Slavery Advertisements Published April 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.

Maryland Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (April 25, 1771).

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New-York Journal (April 25, 1771).

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New-York Journal (April 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (April 25, 1771).

April 24

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

Detail of supplemental page from the South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

“His STOCK of GOODS.”

Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, had more content than would fit in the standard issue on April 24, 1771.  Wells devoted more than a fifth of the issue to “EUROPEAN INTELLIGENCE,” spread over two columns on the front page and continuing on the second page.  The remainder of the second page consisted of “AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE,” news drawn primarily from Boston and Newport, Rhode Island, as well as limited coverage of local events.  The shipping news from the customs house spilled over, occupying a portion of the first column of the third page.  Paid notices constituted the rest of that edition, filling just shy of ten of the sixteen columns.  Even as he gave more space to advertising than to news, Wells did not have room for all of the paid notices submitted to his printing office.

To address that problem, Wells did what many other early American printers did in similar circumstances.  He distributed an additional sheet that consisted entirely of advertisements, more than two dozen of them.  One in four of those advertisements described enslaved men and women for sale or offered rewards for the capture ad return of those who liberated themselves.  While digital images of the standard issue and the supplementary pages do not indicate precise dimensions, they do reveal that Wells used a smaller sheet (and fewer columns per page) for the additional notices.  Wells depended on revenue generated from advertising to continue publication of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, but he also carefully budgeted how much paper he used in printing advertisements.  Rather than distribute an additional half sheet that would have allowed him to print more news reprinted from other newspapers Wells instead selected a smaller sheet with room for the paid notices and nothing else.  He carefully balanced the proportion of news and advertising as well as the revenues garnered from adverting and the costs of publishing those notices.

Slavery Advertisements Published April 24, 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.

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1771).

April 23

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

Essex Gazette (April 23, 1771).

“A few of Mr. Lovell’s ORATIONS on the Massacre in Boston.”

In the spring of 1771 colonial printers advertised a variety of items commemorating the death of George Whitefield the previous fall.  At the same time that John Dunlap in Philadelphia, John Fleeming in Boston, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle in New Hampshire, and John Holt in New York advertised Whitefield memorabilia, Samuel Hall informed residents of Salem that he carried an item that commemorated the other major news story of the previous year.  “A few of Mr. Lovell’s ORATIONS on the Massacre in Boston, to be sold by the Printer hereof,” Hall noted in an advertisement in the April 23 edition of the Essex Gazette.

Hall referred to “An Oration Delivered April 2d, 1771. At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston; To Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770.”  James Lovell delivered this oration on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Boston Massacre.  As the Massachusetts Historical Society explains, “From 1771 until 1783, when the commemoration of the Massacre was superseded by the celebration of independence on the Fourth of July, a leader of the patriot movement gave an address each year on or near the date of the anniversary.”  On the first anniversary of the Boston Massacre, local leaders determined that “there needed to be a public oration to remember the event.”  Lovell gave the first official oration sanctioned by the town, but, as Samuel A. Forman notes, Thomas Young “delivered a speech … on the same theme a few weeks prior and closer to the first anniversary of the Boston Massacre.”  No copy of Young’s address survives, but Lovell’s oration was “Printed by Edes and Gill, By Order of the Town of Boston.”

Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette and vocal supporters of the patriot cause, quickly took Lovell’s oration to press.  They made it available to consumers in Boston and beyond, disseminating copies to fellow printers and booksellers in other towns.  Hall, Edes and Gill, and patriot leaders in Boston all encouraged a culture of commemoration around the Boston Massacre, participating in rituals of remembrance and the commodification of those rituals in order to make a lasting impression well before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.  They cultivated reverence for this significant event considered one of the causes of the American Revolution in the years prior to the colonies declaring independence.  Marketing items like Lovell’s “Oration” and prints of the “Bloody Massacre” likely contributed to the cultivation of patriotic sentiment as many colonists shifted their attitudes from resistance to revolution.

