Slavery Advertisements Published July 29, 1771

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 colonists 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. Colonists 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.

Boston Evening-Post (July 29, 1771).

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Boston-Gazette (July 29, 1771).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 29, 1771).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 29, 1771).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 29, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Chronicle (July 29, 1771).

July 28

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (July 25, 1771).

“JAPANED WARE … now made and sold by TIMOTHY BERRET, and COMPANY.”

Advertisements for domestic manufactures, goods produced in the colonies, appeared in colonial newspapers with greater frequency when nonimportation agreements remained in effect in response to the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, and the Coercive Acts in the 1760s and 1770s.  They tapered off, but did not disappear altogether, when colonists resumed regular trade with merchants in Britain.  Some advertisers continued to encourage consumers to acquire domestic manufactures, even if doing so did not have the same political valence when tensions between colonists and Parliament eased.

In the summer of 1771, for instance, Timothy Berret and Company advertised “JAPANED WARE” made in Pennsylvania.  The partners recognized the popularity and demand for fashionable housewares with patterns carved into thick black varnish, following styles and techniques that originated in Japan.  Such items testified to commercial networks that extended far beyond the Atlantic as well as to the cosmopolitanism of consumers who acquired and displayed “JAPANED WARE,” no matter whether made in Britain, the colonies, or elsewhere.  Berret and Company adamantly proclaimed their merchandise “Equal in quality to any that can be imported from Great-Britain.”  They underscored the point, declaring their wares “no way inferior, either in neatness of workmanship, japaning, painting, or polishing, to any that is made in England.”  For those consumers skeptical that Berret and Company achieved the same quality as imported items, the partners had on hand “very neat bread-baskets, tea-boards, and waiters” for sale and inspection.

In an effort to gain more orders for their “new Manufactory,” Berret and Company sought buyers among retailers as well as end-use consumers.  They offered discounts, a “great allowance,” to shopkeepers and others “who buy to sell again.”  In addition to quality that matched imported goods, they passed along bargains to their customers with prices “as cheap as in England.”  Purchasers did not have to pay a premium when acquiring domestic manufactures from Berret and Company instead of imported goods produced in greater quantities.

The “young beginners” in Philadelphia refrained from inserting political commentary into their advertisement, instead choosing to reassure hesitant buyers that the quality and price of their “JAPANED WARE” rivaled anything imported.  For many advertisers and consumers, politics did not matter as much in 1771 as they did in 1766 or 1769 or would again in 1774.  Several times in the 1760s and 1770s, the marketing appeals in newspaper advertisements, the arguments in favor of purchasing domestic manufactures, shifted depending on current events and the relationship between Parliament and the colonies.

July 27

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

Providence Gazette (July 27, 1771).

“Warwick Bridge Lottery.”

When readers perused the pages of the July 27, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette, they encountered a variety of news gathered from various sources.  The first page featured editorials in the form of letters “To the PRINTER of the PROVIDENCE GAZETTE” and “To the Inhabitants of the Town of Providence” as well as news from London delivered “By the Brig Diana, Captain Perkins, arrived at Boston.”  News from London continued on the second page, eventually giving way to items from Jamaica and North Carolina.  The third page consisted of items with datelines from Quebec, New York, Cambridge, and Boston along with brief updates about Providence.  On the final page, the printer devoted most of the first column to additional news from Boston, but reserved the remainder for a list of “PRICES CURRENT inPROVIDENCE” and advertisements.  Many of those advertisements delivered news that did not appear elsewhere in the newspaper.

For instance, the “Managers of the Warwick Bridge Lottery” provided a brief update on their public works project.  They encouraged readers to fund their endeavor by purchasing tickets for a drawing slated to take place “in a very short Time.”  In a much lengthier advertisement that ran week after week for several months, Joseph Clarke, General Treasurer, reported on actions taken by the colony’s General Assembly concerning “Old Tenor Bills.”  Clarke called on “all Persons possessed of said Bills, to bring them in, and have them exchanged, agreeable to said Act of Assembly.”  Clarke supplemented that notice, dated December 31, 1770, with a shorter notice dated June 20, 1771.  In another advertisement that ran  for several months, this one in multiple newspapers, Alexander Colden informed colonists that “HIS Majesty’s Post-Master General … has been pleased to add a fifth Packet Boat to the Station between Falmouth and New-York” for the purpose of “better facilitating … Correspondence between Great Britain and America.”

Some of the advertisements promoted a variety of consumer goods and services or described real estate for sale, but a significant number of them delivered news.  In order to stay informed, readers could not dismiss advertisements out of hand but instead needed to skim them for important updates that might not appear among the articles and editorials printed on the other pages of the newspaper.

