December 15

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

Dec 15 - 12:15:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 15, 1767).

“She continues the Upholstery Business with Mr. COLEMAN.”

Rebecca Weyman’s advertisement announcing that “she continues the Upholstery Business” demonstrated what was possible for women participating in the eighteenth-century marketplace, though not necessarily what was probable. Relatively few women placed newspaper advertisements publicizing the goods and services they provided during the colonial era. Of those who did resort to the advertising to promote their business endeavors, most were shopkeepers, seamstresses, milliners and schoolmistresses. Each pursued occupations widely considered appropriate for women. Seamstresses and, especially, milliners might have been considered artisans, but their work depended on skills traditionally associated with women’s labor within the household. Their presence in the marketplace and the public prints did not disrupt prevailing gender expectations.

On occasion, other female artisans ran advertisements, but they were small in number among both the general population and advertisers. Those who did place newspaper advertisements often did so in collaboration with a male relative, supervisor, or partner, perhaps as a means of tamping down apprehensions that they participated in the market in ways that deviated from what was considered appropriate for women. Note that Rebecca Weyman appended her own advertisement to the conclusion of Thomas Coleman’s much lengthier notice. In it, she specified that she “continues the Upholstery Business with Mr. COLEMAN.” For his part, Coleman indicated that he operated the business “At Mr. Edward Weyman’s.” The female upholsterer had both a business partner and a male relation overseeing her work. This gave her additional security to earn a living as an upholsterer by sanctioning her endeavors and shielding her from criticism. In a marketplace dominated by men, Rebecca Weyman mobilized her affiliation with these particular men as a means of giving her more freedom to operate her business, doing her best to transform constraint into opportunity.

Not all female advertisers, however, opted to establish masculine oversight of their business endeavors in their advertisements. An advertisement for a female shopkeeper appeared in the same column of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, placed by “FRANCES SWALLOW, SOLE-TRADER.” Among the colonies, South Carolina had a fairly unique legal designation for married women who operated businesses independently of their husbands: sole trader. Swallow established her autonomy in the first line of her advertisement, adopting a very different strategy than Weyman. Perhaps Rebecca Weyman believed that allowing Thomas Coleman to do the bulk of the marketing in their joint advertisement allowed her to attract attention for her services without attracting condemnation for her intrusion into the marketplace.

December 14

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

Dec 14 - 12:14:1767 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (December 14, 1767).

“Webster has had the honour of working, with applause, for several of the nobility and gentry.”

John Webster, an “Upholsterer from London,” knew that establishing his reputation in Philadelphia would help build the clientele for his endeavors in his new location. To that end, he reported in an advertisement in the December 14, 1767, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle that he previously “had the honour of working, with applause, for several of the nobility and gentry, both in England and Scotland.” While providing credentials always helped artisans to promote their businesses, Webster probably did not need to reside in Philadelphia very long to realize that even in the largest city in the colonies the residents experienced anxiety about being perceived as backwater provincials by the better sorts in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire. He depended on potential customers responding to his pledge of “having their work executed in the best and newest taste,” but indicating that he previously served prominent clients testified to his ability to deliver on that promise.

Yet Webster did not want to give the impression that he had experience only on the other side of the Atlantic. In addition, potential customers may have been skeptical about how extensively he had worked with “several of the nobility and gentry” before arriving in the colony. To alleviate such concerns, Webster extended “his most grateful thanks to those good gentlemen and ladies who have been pleased to honour and favour him with their custom, since he came to Philadelphia.” While this could have also been a ploy, the upholsterer implied that he had already attracted local clients satisfied with his work. Webster created the impression that genteel “ladies and gentlemen” sought after his services. Potential customers who had not yet hire him risked being excluded if they did not contact him before he took on too many other projects.

