September 15

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

Providence Gazette (September 15, 1770).

“The extraordinary Forwardness of the College Edifice.”

To make possible the move from Warren to its permanent home in Providence, Rhode Island College (now Brown University) constructed a new building in 1770.  The college launched a fundraising campaign in Rhode Island and other colonies, including South Carolina and Georgia.  Advertisements in the Providence Gazette kept the community apprised of progress on the building … and reminded “Subscribers,” those who had pledged funds or supplies for the cause, to fulfill their commitments.  In early June, for instance, a committee comprised of Stephen Hopkins, John Jenckes, and John Brown placed an advertisement calling on “ALL Persons who have undertaken to supply any of the Timber for the COLLEGE” to deliver it as soon as possible since work on the foundation was nearing completion.

A new advertisement appeared in the Providence Gazette in the middle of September.  It provided an update about the building, using it as an occasion to remind subscribers of their obligations.  On behalf of the “Corporation of the COLLEGE in this Colony,” the notice trumpeted “the extraordinary Forwardness of the College Edifice” that had taken shape over the summer months.  What had been merely a foundation a few months earlier now had “Timber for the fourth Floor” in place.  Such progress meant that the college had incurred expenses.  Accordingly, the advertisement called on “the several Subscribers [to] immediately pay their Subscriptions to the Treasurer of the Corporation, or the Committee for carrying on the Building.”

This notice was part of the continued fundraising efforts of Rhode Island College, but it also served as a news item that kept readers of the Providence Gazette updated about the progress of the building.  Those who resided in town might have been aware of the status of the building based on their own observations as they went about their daily business, but others who lived elsewhere did not witness the various stages of erecting the building.  Fundraising advertisements aimed at subscribers helped keep the entire community informed.

September 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 14, 1770).

Cash given for POT-ASH … at which Place is sold various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS.”

James McMasters did not have a single purpose for the advertisement he placed in the September 14, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Instead, he sought to accomplish multiple goals.  His advertisement commenced and concluded with short messages calling on readers to supply commodities that McMasters was interested in acquiring.  “Cash given for POT-ASH” read the headline.  A nota bene also promised “The highest Price for good FLAX SEED” at McMasters’s store.  Nestled between the headline calling for potash and the nota bene seeking flax seed, the middle portion of the advertisement offered goods for sale.  McMasters declared that he sold “various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS” at his store on Wallingford’s Wharf.  He was especially interested in dealing with retailers who would buy in bulk, promising prices “at so low a Rate as may induce Shopkeepers and Country Traders to purchase.”  McMasters anticipated that others would distribute those goods to consumers in Portsmouth and throughout the colony.

Advertisements with multiple purposes frequently appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette and other eighteenth-century newspapers.  Sometimes the various goals were more closely aligned than others.  Advertisers on occasion, for instance, inserted real estate notices that described buildings, land, and other amenities in great detail before concluding with a brief nota bene about consumer goods for sale or services offered.  In McMasters’s case, the entire advertisement focused on buying and selling.  By alternating between the two, his advertisement conjured images of items moving in and out of his store.  This gave the impression that the store was a busy site for commercial transactions while simultaneously testifying to McMasters’s skills as an entrepreneur who balanced the acquisition of commodities and sales of consumer goods.  McMasters could have placed more than one advertisement, each with its own purpose, but combining them together into one notice better represented the scope of his business interests and commercial savvy.

September 13

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (September 13, 1770).

“At the Black Boy and Butt in Cornhill.”

In an advertisement in the September 13, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Jonathan Williams informed readers that he sold “Choice Pesada, Malaga, Madeira, Tenerife or Vidonia, and other WINES.”  He also stocked “Good Barbadoes RUM” and “good empty Casks for Cyder.”  To aid prospective customers in finding his storehouse, Williams listed his location as “At the Black Boy and Butt in Cornhill.”  A sign depicting a Black child and a barrel adorned his place of business.