July 26

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 26, 1771).

“Hatts of all kinds.”

John Beck, a hatter, placed advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette on multiple occasions during the summer of 1771.  Although the copy remained consistent, the format varied, an unusual situation when it came to early American advertising.  Printers and compositors usually conserved time and effort by setting type for advertisements just once and then running them in that format for as long as advertisers wished for them to continue to appear.  For some reason, however, that was not the case with Beck’s advertisement.

When the advertisement appeared in the July 5 edition, it occupied only three lines.  In its entirety, it informed readers of “HATTS of all Kinds, made and Sold by JOHN BECK, as usual, at the Sign of the HATT and BEVER, in Queen Street, Portsmouth.”  The advertisement did not run again until July 26.  It did not appear in the same format.  The copy remained the same, including the variations in spelling, but the new version made use of larger fonts, distributed the copy across five lines that occupied twice as much space as the previous iteration, and discontinued the use of italics.  The revised version then ran several times in August.

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 5, 1771).

Who made decisions about changing the format of the advertisement, someone in the printing office or the advertiser?  Unfortunately, that question is impossible to answer from the sources available.  Certain aspects of the advertisements allow for reasonable conjectures about a portion of the process, but not all the details.  The identical copy, for instance, testifies to an attribute seen in other advertisements placed in multiple newspapers.  Advertisers usually exercised control over the copy.  Advertisements with identical copy placed in multiple newspapers also demonstrate that compositors usually made decisions about format, including font size and the use of capitals and italics.  This instance, however, concerns an advertisement placed multiple times in one newspaper, not an advertisement placed in multiple newspapers.  It presents the possibility that Beck, dissatisfied with the original advertisement, negotiated for a different format.  Yet that may not have been the case at all.  Alternately, the compositor may have inadvertently broken down the type after Beck’s advertisement ran the first time and then someone had to set it again, making new choices in the process.  Or something else altogether may have occurred.  Something unusual happened, deviating from the standard practices for producing newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century.  This raises questions about the roles of the advertiser and the compositor, the influence of each, but no definitive answers that might better illuminate the evolution of business practices associated with advertising in early America.

Slavery Advertisements Published July 26, 1771

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 colonists 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. Colonists 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.

Connecticut Journal (July 26, 1771).

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New-London Gazette (July 26, 1771).

July 25

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

Maryland Gazette (July 25, 1771).

“Sundry Books, on Painting, and a Number Prints being sent him.”

Colonists placed newspaper advertisements for a variety of purposes.  Some aimed to incite demand for consumer goods and services.  Others published legal notices or called on customers to settle accounts.  Enslavers offered Africans and African Americans for sale or offered rewards for the capture and return of Black people who liberated themselves by running away.  Aggrieved husbands warned against extending credit to recalcitrant wives.  Clubs informed members of upcoming meetings.  A good number of advertisements concerned lost or stray livestock.  Colonists also inserted other sorts of lost-and-found notices.

When a shipment of “sundry Books, on Painting, and a Number of Prints” from England got misdirected in the summer of 1771, Charles Willson Peale ran an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette, hoping that “Any Gentleman” among the readers who had come into possession of his books and prints would forward them to him or inform him so he could make arrangements to collect them.  He promised that anyone who helped him acquire the missing items “shall be well rewarded for his Trouble.”  Peale had “received Letters” alerting him about the books and prints “being sent him, but by what Ship, or to what Part of Virginia or Maryland they were sent, he is totally at a Loss to find out.”  When he placed the advertisement, Peale was simultaneously frustrated and hopeful.

At the time, Peale had already gained some renown as a painter having studied under John Singleton Copley in the colonies and, for three years, under Benjamin West in England.  He eventually became one of the most influential American painters of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, known especially for his portraits of prominent leaders now remembered as founders of the nation.  A naturalist and inventor in addition to an artist, Peale established one of the first American museums.  He often harnessed these endeavors to promoting the new nation.  Today, historians and other scholars recognize and continue to examine his contributions to early American politics and culture.

That distinguishes Peale from most of the other colonists who placed advertisements or who were the subjects of advertisements in the Maryland Gazette.  For good reason, the name “CHARLES W. PEALE” at the end of his advertisement draws the attention of modern readers familiar with the era of the American Revolution.  Yet that advertisement by a notable historical figure tells only one story among the many significant narratives contained within advertisements that ran in the same issue, a story in many ways less important than others despite the famous name attached to it.  William Rooke’s advertisement for “a great Variety of GOODS,” for instance, testifies to the consumer revolution that played an important role in colonists participating in politics through their decisions in the marketplace.  Thomas Gassaway Howard’s advertisement offering a reward for the capture and return of “a Negro Man named Harry” demonstrates the tension between liberty and enslavement present at the founding of the nation.  Colonists of all sorts, elites and the lower sorts, enslaved and free, made history in the eighteenth century.  In the twenty-first century, we have a duty to examine their many different stories and incorporate their diverse experiences and perspectives into a more complete narrative of the past.

