September 24

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

Sep 24 - 9:21:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (September 21, 1769).

“A Negro Woman, named BETTY … often frequents the Wharves, and Night-Dances on board of Scooners.”

Henry Gray had two main purposes in inserting an advertisement in the September 21, 1769, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. He informed residents of Charleston that he planned to move out of the busy port and “into the Country.” He called on everyone who owed him money “to make immediate Payment,” while also noting that he left his account books with John Kesson in King Street. Debtors could settle accounts even after Gray departed from the city.

Even though Gray prepared to move his entire family into the country, one member of the household seemingly did not intend to go with them. More than half of Gray’s advertisement concerned Betty, “a Negro Woman,” who had escaped from him. Absenting herself from the Gray household on the eve of their departure apparently was not the only way that Betty asserted her liberty. Gray described her as “well known in Town,” which could have been the result of running errands assigned by Gray, but Betty’s other activities listed in the advertisement suggest that she forged relationships and went places of her own volition rather than with the permission of her enslaver. According to Gray, she “often frequents the Wharves, and Night-Dances on board of Scooners.” That may have been especially troubling to Gray if he suspected festivities that gathered the lower sorts – poor whites, free blacks, and enslaved men and women – together and undercut some of the hierarchies that organized colonial society and kept good order (at least from the perspective of colonists like Gray). Although she refused to answer to him, Gray knew that Betty was still in the vicinity of the bustling port. She had been spotted “with a Basket of Fruit, without the Town-Gate.” Like many other Black women in Charleston, enslaved and free, Betty participated in the market, selling fruit and setting the terms for the sales as she negotiated with customers. The city was large enough that she could evade capture by blending into her surroundings, perhaps benefiting from aid offered by friends, rather than fleeing and putting as much distance as possible between herself and Gray. Betty managed to seize some level of autonomy in Charleston. Whether or not she knew of Gray’s plans to move “into the country,” she apparently planned to continue exercising that autonomy rather than allowing her enslaver to dictate her movements and her relationships with others.

September 23

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

Sep 23 - 9:23:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 23, 1769).

“A DILIGENT Journeyman PRINTER.”

After he became sole proprietor of the Providence Gazette in the late 1760s, John Carter concluded every issue with a colophon that he ran the “PRINTING-OFFICE, [at] the Sign of Shakespear’s Head… where all Manner of PRINTING-WORK is performed.”  Carter did not operate the printing office alone, as a notice in the September 23, 1769, edition makes clear.  “A DILIGENT Journeyman PRINTER,” Carter announced, “to work both at Case and Press, will meet with constant Employ, and good Wages.”  The colophon indicated other qualities that Carter sought in a new employee; the journeyman had to do his work “in a neat and correct Manner, with Fidelity and Expedition” in order to maintain the reputations of both the printing office and Carter himself.

In asserting that he sought a journeyman printer “to work both at Case and Press,” Carter offered a job description of sorts.  Candidates needed to possess several skills, including knowledge of how to operate a manual press as well as how to set type from individual pieces stored in the case. (Capital letters were typically stored in a case above the one that housed smaller letters; hence the terms uppercase and lowercase to describe them.)  The advertisement itself suggested some at the skills the journeyman printer would need as a compositor.  It interspersed uppercase and lowercase type, some in italics, of various sizes.  It had a “neat and correct” appearance, even though set in mirror image on the compositing stick. That meant that compositors had to be especially careful when setting type since some letters looked like the mirror image of another letter, as was the case for the letter “p” and the letter “q.” (This gave rise to the maxim that instructs, “Mind your Ps and Qs.”  The lowercase versions of these letters could be easily confused, especially when setting type quickly.)  Beyond the employment notice and the colophon, the rest of the issue also testified to the skills a journeyman printer should possess before contacting Carter about the position.  Only those who could set type “in a neat and correct Manner” and operate a manual press “with Fidelity and Expedition” need apply!

September 22

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

Sep 22 - 9:22:1769 Ad 1 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 22, 1769).

“WATCHES. SIMNET, London-Watch-Maker.”

