March 29

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

Mar 29 - 3:29:1770 Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (March 29, 1770).

“A small Assortment of English Goods, (imported before the late Agreements of the Merchants).”

The partnership of Smith and Atkinson offered cash for “Merchantable POTT & PEARL ASH” as well as “inferior Qualities of Pott Ash, and Black Salts” in an advertisement in the March 29, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  They also inserted a nota bene to inform prospective customers that they had for sale a “Small Assortment of English Goods,” asserting that merchandise had been “imported before the late Agreements of the Merchants.”  In other words, Smith and Atkinson acquired their wares before the merchants and traders in Boston vowed not to import goods from Britain as a means of protesting duties levied on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea in the Townshend Acts.  Smith and Atkinson sought to assure prospective customers that they abided by the boycott, but they also hoped to testify to all readers of the News-Letter and, by extension, the entire community that they put into practice the prevailing political principles.

By the end of March 1770 this was a common refrain in newspaper advertisements, especially those published in Boston but also others in Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia as well as smaller towns.  The Adverts 250 Project regularly features such advertisements to demonstrate how widespread they became in the late 1760s and 1770s.  While it might be tempting to suspect that a couple advertisements that promoted adhering to the nonimportation agreement were not representative of a marketing strategy widely adopted by merchants and shopkeepers, broader attention to the vast assortment of advertisements that noted compliance should make it more difficult to dismiss any of them as mere outliers.  Not all advertisements for consumer goods and services published in the late 1760s and early 1770s made mention of nonimportation agreements.  Not even a majority did so, but a significant minority did.  Such advertisements appeared so frequently in colonial newspapers that readers must have become familiar with the efforts of merchants and shopkeepers to link their merchandise to protests of Parliamentary overreach.

March 28

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

Mar 28 - 3:28:1770 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (March 28, 1770).

“NEW NEGROES, CHIEFLY MEN.”

On March 28, 1770, Joseph Clay placed an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette to announce the sale of “A CARGO consisting of about 170 young and healthy NEW NEGROES” scheduled for the next day.  A crude woodcut depicted adults and a child, but the copy specified that the “CARGO” consisted of “CHIEFLY MEN.”  Clay assured prospective buyers that the enslaved men previously “had the Smallpox,” thus increasing their value by offering a guarantee that they would not contract the illness in the future.  Perhaps as further evidence of their good health, Clay noted that the enslaved men had “Just arrived, after a short passage of five weeks … from Gambia” rather than languishing aboard the vessel an even longer time.  Captain Stephen Dean and the snow Britannia delivered them to Georgia.

This advertisement provides sufficient information to identify it as voyage 77996 in Slave Voyages, a database documenting the transatlantic slave trade.  That entry reveals more about the voyage than the advertisement, though most of the additional information concerns the experiences of the crew rather than the enslaved men transported across the ocean.  The Britannia departed London on September 25, 1769, and spent an unspecified amount of time along the coast of Africa.  The database indicates the Britannia arrived in Georgia on March 21, 1770, though the advertisement is dated March 19.  Either way, it took slightly less than six months to sail from London to Africa, acquire the “CARGO,” and then deliver the enslaved men to mainland North America.  The Britannia remained in port for seven weeks, departing on May 11 and completed its voyage in London on June 30.  For the twenty-three crew members, the voyage lasted a mere nine months.  For the estimated 199 Africans that embarked in Gambia, this voyage changed their lives forever.  Many died while crossing the Atlantic, reducing the estimated 199 to “about 170.”  Those who survived faced an array of challenges in a new land.

Perhaps some of those “NEW NEGROES” later made their way into the pages of the Georgia Gazette as runaways who escaped from those who held them in bondage.  Many may have become the subject of other advertisements that once again offered them for sale, either individually or among a parcel.  The advertisements testify to their presence in colonial Georgia and reveal some of their experiences, yet tell exceptionally incomplete stories of what they endured and how they survived.

March 27

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

Mar 27 - 3:27:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 27, 1770).

“I shall leave a List of the Subscribers Names, together with their Benefactions.”