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The Massachusetts Historical Society provides access to a digitized copy of Lovell’s “Oration.”

Slavery Advertisements Published April 23, 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.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 23, 1771).

April 22

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (April 22, 1771).

“A Sermon, on the death of the Rev. Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD, preached by JOHN WESLEY.”

In the months following his death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, the commemoration and commodification of George Whitefield became a minor industry as printers and booksellers produced and marketed commemorative items.  Advertisements for funeral sermons, poems, hymnals, and other memorabilia appeared in newspapers from New Hampshire to South Carolina before the end of the year.  In the following spring, another round of advertising coincided with vessels bringing news – and new merchandise – from England.  Printers in several colonies created and sold American editions of Whitefield’s will and a funeral sermon delivered by John Wesley.

This new round of marketing began on March 21 with an advertisement in the New-York Journal.  John Holt, the printer of that newspaper, announced his plan to publish the “celebrated Sermon … on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield … By JOHN WESLEY.”  A week later, he ran a new advertisement advising readers that they could purchase the sermon at his printing office or from bookbinder George Leedel.  A few weeks later, consumers in other colonies soon encountered similar advertisements for Whitefield commemorative items.  On April 19, John Fleeming advertised his own edition of Wesley’s sermon in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly Mercury.  On the same day, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, advertised that they planned to publish the “last Will and TESTAMENT of the late Reverend and worthy GEORGE WHITEFIELD,” a timely piece that “came in the last Ships from London.”

The marketing of new Whitefield memorabilia expanded to another colony yet again on April 22 with John Dunlap’s advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  He informed prospective customers that Wesley’s sermon “Just came to hand.”  He most likely sold Holt’s American edition.  His advertisement also promoted “the Deserted Village, a Poem by Dr. GOLDSMITH.”  Holt advertised those two titles together on March 28.  Dunlap carried them at “the Newest Printing-office, in Market-street, Philadelphia,” a few weeks later.  The widespread production and marketing of Whitefield commemorative items testified to the minister’s celebrity in the colonies.  That process also revealed the extent that printers, booksellers, and others saw his death as an opportunity to generate revenues through commodification that doubled as mourning.

Slavery Advertisements Published April 22, 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-Gazette (April 22, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (April 22, 1771).

April 21

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (April 19, 1771).

“The last Will and TESTAMENT of the late Reverend and worthy GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

After fading from American newspapers for a time during the first few months of 1771, George Whitefield once again became a subject of interest in the spring.  Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  For the next three months, newspapers from New England to Georgia printed and reprinted news of his death and reactions to it in various towns throughout the colonies.  Those same newspapers also carried advertisements for an array of commemorative items produced in memory of the minister.  Eventually, both coverage of his death and marketing of memorabilia tapered off.  The renewed interest in Whitefield in the spring of 1771 coincided with the arrival of ships carrying news from England.  Printers now had access to coverage of Whitefield’s death in England, coverage that they shared with colonial readers.

Sometimes that coverage took the form of reprinting advertisements that ran in the London press.  John Carter did so in the Providence Gazette on April 13 with an item about “The works of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD” among the news from London.  Six days later, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle included the same item in the New-Hampshire Gazette, either drawing it from newspapers they received from London or reprinting it from the Providence Gazette.  Readers of their newspaper learned that Whitefield’s sermons and letters, along with an engraved portrait, “Speedily will be published” and sold in London.  Like many other American printers, the Fowles seized the opportunity to produce and market commemorative items in the wake of receiving news about Whitefield from the other side of the Atlantic.  In an advertisement on the next page of the April 13 edition, they announced that “Next Monday will be published, and sold at the Printing Office … The last Will and TESTAMENT of the late Reverend and worthy GEORGE WHITEFIELD, which came in the last Ships from London.”  More than six months after the minister’s death, the Fowles estimated sufficient interest in Whitefield to justify not only additional news coverage but also yet another commemorative item.  They believed that demand existed or could be incited for copies of Whitefield’s will among local consumers who had already been offered a variety of memorabilia in the fall.