Over the course of many months, readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette became quite familiar with watchmaker John Simnet and the services he provided in 1769, in large part because he engaged in a public feud with competitor Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith that played out in the advertisements. Simnet once again took to the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette on the first day of fall in 1769, inserting not one but two advertisements in that issue. One ran on the third page and the other on the fourth page. Like most other colonial newspapers, a standard issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette consisted of only four pages, a single broadsheet with two pages printed on each side and then folded in half. Simnet arranged to have an advertisement appear on both pages that featured paid notices, increasing the likelihood that readers would notice his marketing efforts as they perused the September 22 edition. Having recently moved to a new location, he made sure prospective clients knew exactly where to find him.

Sep 22 - 9:22:1769 Ad 2 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 22, 1769).

One of those advertisements was fairly short … and misspelled the mononym Simnet used in all his advertising. Still, it unmistakably promoted a watchmaker who consistently described himself as “Finisher to all the best original Workmen in the old Country.” Simnet had migrated to New Hampshire less than a year earlier, having previously worked alongside noted artisans in London and Dublin. He advanced those credentials often as a means of implicitly comparing himself to the local competition that did not possess the same training or experience. In the other advertisement, Simnet described himself merely as a “London-Watch-Maker” but made a nod to the reputation he had established in the local marketplace. He declared that he had “near a Year’s Trial, by the Town [of Portsmouth] and adjacent Country.” Prospective customers did not have to rely solely on Simnet’s depiction of his prior experience on the other side of the Atlantic; they could assess for themselves the quality of his work done in New Hampshire now that he had labored there for sufficient time to establish a clientele.

Advertisers rarely placed more than one notice in a single issue of a newspaper in the colonial period. Simnet was an especially aggressive advertiser, both in the tone he took toward a rival and in the frequency that he inserted new advertisements in the public prints. Although he often returned to common themes, he composed distinctive copy for each advertisement. Mere repetition of the same advertisement did not suit the brazen watchmaker. Instead, he kept his self-promotion fresh in every new advertisement.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 22, 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.

Sep 22 - Connecticut Journal Slavery 1
Connecticut Journal (September 22, 1769).

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Sep 22 - New-Hampshire Gazette Slavery 1
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 22, 1769).

September 21

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

Sep 21 - 9:21:1769 Massachusetts Gazette Draper
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 21, 1769).
“Goods were shipp’d in London for Boston, last September & October.”

In the late 1760s several vendue masters (or auctioneers) operated in Boston and regularly advertised in the city’s many newspapers. John Gerrish ran the “Public Vendue-Office” in the North End, where he held auctions on Tuesdays. In addition to putting items up for bid, Gerrish also sold some items by wholesale and retail, including an array of goods that he advertised in the September 21, 1769, edition of Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette. These included textiles, stockings, pins, “and a great Variety of other Articles, too many to be here enumerated.”

Gerrish made a point of informing “his Friends, Country Gentlemen, Shopkeepers, Traders,” and anyone else reading his advertisement that the goods he offered for sale had been imported via London “last September & October.” They arrived a year earlier! Under most circumstances merchants, shopkeepers, and other traders avoided attaching any sort of age to inventory they had not just received on the latest ships from London and other English ports. Indeed, many advertisements for consumer goods incorporated standard language in the first lines, like “just imported,” before even listing the merchandise. This signaled to prospective customers that they could choose from among the most current fashions rather than sorting through leftovers which other shoppers passed over and left on the shelves for considerable amounts of time.

The age of Gerrish’s “very large Assortment of Goods, and Merchandize,” however, became a virtue as fall arrived in 1769. Items “shipp’d in London for Boston, last September & October” had been ordered before the nonimportation agreement adopted by merchants, shopkeepers, and other residents of Boston went into effect. As a means of economic resistance to the taxes levied in the Townshend Acts, colonists in Massachusetts and elsewhere vowed not to import goods from England. They hoped to disrupt trade so significantly that Parliament could not help but take notice, especially if English merchants pressured for repeal of the odious measures. That Gerrish’s goods arrived in Boston “last September & October” was not trivial. It was an important detail that kept the auctioneer in the good graces of his fellow colonist while giving them permission to purchase his wares without violating the terms of the nonimportation agreement.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 21, 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.

