June 16

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

Jun 16 - 6:16:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 16, 1769).

“For … other new Advertisements, see the additional PAPER of this Day.”

The final column on the first page of the June 16, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette concluded with instructions to readers: “For more Articles of London News, and the other new Advertisements, see the additional PAPER of this Day.” The digitized copy that I consulted did not, however, include an “additional PAPER” for June 16. On the other hand, the digitized copy for June 9 did include a second sheet.

Regular visitors to the Adverts 250 Project may remember that the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette experienced a disruption in their paper supply late in the spring of 1769. Instead of publishing the standard four-page issue created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half they temporarily published two-page issues on sheets of a different size. This reduced the amount of content delivered to subscribers each week from twelve to eight columns … unless the printers distributed a second sheet, like the “additional PAPER” mentioned in the June 16 edition.

I realized that the “additional PAPER” might not have survived, but I also suspected that perhaps at some point it had been separated from the June 16 edition and mistakenly attributed to another issue … especially since I knew that the June 9 issue did have a second sheet that included many “new Advertisements.” When I looked more closely at the second sheet from June 9 I discovered that the page I examined last week, including William Appleton’s book catalog, did not include any information that invalidated the date attributed to it.

The other side of the sheet, however, told a very different story. The header for the first column read “Portsmouth, June 16, 1769.” A notice about a meeting of the “Antient and Honorable Society of FREE and ACCEPTED MASONS in New-Hampshire” was dated June 14. Other advertisements bore the dates June 14 and June 15. A second news item from Portsmouth was dated June 15. None of these items could have been published in an “additional PAPER” on June 9, leading me to believe that the second broadsheet had been presented as part of the June edition in error. Most likely, it was the “additional PAPER” mentioned in the June 16 edition.

One piece of evidence undermined that conjecture. The shipping news from the customs house bore the date June 18. Had this sheet been published even later than June 16? I ultimately decided that was unlikely, especially after determining that the previous shipping news had been dated June 8. Most likely the compositor worked too quickly to update the headline for the shipping news, inserting a “1” before the “8” but not substituting whichever digit should have appeared second (most likely a “5” or “6” that could have been mistaken for an “8” at a glance). Since no other issues of the New-Hampshire Gazette made reference to an “additional PAPER,” the second broadsheet associated with June 9 was almost definitely part of the June 16 edition.

This conundrum is exactly the sort of practical lesson that I like to present to my students to underscore that historians must constantly interrogate their sources, even those that seem unequivocally straightforward. When I first examined the second page attributed to the June 9 edition I expected it to be part of the June 9 edition and did not look closely enough at evidence that told a different story. Only after encountering contradictory evidence later did I notice some important details. When I do present this example to students, I will confess to them that I made a mistake the first time I worked with the page mistakenly associated with the June 9 edition, stressing that they should not be afraid to advance their arguments about the sources they consult for their projects but they must simultaneously be vigilant in their examination of those sources and willing to adjust their arguments when they encounter new evidence.

June 15

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

Jun 15 - 6:15:1769 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (June 15, 1769).

Half a Dollar per Dozen, it being the lowest that I can get them to yet.”

Two advertisers offered lemons for sale in the June 15, 1769, edition of the Boston Weekly News-Letter. One advertisement simply stated: “JUST IMPORTED, and to be Sold by Jonathan Snelling, At his Store on Treat’s Wharf, A few Boxes of choice Lisbon Lemons.” The other advertisement was more elaborate. Opening with a headline that proclaimed “Fresh Lisbon LEMMONS,” John Crosby then went into detail about the low prices that he managed to finagle for his customers in Boston and its environs.

Even before publishing this advertisement, Crosby was familiar in the local marketplace. He advertised frequently, not only in the Boston Weekly News-Letter (co-published with Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette) but also in the Boston Chronicle, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy (co-published with Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette). Usually short, his advertisements always advised potential customers to seek him out “At the Basket of Lemmons” (his preferred spelling) in the South End. Between his easily recognizable shop sign and regularly placing advertisements in multiple newspapers, Crosby made sure that residents of the busy port were aware of his citrus venture.

