What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“SUNDRY HOUSEHOLD GOODS.”
A short advertisement in the March 7, 1770, edition of the Georgia Gazette informed readers of an auction that would take place nearly a month later. “To be sold, on Monday the 2d of April,” it announced, “SUNDRY HOUSEHOLD GOODS, the property of Barbara Wilson, deceased.” Several other notices provided details for upcoming auctions and vendue sales, as they were often called in the eighteenth century. Stephen Mellen and Ursala Peters placed an advertisement that read: “To be sold by publick vendue … HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, some CARPENTERS TOOLS, and a few NEGROES, belonging to the Estate of Christopher Peters, deceased.” In the process of selling an array of goods the deceased Peters acquired during his lifetime, the administrators of his estate reduced enslaved people to commodities to be sold alongside “HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE” and “CARPENTERS TOOLS.” Another notice mentioned “A PARCEL OF HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE” to be sold on the same day as Mrs. Simpson’s “DWELLING-HOUSE” and two lots of land. Throughout these advertisements, “HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE” referred to a variety of personal belongings, not just chairs and tables and the like.
In contrast, the March 7 issue of the Georgia Gazette, like many others, had few advertisements placed by merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others promoting new goods for sale at their storehouses and shops. This testifies to different means of participating in the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century. Though eager to acquire new goods, especially the latest fashions, colonists also did brisk trade in secondhand goods at auctions and estate sales. At such venues, buyers found bargains that they likely could not have achieved when purchasing new items, no matter how experienced or skillful they happened to be when it came to haggling with retailers. While nonimportation agreements were in effect and colonists were suspicious of the origins of new merchandise, buying secondhand goods may have also provided a means of exercising their political principles.