In late March 1770 Stephen Hopkins, John Brown, and John Jenckes continued their efforts to raise funds and acquire materials to erect a building for Rhode Island College (now Brown University) in Providence.  On behalf of the “Committee for providing Materials and overseeing the Work,” they placed a notice in the Providence Gazette that thanked the “many Gentlemen [who] have been so generous to this very useful Institution, as to become Benefactors to it” while simultaneously calling on both current supporters and “those whose beneficient Minds may incline them to become such” to send updates about their intended donations.

Yet advocates for the college did not confine their fundraising efforts to the Providence Gazette alone.  Hezekian Smith inserted a similar notice in the March 27, 1770 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  He visited the colony to promote the college and the building it needed once its sponsors made a determination to move its location from Warren, Rhode Island, to Providence.  Smith extended his “humble and hearty Thanks to the Benefactors of RHODE-ISLAND COLLEGE, whom he has met since his first Arrival in this Province.”  He also announced that he planned to depart soon, prompting him to encourage “those Gentlemen who were so Kind as to promise to send their Benefactions for the College to him” to do so.

In a nota bene, Smith declared that he would leave behind a “List of the Subscribers Names, together with their Benefactions” that each supporter could consult in order to confirm “that his Donation goes towards making up the Sum I have collected since my Arrival here.”  Smith likely had an additional motive for drawing up such a list for “Subscribers” to consult.  As they perused the list to find their own names and “Benefactions” they would also see who else had donated and how much.  They could congratulate themselves on their civic responsibility and the company they kept, but also compare their donations to those made by others.  Benefactors could judge for themselves whether they appeared generous or miserly in comparison to others on the list.  Did an unexpectedly large donation enhance their status or an unaccountably small donation diminish it?

Today, colleges and nonprofit organizations regularly publish lists of benefactors, often classifying them according to how much they donated and organizing the lists to give preeminence to the most generous.  This is both an expression of appreciation and a challenge to current and prospective donors to secure their positions on subsequent lists of benefactors.  In his efforts to raise funds for Rhode Island College, Hezekiah Smith similarly extended an acknowledgment and a challenge to benefactors in South Carolina.  In promising to leave behind a list of donors and the sums they donated, he encouraged benefactors to increase their pledges.

March 26

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

Mar 26 - 3:26:1770 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (March 26, 1770).

“A PRINT, containing a Representation of the late horrid Massacre in King-street.”

Only three weeks after the Boston Massacre colonial consumers could purchase engravings depicting the event.  On March 26, 1770, the first advertisements appeared in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette.  Both announced “A PRINT, containing a Representation of the late horrid Massacre in King-street” available for sale by Edes and Gill, the patriot printers of the Boston-Gazette.  Engraved by Paul Revere, this print has become the most iconic image of the Boston Massacre in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (though more colonists likely encountered woodcuts depicting the coffins of the victims that accompanied newspaper coverage of the event and the funeral procession than purchased or even glimpsed Revere’s Bloody Massacre in the eighteenth century).

Widely considered a piece of propaganda rather than an accurate depiction of the event that transpired on the evening of March 5, Revere’s engraving was the first to hit the consumer market in 1770.  Controversy at the time focused less on any liberties taken with the facts and more on Revere basing his work on an engraving by Henry Pelham and then issuing his own version so quickly that he edged out Pelham.  As the Massachusetts Historical Society explains, “Although Pelham created his image, The Fruits of Arbitrary Power first, somehow Revere, working from Pelham’s rendition of the scene, created, advertised, and issued his own version, The Bloody Massacre, ahead of Pelham’s.”  Although the advertisements in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette did not name Revere as the engraver, they certainly promoted sales of his depiction of the event.

Mar 26 - 3:26:1770 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (March 26, 1770).

Pelham considered this an injustice.  He wrote to Revere shortly after the advertisements first appeared.  “When I heard that you was cutting a plate of the late Murder,” Pelham lamented, “I thought it impossible as I knew you was not capable of doing it unless you coppied it from mine and I thought I had intrusted it in the hands of a person who had more regard to the dictates of Honour and Justice than to take the undue advantage you have done of the confidence and trust I reposed in you.”  For his part, Revere may have been more concerned with disseminating as quickly as possible an incriminating image of the 29th Regiment firing on colonists.  After all, just as printers liberally reprinted news, letters, and editorials from one newspaper to another, eighteenth-century engravers frequently copied images that came into their possession, though usually after they had been published.

