January 23

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

Providence Gazette (January 23, 1773).

“Opposite the East End of the Great Bridge.”

American cities and towns did not have standardized street numbers before the American Revolution.  Some of the largest cities began assigning street numbers in the late 1780s and 1790s, but prior to that residents and visitors relied on combinations of shop signs, landmarks, and directions of varying lengths to specify the locations of homes and businesses.

Consider how some advertisers directed prospective customers to their shops in advertisements that ran in the January 23, 1773, edition of the Providence Gazette.  Joseph fuller made and sold tools “At his Shop in Broad-street, on the West Side of the Great Bridge, next Door to Samuel Nightingale, Esq.”  Thomas Stoddard and Benjamin Clap established a smithy “on the East Side of the Great Bridge, opposite Dr, Sterling’s.”  Daniel Spencer, a cabinet- and chairmaker, had a workshop “Opposite the East End of the Great Bridge, in Providence.”  Not all advertisers listed their locations in relation to the Great Bridge, but enough did so to demonstrate that it was a major landmark in the city.

The Great Bridge connected the portions of Providence located on opposite sides of the basin created by the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers.  A map of the “BAY of NARRAGANSET in the Province of NEW-ENGLAND,” published in London in 1777, shows the larger part of the city on the eastern side of the basin, the smaller part on the western side, and a bridge connecting the two.  According to an account of the Providence Great-Bridge Lottery of 1790, the bridge measured twelve feet wide when constructed in 1711 and eighteen feet wide following alterations in 1744.  Following the lottery, the bridge was widened to fifty-six feet in the early 1790s.  Although it was not as “great” in terms of width in 1773 as it would become by the end of the century, the Great Bridge served as an important landmark that artisans and other entrepreneurs noted when directing prospective customers to their businesses.

January 22

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

Connecticut Journal (January 22, 1773).

“By Reason of an ill State of Health, and other Misfortunes, he has been for some Time unable to attend his Business.”

Joseph Hopkins, a goldsmith and jeweler in Waterbury, took to the pages of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy to raise interest in his business in January 1773. He pledged that he “will supply those who may want any Articles in either the Goldsmith or Jewelry Way, on the most reasonable Terms.”  Such appeals, however, were not the primary focus of his advertisement.

Instead, Hopkins sought to generate sympathy among prospective customers.  He reported that he reopened his shop after having been closed, stating that “by Reason of an ill State of Health, and other Misfortunes, he has been for some Time unable to attend his Business.”  The goldsmith did not go into detail about any of those “Misfortunes,” though some readers may have already been familiar with his situation.  He did declare that he “has of late, in some good Measure recovered his Health” and was ready to serve clients once again.

Hopkins offered other news to entice readers into his shop.  He announced that he “engaged an approved Workman,” presumably someone with training and experience as either a goldsmith or jeweler, to provide assistance.  He likely hoped that employing an associate would help alleviate any concerns about what kinds of service customers would experience now that his shop opened again.  Yet Hopkins did not want the public to have the mistaken impression that he merely entrusted orders to his new assistance.  He asserted that he gave “constant Attendance himself.”

In his efforts to attract customers to his shop, Hopkins balanced pleas for sympathy with assurances of competence.  He hoped that recovering from poor health and other unspecified “Misfortunes” would prompt prospective customers to give him their business, but he also realized that sympathy alone might not win them over.  Accordingly, he maintained that both he and his new assistant were qualified to produce “any Articles in either the Goldsmith or Jewelry Way” for customers who gave his shop a chance.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 22, 1773

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.

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

New-London Gazette (January 22, 1773).

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New-London Gazette (January 22, 1773).

January 21

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

Massachusetts Spy (January 21, 1773).

“The SECOND EDITION.”

Just a week after the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Massachusetts Spy carried advertisements announcing that An Oration on the Beauties of Liberty or the Essential Rights of the Americans was “Now in the press, and will be published in a few days” on January 14, 1773, both newspapers carried notices about the publication of a second edition.  John M. Bumsted and Charles E. Clark identify the author, “A British Bostonian,” as John Allen, a Baptist minister who migrated to New England in the early 1770s.  They consider the Oration “one of the best-selling pamphlets of the pre-Revolutionary crisis, passing through seven editions in four cities between 1773 and 1775.”[1]

The Oration very quickly went to a second edition.  Was that because the first edition sold out so quickly?  Or did other factors play a role.  The advertisement in the January 21 edition of the Massachusetts Spy implied that it was the former, that the popularity of the pamphlet prompted the printers, David Kneeland and Nathaniel Davis, to publish “The SECOND EDITION.”  In addition to the advertisements that ran on January 14, another advertisement appeared in the Boston-Gazette on January 18, helping to incite interest and demand in a pamphlet drawn from an address that many Bostonians heard several weeks earlier.  Word-of-mouth chatter about the Oration likely supplement newspaper advertisements in promoting the pamphlet.

