Who placed an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Priscilla Manning, At her Shop a few Doors above Capt. WEST’s Corner.”
Advertising accounted for one-third of the contents of the November 19, 1771, edition of the Essex Gazette. A substantial number of notices promoted consumer goods and services available in Salem, Massachusetts. George Deblois advertised “excellent BOHEA TEA” as well as “English & Hard-Ware GOODS.” Similarly, John Appleton carried “the very best Bohea Tea” and a “fine Assortment of English and India, Scotch and Irish GOODS.” In an advertisement that extended almost an entire column, Nathaniel Sparhawk, Jr., listed dozens of items from among the “large and general Assortment of English and India Goods” that he imported “in the last Ships.” He called special attention to “Bohea TEA, (warranted good).” John Andrew informed prospective customers that he stocked an “Assortment of ENGLISH GOODS” at his shop “At the Sign of the Gold Cup,” though he did not mention tea.
Priscilla Manning joined these merchants and shopkeepers in advertising the merchandise she sold to consumers. Her inventory included “Bohea, Hyson & Souchong TEAS” as well as a “general Assortment of English and India GOODS.” Manning had been operating a shop “a few Doors above Capt. WEST’s Corner” for at least two years, according to advertisements in the Essex Gazette, but her name would disappear from the pages of that newspaper in 1772 when she married George Abbot. Historian Donna Seger has traced Manning’s life and career, noting that Abbot apparently took over Manning’s shop. Advertisements in the Essex Gazette bore his name and made reference to “his shop a little above Capt. West’s Corner.” When Abbot died in 1784, Manning “re-opened her shop … and built a big new house—both in her name.” She almost certainly continued to work in the shop during those twelve years that her husband’s name appeared in the public prints, eclipsing her contributions to the family business. Given that Manning was a woman of business in her right before her marriage and after the death of her husband, it raises questions about how many wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, and other female relations worked in the shops advertised by Deblois, Appleton, Sparhawk, and Andrew. Which women, known to customers and the community but unnamed in the notices, came to mind when eighteenth-century readers perused those advertisements?