Yet he further enhanced the visibility of his business by emphasizing the prices of his fruit. Shopkeepers and other purveyors of goods infrequently listed prices in their advertisements in the 1760s, making it all the more notable that Crosby set the price for lemons at “Half a Dollar per Dozen.” Underscoring that this was a particular bargain, he informed readers that was “the lowest I can get them to yet.” He also had “Very good China Oranges at 24 Shillings per Dozen.” This was not the extent of his attention to prices. He also pledged to continue inserting “a Weekly Account in this Paper as usual, of the lowest Price I can Sell [lemons] for.” His marketing strategy depended not only on constantly presenting his name and the “Basket of Lemmons” to potential customers but also providing regular updates about prices so consumers could assess deals and bargains for themselves.

Comparing the advertisements for lemons placed by Snelling and Crosby demonstrates that not all eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements for consumer goods were alike. While it might be tempting to dismiss them as mere announcements, their variations testify to the efforts advertisers made to incite demand and the innovations they adopted to distinguish their businesses from their competitors. Although brief, Snelling’s advertisement did make appeals to freshness and quality, noting that his “choice” lemons had been “JUST IMPORTED.” Crosby much more elaborately leveraged price as he endeavored to sell his lemons. He achieved impressive visibility for his business with his weekly account of prices in his advertisements.

Slavery Advertisements Published June 15, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Jun 15 - New-York Chronicle Slavery 1
New-York Chronicle (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - New-York Chronicle Slavery 2
New-York Chronicle (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Journal (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

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Jun 15 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 8
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 15, 1769).

June 14

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

Jun 14 - 6:14:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

“Gentlemen and others … may depend on the greatest punctuality.”

As spring turned to summer in 1769, Robert Gray launched a new business in Savannah. The wigmaker and hairdresser marked the occasion by placing an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette to inform the public that “he intends carrying on his business in this town.” Prospective clients could find him on Broughton Street, “Next door to Mr. Johnston’s.” He was conveniently located next door to the printing office operated by James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette. Yet Gray did not expect clients to visit his shop; instead, he offered to serve them “either at their lodgings or his shop,” catering to their convenience.

Gray used his advertisement to inform “the publick” of his new enterprise, but he also addressed “Gentlemen and others” when he pledged his “greatest punctuality” in serving his clients. This was a curious phrase, one that also appeared elsewhere on the same page in an advertisement placed by John Beaty, a tailor from London. Beaty proclaimed, “All gentlemen and others who may favour him with their commands shall be waited upon, and have their orders strictly obeyed.” Gray and Beaty attempted to peddle in exclusivity, but they also wanted to have it both ways. They encouraged prospective clients to think of themselves as genteel “gentlemen,” yet they did not want to position themselves as serving only the most elite residents of Savannah. In a small port with relatively few potential patrons compared to larger cities that may have been a practical strategy. The hairdresser and the tailor might have built their businesses around greater exclusivity in Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but they had to operate according to the realities of the market in Savannah. Gray and Beaty also implied that they recognized the distinctions between “gentlemen and others,” though neither would have given voice to clients that they considered them in one category or the other. As the consumer revolution gave colonists of various backgrounds greater access to goods and services previously reserved for the upper ranks, hairdressers, tailors, and others carefully presented their services to both the genteel and aspirants to gentility. The “others” might, over time, improve their social standing and become “gentlemen” if they used the services of hairdressers and tailors to their best advantage.

Slavery Advertisements Published June 14, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 9
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

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Jun 14 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 10
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

June 13

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

Jun 13 - 6:13:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (June 13, 1769).

“Bengalls, Chints, striped Ginghams, and red & white striped Holland.”

Samuel Cottman advertised “a Variety of English Goods” in the June 13, 1769, edition of the Essex Gazette. To whet prospective customers’ appetite, he listed some of the items available at his shop, though his litany of goods was nowhere near as extensive as what appeared in George Deblois’s advertisement on the same page. That advertisement extended half a column, while Cottman’s filled a single square of text (the standard unit for purchasing advertising space in eighteenth-century newspapers). Still, Cottman named about a dozen kinds of textiles that customers would find among his merchandise. In the process, he engaged readers in a conversation about consumer culture that relied on specialized knowledge of the goods presented for their consideration.