Did Revere weigh the “dictates of Honour and Justice” against serving the patriot cause and determine that the latter mattered more?  To what extent did the sirens of fame and fortune play a role in his decision to copy Pelham’s engraving and make his own version the first available for public consumption?  Can these questions be separated, or must they each inform the other?  Like printers and booksellers who profited from publishing and selling political treatises and accounts of current events during the era of the American Revolution, Revere also reaped rewards for his engraving even as he educated the public and shaped popular opinion.

March 25

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

Mar 25 - 3:23:1770 Massachusaetts Gazette Extraordinary
Massachusetts-Gazette Extraordinary (March 23, 1770).

“A second-hand Coach, a Variety of second-hand Chaises.”

Adino Paddock, a coachmaker, occasionally advertised in Boston’s newspapers in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  He took to the pages of the public prints to promote his business with an advertisement in an extraordinary issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on March 23, 1770.  In it, he proclaimed that “the Coach-making Business in all its Branches is carried on as usual” at his shop “in Common-Street.”

Paddock also extended one of his “usual” appeals to potential customers, informing them that he offered for a sale “a second-hand Coach” and “a Variety of second-hand Chaises.”  He incorporated used carriages of all sorts into most of his marketing, presenting consumers a less expensive alternative to purchasing new coaches and chaises.  As many of his other advertisements made clear, he acquired secondhand carriages by accepting them as partial payment when customers placed orders.  Paddock deployed what would later become familiar marketing and financing strategies in the automobile industry in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  He did so in the early modern era, more than a century before cars were mass produced and sold to consumers.  He anticipated some now-standard strategies for selling transportation to individual customers.

Paddock also made a “Buy American” appeal, though much less explicitly.  The elite who could afford carriages did not have to purchase coaches and chaises imported from England when they could instead acquire the same items made at his shop in Boston.  Furthermore, he sold ancillary goods, including “Worsted Reins,” made locally rather than imported.  Paddock did not name his supplier, but he assured prospective customers that the reins he sold were “made in Town.”  While he did little to underscore the point, it likely would have reverberated all the same considering how much attention residents of Boston and beyond devoted to the nonimportation agreements then in effect to protest duties on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea.  Coverage extended across news items, editorials, and even advertisements.

Consisting solely of text without images, Paddock’s advertisement for carriages is not nowhere near as flashy as print advertisements for automobiles from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries nor, especially, modern television and internet advertisements.  Comparatively humble in appearance, Paddock’s advertisement did, however, pioneer some of the marketing techniques that later became standard practices in the automobile industry.

March 24

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 24, 1770).

(23).”

A brief advertisement in the March 24, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette announced, “GARDEN PEASE.  The very best Early Garden Pease to be sold at the GOLDEN EAGLE. (23).”  Consisting primarily of information for consumers, this advertisement also featured a notation intended solely for the printer, compositor, and others who labored in John Carter’s “PRINTING-OFFICE, the Sign of Shakespeare’s Head.”  The “(23)” at the far right of the final line corresponded to the issue number in which the advertisement first ran, “NUMB. 323” on March 17.  Other advertisements included similar notations to the far right on the final line.  Robert Nesbitt’s advertisement for a variety of textiles ended with “(22).”  James Lovett’s advertisement for bread and flour concluded with “(20).”  Another advertisement offering a “Likely, healthy, smart NEGROE BOY” for sale also featured “(20)” on the final line.  The issue numbers presumably aided with bookkeeping and alerted compositors when to remove advertisements that had appeared for a specified number of weeks.

Not all advertisements, however, included issue numbers, suggesting that the system was more complicated than simply signaling whether a notice should continue publication.  Carter’s own advertisement for printed blanks did not feature an issue number, but that was because the printer could insert notices promoting various aspects of his business at his own discretion.  In another notice that lacked an issue number, Stephen Hopkins, John Brown, and John Jenckes called on local “Gentlemen … to become Benefactors” of the college being built in the town.  Perhaps it did not carry an issue number because Carter was not concerned about when it commenced or how many times it appeared in the Providence Gazette.  Perhaps his contribution consisted of running the fundraising advertisement gratis in his newspaper for as long as the committee desired.  Other advertisements, including two for real estate and one about runaway indentured servants, also did not have issue numbers on the final line.  The advertisers may not have contracted for a certain number of weeks but instead determined for them to run until they achieved their purpose.