Black people, many of them enslaved, were present in Boston during the era of the American Revolution.  Living and working in the bustling port city, Black people were physically present.  Elsewhere in the same issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, another advertisement offered a “likely Negro Woman, about 20 Years old” for sale.  The enslaver remained anonymous, as was often the case, instead directing interested parties to “Enquire at [Richard] Draper’s Printing Office.”  Another advertisement described a “NEGRO MAN, calls himself Jeffry,” who had been “Taken up” on suspicion of having escaped from his enslaver.  In addition to living and working in Boston, Black people also endeavored to liberate themselves, though they had been doing that long before the era of the American Revolution.

As Williams’s sign testifies, Black people were also present in the iconography on display in Boston, just as they were in other port cities In New England and other regions.  (See a short and unsurely incomplete list below.)  The “Black Boy and Butt” represented Williams’s commercial interests.  He transformed the Black body into a logo for his business, a further exploitation of the enslaved people responsible for producing many of the commodities he marketed.  The “Good Barbadoes RUM” he promoted came from a colony notorious for both the size of its enslaved population and the harsh conditions under which they involuntarily labored to produce sugarcane desired for sweetening tea and necessary for distilling rum.  Williams may not have been an enslaver himself, but his business depended on enslaved people twice over, first through production and then through the visual representation that distinguished his storehouse from other buildings on Cornhill Street.  Williams’s customers encountered a visible reminder that their consumption habits were enmeshed in networks of trade that integrated slavery as a vital component every time they visited his storehouse and saw the “Black Boy and Butt.”

**********

Sign of the Black Boy, Providence Gazette, April 15, 1769
Sign of the Black Boy and Butt, Providence Gazette, December 10, 1768
Sign of the Black Boy, Connecticut Courant, March 31, 1766

September 12

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 10, 1770).

“Turtle, for large Companies, dressed to Perfection.”

When Edward Bardin opened the King’s Arms Tavern in New York in the summer of 1770, he did not confine his advertising to the newspapers published in that city.  Instead, he also placed a notice in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, advising “Gentlemen, Ladies and others” of the amenities available at his establishment.  He promised to entertain them “in the most complete and genteel Manner.”  To achieve that goal, he acquired “a good Stock of neat Wines and other Liquors, a professed Cook, and other proper Attendants.”  He also supplied “the public Papers” for his customers, likely including the New-York Journal, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, and the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  He may have also subscribed to newspapers printed in other cities and towns in the colonies and perhaps even London as well.  Bardin also offered “convenient Lodgings” for “Gentlemen who are Strangers,” including those who saw his advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and then traveled to New York.  The tavernkeeper aimed to impress, contending that he had everything “necessary to render” the King’s Arms “as complete a House of Business as any on the Continent in America.”

Bardin emphasized one additional amenity for prospective guests: “Turtle, for large Companies, dressed to perfection.”  Tavernkeepers occasionally mentioned that they provided turtle, shorthand for turtle feasts.  By the middle of the eighteenth century, turtle feasts became popular among the elite in London and the largest cities in the colonies.  In “An Historical and Zooarchaeological Approach to the Study of Turtle-based Foods in the City of Brotherly Love, ca. 1750-1850,” Teagan Schweitzer notes that the turtles for these feasts were often “large ocean-bound green sea turtles … in the range of 50 to 300 pounds” and “imported from the West Indies.”  Due to their size, they were served at banquets, just as Bardin suggested in his advertisement.  According to Schweitzer, “Hannah Glasse’s 1751 edition of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, the earliest English cookbook to include a recipe for turtle, aside from the soup there was a dish highlighting the calipash (the back shell), one for the calipee (the belly), a dish made from the offal (entrails), and one from the fins.”  Recipes for turtle appeared in several eighteenth-century cookbooks.  In The Experienced English House-keeper (1769), Elizabeth Raffald “gave instructions for preparing seven dishes from a turtle weighing a hundred pounds.”  For one final example, Schweitzer highlights a recipe for turtle in Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery (1796), the first American cookbook.  Simmons included only thirty-nine recipes in that cookbook.

In the second half of the eighteenth-century, the turtle feast became a popular pastime for genteel diners who gathered for banquets at taverns like the King’s Arms in New York.  Bardin mentioned “Turtle, for large Companies, dressed to perfection” in his advertisement as an additional mark of distinction for his tavern, an amenity as important as the “neat Wines,” “public Papers,” and “proper Attendants” that made his establishment rival any other in the colonies.