Cottman offered several fabrics that customers could use to make “Men’s Waistcoats,” including “Bengalls,” “Chints,” “Ginghams,” and “Holland.” He also supplied “Gauze” for aprons and “Persians” for other uses. While some of these patterns remain familiar in the twenty-first century, most are not as widely recognized as they were in the eighteenth century … and they were certainly recognized by average readers and consumers. Cottman, Deblois, and others who advertised in the Essex Gazette and other newspapers throughout the colonies knew that their fellow customers spoke the language of consumer culture, especially when it came to textiles. They knew that prospective customers could distinguish among the several fabrics listed in Cottman’s advertisement as well as nearly a dozen others that Deblois included in his lengthier notice. Even if they could not afford certain fabrics or declined to purchase them because the patterns did not suit their tastes, readers knew the differences among the options presented to them and could easily envision them.

By modern standards, Cottman’s advertisement seems dull. It looks like a dense block of text that would have incited little interest in the goods he attempted to sell. Yet it must be considered according to how readers in the eighteenth-century would have read it. Few advertisements included any sort of visual images. Those that did usually did not feature depictions of the particular merchandise offered for sale; instead, crude woodcuts replicated shop signs or showed generic representations of commonly purchased items. No newspaper advertisement provided color images of fabrics or other goods. Instead, advertisers relied on the imaginations of readers. They deployed the expansive language of consumer culture as a means of invoking images that printing technologies of the time allowed them to deliver only through text. Eighteenth-century readers, well versed in the language of consumption, would have derived far more from Cottman’s advertisement than just the words on the page. It would have evoked vivid images of the many sorts of fabrics in his inventory.

Slavery Advertisements Published June 13, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Jun 13 - Essex Gazette Slavery 1
Essex Gazette (June 13, 1769).

June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1769 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (June 12, 1769).

“UMBRILLOES.”

Oliver Greenleaf and Isaac Greenwood placed competing advertisements for “UMBRILLOES” in the June 12, 1769, edition of the Boston-Gazette. They relied on different marketing strategies, but both presented umbrellas as accessories perfectly appropriate for colonists, especially women, to acquire and use. Kate Haulman explains that umbrellas were a source of debate in the era of the American Revolution. They had only recently appeared in England and its colonies in North America. “Though large and clumsy by modern standards,” Haulman explains, “the umbrellas of the late eighteenth century were brightly colored items of fashion made of oiled silk, stylistic spoils of empire hailing from India.” Yet some colonists were uncertain that they should adopt this fashion. Beyond the space devoted to advertising, debates about umbrellas appeared elsewhere in colonial newspaper, “the forum best suited to prescribe or proscribe certain styles and behaviors for a wide audience of readers.” Some colonists considered umbrellas “ridiculous and frivolous, serving no purpose that a good hat could not supply.” Others allowed for their use, but only by women. In the eighteenth-century, many considered the umbrella a feminine accessory.[1]

Other colonists, however, defended umbrellas. Greenleaf and Greenwood addressed them, though they likely hoped to win new converts with their advertisements as well. Greenleaf did not acknowledge the debate over umbrellas. Instead, he positioned his umbrellas and the “great Variety of English GOODS” available at his shop within another debate about consumer culture. He proclaimed that his umbrellas and other goods were “NOT Lately Imported.” Usually merchants and shopkeepers emphasized that they carried the latest fashions that only recently arrived via ships from English ports, but in 1769 the vast majority in Boston participated in a nonimportation pact in protest of the duties on certain goods imposed by the Townshend Acts. A committee of merchants and traders monitored adherence and published reports in the city’s newspapers. Greenleaf’s livelihood and his reputation both depended on assuring the public that he did not peddle goods that violated the nonimportation agreement, hence his assertion that his merchandise was “NOT Lately Imported.”

Prospective customers interested in making purchases from Greenwood, on the other hand, did not need to worry about when he had acquired his umbrellas because he made them at his shop in the North End of Boston. Along with the nonimportation agreement, merchants, shopkeepers, and other colonists emphasized the importance of local production, what they termed domestic manufactures, coupled with virtuous consumption of goods produced in the colonies. This required the commitment of both suppliers and consumers. As a producer, Greenwood fulfilled the first part; he depended on consumers to do their part by choosing his umbrellas over those imported by Greenleaf, regardless of when they might have been transported across the Atlantic. He did imply that women might be more interested in umbrellas than men when he addressed “Ladies whose Ingenuity, Leisure and Oeconomy leads them to make their own.” They could save some money and demonstrate their own industry by purchasing the materials – fabrics and “Sticks or Frames” – from Greenwood and then putting together the umbrellas on their own. Although Greenleaf more explicitly commented on the nonimportation agreement then in effect, Greenwood more effectively placed his umbrellas within the discourse of local production.

