October 29

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

Boston-Gazette (October 29, 1770).

SARAH DAWSON, the Widow of JOSEPH DAWSON, Gardener.”

Compared to their male counterparts, relatively few female entrepreneurs placed advertisements promoting their commercial activities in Boston’s newspapers in the early 1770s.  With the exception of clusters of advertisements placed by female seed sellers in the spring, commercial notices constituted a primarily male space in the public prints.  Esther Harrison was one of those female shopkeepers who did run advertisements.  Her notice in the October 29, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette listed a variety of “Shop Goods cheap for Cash,” similar to advertisements placed by Benjamin Church, Archbald Cunningham, Joshua Gardner, John Gore, Jr., John Head, William Smith, Thomas Walley, and others.

Two other women joined Harrison in advertising the businesses they operated in that edition of the Boston-Gazette.  Most likely by chance rather than by design, their advertisements appeared side by side, one in each column on the final page.  Abigail Davidson and Sarah Dawson both advertised trees, shrubs, and seeds.  Unlike Harrison, Davidson and Dawson connected their businesses to men who had once operated them.  Dawson identified herself as “the Widow of JOSEPH DAWSON, Gardener, lately deceas’d.”  Davidson noted that the trees she sold had been “grafted and innoculated by William Davidson, deceased.”  In both instances, the women likely contributed to the family business before the death of a male relation but did not become the public face for the business until after.  Davidson and Dawson made reference to those male gardeners in much the same way that male advertisers often described their credentials as they sought to convince prospective customers and clients that they were qualified for the job.

Harrison, Davidson, and Dawson all ran businesses.  Their entrepreneurial activities included marketing their wares via newspaper advertisements.  Harrison presented herself as the sole proprietor of her shop, but Davidson and Dawson adopted an approach often taken by women who found themselves responsible for the family business after the death of a husband or other relation.  They identified themselves in connection to the deceased relative, mediating their commercial message through the authority and expertise of men.  Even as female advertisers, their appearance in the public prints contributed to the depiction the marketplace as a predominantly masculine space when it came to producers, sellers, and suppliers.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 29, 1770

GUEST CURATOR:  Katherine Hammer

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.

Oct 29 1770 - Boston Evening-Post Slavery 1
Boston Evening-Post (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 1
Boston-Gazette (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 2
Boston-Gazette (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 3
Boston-Gazette (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Boston-Gazette Slavery 4
Boston-Gazette (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy Slavery 3
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy Slavery 4
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy Slavery 5
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 4
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 5
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Slavery 6
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 2
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Newport Mercury Slavery 1
Newport Mercury (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Pennsylvania Chronicle Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 29, 1770).

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Oct 29 1770 - Pennsylvania Chronicle Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 29, 1770).

October 28

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

South-Carolina Gazette (October 25, 1770).

“New Advertisements.”

What qualified as front page news in eighteenth-century American newspapers?  Even asking that question reveals a difference between how newspapers organized their content then compared to what became standard practice in the nineteenth century and later.  Today, most readers associate massive headlines and the most significant stories with the front page, but that was not the approach to delivering the news in the eighteenth century.

In general, news items did not include headlines that summarized their contents.  They did have datelines, such as “BOSTON, AUGUST 27,” that indicated the source of the news, yet those datelines did not necessarily mean that they covered events from a particular place, only that the printer received or reprinted news previously reported there.  For instance, a dateline might say “New York” and deliver news from London elsewhere in England that was first reported in newspapers published in New York.  Similarly, a dateline for “Boston” could lead news items that included events from other towns in New England.  Printers sometimes listed their sources, such as another newspaper or a letter, but not always.  Along with the dateline for “BOSTON, AUGUST 27” in the October 25, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, printer Peter Timothy stated that the following news came from “An extract of a letter from a gentleman of distinction in Connecticut, dated August 14, 1770.”  The news under that dateline consisted of a single story, but printers often grouped together many different stories without distinguishing them with their own datelines.  Without headlines and other visual markers to aid them in understanding how the contents were organized, subscribers and others had to read closely as they navigated newspapers.