Webster attempted to attract clients to his upholstery business by creating a buzz among the residents of Philadelphia. Even the location of his new shop, “facing the London Coffee-House,” increased his visibility in the city. His report that he previously served “several of the nobility and gentry” in England and Scotland before working for the “good gentlemen and ladies of Philadelphia” suggested his popularity to colonists concerned with demonstrating their taste and status through the goods they acquired. Implicitly playing on those anxieties, he encouraged them to contract his services in order to keep up with their friends and neighbors.

December 13

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

Dec 13 - 12:10:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (December 10, 1767).

“As the most certain method to have goods from England on the best terms, said Wilson applies immediately to the manufactories and importers there, for his.”

In December 1767, Philip Wilson placed a list-style advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette to promote an assortment of imported goods “for Sale at his Store in Front-street, at the Chinese Balcony” in Philadelphia. Although his inventory consisted primarily of textiles and garments, he also carried housewares and other items, hinting at an even more extensive variety with “&c. &c. &c.” (etc. etc. etc.) at the conclusion of the list.

Yet Wilson’s advertisement did not end there. Instead, he appended a nota bene that instructed readers about his means of obtaining imported merchandise and why his particular business practices benefited his customers. “As the most certain method to have goods from England on the best terms,” the shopkeeper proclaimed, “said Wilson applies immediately to the manufactories and importers there, for his; which he will sell on the lowest terms.”

Some of Wilson’s competitors who also advertised in the December 10 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette and its supplement made appeals to price. Neave and Harman stated that they sold their wares “on the most reasonable Terms.” Magdalen Devine sold her “large and general Assortment of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS … on the lowest terms.” Neither Devine nor Neave and Harman, however, commented on how they had acquired the goods they imported and sold. Wilson, in contrast, made it clear that he kept prices low by removing the middlemen, dealt directly with the producers of English goods rather than merchants who charged commissions or otherwise increased wholesale prices eventually passed along to retail customers. When it came to goods not produced in England, such as “EAST-INDIA GOODS” that passed through London before being shipped to the colonies, Wilson purchased his stock directly from the importers before they were exchanged in the English market. In so doing, he kept prices low by cutting out of the process those merchants who aimed to earn profits by immediately exporting such goods at higher rates to colonial retailers.

Wilson sought to attract customers by demonstrating that his supply chain had as few links as possible. With fewer exchanges and fewer intermediaries attempting to earn profits during each exchange, he could “sell on the lowest terms” to colonial consumers. Thanks to his shrewd arrangements with “the manufactories and importers” in England, Wilson assured potential customers that they paid only what was necessary rather than contributing to the wealth of faraway merchants.

December 12

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

Dec 12 - 12:12:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 12, 1767).

“LABRADORE TEA … to be sold at EDES and GILL’s Printing-Office, in Boston.”

This notice concerning “LABRADORE TEA” appeared among the news items in the December 12, 1767, edition of the Providence Gazette. The printers, Sarah Goddard and John Carter, republished it word-for-word from the most recent issue of the Boston-Gazette. Its placement blurred the distinction between news and advertising.

The politics of drinking tea at a time when colonists protested the imbalance of trade between the colonies and England explains this testimonial advertisement’s inclusion among news from other colonies in the Providence Gazette. At a town meeting held at the end of October, residents of Boston had resolved to encourage production and consumption of local goods rather than rely on imports from England. Subsequent nonimportation agreements and their coverage in Boston’s newspapers singled out imported tea for particular notice, casting it as an unnecessary luxury that endangered the political and economic welfare of the colonies.

The Providence Gazette had already reported on November 28 that local residents followed the lead of Bostonians when they held a town meeting “to deliberate and agree upon some effectual Measures for promoting Industry, Oeconomy and Manufactures, for the Prevention of Misery and Ruin, as a Consequence of the unnecessary Imports of European Goods.” This gathering produced similar results: “The general Voice was for entering upon some Measures to extend our own Manufactures, and to lessen the Imports from Europe, especially of superfluous Articles; And it was unanimously voted by the Town, that they would take all prudent and lawful Measures to encourage the Produce and Manufactures of this Colony, and of all other the British Colonies in America.” The residents of Newport approved similar measures at their own town meeting the same week.

