September 21

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

Boston-Gazette (September 21, 1772).

“The great Encouragement he has had beyond Expectation from his former Advertisements.”

John Thompson described himself to current and prospective customers as a “Tinman and Brazier from LONDON.”  In an advertisement in the September 21, 1772, edition of the Boston-Gazette, he declared that he “Makes various Articles in Tin and Copper too tedious to enumerate.”  Other artisans and purveyors of goods published lengthy lists of their merchandise to entice consumers, but Thompson opted instead to focus on a few select items.  He proclaimed that he made “all Sorts of Polish’d Tin Ware like Silver, never before manufactured in Boston,” underscoring the value of purchasing from an artisan “from LONDON.”  In addition, he carried “all Sorts of Come Tin Ware” as well as “Brass and Copper Vessels Tin’d with pure Grain Tin in the London Fashion.”

In his effort to secure his reputation and attract even more customers, Thompson expressed his gratitude to existing customers.  Doing so suggested to prospective customers that he already established a clientele at his shop.  He stated that he “is much oblig’d to all his Customers in General, and to the good People of Boston in Particular, for the great Encouragement he has had beyond Expectation from his former Advertisements.”  Furthermore, his previous success “imboldens him again to advertise, hoping for a Continuance of Favours” from customers in Boston.  Thompson offered rare commentary from an advertiser on the effectiveness of advertising in colonial America.  He asserted that his advertising had indeed produced positive results even “beyond Expectation.”  That certainly supported his allusions to an existing clientele, but that does not necessarily mean that it was mere puffery.  After all, Thompson chose to place a new advertisement following his “former Advertisements.”  He apparently believed that his earlier advertising had been successful, even if he exaggerated its effects in his new notice, or at least considered one more advertisement worth the investment.  Some advertisers testified to the effectiveness of advertising by repeatedly placing notices in the public prints.  Relatively few, however, made such explicit comments on the effectiveness of their marketing.

September 20

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

New-York Journal (September 20, 1772).

“Hoping they will leave the odd Pence at the Place, / Where the Papers are left for them by CASE.”

Three newspapers printed in New York served the city and the rest of the colony in the early 1770s.  Samuel Inslee and Anthony Car printed the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, leasing it from Samuel Parker.  Hugh Gaine printed the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, while John Holt printed the New-York Journal.  In addition, Alexander Robertson and James Robertson published the Albany Gazette for a brief period in the early 1770s, establishing the newspaper on November 21, 1771, and distributing the last known issue on August 3, 1772.  Post riders distributed those newspapers to subscribers throughout the colony.

Newspaper subscribers notoriously asked for credit and fell behind in making payments, causing printers to publish frequent requests for them to settle accounts or face legal action.  Many of the subscribers to the newspapers published in New York apparently failed to pay the post riders either.  In the fall of 1772, a man who identified himself only as Case sent a request to Holt’s printing office: “Please to insert the following Lines in your next, and oblige the Albany Post Rider.”  Those lines consisted of a short poem, entitled “The Albany Post Rider’s Representation,” that pleaded with subscribers to pay for delivery of their newspapers.

Case’s poem was not great literature, but it made his case in a manner that readers likely found entertaining … or at least noticed.  “AS true as my Name is CASE, / I find Cash very scarce,” the poem began with a couplet that did not quite rhyme.  That did not deter the post rider from continuing: “Therefore take it not unkind, / If I put my Customers in mind, / I have rode Post one Year, / Which has cost me very dear.”  Case asserted that he made sacrifices to carry the news “Which make me stand in need of pay, / Without the least Delay: / From such Gentlemen indebted to me, / For bringing them their News to read and see.”  He concluded with instructions in the form of a suggestion, “Hoping they will leave the odd Pence at the Place, / Where the Papers are left for them by CASE.”

This verse did not rival the weekly entry in “POET’S CORNER” that appeared in the upper left corner of the final page of Holt’s New-York Journal, but it did distinguish Case’s advertisements from others.  Colonizers sometimes resorted to poems to enhance advertisements placed for a variety of purposes, including goods for sale and runaway indentured servants.  They experimented with advertising copy beyond writing straightforward notices that merely made announcements.

September 19

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 19, 1772).

“John White Stay-Maker”

Most advertisements in colonial newspapers did not feature visual images.  Those that did usually used a stock image provided by the printer, such as a ship at sea, a house, a horse, or an enslaved person liberating him- or herself by “running away.”  Never elaborate in the scenes depicted, such woodcuts could be used interchangeably in advertisements from the appropriate genre.  Some advertisers, however, commissioned images that corresponded to the shop signs that marked their locations or illustrated one or more items available among their merchandise.