September 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 11, 1770).

“Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.”

As summer turned to fall in 1770, Jacob Valk took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advertise his services as a bookkeeper.  He informed readers that he “keeps an Office where Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.”  He assisted with balancing and closing accounts as well as opening accounts “properly for those commencing any Kind of Business.”  Valk oversaw books kept for various purposes: “Partnerships Accounts, and Accounts of Ships, Planters, or Executors.”  In each case, clients could depend on having their ledgers “properly scrutinized, and accurately adjusted.”  They could also expect confidentiality.  Valk promised “Secrecy and Dispatch.”

Valk made a special appeal to prospective clients “apprehensive of a Failure or Litigation at Law.”  By hiring his services, they could avoid Embarrassment in their Affairs.”  Although he did not offer any guarantees, he suggested that anyone anxious about their bookkeeping abilities could gain a sense of security by relying on his guidance and oversight.  It was “more than probable,” he asserted, that his clients would “meet with a happy Prevention” of undesirable outcomes, but only if they acted in a timely manner.  Valk encouraged prospective clients to consult with him early rather than wait until it was too late for him to help.

Valk presented a combination of invitation and warning in his advertisement.  By responding to his notice, “Merchants and Tradesmen” lessened the chances that they would find themselves in the position of having to respond to another sort of notice that frequently appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers, those that called on colonists to settle accounts or face legal action.  In the same issue that carried Valk’s advertisement, Andrew Taylor placed just such a notice directed at “all Persons indebted to me.”  Those who owed Taylor money were on the verge of experiencing “Embarrassment in their Affairs” if they did not settle accounts quickly.  Valk offered an alternative to clients who hired his bookkeeping services.

September 10

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

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (September 10, 1770).

“To be SOLD … Best PORTER.”

Colonial printers often devoted as much space to advertising as news, editorials, and other content in their newspapers.  Advertisements often overflowed from standard issues into supplements devoted entirely to paid notices.  Consider, for instance, Hugh Gaine’s New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Gaine published a standard issue once a week in 1770.  It consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Those standard issues usually included a significant proportion of advertisements in relation to news.  In addition, a two-page supplement often accompanied the standard issue.  Such was the case on September 10.  This did not, however, increase the contents by half since Gaine used a smaller sheet for the supplement.  Still, the supplement accounted for a considerable amount of additional material disseminated to readers.

Notably, the supplement contained advertisements and nothing else, with the exception of the masthead.  Gaine inserted more than three dozen advertisements that did not fit in the standard issue.  This was not a case of separating news from advertising, saving the latter for the supplement.  Instead, paid notices appeared throughout the standard issue as well.  One advertisement ran at the bottom of the first page.  Every other page featured a greater number of advertisements:  nearly two of the four columns on the second page, a column and a half on the third page, and the entire fourth page.  Before turning to the supplement, advertising filled nearly half of the standard issue.

Advertising generated revenues for Gaine, making publishing the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury a viable enterprise.  Then, as now, advertising revenues contributed to the dissemination of the news, though sometimes their volume may have seemed to overwhelm the other content of the newspaper.  Joseph Lawrence’s advertisement for “Best PORTER” in the supplement, one example among many, helped to underwrite news from London and Constantinople on the first page and news from other colonies on the second and third pages.

September 9

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

New-York Journal (September 6, 1770).

“PETER VIANY.  CONTINUES to teach Fencing and Dancing.”

Peter Vianey taught dancing and fencing in New York in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  To attract students, he periodically placed newspaper advertisements in the New-York Journal.  His advertisements often appeared in September in advance of a new season of lessons to commence at his “public Dancing School” in October, though he placed notices on other occasions as well.  For prospective pupils who desired more personalized attention (or who were anxious about others potentially seeing them in awkward positions as they worked to master the steps), he also taught “Ladies and Gentleman in private either at his School or at their own Houses.”