The advertisement in the January 21 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter provided additional details. It featured two revisions to the original notice.  The headline now read “This Day Published” instead of “To-Morrow will be Published.”  In addition, a new line at the end of the notice advised prospective customers that they could purchase “The SECOND EDITION corrected.”  Did Kneeland and Davis sell out of the first edition?  Or did they take advantage of producing a second edition that corrected errors to suggest that such the first edition met with such success that it made the immediate publication of a second edition necessary?  Either way, the reception of the first two editions apparently convinced other printers in Boston, Hartford and New London in Connecticut, and Wilmington in Delaware, that they could generate revenues by publishing their own editions.  In so doing, they assisted in disseminating arguments that encouraged colonizers to move from resistance to revolution during the era of the imperial crisis that culminated in thirteen colonies declaring independence from Great Britain.

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[1] John M. Bumsted and Charles E. Clark, “New England’s Tom Paine: John Allen and the Spirit of Liberty,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 21, no. 4 (October 1964): 561.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 21, 1773

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.

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

Maryland Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Maryland Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Maryland Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Maryland Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Maryland Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 21, 1773).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 21, 1773).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 21, 1773).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 21, 1773).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 21, 1773).

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New-York Journal (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (January 21, 1773).

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Virginia Gazette [Rind] (January 21, 1773).

January 20

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

Pennsylvania Journal (January 20, 1773).

“I accused her wrongfully, and beg her pardon for the same.”

Newspaper advertisements delivered many kinds of information in eighteenth-century America.  Some described consumer goods and services offered by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans.  Legal notices and estate notices supplemented news articles about local events.  Advertisements about enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers and indentured servants who ran away before their contracts ended provided descriptions and promised rewards for their capture and return.  Notices about wives who “eloped” from their husbands and, as a result, no longer had access to credit kept readers informed about some of the gossip in their community.

Other advertisements carried other kinds of gossip.  In the January 20, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, for instance, Mary Doyle inserted a notice in which she confessed that she mistakenly accused an acquaintance of stealing her pocketbook, realized her error, and asked for forgiveness.  “I MARY DOYLE,” she stated, “having mislaid my Pocket-Book, and missing it in the Market place, most injustly charged Mrs. Mary M’Clean, (wife of Hugh M’Clean, Stone-cutter,) with taking the same.”  Doyle apparently found her missing pocketbook and realized her error, prompting her to published the advertisement.  “I therefore think myself bound to inform the public,” she continued, “that I accused her wrongfully, and beg ger pardon for the same.”

Like most advertisements about recalcitrant wives who vexed their husbands, this advertisement did not include all the juicy details about what happened at the market.  Readers could imagine the scene that unfolded.  Some may have already been aware of what transpired, having witnessed it themselves.  Others may have already heard gossip about an altercation between the two women.  Those learning about the confrontation for the first time may have wanted to learn more and decided to ask their friends and acquaintances about what occurred.  Rather than quiet the gossip about Doyle’s missing pocketbook and the accusations she made against McClean, the advertisement may have helped in inciting more gossip.  New chatter, however, had a conclusion in which Doyle set the record straight by restoring McClean’s reputation.  She shifted the story away from a possible theft to her own mistake in making an erroneous accusation.  Doyle sought to repair her relationship with McClean, though publishing a newspaper advertisement also facilitated gossip about a recent argument in the market.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 20, 1773

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.

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (January 20, 1773).

January 19

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 19, 1773).

“WILLIAM BOWER … continues to carry on the CLOCK and WATCH-MAKING BUSINESS.”

“KATHARINE BOWER … carries on the MILLINARY BUSINESS.”

When clock- and watch-maker William Bower moved to a new location, he placed an advertisement in the January 19, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to inform current and prospective customers.  Now located “next door to The Great Stationary and Book Store,” he continued to offer the same services “as cheap and expeditiously done, as by any [other clock- and watchmaker] in the province.”  Katharine Bower, a milliner, also advised the public that she moved to a new location “where she carries on the MILLINARY BUSINESS in all its branches, and will be much obliged to her friends for a continuance of their favours.”  William and Katharine, presumably husband and wife, but possibly otherwise related, now ran businesses from the same location at “the store the fourth corner of Tradd-street and the Bay, lately possessed by Messrs. Mackenzie & Tunno.”  Previously, William had a workshop on Broad Street, while Katharine kept shop on Church Street.

In addition to sharing a store at the corner of Tradd Street and the Bay, William and Katharine also advertised together, purchasing a “square” of space in one of the local newspapers.  Husbands and wives (and other male and female relatives) who pursued separate occupations sometimes did so, especially in newspapers published in Charleston.  Those advertisements tended to adhere to certain patterns.  The husband or other male relative usually appeared first, followed by his wife or other female relative.  In some instances, the female entrepreneur appeared only in a brief note at the end of the advertisement.  In this case, however, both William and Katharine had headlines in larger fonts that made their names visible to readers.  William had a secondary headline that gave his occupation, “CLOCK and WATCH MAKER,” while Katharine did not.  Even when female entrepreneurs were not relegated to a short note, the amount of space devoted to promoting the husband’s business usually exceeded that amount of space for the wife’s business.  At a glance, that looked like the case in the Bowers’ advertisement.  However, much of the additional space in William’s portion of the notice gave extensive directions to the new shop, directions that Katharine did not need to repeat.  Katharine did not make as elaborate appeals about price and customer service as William, but she did encourage existing customers to visit her at her new location.

