July 27

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 27, 1773).

“ITS USES are so well known as to need no Recommendation.”

Zepheniah Kingsley marketed “BOWEN’s patent SAGO” and “BOWEN’s patent SOY” in advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in July 1773.  In an advertisement placed in the Georgia Gazette five years earlier, Samuel Bowen explained that just one pound of his sago powder “will make a mess of wholesome nourishing food for 20 men.  It is of a light and nourishing substance, proper for fluxes and other disorders in the bowels, also in consumptive and ma[n]y other cases.”  At the time Kingsley placed his advertisement, he declared that the uses of sago powder “are so well known as to need no Recommendation.”  All the same, he trumpeted that the product was “So much esteemed in the ROYAL NAVY, and in the AFRICAN TRADE, as an ANTISCORBUTIC and the only CURE for the FLUX.”  In other words, captains fed it to sailors and captive Africans to prevent scurvy and treat dysentery.

Kingsley also noted that “the ROYAL SOCIETY, the ROYAL COLLEGE of PHYSICIANS, and the SOCIETY for the Encouragement of ARTS, MAUFACTURES and COMMERCE” all “approved” of sago powder, echoing endorsements that Bowen previously listed in his advertisement.  Furthermore, Kingsley made reference to testimonials from the captain and scientists aboard the Endeavour following that vessel’s famous “Voyage round the World” from 1768 to 1771, stating that sago powder’s “good Effects are likewise vouched by Captain COOKE, … Mr. BANKES and Dr. SOLANDER, … as appears by their Report since their Return.”  English botanist Joseph Banks and Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander were among the representatives of the Royal Society on that voyage.  To underscore the acclaim earned by “BOWEN’s patent SAGO,” the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom adorned Kingsley’s advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Kingsley apparently did not consider it necessary to provide more details about the uses and effectiveness of Bowen’s sago powder.  The various endorsements of the product spoke for themselves.

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