The issue numbers that appeared in some, but not all, advertisements in the Providence Gazette (and other eighteenth-century newspapers) hint at the day-to-day operations in colonial printing offices, but they raise as many questions as they answer.  They suggest that printers, compositors, and others followed a system for organizing and keeping track of advertisements, but they do not reveal all of the particulars.

March 23

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

Mar 23 - 3:23:1770 Massachusaetts Gazette Extraordinary
Massachusetts-Gazette Extraordinary (March 23, 1770).

“Will be READ, The Beggar’s OPERA.”

An itinerant performer toured New England in the fall of 1769, placing newspaper advertisements to promote his performances in each town he visited before disappearing from view in the public prints for several months.  He first advertised in Providence Gazette on September 16, then in the Boston Chronicle and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on September 28, followed by the Essex Gazette on October 10, and, finally, the New-Hampshire Gazette on November 3.  Near the end of March 1770, he reappeared in Boston for a performance advertised in an extraordinary issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  The performer never gave his name in any of his newspaper notices, instead describing himself as “a Person who has Read and Sung in most of the great Towns in America.”

He updated his repertoire as he moved from town to town, though the Beggar’s Opera was one of his favorites to adapt into a one-man show.  He had previously performed it in Boston, so he may have expected to attract interest in an encore performance rather than present new material.  For those unaware of how one performer could stage the entire Beggar’s Opera, he explained that he “personates all the Charatcers, and enters into the different Humours, or Passions, as they change from one to another throughout the Opera.”  He enticed his prospective audience by promising to sing sixty-nine songs throughout the course of the evening.  This was a spectacle to be seen!

In addition to newspaper advertisements, the unnamed performer likely relied on others means of publicizing his shows.  He may have posted broadsides around town or distributed handbills, though such items were even more ephemeral than newspapers and thus less likely to survive for later generations to examine.  Consider that his advertisement for a performance on Friday, March 23 appeared in an extraordinary issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter published that very day.  Richard Draper did not usually distribute his newspaper on Fridays, but happened to publish a two-page supplement on March 23.  Without it, notice of the itinerant performer’s show that evening would not have been presented to prospective audiences in any of Boston’s several newspapers, suggesting that he made other arrangements to promote it in advance.  The newspaper notice instructed that “TICKETS for admissions [were] to be had at Green & Russell’s Printing Office, and at the Bunch of Grapes in King-Street.”  At the very least, he may have posted broadsides at those two busy hubs for exchanging information.

March 22, 1770

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

Mar 22 - 3:22:1770 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (March 22, 1770).

My customers are therefore requested to be upon their guard against such deceptions.”

Counterfeit hams!  In an advertisement that ran in the March 22, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, Joseph Borden warned consumers against purchasing hams that unscrupulous retailers passed off as his product.  That warning comprised half of his advertisement.

Borden opened his notice by advising prospective customers that he supplied the “best Salt-peter’d HAMS, flitch BACON, or JOWELS.”  He did not give his location, only that he raised hogs outside of Philadelphia.  Francis Hopkinson in Front Street accepted orders on his behalf and then communicated them to Borden.  In turn, Borden delivered the hams, bacon, and jowls to customers “as soon as the distance will permit.”

Below his signature, Borden inserted a nota bene to advise consumers to beware of counterfeit hams.  “I have not this year, not any preceeding year,” he asserted, “sent Hams to Philadelphia to be stor’d and retail’d.  Whoever, therefore, offers any for sale as mine, would impose upon the public – my customers are therefore requested to be upon their guard against such deceptions.

Borden’s notice suggests two possibilities.  Others may have been trafficking in counterfeit hams, hoping to benefit from Borden’s reputation.  If that was the case, Borden sought to protect both his reputation and his share of the market by insisting that consumers accept no substitutes.  Alternately, neither Borden nor consumers had been victims of such trickery.  Instead, Borden may have invented the tale of hams being sold as his, intending to enhance his reputation and incite demand by suggesting that his hams were so widely recognized for their quality that his business became a casualty of counterfeiters.  Borden did not actually accuse any merchants and shopkeepers in Philadelphia of attaching his name to their hams, but he did present the scenario for consumers to contemplate.