The Bowers pooled their resources to insert an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Their notice gave preference to William by listing his business first and including a secondary headline that listed his occupation, but this did not overshadow Katharine’s enterprise as much as some other advertisements placed jointly by men and women.  Katharine’s name appeared as a headline in the same size font as William’s name and, aside from the directions to the new location, the details about her business occupied a similar amount of space.  In general, the notice communicated that both William and Katharine were competent entrepreneurs responsible for their own participation in the marketplace.

Happy Birthday, Isaiah Thomas!

Isaiah Thomas, patriot printer and founder of the American Antiquarian Society, was born on January 19 (New Style) in 1749 (or January 8, 1748/49, Old Style).  It’s quite an historical coincidence that the three most significant printers in eighteenth-century America — Benjamin Franklin, Isaiah Thomas, and Mathew Carey — were all born in January.

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Isaiah Thomas (January 30, 1739 – April 4, 1831). American Antiquarian Society.

The Adverts 250 Project is possible in large part due to Thomas’s efforts to collect as much early American printed material as he could, originally to write his monumental History of Printing in America.  The newspapers, broadsides, books, almanacs, pamphlets, and other items he gathered in the process eventually became the initial collections of the American Antiquarian Society.  That institution’s ongoing mission to acquire at least one copy of every American imprint through 1876 has yielded an impressive collection of eighteenth-century advertising materials, including newspapers, magazine wrappers, trade cards, billheads, watch papers, book catalogs, subscription notices, broadsides, and a variety of other items.  Exploring the history of advertising in early America — indeed, exploring any topic related to the history, culture, and literature of early America at all — has been facilitated for more than two centuries by the vision of Isaiah Thomas and the dedication of the curators and other specialists at the American Antiquarian Society over the years.

Thomas’s connections to early American advertising were not limited to collecting and preserving the items created on American presses during the colonial, Revolutionary, and early national periods.  Like Mathew Carey, he was at the hub of a network he cultivated for distributing newspapers, books, and other printed goods — including advertising to stimulate demand for those items.  Sometimes this advertising was intended for dissemination to the general public (such as book catalogs and subscription notices), but other times it amounted to trade advertising (such as circular letters and exchange catalogs intended only for fellow printers, publishers, and booksellers).

Thomas also experimented with advertising on wrappers that accompanied his Worcester Magazine, though he acknowledged to subscribers that these wrappers were ancillary to the publication:  “The two outer leaves of each number are only a cover to the others, and when the volume is bound may be thrown aside, as not being a part of the Work.”[1]

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Detail of Advertising Wrapper, Worcester Magazine (Second Week of April, 1786).

Thomas’s patriotic commitment to freedom of the press played a significant role in his decision to develop advertising wrappers.  As Thomas relays in his History of Printing in America, he discontinued printing his newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy, after the state legislature passed a law that “laid a duty of two-thirds of a penny on newspapers, and a penny on almanacs, which were to be stamped.”  Such a move met with strong protest since it was too reminiscent of the Stamp Act imposed by the British two decades earlier, prompting the legislature to repeal it before it went into effect.  On its heels, however, “another act was passed, which imposed a duty on all advertisements inserted in the newspapers” printed in Massachusetts.  Thomas vehemently rejected this law as “an improper restraint on the press. He, therefore, discontinued the Spy during the period that this act was in force, which was two years. But he published as a substitute a periodical work, entitled ‘The Worcester Weekly Magazine,’ in octavo.”[2] This weekly magazine lasted for two years; Thomas discontinued it and once again began printing the Spy after the legislature repealed the objectionable act.

jan-30-advertising-wrapper-worcester-magazine-4th-week-may-1786
Third Page of Advertising Wrapper, Worcester Magazine (Fourth Week of May, 1786).

Isaiah Thomas was not interested in advertising for its own sake to the same extent as Mathew Carey, but his political concerns did help to shape the landscape of early American advertising.  Furthermore, his vision for collecting American printed material preserved a variety of advertising media for later generations to admire, analyze, ponder, and enjoy.  Happy 274th birthday, Isaiah Thomas!

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[1] Isaiah Thomas, “To the CUSTOMERS for the WORCESTER MAGAZINE,” Worcester Magazine, wrapper, second week of April, 1786.

[2] Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers, vol. 2 (Worcester, MA: Isaac Sturtevant, 1810), 267-268.

Slavery Advertisements Published January 19, 1773

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.

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

Essex Gazette (January 19, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 19, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 19, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 19, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 19, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 19, 1773).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 19, 1773).