Sep 21 - Boston Chronicle Slavery 1
Boston Chronicle (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Boston Weekly News-Letter Slavery 1
Boston Weekly News-Letter (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Massachusetts Gazette Draper Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Massachusetts Gazette Draper Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Massachusetts Gazette Draper Slavery 3
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Massachusetts Gazette Draper Slavery 4
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Massachusetts Gazette Draper Slavery 5
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Massachusetts Gazette Draper Slavery 6
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - New-York Journal Massachusetts Gazette Draper Slavery 1
New-York Journal (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 3
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Journal (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Journal (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 24 - 9:21:1769 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 8
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 9
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Supplement Rind Slavery 1
Supplement to the Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

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Sep 21 - Virginia Gazette Supplement Rind Slavery 2
Supplement to the Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 21, 1769).

September 20

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

Sep 20 - 9:20:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 20, 1769).

“TO BE SOLD …”

The September 6, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette included a note from the printer indicating that “Advertisements left out” of that issue would appear in the next one. James Johnston opted not to issue a supplement along with the regular issue, eschewing a strategy often adopted by other printers when they had more content than space. The time required to prepare a supplement may have been a factor in Johnston’s decision, but more likely he weighed the resources required to produce a supplement against the number of remaining advertisements and determined that he did not have sufficient unpublished material to merit the investment in additional paper, an often scarce commodity made even more valuable due to the taxes imposed on imported paper by the Townshend Acts in the late 1760s.

Johnston reached a different conclusion two weeks later. The September 20 edition included a supplement, but it did not match the supplements so frequently distributed with other newspapers. Those usually appeared on a half sheet printed on both sides, increasing by half the amount of content distributed that week. Supplements also usually included a masthead that bore the title of the newspaper and the number of the associated issue. None of this applied to the supplement that accompanied the September 20 edition of the Georgia Gazette. Instead, it appeared on smaller sheet with no identifying features. A half sheet supplement that matched the size of a standard issue would have measured approximately 9.25 inches by 14.25 inches, but this measured approximately 6.75 inches by 8.5 inches. In addition, the compositor rotated some of the type, already set in columns the same width as those in the regular issues of the Georgia Gazette, ninety degrees in order to fit as much content as possible on the additional sheet.

Why did Johnston produce this unusual supplement? Perhaps some advertisers had complained about the delayed publication of their notices two weeks earlier. The printer, however, may not have needed complaints to influence him to take this action. After all, newspapers throughout the colonies frequently included similar notices that advertisements that did not appear that week would appear the next. When Johnston once again found himself in the position of not having enough space for advertising and other content in the regular issue, he may have determined that he could not delay the advertisements again so soon. After all, advertisers provided an important revenue stream for colonial newspapers. For the Georgia Gazette to remain a viable venture, Johnston had to balance the demands of subscribers and advertisers, which meant the timely distribution of both news and paid notices. Such calculations may have made the expense of producing a rather odd supplement a necessity. Johnston made a similar decision a week later, printing another supplement on a smaller sheet once again, but that time only on one side. Distributing advertising to colonial readers sometimes required extraordinary measures.

Sep 20 - Georgia Gazette AAS
To determine the measurements of a standard issue and the supplement, I consulted original copies of the Georgia Gazette at the American Antiquarian Society. Notice the relative sizes. (left: Georgia Gazette, supplement, September 20, 1769; right: Georgia Gazette, September 27, 1769)

Slavery Advertisements Published September 20, 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.

Sep 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (September 20, 1769).

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Sep 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (September 20, 1769).

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Sep 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (September 20, 1769).

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Sep 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (September 20, 1769).

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Sep 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (September 20, 1769).

September 19

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

Sep 19 - 9:19:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (September 19, 1769).

“At the Sign of the Green Dragon.”