Whether or not counterfeit hams were circulating in Philadelphia in the late 1760s and early 1770s, Borden apparently believed that consumers would consider such a scheme plausible.  After all, manufacturers of patent medicines sometimes warned against imitations in their advertisements.  Artisans occasionally did so as well.  Borden followed their lead in declaring that pork was also a product subject to counterfeiting.

March 21

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

Mar 21 - 3:21:1770 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (March 21, 1770).

“I forewarn the masters of vessels from carrying him off.”

When “A NEGROE FELLOW, named SAM,” made his escape, James Lucena placed an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette to enlist readers throughout the colony in recovering the man he considered his property.  His notice followed a standard format, one familiar from newspapers published not only in Georgia but throughout British mainland North America.  He stated that Sam was “about 22 years old” and “speaks very good English.”  Lucena offered a physical description, noting that Sam was “about 5 feet 6 inches” and had ritual scars or “country marks on each side of his face this |||.”  He also offered a description of the clothing Sam wore when he escaped: “a dark grey cloth double breasted waistcoat and a white negroe cloth under jacket, a pair of green negroe cloth long trowsers, and a round sailor’s cap.”  He may have considered additional details unnecessary since Sam was “well known in and about Savannah.”  All of these details encouraged readers to take special note of the physical characteristics, clothing, and even speech of Black men they encountered.

Lucena was just as concerned about accomplices who aided Sam, especially “masters of vessels” who might depart the port of Savannah and transport Sam far away from Georgia and far beyond Lucena’s ability to force Sam back into bondage.  Lucena appended a nota bene to the conclusion of his advertisement, asserting that “Said negroe is suspected to be concealed on board some vessel.”  Sam could have hidden on board unknown to any of the crew, but Lucena suggested that he received assistance from sailors or even officers.  Mariners throughout the eighteenth-century Atlantic world were an exceptionally egalitarian community, often suspected of providing assistance to enslaved men in their efforts to escape.  Lucena warned that anyone who aided Sam “may depend on being prosecuted to the utmost rigour of the law.”  Like other colonies, Georgia enacted statutes to punish both enslaved men and women who escaped and anyone who “concealed,” harbored, or otherwise assisted them.  Lucena’s advertisement encouraged surveillance of Black men, but it also called for scrutiny of mariners and anyone who might be suspected of being sympathetic to Sam and others who seized their liberty.

March 20

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

Mar 20 - 3:20:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 20, 1770).

“A faithful Account of the Proceedings of the Subscribers and Non-Subscribers.”

The commodification of the American Revolution began several years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.  As the imperial crisis unfolded, printers marketed a variety of books, pamphlets, and engravings that commemorated current events while simultaneously informing consumers of the rift between the colonies and Britain.

Consider, for instance, an advertisement that appeared in the March 20, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  It announced a “Compilation” of documents related to the colony’s nonimportation agreement was “In the PRESS, and speedily will be published.”  That compilation contained “ALL the LETTERS which have been written FOR and AGAINST the RESOLUTIONS” along with “Copies of the different Resolutions proposed to be signed.”  It also included various lists, including “the Names of the Gentlemen who compose the Committee” that enforced the agreement and “a List of the Non-Subscribers” so readers would know which members of the community worked against the interests of the colony.  To that end, the collection featured “Remarks on the Conduct and Writings” of the “Non-Subscribers.”  The compiler of these documents wished to educate readers about the debates over the boycott, inserting “a Translation of the Latin Verses, Phrases, &c. made Use of in the said Letters.”  Not everyone possessed a classical education, but all colonists could participate in the debates and make decisions about their own conduct.  Nonimportation was not restricted to highbrow households.  In addition to all that, the compilation included “several other interesting Particulars relative to the above Resolutions.”  Through a series of documents and commentaries, it provided a history of recent events, a “faithful Account of the Proceedings of the Subscribers and Non-Subscribers.”

Purchasing this compilation gave colonists another means of participating in protests against the duties on imported goods imposed by Parliament in the Townshend Acts.  Doing so enhanced feelings of connection to others who supported nonimportation agreements in South Carolina and, more generally, throughout the colonies.  Colonists envisioned a time when importation would resume after Parliament relented and repealed the unpopular duties.  When that happened, the compilation would become a memento that reminded those who purchased it of the events they had witnessed, the history they had played a part in shaping.  Owning a copy gave colonists yet another way to express their support for the American cause.