Two such images appeared in the September 19, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Robert Parrish once again included the woodcut depicting a “ROLLING SCREEN for cleaning wheat and flaxseed,” though he did not use a woodcut showing a Dutch fan or winnowing fan that previously appeared with it.  Perhaps he did not wish to incur the additional cost for the space required to publish two images.

Another entrepreneur, John White, adorned his advertisement with an image of a stay (or corset), the body and holes for the laces on the left and the laces on the right.  Readers would have easily recognized the garment and understood how it wrapped around and confined a woman’s body.  The words “John White” and “Stay-Maker” flanked the woodcut.  The image accounted for half of the space for the advertisement, an additional investment beyond commissioning the woodcut.

White announced that he moved to a new location where “he continues to carry on the Staymaking business as usual.”  He pledged “to give satisfaction to all who are pleased to employ him.”  He also solicited “orders from any part of the country” and provided mail order service, making it unnecessary for clients to visit his shop in Philadelphia.  Instead, they could send measurements “in respect to length and width of the Stays, both at top and bottom exactly, in the front and back parts.”  The staymaker warned that customers who opted for that convenience needed to pay postage for such orders rather than expect him to take responsibility for those charges.

The woodcut depicting a stay, its body and laces unfurled, almost certainly helped attract attention to White’s advertisement, his promises of customer satisfaction, and the option for submitting orders “by the post” rather than visiting his shop.  Most newspaper advertisements consisted solely of text, so any sort of visual enhancement, whether an image or decorative type, distinguished those advertisements from others.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 19, 1772

GUEST CURATOR: Julia Tardugno

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 colonizers 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. Colonizers 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.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Julia Tardugno served as guest curator for this entry. She completed this work as part of the Summer Scholars Program, funded by a fellowship from the D’Amour College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in Summer 2022. 

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 19, 1772).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 19, 1772).

September 18

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 18, 1772).

“A Considerable Quantity of Goods were stoped … upon Supposition of their being stolen.”

As they participated in a transatlantic consumer revolution, colonizers acquired goods in a variety of ways in the eighteenth century.  Colonial newspapers carried many advertisements for both new goods and secondhand goods for sale in shops and auction rooms and at estate sales.  In addition, some colonizers took advantage of what Serena Zabin has termed an “informal economy” that included purchasing stolen goods.  Buyers were not necessarily aware that they bought stolen goods, but a variety of circumstances, including the prices, should have at least made them suspicious that was the case.

Newspaper advertisements document some attempts to supply the informal economy with new wares, including notices about shops “broke open” during the night and others about goods “stopped” or seized when offered for sale.  An advertisement in the September 18, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, for instance, told one such story.  It announced that a “Considerable Quantity of Goods were stoped by Mr. John Prentice at Londonderry upon Supposition of their being stolen.”  Apparently, the prices seemed too good to be true.  Prentice explained that he became suspicious because the “Person on whom the Goods were found offered them for Sale at less than half their Value.”  That person may have stolen them himself or he may have acquired them from the person who had.

Prentice offered a means for the owner to recover the goods, instructing that the “Owner may have them [by] telling the Marks and paying Charges.”  In other words, anyone claiming to be the legitimate owner needed to describe the items, including distinguishing features intended for easy identification, and pay for the advertisement and other expenses incurred in recovering and publicizing the goods.  Unfortunately for the victim of the theft, the person who offered them for sale “made his Escape from the Officer” after being apprehended.  He could not be prosecuted or further questioned about how those goods came into his possession or other stolen merchandise.  Other colonizers did not have the same scruples as Prentice.  Many goods circulated as the result of buyers and sellers alike not asking too many questions or reaching uncomfortable conclusions about the origins of those goods.

September 17

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 17, 1772).

“ISAAC, an outlawed Mulatto Fellow … absconded from this Place.”

Purdie and Dixon’s Virginia Gazette regularly carried advertisements that described enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers in the 1770s.  The September 17, 1772, edition was no exception.  It included six such advertisements, offering rewards for the capture and return of the Black men who made their escape.  Two other advertisements described suspected fugitives seeking their freedom who had been committed to jail until the colonizer who purported to own them could “prove his Property, and pay Charges” or expenses for detaining them.

Some of those advertisements described communities and relationships among enslaved people, asserting that those who liberated themselves received assistance from others.  W. Johnson, for instance, suspected that Isaac, “an outlawed Mulatto Fellow” who absconded in July, was “harboured by Colonel John Snelson’s Negroes … among whom he has a Wife” or “by his Brother, John Kenney, a Mulatto Slave belonging to Mr. Thomas Johnson.”  Johnson believed that Isaac moved “from one Refuge to another,” making use of the “Variety of Clothes” and the “likely gray Mare” he took with him.