When Henry Sanders opened a “House of Public Entertainment” in Marblehead, Massachusetts, late in the summer of 1769, he inserted an advertisement in the Essex Gazette to invited “Gentlemen, Strangers and others” to experience his hospitality. He informed prospective patrons that they could find the tavern “near the Wharf of the Hon. Robert Hooper, Esq.” In addition to naming a landmark he assumed readers found familiar, Sanders noted that “the Sign of the Green Dragon” marked the precise location.

Like many other colonial tavernkeepers, as well as a good number of shopkeepers and artisans, Sanders adopted a device to represent his business and then displayed it on a sign and incorporated it into his newspaper advertisements. Over the years, those advertisements have become the sole evidence of the existence of some of the signs on display in the streets of colonial cities and towns. Although some were memorialized in letters or diaries and others mentioned in news items when they were connected to momentous events, newspaper advertisements provide the most complete catalog of eighteenth-century shop signs.

Such signs served several important purposes in early America. Standardized street numbers had not yet been developed in the late 1760s, though some of the largest cities would begin to institute them in the final decade of the eighteenth century. Sanders did not have the option of directing “Gentlemen, Strangers and others” to a particular number on a specific street. As we have seen, he instead relied on landmarks, a wharf already familiar to prospective patrons to get them to the general vicinity and a sign that marked his exact location. Once the sign had been erected for sufficient time, locals could incorporate it into the directions they gave for finding other people and businesses. The sign also doubled as the name of his establishment and likely became a logo that visitors and passersby associated with the tavern. Whether the sign depicted a dragon that was fierce or friendly the advertisement does not reveal, but it does hint at the visual culture colonists encountered as they traversed the streets of cities and towns in the eighteenth century. Almost certainly even more signs marked all sorts of businesses than those that appear in newspapers advertisements from the period.

September 18

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

Sep 18
Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 18, 1769).

“DANCING MASTER.”

Advertisements in the September 18, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle reminded readers that more than one dancing master taught lessons in the city that fall. Martin Foy and Mr. Tioli placed notices that conveniently appeared on the same page. Indeed, the compositor may have had a little fun when choosing the layout for the page, positioning both advertisements at the top of their respective columns but on opposite sides as though they were facing each other before commencing a dance … or perhaps a duel, considering that Foy taught “Gentlemen the use of the small sword” in addition to the latest steps. Whatever the compositor’s intent, the placement of the advertisements clearly put Foy and Tioli in competition with each other.

Even though they were rivals for students, both dancing masters emphasized the environment in which they provided their lessons. Foy ran his school “at the assembly room,” noting that the “room will be illuminated” in the evenings when he provided lessons for men who could not attend during the day due to their other commitments. Tioli taught at his home, where he set aside a room “excellently adapted for the purpose.” Yet it was not only the place of instruction that concerned the dancing masters. Tioli also assured prospective pupils that he would “make it his particular study to preserve the greatest order and decorum” during lessons. When several students gathered, the dancing school became a cacophony of movement and physical interactions, which helps to explain why both dancing masters instructed men and women separately. Even during lessons segregated by sex, Foy and Tioli recognized the prospect for misbehavior and mischievousness, whether horseplay or gossip, and insisted on their students acting with propriety. They imposed order when necessary. Foy promised his “fidelity” in conducting lessons “in a regular and polite manner.”

Personal comportment was an important aspect of both dancing well and appearing in genteel company to dance and socialize with others. Many colonists devoted considerable time to learning to dance in order to make the best possible impression on friends and neighbors when they attended public events. Learning the steps – and, equally important, how to do them gracefully – for a dance that lasted a few moments could require hours of instruction and practice, significantly more time for lapses in conduct and demeanor resulting from distractions during lessons composed entirely of male or female students who might feel unfettered when gathered in groups and not observed by members of the opposite sex. Instructing men and women separately avoided certain kinds of opportunities for discomfort among pupils, but doing so meant dancing masters potentially faced other sorts of allegations of impropriety at their schools. To that end, dancing masters advertised that they made great effort “to preserve the greatest order and decorum” at their schools.