April 20

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

Providence Gazette (April 20, 1771).

“His Design is … to exclude his Wife from all Interest in, or Advantage from said Farm.”

On occasion, advertisements published in colonial newspapers generated responses disseminated in subsequent advertisements.  Such was a case when Moses Lyon advertised a farm in South Brimfield, Massachusetts, in the Providence Gazette in the spring of 1771.  Nathaniel Child placed an advertisement in response, apparently on behalf of Lyon’s wife.  Child asserted that potential buyers needed to know more about the conditions of the sale before they purchased the property.

“Justice requires,” Child proclaimed, “the Public should be informed, that [Lyon’s] Design is, if possible, to exclude his Wife from all Interest in, or Advantage from said Farm.”  In an effort to prevent such an injustice, Child published his advertisement.  He explained that Lyon’s “now lawful Wife … sustains a reputable Character” and had not “done any thing that might justly forfeit an Interest in his Affections, any more than in his Estate.”  Child did not provide all the details about the discord in the Lyon household, but he did accuse Moses of “repeated Declarations,” a “Series of public Conduct,” and “certain notorious Facts, more loudly speaking than Words” that all indicated he sought to “prevent [his wife] having the least Advantage from any of his Estate.”

Child did not specify his relationship to the Lyon family.  Perhaps he was father, brother, or cousin to the aggrieved wife.  Whatever the relationship, he framed his intervention as a matter of “Justice” so “no Person should be misled, or act in the Dark” when purchasing the farm.  Why did this warning come from him?  By law and by custom, Lyon’s wife did not possess as much power as her husband.  As a result, enlisting a male ally to act as her advocate in the public prints may have been one of the best strategies at her disposal for protecting her interests.  A third party, even a male relation, who testified to Lyon’s “Conduct towards her” likely stood to garner more trust in the veracity of that account than if she relayed a similar story on her own.  Publishing an advertisement in response to Lyon’s real estate notice gave his “now lawful Wife” and her defender greater leverage than had she pursued the matter in private.

April 19

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (April 19, 1771).

“This Sermon contains a summary Account of Mr. WHITEFIELD’S Life.”

When George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, news quickly spread.  Accounts of his death first appeared in newspapers published in Boston, radiating out to newspapers in other cities and towns.  Almost immediately, printers, booksellers, and others began marketing commemorative items in memory of Whitefield.  Commodification of the minister’s death became part of the mourning ritual.

From New Hampshire to South Carolina, newspapers carried advertisements for books, broadsides, and poems.  Readers encountered those advertisements for nearly three months before they tapered off.  After another three months, advertisements for new Whitefield memorabilia began appearing in colonial newspapers, this time for items related to reactions to the minister’s death on the other side of the Atlantic.  On March 21, 1771, the New-York Journal carried an advertisement for “THE celebrated Sermon preached … on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield … By JOHN WESLEY.”  John Holt, printer of the New-York Journal, took to press the first American edition of Wesley’s funeral sermon.

Nearly a month later, John Fleeming advertised and published another edition in Boston.  He ran an advertisement in the April 19 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  Unlike Holt, Fleeming noted that his edition included “a summary Account of Mr. WHITEFIELD’S Life extracted from his own Journals,” an elaboration on the content intended to entice consumers.  This endeavor merited its own advertisement separate from another notice that Fleeming ran to promote stationery and books, including an account of the trials of the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, that the printer sold at his shop on King Street.

Most public figures disappeared from colonial newspapers not long after accounts of their deaths.  Printers continued coverage of Whitefield, on the other hand, for many months, publishing both news accounts and advertisements for memorabilia.  Commemoration and commodification occurred simultaneously as Whitefield continued to appear in the colonial press more than half a year after his death.