Like many enslaved people who liberated themselves, Isaac was “rather plausible and insinuating” when others questioned him or engaged him in conversation.  Johnson warned that Isaac would tell convincing tales to alleviate suspicion that he was the “outlawed Mulatto Fellow” described in the newspaper.  Even worse than being clever enough to succeed in such deceptions, Johnson declared that Isaac was “stubborn, and inclinable to be impudent” when “in Liquor.”  That may have been one of the reasons that the advertisement made a different request of readers compared to most others of the genre: “TWENTY POUNDS to kill, or THREE POUNDS to take.”  Johnson was less interested in recovering Isaac than in eliminating him, his influence, and his example.

Almost every enslaver who placed newspaper advertisements wanted enslaved people who liberated themselves returned, offering rewards for their capture and threatening legal action against anyone who aided them.  Relatively few escalated the stakes to killing fugitives seeking their freedom.  While chilling to modern readers, Johnson’s advertisement encouraging the murder of Isaac likely did not seem especially extraordinary to readers in the 1770s.  That it appeared in the public prints alongside advertisements for patent medicines, real estate, lost livestock, and consumer goods and services suggests that colonizers sanctioned such measures of dealing with recalcitrant enslaved people, even during the era of the American Revolution.

September 16

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 16, 1772).

“A sample of the TOBACCO may be seen at the Bar of the London Coffee-House.”

In a series of newspaper advertisements, Hamilton and Leiper informed readers that they sold “the various kinds of manufactured TOBACCO and SNUFF (of the best quality)” at their store on Second Street in Philadelphia.  In addition, they “established a MANUFACTORY” in Baltimore “for the conveniency of their customers in Maryland.”  Over time, the partners became the most successful tobacconists in the region.  Their advertisements and other marketing efforts likely played a role in their success.

As fall approached in 1772, the partners promoted their “KITE-FOOT TOBACCO” in an advertisement in the September 16 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  As usual, they lauded their tobacco’s “excellent quality.”  Like other entrepreneurs who hawked “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, Hamilton and Leiper proclaimed their product “equal to any imported from Europe.”  Consumers were familiar with tobacco exported to England and Scotland as raw materials, processed in those places, and then imported into the colonies.  Hamilton and Leiper, however, asserted that quality tobacco did not need to cross the Atlantic twice.

Prospective customers could decide for themselves.  In addition to visiting Hamilton and Leiper’s shop, consumers had the option of examining a sample “at the Bar of the London Coffee-House.”  That almost certainly enhanced the visibility of Hamilton and Leiper’s product, exposing patrons of an establishment already popular with merchants and other colonizers to their brand of tobacco.  Patrons did not need to enter the London Coffee House with the intention of scrutinizing Hamilton and Leiper’s “KITE-FOOT TOBACCO” to determine if they wished to make a purchase.  Instead, they could be incidentally exposed to the product as others examined and discussed it.  Making samples available had the potential to incite interest and enthusiasm among multiple prospective customers engaging with each other and the product simultaneously.  That marketing strategy had the potential to create a very different kind of experience among consumers than reading newspaper notices.

September 15

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 15, 1772).

“Young Ladies and Gentlemen instructed in DANCING.”

An advertisement for “DANCING and FENCING” lessons in the September 15, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal alerted readers that “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” would soon offer a new “Season” of classes.  Pike was probably already familiar to many prospective pupils, having offered instruction in Charleston for several years.  He attempted to generate interest even among those who had already taken lessons with him by inviting students to his “NEW SUIT of ROOMS” on Church Street.

A significant portion of the advertisement consisted of the schedule.  Pike devoted early mornings, “Five o’Clock to Nine,” to fencing lessons.  He taught dancing to “Young Ladies and Gentlemen” in the afternoons on Thursdays and Saturdays in addition to his “EVENING SCHOOL, every Evening in the Week, from Six o’Clock to Nine.”  That left “four Afternoons at Liberty every Week” for Pike to venture beyond his academy to provide private lessons to students “at their own Houses.”  That may have been the preferred option for those who felt anxious about appearing anything other than graceful and genteel in front of observers.

Yet dancing was an activity meant to be undertaken in public, at least eventually.  Colonizers asserted their status and took great pride in being skillful dancers.  Smoothly completing complex steps testified to their refinement, while awkwardness or stumbling undermined impressions of politeness and sophistication they demonstrated in other aspects of their comportment and dress.  Understanding the stakes, Pike scheduled an exhibition ball for early December and encouraged the “Parents and Guardians of his Scholars” to enroll them in lessons “as soon as possible.”  The teacher and his pupils needed sufficient time “to complete his Figures in a proper Manner” during their lessons so the young ladies and gentlemen could showcase their skills in front of observers at the ball.  Other dancing masters also raised the specter of public embarrassment in their advertisements, encouraging prospective students and their parents to enroll in lessons in order to withstand public scrutiny.  By stoking anxiety, they aimed to motivate colonizers to engage their services.

