April 9

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (April 9, 1773).

“The Partnership Of JAMES & MATHEW HASLETT is dissolv’d.”

The partnership of James Haslett and Mathew Haslett came to an end with little fanfare in the public prints.  The leather dressers inserted a short notice in the April 9, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, just two lines that announced, “The Partnership Of JAMES & MATHEW HASLETT is dissolv’d.”  They did not call on customers and other associates to settle accounts, nor did one or the other of them indicate that he intended to continue in the trade and would appreciate the continued patronage of former customers.

The quiet conclusion to this partnership differed from some of the flashy advertisements that the Hasletts previously placed in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  When they relocated to Portsmouth from Boston seven years earlier, they informed “Town and Country, That they have set up their Business at their Factory at the Sign of the BUCK and GLOVE … Where they carry on the [leather dressing] Business, in all its Branches, in the neatest and best Manner.”  The Hasletts deployed formulaic language, but doing so signaled that they were familiar with the advertising conventions of the era.  In the late 1760s and early 1770s, they placed advertisements of various lengths, though their longer advertisements coincided with the years that they were new to Portsmouth and still building their reputations in the region.

During that time, they commissioned woodcuts that depicted the “Sign of the BUCK and GLOVE” (and included breeches for good measure).  Those woodcuts all bore the date 1766, the year that the Hasletts established their workshop or “Factory” in Portsmouth.  Some, but not all, featured some variation of their names.  Although their shop sign no longer exists, the woodcuts in their newspaper advertisements testify to its likely appearance, like so many other woodcuts that depicted signs displayed by artisans and shopkeepers in eighteenth-century America.

For the Hasletts, their final notice in the New-Hampshire Gazette belied the visual feast and extensive copy that they previously presented to prospective customers.  On the other hand, they had been in business in Portsmouth long enough that merely glimpsing their names in the newspaper may have conjured images of the “Sign of the BUCK and GLOVE” for many readers.

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