Slavery Advertisements Published March 25, 1771

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 about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – 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 purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. 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 enslavers rather than enslaved people 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.

Boston Evening-Post (March 25, 1771).

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Boston-Gazette (March 25, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (March 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (March 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (March 25, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (March 25, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (March 25, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (March 25, 1771).

March 24

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

South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

“Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”

In an advertisement that appeared in the March 21, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, Thomas You described himself as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH” who ran a workshop “AT THE SIGN OF THE GOLDEN CUP” on Queen Street in Charleston.  That he was a working silversmith, as opposed to a purveyor of imported wares, was important to both You’s identity as an artisan and his marketing efforts.  He declared that he “carried on the GOLD and SILVERSMITH’s Business in their different Branches,” making claims about his expertise in his craft.  He also confided that “his Dependance is entirely in the working Part.”  In other words, he earned his livelihood through making what he sold, a shift in his marketing compared to his earlier advertisements that incorporated goods imported from England.

For readers of the South-Carolina Gazette, that proclamation resonated with the politics of the period.  Gary Albert traces You’s advertising over several years, noting that before the Stamp Act crisis, the silversmith “advertised six times that he sold goods ‘just imported from London,’” but “You did not advertise recently imported British goods from the enactment of the Stamp Act in the fall of 1765 through the repeal of the Townshend Acts in 1770.”  Albert underscores that You embedded politics in his advertisements in the late 1760s and early 1770s:  “On six occasions during the term of the Townshend Acts You made a point to tell his customers that his shop was manufacturing silversmith products, not retailing imported goods.”

In so doing, You challenged consumers to practice politics when making choices in the marketplace.  He stated that he “hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”  He argued that he did his part for the American cause as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH,” but his efforts as a producer required recognition by consumers and commitment on their part in selecting domestic manufactures as alternatives to imported goods.  In making that proposition, he echoed appeals made in newspaper advertisements throughout the colonies as artisans, shopkeepers, and others encouraged consumers to “Buy American” several years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.

March 23

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

Providence Gazette (March 23, 1771).

“A NEAT Assortment of QUEEN’s WARE.”

When John Jenkins opened a shop in Providence in 1771, he placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to advise prospective customers of the merchandise he offered for sale.  He focused on “A NEAT assortment of QUEEN’s WARE” or creamware, listing cups, saucers, plates, dishes, bowls, mugs, tea pots, and mustard pots.  Thomas Wedgwood adopted the trade name Queen’s ware to describe his line of cream-colored earthenware with a lead glaze.  Staffordshire potters developed the technique around 1750 to compete with Chinese export porcelains popular throughout the British Atlantic world.  Wedgwood and his contemporaries crafted fashionable and refined styles similar to porcelain in their efforts to both meet and expand consumer demand.

Jenkins apparently thought that Queen’s ware would capture the attention of prospective customers, but he peddled other items as well.  He included in his advertisement “Spices of all Sorts,” sugar, tea, and coffee in his advertisement as well as pins, needles, thread, and fish hooks.  He devoted less space to those items, listing them in a single paragraph rather than two columns with only one or two items per line as he did for the Queen’s ware.  The format suggested which items Jenkins anticipated would most excite consumers and convince them to visit his shop.

The shopkeeper concluded his advertisement with a nota bene about repairs to “China Bowls and Glass Ware.”  Lewis Jenkins, presumably a relation, riveted broken or cracked items “with Silver or Brass, in the neatest Manner,” preserving them for further use or display.  This was a common technique for making repairs in the eighteenth century.  In marketing Queen’s ware to readers of the Providence Gazette, Jenkins also provided an option for maintaining and repairing items purchased as his shop as well as damaged items previously purchased elsewhere.  He saw to the longevity of his fragile wares rather than just getting them into the hands of consumers.

March 22

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 22, 1771).

“A Table, calculated to shew the Contents … of any Sled Load or Cart Load of WOOD.”

In March 1771, Samuel Freeman of Falmouth, Casco Bay, took to the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette to advertise “A Table, calculated to shew the Contents (in Feet and twelfth Parts of a Foot) of any Sled Load of WOOD.”  An extended version ran on March 8.  It mentioned that the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette also sold that table at their office in Portsmouth.  In addition, it explained the purpose of such a table to readers who may have been unfamiliar with a practice from “Every City and populous Town in America …, Portsmouth only excepted.”  Even Falmouth in Casco Bay (Maine today, but then still part of Massachusetts) had regulations for appointing officials to measure loads of wood and issue certificates for buyers to consult during their transactions with sellers.  The advertisement advised that the residents of Portsmouth might wish to consider such a system at the town’s annual meeting at the end of the month.