September 14

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

Pennsylvania Packet (September 14, 1772).

“The curious in books … are requested to call for the Catalogue.”

An advertisement in the September 14, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet invited readers to visit “the Book-Store of WILLIAM WOODHOUSE” to receive a free copy of “A CATALOGUE OF A COLLECTION OF NEW AND OLD BOOKS, In all the Arts and Sciences, and in various Languages.”  The advertisement indicates that the lengthy title of the catalog included “Also, as large quantity of entertaining Novels, with the lowest price printed to each book.”  At a glance, it appears that Woodhouse was responsible for compiling and promoting this catalog, but closer inspection reveals that Woodhouse almost certainly collaborated with another bookseller, Robert Bell.

Ten months later, Bell distributed a catalog that replicated the title of the catalog advertised in September 1772, with the exception of adding his name: “ROBERT BELL’s SALE CATALOGUE Of a COLLECTION of NEW AND OLD BOOK, In all the Arts and Sciences, and in various Languages, Also, a large Quantity of entertaining NOVELS; with the lowest Price printed to each BOOK; NOW SELLING, At the BOOK-STORE of WILLIAM WOODHOUSE, Bookseller, Stationer, and Bookbinder, in Front-street, near Chestnut-street, Philadelphia.”  Woodhouse apparently provided retail space for Bell in both 1772 and 1773.

Yet more than merely identical titles testify to Bell’s role in producing and marketing the catalog.  The newspaper advertisement concluded with a nota bene that declared, “In this Collection are many uncommon BOOKS, seldom to be found;—therefore, the curious in books—the Directors of Libraries—and all others, that delight in the food of the mind, are requested to call for the Catalogue at said WOODHOUSE’S, as above.”  Those flourishes, especially “the curious in books” and “food of the mind,” echoed the language that the flamboyant Bell deployed in other advertisements.  For instance, he previously marketed “ROBERTSON’S celebrated History of CHARLES the Fifth” to “ALL Gentlemen that possess a sentimental TASTE.”

Bell was one of the most innovative and influential American booksellers and publishers of the eighteenth century.  Inserting the “lowest price” in the entry for each book in the catalog distinguished it from other catalogs that merely listed authors, titles, and, sometimes, sizes ranging from folio to quarto to octavo to duodecimo.  In addition, Bell supplemented newspaper advertisements and catalogs with broadsides and subscription notices, creating savvy marketing campaigns that incorporated multiple media to entice colonizers to become consumers of the books that he hawked.

September 13

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letters (September 10, 1772).

“Will be sold (by Wholesale only) at such Rates as may encourage all Retailers in Town and Country.”

The partnership of Smith and Atkinson advertised a “large and very general Assortment of Piece Goods” in the September 10, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, but they did not seek to sell their wares directly to consumers.  Instead, they addressed retailers, advising them of their intention to deal “by Wholesale only.”  Smith and Atkinson imported such a variety of merchandise that they considered it “equally tedious & unnecessary to enumerate here.”  They may have wished to avoid paying for the amount of space required to catalog their inventory in a newspaper advertisement, but this strategy also had the benefit of prompting “Retailers in Town and Country” to fret about what kinds of goods Smith and Atkinson had on hand that might “compleat their Assortments” that they offered to their own customers.

Shopkeepers considered promoting consumer choice one of the most effective appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements.  Many did publish lengthy lists in the public prints, demonstrating to prospective customers that they could fulfill their needs and desires.  Even those who opted for shorter advertisements often mentioned the “assortment” or “variety” of wares they stocked.  Realizing that retailers so often advanced such appeals to rouse demand among consumers, Smith and Atkinson adapted the strategy to their own purposes in targeting shopkeepers in Boston and surrounding towns.  They proclaimed that they could augment any inventory throughout the year, “there being at all Seasons … a great Variety” of goods at their store.  They also declared that they set low prices for retailers who wished to enhance their inventory, explaining that they could pass along the savings because “these Goods have been purchased on the best Terms.”  In addition, those who paid cash received even better deals.  Smith and Atkinson mentioned that “Due Encouragement will be given to those who pay ready Money” twice.  Many of the advertisements for consumer goods in colonial newspapers targeted consumers themselves, but merchants also resorted to advertising to facilitate wholesale transactions.  When they did so, their appeals about large assortments of goods and low prices simultaneously adapted and reinforced the marketing strategies commonly deployed by retailers who sought to incite demand among consumers.