The placement of advertisements testifies to another stark difference between eighteenth-century newspapers and those published today.  Modern readers are accustomed to news appearing on the front page, especially above the fold.  Eighteenth-century printers and readers, however, did not associate the front page with the most significant news.  Instead, advertising often appeared on the front page.  On October 25, 1770, the front page of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter consisted of three columns, the first two devoted to news and the final one containing several advertisements.  The edition of the South-Carolina Gazette published the same day commenced with a column of “New Advertisements” as the first item on the first page.  The other two columns delivered news.  Most newspapers consisted of only four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  The first and fourth pages, printed simultaneously, often contained advertisements received well in advance, while the second and third pages, also printed simultaneously featured the latest news that had just arrived via newspapers from other towns, letters, and other means.  Colonists looking for what modern readers would consider front page news understood that they often would not encounter those stories until they opened their newspapers to the second page.

Then and now, newspapers delivered news and advertising, the latter providing much of the revenue necessary for the former.  The appearance and organization of newspapers, however, has changed over time.  Modern readers are accustomed to newspapers overflowing with advertising, but not advertising on the front page, a space now reserved for the lead stories.  Eighteenth-century readers, on the other hand, often saw commercial messages and other sorts of paid notices as soon as they began perusing the front page.

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 25, 1770).

October 27

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

Providence Gazette (October 27, 1770).

“WANTED immediately, Fifteen likely NEGROES.”

As it did in most issues, the Providence Gazette published on October 27, 1770, featured advertisements placed for various purposes.  Benoni Pearce and Elijah Bacon announced that they had “opened a BAKE-HOUSE.”  Joseph Russell and William Russell sought passengers and freight for a ship departing for London in early November.  Joseph Whipple offered a house to rent and a store and wharf for sale.  John Carter, the printer of the Providence Gazette, hawked printed blanks and an almanac for 1771.  Hampton Lillibridge proclaimed that he “WANTED” to purchase enslaved women and children “immediately.”

Advertisements like the one placed by Lillibridge were not uncommon in the Providence Gazette and other newspapers published in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.  Colonists turned to notices in the public prints to aid them in buying and selling enslaved people.  In other instances, they inserted advertisements to warn about runaways who liberated themselves from those who held them in bondage, offering descriptions to identify them and rewards to colonists who captured and returned them to their enslavers.  Even colonists who did not themselves own enslaved people participated in the surveillance of Black people, carefully scrutinizing their bodies, clothing, and comportment, that helped to maintain the institution of slavery.

Printers played a critical role in perpetuating slavery in early America.  From New England to Georgia, they printed advertisements that were disseminated as widely as their newspapers and brokered information that did not otherwise appear in print.  In his effort to purchase enslaved women and children, Lillibridge instructed readers to contact him directly in Newport or via “the Printing-Office in Providence.”  Carter not only garnered revenues from publishing notices about enslaved people, he also facilitated sales through “enquire of the printer” advertisements.  In many instances, the buyers and sellers remained anonymous to the public, though the evidence of the slave trade was quite visible on the printed page, interspersed among other advertisements.

Such notices were a familiar sight when readers perused eighteenth-century newspapers.  Lillibridge’s advertisement for “Fifteen likely NEGROES” in the Providence Gazette may seem stark and out of place to modern readers unfamiliar with the history of slavery in Rhode Island and the rest of New England, but it was unremarkable at the time, just another element of a massive cultural and commercial infrastructure that maintained a system of bondage and exploitation.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 27, 1770

GUEST CURATOR:  Katherine Hammer

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.

Oct 27 1770 - Providence Gazette Slavery 1
Providence Gazette (October 27, 1770).

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Oct 27 1770 - Providence Gazette Slavery 2
Providence Gazette (October 27, 1770).

October 26

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 26, 1770).

“A Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper.”

In the eighteenth century, newspaper printers often inserted notices into their own publications to call on subscribers, advertisers, and others to pay their bills.  They were not alone in resorting to such measures.  Entrepreneurs of all sorts as well as executors of estates enlisted the aid of the public prints in instructing customers and associates to settle accounts.  Given their access to the press, however, some printers more regularly ran such notices than other colonists.  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among the printers who most frequently made the collection of debts in the interests of continuing publication a feature of their newspaper.

