What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH.”
The shipping news in the August 3, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette reported that five ships had “ENTERED OUTWARD” from the customs house at Savannah in the previous week, including the “Snow Pitt, [captained by] John Copithorn” bound for London. That was not, however, the only mention of the Pitt in that issue of Georgia’s only newspaper. As Copithorn and his crew prepared for their departure, local merchants sold the recently imported goods transported from Bristol aboard the Pitt. They also wrote copy for advertisements and submitted their notices to James Johnston’s printing office on Broughton Street.
The partnership of Inglis and Hall, prominent merchants and slave traders, stocked a variety of goods delivered to the colony by Copithorn and the Pitt. Their inventory included an assortment of textiles as well as “Ironmongery, of all kinds; … Saddlery; … Glass Ware of most kinds; … With many other Articles.” As tall as it was wide, their substantial advertisement occupied a fair amount of space on the page, especially compared to many of the other paid notices comprised of only two to five lines.
Read and Mossman placed one of those other advertisements. In it, they announced: “JUST IMPORTED by the subscribers, in the Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol, A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH.” In comparison to such brevity, Inglis and Hall listed twenty different textiles as well as “suitable Trimmings” to adorn them according to the latest fashions. Current tastes did not matter nearly as much, if at all, when outfitting slaves for domestic labor or work in the fields. The “WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” sold by Read and Mossman would have been osnaburg or a similarly rough fabric, one valued more for its durability than its comfort or attractiveness.
The “Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol” delivered a variety of goods to the Georgia marketplace. Some merited more marketing efforts than others. Inglis and Hall’s extensive list of textiles and other goods conjured images of vast consumer choices for those who would purchase and use the items themselves. On the other hand, Read and Mossman realized that “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” required no additional marketing, especially since those who would be wearing garments made of the cloth would not make the choice when it came to purchasing it. Although both partnerships focused primarily on fabrics imported on the same ship, Inglis and Hall advertised consumer goods while Read and Mossman advertised commodities.