The explanation and the commentary did not appear in subsequent iterations of the advertisement.  Instead, an abbreviated version ran on March 15, 22, and 29.  It did not mention copies of the table available at the printing office.  It looks as though Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the Portsmouth Gazette, saw an opportunity to insert an editorial, not among the news items, but instead appended to an advertisement submitted by one of their customers.  Doing so provided context for Freeman’s advertisement, but it also transformed the first iteration into more than the advertiser may have intended.  Regular readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette were accustomed to encountering all kinds of information among the advertisements.  That publication featured a higher proportion of legal notices than most other newspapers published in the early 1770s, perhaps prompting readers to peruse the advertisements for updates about current events.  The printers did not take such liberties with Freeman’s advertisement each time it ran.  After the Fowles made their pitch in its initial appearance it reverted to the copy that the advertiser submitted to the printing office.

March 21

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

New-York Journal (March 21, 1771).

“THE celebrated Sermon preached … on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield … By JOHN WESLEY.”

Word of George Whitefield’s death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, quickly spread through the colonies as well as across the Atlantic.  Newspapers in the colonies covered local reaction to the loss of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  In turn, they also reprinted coverage from one to another, further enhancing a sense of collective mourning.  It took longer to receive word of reactions in England, but by late March the colonial press carried those updates as well.  On March 18, 1771, the Boston-Gazette and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy both carried an “Extract of a Letter from the Right Honourable the COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON,” Whitefield’s patron, “received a few Days ago by the December Packet.”  The countess mourned the “Faithful Minister of the Gospel.”

A few days later, residents of New York learned of another response to Whitefield’s death from across the Atlantic.  John Holt, printer of the New-York Journal, announced that he would soon publish the “celebrated Sermon preached” by John Wesley, a leader of the Methodist movement within the Church of England, “on Sunday the 18th of November last, on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, at the Chapel in Tottenham Court-Road, and the Tabernacle near Moorfields.”  According to the Wesley Center Online, “The Sermon was at once published in London; and a reprint was issued in Dublin, also dated 1770.”  Commemorations of Whitefield’s death quickly resulted in commodification in England and Ireland, just as in the colonies.  That commodification continued when American printers came into possession of copies of the sermon.  Holt was the first advertise an American edition of Wesley’s sermon, but he was not the only one to take it to press.  John Fleeming in Boston also published the sermon.  Whitefield’s death was one of the most significant news events of 1770.  It prompted mourning on both sides of the Atlantic, but also presented opportunities for commodification.

Slavery Advertisements Published March 21, 1771

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 about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – 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 purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. 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 enslavers rather than enslaved people 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.

Maryland Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (March 21, 1771).

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New-York Journal (March 21, 1771).

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New-York Journal (March 21, 1771).

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New-York Journal (March 21, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (March 21, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (March 21, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (March 21, 1771).

March 20

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

Boston-Gazette (March 18, 1771).

“To be Sold by John Hunt, By Wholesale and Retail, at the very lowest Rates.”

Some colonial printers relegated advertising to the final pages of their newspapers, but others did not adopt that practice.  Instead, many distributed advertisements throughout their publications, even placing some alongside news accounts and editorials on the front page.  Benjamin Edes and John Gill took that approach in the March 18, 1771, edition of the Boston-Gazette.  Like other newspapers of the era, the Boston-Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Advertising appeared on every page.

Edes and Gill commenced that issue with a lengthy letter submitted by a reader and an editorial reprinted from the November 30, 1770, edition of London’s Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser.  They completed the page with three advertisements at the bottom of the last column, two for consumer goods and another from a wet nurse offering her services.  The other pages included even more advertising.  The second included nearly an entire column and the third and fourth were divided almost evenly between advertising and other content selected by the printers.  Overall, about a third of the issue consisted of paid notices.

In spreading the advertisements throughout the issue, Edes and Gill may have increased the likelihood that readers took note of them.  If the advertisements had been concentrated on the final page, readers could have chosen to skip over them entirely.  When advertisements appeared alongside other items, however, readers might have taken note of them even as they focused on news, letters, and editorials.  The printers did not, however, further enhance that strategy for drawing attention to advertisements by interspersing them with other content.  On each page, only after items selected by the printers appeared did advertisements follow, except for a short advertisement for “Choice Fresh Lemons” that completed the first column on the third page.

The printers also distributed a two-page supplement devoted entirely to advertising that accompanied the March 18 edition of the Boston-Gazette.  Even though those two pages had a specific purpose, Edes and Gill did not divide up the pages of the standard issue, designating some for news and others for advertising.  When John Hunt submitted the copy for his advertisement about housewares, cutlery, and hardware available at his shop, he had little say over where it would appear in the newspaper.  It turned out that it ran on the front page, next to and immediately below the news.  Although the other advertisements in the March 18 edition did not occupy the same choice location, most did benefit from appearing alongside the news.  That made it difficult for readers to consume only the news but not the advertising.

March 19

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

Essex Gazette (March 19, 1771).

“Whoever has a Mind to purchase … by applying to the Printer hereof may know further.”