Vianey inserted a relatively short advertisement into the September 6, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal.  His statement that he “CONTINUES to teach Fencing and Dancing” suggests that he expected that many residents of New York were already familiar with his services.  It was a very different tone than he took two years earlier when his advertisement included a short introduction and three additional paragraphs.  The first announced the opening of his school in October, described the dances he taught, listed his fees, and offered private lessons.  The second emphasized the quality of instruction.  Vianey proclaimed that he taught “in the Style of the best Masters in Europe.”  His methods were so effective that the results were already “discoverable in his Scholars” even though “none of them have yet had Time to be perfected in their Minuets.”  It was the final paragraph, however, that was the most important.  In it, Vianey addressed gossip and a case of mistaken identity.  “Having been informed,” he stated, “that he has been mistaken for a Dancing-Master, whose Behaviour to his Scholars gave just Offence in this City some Years ago, he takes Liberty to inform those who are acquainted with him, that he never was in this Country, till the Year 1764.”  He further asserted that “all who know him” could “testify that his Conduct has ever been regular and unexceptionable.”  Vianey sought to manage his reputation in the wake of reports that confused him with another dancing master.  Given that teaching dancing often required being in close physical proximity with his students, even touching them as they danced together and he demonstrated the steps, Vianey needed to establish that he was beyond reproach in order to protect his livelihood.

Apparently, Vianey successfully rehabilitated his reputation after placing his advertisement in 1768.  In subsequent advertisements, including the one placed in advance of a new season of lessons starting in October 1770, he did not mention further difficulties, nor was it in his interest to remind readers of gossip he wished to put behind him.  That he continued to reside in New York, offer lessons, and place advertisements testified to his success in overcoming the gossip and suspicions directed at him.

September 7

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

Sep 7 - 9:7:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 7, 1770).

“MANTU-MAKER, FROM BOSTON.”

Over the past few days the Adverts 250 Project has examined the manner in which purveyors of goods and services in the colonies incorporated their origins into their advertisements as part of their marketing campaigns.  We began with James Yeoman, a clock- and watchmaker “FROM LONDON,” who sought to convince readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that his skills eclipsed those of competitors who had not trained or worked in the largest city in the empire.  Next we looked at George Lafong, a “French HAIR-DRESSER,” who informed the ladies and gentlemen of Williamsburg, Virginia, that he styled hair “in the cheapest manner, & TOUT A LA MODE” (all in fashion).  Injecting a few words of French into his advertisement in William Rind’s Virginia Gazette underscored the gentility and cachet associated with hiring a hairdresser from France.

Today we consider the advertisement that Lucy Fessenden inserted into the September 7, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  She introduced herself as a mantuamaker “FROM BOSTON,” asserting that she pursued her craft “in the newest and most genteel Mode.”  While Yeoman and Lafong’s advertisements testified to migration across the Atlantic, Fessenden’s notice indicated migration within the colonies.  In both instances, advertisers sought to use their origins to their advantage.  Artisans as well as tailors, milliners, and others in the garments trade, including mantuamakers like Fessenden, frequently noted that they formerly lived and worked in some of the largest port cities when they relocated to smaller towns and advertised their services.  Perceptions of skill and associations with gentility seemed to operate on a sliding scale.  Residents of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia looked to London and other places on the far side of the Atlantic as models.  Residents of smaller towns did as well, but they also recognized the major ports in the colonies as locations that merited notice.  Unable to make a direct connection to London, Fessenden instead leveraged her time in Boston to suggest her familiarity with “the newest and most genteel Mode” and her ability to deliver on it “with Fidelity and Dispatch.”

September 6

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

Sep 6 - 9:6:1770 Virginia Gazette Rind
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 6, 1770).
TOUT A LA MODE.”

George Lafong introduced himself to the ladies and gentlemen of Williamsburg as a “French HAIR-DRESSER” in an advertisement in the September 6, 1770, edition of William Rind’s Virginia Gazette.  Apparently, he was new in town and had not yet established a clientele; he announced that he “intends carrying on the said business.”  He also made two familiar marketing appeals, though he put a twist on the second one when he proclaimed that he styled hair “in the cheapest manner, & TOUT A LA MODE.”  The hairdresser concluded by inviting “Gentlemen who may please to honour him with their commands” to come to him for shaving.