Slavery Advertisements Published July 25, 1771

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 colonists 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. Colonists 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 (July 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (July 25, 1771).

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Massachusetts Spy (July 25, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (July 25, 1771).

July 24

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

Boston Evening-Post (July 24, 1771).

“Brown Sugars of various Qualities.”

Like most advertisements that ran in eighteenth-century newspapers, Joseph Barrell’s notice in the July 22, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post consisted entirely of text unadorned with images.  That did not mean, however, that Barrell did not deploy graphic design to his advantage.  In listing dozens of commodities available at his store, he adopted a unique format that distinguished his advertisement from others in the newspaper.  Barrell centered his text, producing a distinctive amount of white space compared to other notices.

Consider the most common configurations for enumerating goods in advertisements.  Both styles appeared on the same page as Barrell’s notice.  In the first, the most common, advertisers listed items in dense paragraphs of text with both the left and right side justified with the margins.  This gave such advertisements some visual heft, communicating to prospective customers that the advertisers carried vast assortments of goods, but it also made those advertisements more difficult to read compared to the second option.  Some advertisers decided to divide their notices into columns, listing only one or two items per line.  That method also yielded blank space that made it easier for readers to navigate those advertisement, but it meant that purveyors of goods could not list as many items in the same amount of space.  Charles Dabney utilized the first method for his “general Assortment of English and India GOODS” in an advertisement about as long as it was wide, one that featured very little blank space.  William Scott’s advertisement for a “Variety of English and Scotch Goods” was just as dense and perhaps even more difficult to read since it extended more than twice the length of Dabney’s notice and listed many more items available at his shop.  John Head, on the other hand, resorted to columns for his commodities.  In an advertisement that occupied about as much space as Dabney’s, he listed far fewer items.

Readers readily recognized both formats, but that was not the case for Barrell’s advertisement.  Compositors often centered the first couple of lines of advertisements, the introductory materials that gave the advertiser’s name and location, but rarely did they center the contents in the body of the advertisement.  That made Barrell’s advertisement unique, likely drawing the eyes of readers.  Barrell did not offer goods that differed much from those available in other shops, nor did he make appeals to price or quality that differed from those advanced by other advertisers.  His advantage in communicating with prospective customers derived from the graphic design elements of his advertisement.

July 23

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

Essex Gazette (July 23, 1771).

“Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield, deceased.”

Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette, inserted several of his own notices in the July 23, 1771, edition, interspersing them among other advertisements.  In so doing, he promoted additional revenue streams and filled space that could have been devoted to other content.  Like many printers, he offered “CASH … for RAGS” to use in making paper.  Most of his notices were fairly short, but he devoted two longer advertisements to “A GENERAL ASSORTMENT of Stationary” and “A general Assortment of Blanks” or printed forms for legal and financial transactions.  Most of his other notices featured books, including one for “Dr. Watts’s young Child’s first Catechism” and another for “A Set of Dean Swift’s Works, neatly bound.”  Hall also stocked “Rev. Dr. Pemberton’s Sermon at the Ordination of the Rev. Mr. Story” and “The Lawfulness, Excellency and Advantage of INSTRUMENTAL MUSICK in the Publick Worship of GOD.”  When it came to individual titles, Hall primarily focused on religious works, yet that was not the only way that the printer engaged religion in his marketing.

Hall inserted one additional advertisement that hawked an item less commonly included among the notices placed by printers.  “Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield, deceased, to be sold at the Printing-Office in Salem,” he advised readers.  That medal commemorated George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  Whitefield died at Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, less than a year earlier.  Almost immediately following the minister’s death, printers and others began marketing commemorative items, mostly books, pamphlets, and broadsides.  Hall first informed the public that he would soon offer medals on May 14.  More than two months later, he apparently still had some on hand and reminded prospective customers that they could honor Whitefield by purchasing medals that bore his likeness.  Like others who sold commemorative items, Hall provided an opportunity for colonists to mourn the minister through acts of consumption.  The medals the printer advertised not only memorialized Whitefield but also transformed him into a commodity following his death.  However sincere Hall’s regard for the minister may have been, he also aimed to generate revenues in the wake of his death.

Slavery Advertisements Published July 23, 1771

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 colonists 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. Colonists 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.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette Extraordinary (July 23, 1771).