19

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

Feb 19 - 2:19:1768 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (February 19, 1768)

“Robert Bingham … Makes all Kinds of Surgeons Instruments for Amputation.”

In a notice in the New-London Gazette, Robert Bingham, a “CUTLER, from LONDON,” deployed many of the appeals most commonly included in newspaper advertisements during the eighteenth century. Artisans tended to promote the skills they had acquired in their trade, via training or experience or both. Without much elaboration, Bingham did mention his skill, noting that he completed his work “in the neatest manner.” Like many other advertisers, Bingham also established his connection to London, the center of the empire. For artisans, this often implied skill achieved through training superior to that available in the colonies. More often than not, advertisers of all sorts – whether merchants, shopkeepers, or artisans – incorporated appeals to price into their commercial notices. Bingham again followed the standard practice of the period, declaring that he performed his work at the “most reasonable rate.”

In general, Bingham wrote copy that prospective customers likely found reassuring, if not especially innovative or exciting. His appeals did not particularly distinguish his business from others, but neglecting to insert any of them into his advertisement would have distinguished him in the wrong ways. He needed to do more than merely announce his services. He needed his advertisement to demonstrate that he understood the expectations of potential clients.

Still, the composition of Bingham’s advertisement suggests that he may have attempted to make a more nuanced appeal to skill than just asserting that he made cutlery “in the neatest manner.” He worked in a shop in Lebanon, Connecticut. Residents of this small village and the surrounding area were much more likely to purchase “Table Knives and Forks, – Raisors [razors] – Scissars, – Penknives” than “Surgeons Instruments for Amputation and Trepanning; – also Surgeons Pocket Instruments.” Yet Bingham did not commence his advertisement with the items most likely to meet local demand. Instead, he first listed specialized instruments that required skill and precision in crafting, signaling his abilities to readers without making explicit reference to skill. Bingham may have considered the order he listed his wares a persuasive marketing strategy, one that showcased his skills more effectively than professing his abilities at great length.

Slavery Advertisements Published February 19, 1768

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

Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 10
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 11
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 12
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 13
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 14
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).

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Feb 19 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 15
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 19, 1768).