It seems unlikely that Goddard and Carter received any remuneration for advertising “LABRADORE TEA … to be sold at EDES and GILL’s Printing-Office, in Boston.” Instead, they likely inserted this notice to supplement their coverage of a movement quickly expanding beyond Boston, including into their own colony. In choosing the content for their newspaper, they became active participants and further encouraged these efforts. They devoted almost the entire first page of the December 12 issue to the “Remainder of the PROCESS for making POT-ASH in NORTH-AMERICA,” a feature that continued through multiple issues. In the same column with the commentary on Labrador tea, Goddard and Carter reprinted news from the most recent issues of both the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy: “We hear that the Towns of Brookfield, Spencer, Leicester, Hardwick, and several other Towns to the Westward, have unanimously come into the Measures proposed by this Town, to promote Frugality and Manufactures.” Immediately below that news item, they reported that the town of Middleborough “voted to come into the same measures that the town of Boston had, respecting frugality and manufacture.”

Aware that residents of Providence and other readers of their newspaper had overwhelmingly expressed support for “encourage[ing] the Produce and Manufactures of this Colony, and of all other the British Colonies in America,” Goddard and Carter knew that subscribers would find the description of Labrador tea both relevant and interesting. This merited reprinting the item as news rather than consigning it to the pages reserved for advertising. The printers gave a tacit endorsement of the product when they chose to include the portion of the testimonial advertisement that indicated where consumers could purchase Labrador tea rather than reprinting just the portion that described the taste and medical and dietary benefits of the local alternative to imported tea. Politics and consumer culture overlapped during the era of the imperial crisis, sometimes causing news and advertising to follow suit.

December 11

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

Dec 11 - South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 11, 1767).

“A LARGE Sortment of JEWELLERY and PLATE.”

Approximately two-thirds of the December 11, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette consisted of advertising. Among the dozens of advertisement in the issue, Jonathan Sarrazin’s notice had a feature that distinguished it from all others: an image of one of the products he sold at his shop on the corner of Broad Street and Church Street in Charleston.

Sarrazin’s advertisement was not the only one that included a woodcut, but it was the only one with an image, a teapot, created exclusively for the advertiser. Nine advertisements for freight and passage had images of ships. Despite some variation, several had woodcuts that replicated an image used elsewhere in the same issue, including three nearly identical ships on the same page as Sarrazin’s coffeepot. Three advertisements incorporated woodcuts of enslaved men, women, and children, while another three included images of houses and land for sale. One for a “FINE bay MARE” had an image of a horse that in another issue could have been used to advertise a steed “to cover.” For advertisements of the same genre – freight and passage, slaves, real estate, horses – these common images were inserted interchangeably in the eighteenth century. These woodcuts belonged to the printer, a necessary supplement to the type since they were used so often.

Some artisans and shopkeepers, however, commissioned their own woodcuts to accompany their advertisements exclusively. Sarrazin, a jeweler, did so, choosing an image that represented the “LARGE Sortment of JEWELLERY and PLATE” listed in his notice, an ornate teapot with a decorative bird’s-head spout. (For a similar teapot crafted in New York earlier in the century, see this example from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) Unlike others who advertised consumer goods and services in the same issue, Sarrazin mobilized text and visual image simultaneously to market his wares to potential customers. On the pages of dense text in South-Carolina and American General Gazette, this set apart his advertisement from others. This strategy likely attracted increased attention from readers.

December 10

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

Dec 10 - 12:10:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (December 10, 1767).

“One of the most useful and entertaining Almanacks in America.”

The new year was fast approaching. Just three weeks remained in 1767 when this advertisement for “FREEMAN’s New-York ALMANACK For the Year 1768” appeared in John Holt’s New-York Journal. Over the past month advertisements for almanacs had proliferated in New York’s newspapers and their counterparts printed throughout the colonies. Some merely encouraged customers to acquire their almanacs, but others, like this one, provided much more detail about the contents as a means of inciting demand and convincing consumers to select this particular almanac over any of the alternatives.