Advertisements for grocery items, an “elegant Assortment of English GOODS,” sermons in memory of George Whitefield, and real estate for sale or lease ran in the March 19, 1771, edition of the Essex Gazette.  Readers were accustomed to encountering each sort of advertisement when they perused the Essex Gazette.  They were also accustomed to another kind of advertisement that offered enslaved people for sale.  In that issue, an anonymous advertiser presented a “likely, healthy, stout NEGRO Man, of about 30 Years of Age, who understands the farming Business in all its Branches.”  The advertiser advised prospective purchasers that the enslaved man was “To be SOLD, for Want of Employ, and not for any Fault.”  In other words, he was not ill, lazy, or disorderly; his current enslaver did not have enough work to keep him occupied.  The advertiser, who also had a “House Lot” in Marblehead for sale, instructed interested parties to contact the printer for more information.

Samuel Hall was that printer.  He began printing the Essex Gazette in Salem, Massachusetts, in August 1768.  The success of that newspaper and every other newspaper published in the colonies depended on attracting both subscribers and advertisers, but it also depended on other services provided at the printing office.  Printers served as information brokers.  The newspapers they distributed accounted for only a portion of the information in their possession.  They frequently disseminated via other means, including letters and conversations in printing offices, information that did not appear in print, especially when advertisers did not include all the particulars in their notices but instead asked readers to “enquire of the printer.”  In some cases, they made introductions, putting those who made inquiries in contact with advertisers.  On other occasions, they supplied additional details.  Either way, they acted as brokers, not only brokers of information but also brokers who facilitated sales.

When Hall published an advertisement for a “House Lot in Marblehead” and a “likely, healthy, stout NEGRO Man” that told readers they could learn more “by applying to the Printer,” he became a real estate broker and a broker in the slave trade.  Jordan E. Taylor has recently examined “enquire of the printer” advertisements published throughout the colonies and new nation in the eighteenth century, demonstrating that Hall was not alone.[1]  Taylor identified more than 2100 unique “enquire of the printer” advertisements offering enslaved people for sale.  Printers from New England to Georgia actively participated in the slave trade, both by publishing advertisements about enslaved people and by acting as a broker for “enquire of the printer” advertisements.  As Taylor argues, “Print culture was inextricable from the culture of slavery, just as print capitalism was slavery’s capitalism.”

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[1] Jordan E. Taylor, “Enquire of the Printer:  Newspaper Advertising and the Moral Economy of the North American Slave Trade, 1704-1807,” Early American Studies:  An Interdisciplinary Journal 18, no. 3 (Summer 2020): 287-323.

Slavery Advertisements Published on March 19, 1771

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 about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – 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 purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. 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 enslavers rather than enslaved people 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.

Essex Gazette (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 19, 1771).

March 18

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

Boston Evening-Post (March 18, 1771).

“Susannah Brimmer … has resigned Business to he Son.”

In the early 1770s, Susannah Brimmer ran a shop the South End of Boston.  In May 1771, she placed advertisements in the Boston Evening-Post and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter announcing that she “resigned Business to her Son, Andrew Brimmer.”  The younger Brimmer recently imported a “fresh Assortment of English Goods” from London and planned to sell them “Wholesale and Retail, Very Cheap for Cash.”  He also carried “Pepper, Spices, English Loaf Sugar,” and other grocery items.

Even though Susannah had been an enterprising entrepreneur who established her own clientele and made improvements to her shop, she did not appear in the pages of the Evening-Post, the Weekly News-Letter, or any of the other newspapers published in Boston prior to transferring her business to her son.  She did not place advertisements to promote her business.  Susannah instead relied on other means of attracting customers, such as renovations to her shop to enhance the shopping experience for consumers.

Not every merchant and shopkeeper in colonial Boston advertised in one or more of the many newspapers printed there, but women who ran businesses advertised less often than their male counterparts.  Certainly, fewer women than men earned their livelihoods as proprietors of businesses, yet that does not explain why they were proportionally underrepresented among advertisers.  It does not explain why Susannah never advertised until she transferred her business to Andrew.

Perhaps attitudes about women in business help to explain the reticence of some female entrepreneurs when it came to inserting advertisements in the public prints.  A satirical letter to the editor by the purported “Widows of this City” in the January 21, 1733, edition of the New-York Weekly Journal mocked “she Merchants” and their participation in any sector of the public sphere.  Shopkeepers like Susannah Brimmer may have navigated a careful course of encouraging prospective customers without drawing unwelcome attention to themselves via newspaper advertisements.  Friendships and other relationships, word of mouth, making improvements to her shop, and other strategies likely served Brimmer well in the absence of running advertisements.  Once she “resigned Business to her Son,” however, she did not have the same concerns.  To increase his likelihood of success, she recommended his shop to both “her Customers and Others,” hoping that he would build on and expand the clientele she cultivated.