Extending only eight lines, it was a brief advertisement, but Lafong managed to pack a lot of meaning into it.  Throughout the colonies, newcomers often noted their origins in their advertisements, especially when they thought this signaled greater prestige for their wares or services.  Artisans often described themselves as “from London,” suggesting that they possessed greater skill and had better training.  Apothecaries and others who provided medical treatments and services also emphasized their connections to London and other places on the other side of the Atlantic, often listing their credentials.  For hairdressers, being from London hinted at the cosmopolitanism associated with the thriving metropolis at the center of the empire, but being a “French HAIR-DRESSER” may have been even better since even the genteel denizens of London looked to France for fashion cues.  Hiring a French hairdresser in colonial Virginia could have been an expensive luxury reserved for the elite, but Lafong declared that his prices were not exorbitant.  His clients could have their hair elegantly styled and adorned “in the cheapest manner.”  Hiring a French hairdresser at all alluded to exclusivity, but the newcomer did not seek to become so exclusive that he priced himself out of the market.  He also put his own spin on familiar marketing appeals that emphasized fashion.  Shopkeepers, tailors, milliners, and others who provided consumer goods and services frequently incorporated fashion into their advertisements.  Lafong did so as well, trumpeting that he styled hair “TOUT A LA MODE” or “all in fashion.”  This appeal simultaneously underscored his identity as a French hairdresser and enhanced the aura of exclusivity for prospective clients who learned French to appear more genteel to their friends and neighbors.

Upon arriving in Virginia, Lafong placed a savvy advertisement intended to cultivate a clientele among the “Ladies and Gentlemen” of Williamsburg.  Incorporating several familiar marketing appeals, he also introduced an innovative means of underscoring his origins as a “French HAIR-DRESSER” by making his appeal to fashion in French rather than English.

September 5

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

Sep 5 - 9:3:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (September 3, 1770).

“… practised by very few in ENGLAND, and those esteemed the best Mechanicks in Europe.”

Like many other artisans who migrated to the colonies in the eighteenth-century, James Yeoman emphasized his origins on the other side of the Atlantic.  In an advertisement that ran in the September 3, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, Yeoman described himself as a “CLOCK and WATCH-MAKER, FROM LONDON.”  It was not clear from the advertisement how long he had resided in New York and practiced his trade there.  He extended “his best Thanks to the Ladies and Gentlemen of this City for the past Favours” and noted that he “he still continues his Shop … in Hanover Square.”  He had been in New York long enough that he already had customers.  All the same, he asserted his connections to London, aiming to take advantage of the cachet often derived from the metropolitan center of the empire.  For artisans, that cachet was often twofold, an association of their wares with cosmopolitanism and an insinuation that they possessed greater skill due to superior training compared to their competitors from the colonies.  For instance, when it came to replacing the parts of an “ever so nice mechanical Construction,” Yeoman stated that he provided that service “as reasonable and neat as if done in London.”

In that regard, the appeals he made in his advertisement paralleled those made by other artisans “FROM LONDON.”  Yeoman, however, did not stop there.  He added a nota bene that further linked him to artisans on the other side of the Atlantic, noting that he would “undertake to make Clocks for Churches, or Gentlemens Turrets, on an entire new Plan, practised by very few in ENGLAND, and those esteemed the best Mechanicks in Europe.” At the same time that Yeoman was advertising in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, John Simnet, “original maker from London,” inserted advertisements in the New-York Journal.  Simnet did not expound on his connections to London in any greater detail, while Yeoman made greater effort in his attempt to guide prospective customers to the conclusion that he did indeed possess greater skill due to his origins.  If only the “best Mechanicks in Europe” were capable of making clocks according to this “new Plan,” then Yeoman must have been skilled indeed.  At least that was the impression he sought to give in the nota bene that concluded his advertisement.  Anxious that describing himself as “FROM LONDON” did not sufficiently distinguish him from other clock- and watchmakers, Yeoman made his case for consumers in New York.