Reflections from Guest Curator Chloe Amour

During my time as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project, I learned a great deal about what it means to dive into history. From retrieving dozens of colonial newspapers from 1769 to wisely selecting advertisements to dissect, I was able to jump into the daily life of colonists. Prior to working on this project, my knowledge of colonial America was solely based on high school textbooks, documentary clips, and some pre-selected additional readings. It was a change of pace to use more advanced historical skills to gain a deeper understanding of consumer culture and advertising in print culture. I was no longer just reading a summary of historical facts; I was “doing history” in a way that allowed myself to go beyond the text. By using primary sources, I was able to apply critical thinking skills to analyze various advertisements. It was fascinating to see which goods were sought after, such as chairs, sugar, flour of mustard, and textiles. Amongst the goods, there were also advertisements for slaves and other services which appealed to colonists. The most interesting I found was the advertisement for hair styling – self-image was valued back then too! Adding to that, it is even more interesting how prevalent and important the printed newspaper was. The newspapers contributed to the uproar of advertising, which I was able to see through this first-hand experience. Today, people rarely read a printed copy of the news – social media makes it way easier to keep up with the news via smartphones or tablets. Diving into the realm of historical research was an experience that enhanced my analytical skills. I gained a deeper appreciation for history, too.

Initially the biggest challenge I faced was how to find the meaning behind each advertisement. With varying lengths, it did not appear that some had too much to grapple with. At a glance, the brief words made me think I would struggle to make connections to Revolutionary America. However, during my time working on the project, I was able to gain the skills necessary to interpret advertisements. Now, I am able to look at a brief advertisement and go beyond the surface to learn about colonial society. It’s exciting to explore the symbolic meanings, which encapsulates the purpose of historical research. There are so many aspects to look at closely and make connections that highlight the advertisement. Having read through several newspapers, it was interesting to see the trends in consumer goods in advertisements all the way from Connecticut to Georgia. The complex demand for slaves as well as consumer goods varied yet shed light on the differences in the colonies. My main takeaway from the research was that the desire to hold a British identity was universal. Advertising “London goods” attracted colonists longing to uphold ties to the Crown. This speaks on the values, everyday life, and culture of colonial America, which had not yet pulled away from Britain in 1769.

One of my favorite aspects of the project was conducting research with scholarly articles to find additional information on colonial and revolutionary America. Using online databases to find journal articles was a bit of trial and error as I tired various keyword searches to find just the right supplementary source. I liked being able to connect the colonial advertisements to some other aspect of lifestyles and politics. I have furthered my knowledge in regard to using scholarly sources, which I look forward to applying in future historical research.

It was rewarding to carry out historical research to contribute to the Adverts 250 Project. I learned a great deal about the colonists’ desire to be identified as British, which influenced consumer culture. Through my work on the project, I have a greater sense of appreciation for advertisements, and the realm of marketing, as it has the ability to strongly influence society. I am still in a bit of awe that newspapers are recovered from 250 years ago. Having those readily available, with online databases, makes history that much more accessible and intriguing. As I continue my studies in the field of history, I strive to continue to find unique sources that give further insights on different periods of history. It was a pleasure to present my remarks on such interesting advertisements throughout the week, and I hope I am able to return as guest curator in the future.


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