Freeman’s New-York Almanack included the usual calendars and calculations, including “Hour and Minute of the Sun’s Rising and Setting” and the “Moon’s Age, Quartering, Full and Change, Rising, Setting,” but these were “intermixed with Proverbs or moral Sentiments.” It also contained a combination of astronomical and astrological material inserted in most almanacs, especially “The 12 signs, with an Account of the several Parts of the Body they are supposed to govern” and “a Table of the Planets’ Motions.” The almanac also featured other valuable reference information, such as a “Table of Interest at 7 per Cent,” a “List of the Council Assembly, and Officers in New-York,” and a “Table of the Value of Coins in England, New-York, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Quebec.” The author also incorporated a variety of items to entertain and instruct readers, including “The Rose, a Fable” and “Verses on New-Year and Winter.”

Many printers relied on the contents of their almanacs to do most of the work in marketing them, but Holt added a nota bene proclaiming that Freeman’s New-York Almanack “contains more in Quantity than any other Almanack publish’d in America, and is at least as useful and entertaining as any other.” Just in case potential customers had not been duly impressed with the extensive contents listed in the advertisement, Holt underscored that this almanac overflowed with useful and entertaining material. Still, sensible that the astronomical calculations remained the foremost reason many colonists purchased almanacs, he also promised that they had been “made with the greatest Care and Accuracy.” He also placed special emphasis on the treatment of an impending eclipse on January 19, a “great Eclipse” that merited additional attention.

Holt concluded the advertisement by announcing that he also sold “DUTCH ALMANACKS,” pocket almanacs, and sheet almanacs, though he provided no other information except the prices. At his “PRINTING-OFFICE, at the EXCHANGE,” customers could select from a variety of titles and an assortment of sizes and formats. They also enjoyed a similar range of choices at other printing offices and bookseller shops throughout the city. Realizing the fierce competition to sell publications that could not be held in reserve and sold at a latter date, Holt invested significant effort in marketing the one he had published.

December 9

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

Dec 9 - 12:9:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 9, 1767).

“A NEAT SECOND HAND CHAIR … hams, gammons, jowls, and bacon.”

Many colonists placed newspaper advertisements for a particular reason. The December 9, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette, for instance, included several real estate notices that focused exclusively on the properties for sale. Other advertisements cautioned against runaway slaves or described employment opportunities. Some marketed imported goods to consumers. Mary Hepburn’s short advertisement announced that she intended to depart from Georgia and wished to settle accounts.

In contrast, certain advertisements had more than one purpose. If colonial printers and compositors had practiced any sort of system of classification to organize the paid notices in their newspapers, such advertisements would have likely been divided into shorter notices and grouped with similar ones. Instead, the contents of individual advertisements sometimes seemed as haphazard as the assortment of notices printed in the same column or on the same page.

Such was the case with John Morel’s advertisement. In the course of two short paragraphs Morel, a prominent merchant, switched from hawking a used carriage, a “NEAT SECOND HAND CHAIR … with very good harness,” to selling pork products, including “hams, gammons, jowls, and bacon.” In the process, he addressed two very different sorts of readers. Due to the expense, only the most affluent colonists would have been in the market for a carriage, whether new or “SECOND HAND.” However, “any family” would have needed hams and bacon for sustenance.

The dual purposes of Morel’s advertisement, like the hodgepodge of content throughout the rest of the newspaper, testify to habits of intensive reading in the eighteenth century. Given that far more colonists would have been interested in purchasing pork than a used carriage, Morel depended on careful attention to his advertisement. He assumed that readers would not pass over the remainder of the advertisement when they noticed the carriage at the beginning but instead continue reading to the end, including the portion that marketed hams and bacon. Certainly not every reader actually read every word of the newspaper, but the lack of organization made it imperative for readers to cast more than a casual glance to find the content they desired.