Reflections from Guest Curator Zachary Dubreuil

Working on this project taught me to dig deeper into the colonial and revolutionary times and how people lived their lives. Sometimes I just skim the surface of my research and brush by the key parts. This project allowed me to do more research. This project also gave me the opportunity to go to the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and use their databases to look at the newspapers and other documents. These newspapers showed me different items that were used in colonial and revolutionary times that we do not usually use today. For example, my first entry about potash threw me a curve ball because I had never heard about something like that. When I did further research, I learned that it was used to make soap and other items. Along with that, the colonists were consumers who purchased the potash kettles and coolers. Then they were integrated into the whole consumer revolution. This broadened my spectrum of consumer culture.

When looking into newspapers from colonial and revolutionary times, I also learned more about slavery. The Slavery Adverts 250 Project made me realize that enslaved men, women, and children had more of a story than what was pictured. When I was searching through the newspapers I was shocked to see the volume of advertisements that were about slaves. Within some of the southern newspapers, there were dozens of advertisements that had to do with slaves. Those advertisements engulfed much of the newspaper. That shows that slavery was an important part of society and that the slave trade was a huge business during colonial and revolutionary times. Also, the variety of advertisements that had to do with slavery was different from what I had known before working on this project. At first, I thought they would only mention people trying to sell slaves. In reality, a lot of newspaper advertisements talked about runaway slaves as well as selling slaves that had particular skills that made them more valuable and huge quantities of slaves that were brought to the colonies. The Slavery Adverts 250 Project showed me that by looking at these newspapers we could compile a more complete story about these enslaved people.

The Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project constantly challenged me. In the beginning, I thought it would be a breeze. However, it proved to be quite difficult because with each advertisement I had to pull a specific detail. I am used to looking at the broader picture and describing it. So, I had to come at this project differently than most other college projects. I had to constantly revise because I would look at more than one detail and lose track of what I was writing about. Also, finding sources was a challenge because I had to find sources that were credible and not something that someone just threw up online with no facts included. I had to search for sources that had enough information that I could relate it to the advertisement. I think the best part about this project was learning more about how the people lived in colonial and revolutionary society and to see the different services that were offered at that time. This is different than many other projects that I have done in college because it allowed me to do the research on whatever advertisements I wanted and to go into depth with them. Some college projects only touch the surface. It was also cool to see all the people that come to this website from different countries because it makes my work even more important. I hope that with my time at Assumption College I can do another project like this one because it had taught me so much.

Leave a Reply