The Fowles found it necessary to do so on October 26, 1770, expressing some exasperation.  “THOSE Persons who are still delinquent in discharging their Arrears for this Paper, and for Advertisements,” the printers declared, “and have been repeatedly call’d upon from Time to Time, are desir’d to comply with so reasonable a Request.”  Others who placed such notices usually threatened legal action against those who did not heed their warning.  The Fowles had done so in the past.  On one occasion they also threatened to publish a list of subscribers, advertisers, and others who did not pay their bills, though they did not follow through on that ultimatum.  In this instance, they did not deliver any threats against those in arrears but instead explained the effect that such delinquency would have on their business and, by extension, their ability to serve the community by disseminating news and other information.  The Fowles insisted that they needed to collect on debts owed to them because “a Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper, to carry on the Business.”  Without paper, they could not continue to print and distribute the New-Hampshire Gazette.

Although the Fowles regularly inserted notices to encourage subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts, they did not merely adopt the formulaic language that often appeared in such advertisements.  Over the years, they experimented with a variety of messages and tones, sometimes threatening and sometimes cajoling, in their efforts to attract the attention of clients in arrears and convince them to pay their debts.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 26, 1770

GUEST CURATOR:  Katherine Hammer

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.

Oct 26 1770 - New-Hampshire Gazette Slavery 1
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 26, 1770).

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Oct 26 1770 - New-London Gazette Slavery 1
New-London Gazette (October 26, 1770).

 

October 25

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 25, 1770).

“A Sermon occasion’d by the sudden and much lamented Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

In the wake of George Whitefield’s death on September 30, 1770, printers, booksellers, and others quickly sought to capitalize on the event by publishing and selling commemorative items dedicated to the memory of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  This commodification included producing new broadsides with images, poems, and hymns as well as marketing books originally published years earlier that were already in stock but gained new resonance.  Throughout the past month, the Adverts 250 Project has been tracking many of those publications to demonstrate the extent of the simultaneous commemoration and commodification that took place in the weeks after colonists learned of Whitefield’s death.  Advertisements hawking Whitefield memorabilia ran in newspapers published in Boston, New York, Portsmouth, and Salem almost as soon as the news appeared in the public prints.

A notice for yet another item, Heaven the Residence of the Saints, ran in the October 25, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  The advertisement, reiterating the lengthy title, explained that this pamphlet was a “Sermon occasion’d by the sudden and much lamented Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”  Ebenezer Pemberton, “Pastor of a Church in Boston,” delivered the sermon on October 11.  Just two weeks later, Joseph Edwards informed consumers that they could purchase copies of the sermon from him.  Daniel Kneeland printed that first edition for Edwards, but other printers recognized the prospective market for the pamphlet.  It did not take long for Hugh Gaine to reprint his own edition in New York or for E. and C. Dilly to commission a London edition, that one also featuring the “Elegiac Poem” composed by Phillis Wheatley, the enslaved poet, and frequently advertised and sold separately in the colonies.

New coverage of Whitefield’s death continued in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter with a short article about Whitefield’s “PATRIOTISM” taken from the October 19, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Such articles, however, were not the sole extent of news about the minister.  Advertisements for commemorative items served as an alternative means of marking current events … and purchasing memorabilia gave consumers an opportunity to be part of those events as they joined others in mourning the death of Whitefield and celebrating his life.

Slavery Advertisements Published October 25, 1770

GUEST CURATOR:  Katherine Hammer

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.

Oct 25 1770 - Maryland Gazette Slavery 1
Maryland Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Maryland Gazette Slavery 2
Maryland Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Maryland Gazette Slavery 3
Maryland Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Maryland Gazette Slavery 4
Maryland Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Journal (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Journal (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Pennsylvania Journal Slavery 3
Pennsylvania Journal (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 25, 1770).

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Oct 25 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (October 25, 1770).

Welcome, Guest Curator Katherine Hammer

Katherine Hammer is a senior at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, but she is from New York originally. She is a double major in History and Secondary Education, actively teaching at schools in the Worcester school districts as part of her coursework. Her interests in history include wars that shaped the world, early colonization of America, and German history. Outside of the classroom, Katherine is a goalkeeper on the Assumption women’s soccer team and enjoys volunteering with her team at various shelters in Worcester. Back at home, she works with students with intellectual and emotional disabilities, teaching them different social skills along with providing them a safe and caring environment to go to school. In the future, Katherine hopes to have a classroom of her own and build students’ passions for history, just like her teachers and professors have done for her.  She conducted the research for her current contributions as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when she was enrolled in HIS 400 – Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2020.

Welcome, guest curator Katherine Hammer.