Umbrellas were the subject of several debates and controversies in the decade before the American Revolution. Some colonists questioned their use at all, depicting them as unnecessary luxuries and frivolous feminine accessories. Others advocated for umbrellas, but only those that did not violate the terms of the nonimportation agreements. Those produced in local workshops possessed even greater cachet. In that regard, umbrellas became imbued with political as well as cultural meaning.

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[1] Kate Haulman, “Fashion and the Culture Wars of Revolutionary Philadelphia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 62, no. 4 (October 2005): 632.

Slavery Advertisements Published June 12, 1769

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Jun 12 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 1
Boston Evening-Post (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 2
Boston Evening-Post (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - Boston Post-Boy Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette [Green and Russell] (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 1
Boston-Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - Massachusetts Gazette Green and Russell Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette [Green and Russell] (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Slavery 4
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - Pennsylvania Chronicle Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

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Jun 12 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 12, 1769).

June 11

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

Jun 11 - 6:8:1769 New-York Chronicle
New-York Chronicle (June 8, 1769).

“Numbers of Disorders have been cured by them.”

When John Priestly and Charles Besronett advertised the “convenient Bath and House” they constructed at Chalybeat Springs in Bristol, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1769, they emphasized the medicinal qualities of the waters rather than promoting their establishment as a destination for tourists. Even though they claimed it was “needless to publish the Uses of these Waters,” Priestly and Besronett went into great detail about the benefits of partaking in a trip to Chalybeat Springs. The name itself came from the word “chalybeate” associated with mineral springs and medicines that contained salts of iron.

They proclaimed that “Numbers of Disorders … that had eluded the most powerful Medicines” had been cured as a result of visiting. Yet they did not ask prospective clients merely to take their word for it. To ward off suspicions of quackery, they reported that members of the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia (known today as the American Philosophical Society, one of the oldest learned societies in the nation) had conducted experiments and published the results the previous year. That “Analysis of these Waters” revealed that they contained “a Portion of Iron dissolved and suspended by a vitriolick Acid in Water, perhaps as pure as any hitherto discovered in any Part of the World.” Even if prospective clients did not understand all of the scientific terminology, the advertisers expected terms like “pure” to resonate. Priestly and Besronett directed prospective clients to consult with their own physicians who were more qualified to examine the analysis published by the Philosophical Society. Still, they presented opportunities for readers to reach their own preliminary conclusions. They anticipated that prospective clients would recognize, or at least be impressed by, allusions to “the celebrated GERMAN SPAW.”

In addition, Priestly and Besronett signaled that analysis of the beneficial results of taking the waters continued. “In Order more fully to ascertain the Virtue of these Waters,” they announced, “an exact Register is intended to be kept.” That register would included the names of clients, the maladies they sought to alleviate, and the effects of visiting Chalybeat Springs. Rather than entrust compilation of this register solely to patrons, Priestly and Besronett requested that they bring “a short Account of their Case, drawn up by the Doctor attending them.” Descriptions by physicians, especially when they invoked the specialized language of the profession, would imbue the register with greater authority, exactly the sort of legitimacy that Priestly and Besronett already demonstrated they valued when they trumpeted the analysis undertaken by the Philosophical Society.

Some advertisements from the period testify to a nascent hospitality and travel industry in early America, but Priestly and Besronett eschewed marketing strategies often adopted by advertisers who provided lodging, transportation, and entertainment. Instead, they focused almost exclusively on the efficacious effects of visiting Chalybeat Springs as a remedy for medical disorders.  In that regard, their advertisement adopted an approach similar to the one in advertisements for “Jackson‘s Mineral Well” in the Boston Evening-Post a couple of years earlier. They could have also promoted a trip to the springs as an enjoyable leisure activity, but they instead privileged their attention to scientific inquiry as the primary means of persuading prospective clients to experience Chalybeat Springs for themselves.