May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1767 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1767).

“Such Work as is not executed in the best Manner, he does not expect to be taken.”

Joseph Beck made “all Kinds of Stays for Ladies and Misses” at his shop on Queen Street in New York. In marketing his corsets one of the city’s newspapers, he utilized several of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements for consumer goods and services. He claimed that his stays were fashionable (“in the newest Taste”) and that potential customers could not find a better deal (“at the lowest Prices”). Like many others in the clothing trades, he also underscored that he had migrated “from LONDON,” establishing a connection to the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the empire.

To distinguish his advertisements from others, Beck added one more element: a guarantee, of sorts, concerning the quality of the stays he made. This testified to the staymaker’s confidence in his own skills and the value of the goods he produced for the market. In a separate nota bene, he advised prospective clients that “Such Work as is not executed in the best Manner, he does not expect to be taken.” Customers not satisfied with the quality of his work had the option from the very start to reject it. Refusing to accept work deemed inferior may not have seemed especially novel to most readers. After all, customers and those who provided services haggled all the time in the regular course of their interactions and transactions. Yet this sort of guarantee was not yet widely stated in advertisements. By including it, Beck further transformed what some might consider a mere announcement into a notice that actively marketed Beck’s services. This advertisement did not simply inform the residents of New York that Beck made and sold women’s stays. Instead, it worked to incite demand along multiple trajectories: fashion, price, connections to London, and, especially, an explicit promise about the quality of the work. Like many other eighteenth-century advertisers, Beck sought to incite demand rather than just reacting to pre-existing consumer desires.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 21, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

May 21 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 2
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 3
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 4
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

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May 21 - Virginia Gazette Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette (May 21, 1767).

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:20:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

“RUN AWAY … a MUSTEE WENCH.”

Jenny, an enslaved woman, made her escape, prompting Archibald Bulloch to place an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette. He offered a reward to “Whoever apprehends and delivers the said wench to me in Savannah.” To help readers identify Jenny, Bulloch described her as a “MUSTEE WENCH,” mobilizing one of the many categories for describing both the physical appearance and heritage of mixed race men, women, and children in the early modern Atlantic world.

Mustee, now chiefly an historical term according to the Oxford English Dictionary, specifically means “a person with one white-skinned parent and the other one-quarter black.” In other words, Jenny may have been one-eighth black, presumably fairly light-skinned, as the result of having one African great-grandparent. However, the OED also indicates that mustee sometimes also referred to “a person of mixed European and African descent” and, even more generally, “a person of mixed racial descent” (including indigenous Americans as well as Africans). Mustee was likely a shortened form of mestizo arising from non-standardized spellings. That being the case, Bulloch may not have intended to be any more descriptive than simply indicating that Jenny had a mixed racial heritage.

Whatever the case, Bulloch mobilized print culture to put black bodies on display. By advertising Jenny and describing her as a “MUSTEE WENCH,” he encouraged readers to engage in surveillance of all black women they encountered, to carefully examine their physical characteristics to assess whether they might be the runaway. This advertisement called attention not only to Jenny; it cast suspicion on all black women, the reward offering added incentive to take note of their bodies.

Research note: I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary for an authoritative definition and etymology of mustee. Among its historical sources, the OED included a runaway slave advertisement published in the South Carolina Gazette in 1732.

May 20 - 11:4:1732 South Carolina Gazette
South Carolina Gazette (November 4, 1732).

Summary of Slavery Advertisements Published May 14-20, 1767

These tables indicate how many advertisements for slaves appeared in colonial American newspapers during the week of May 14-20, 1767.

Note:  These tables are as comprehensive as currently digitized sources permit, but they may not be an exhaustive account.  They includes all newspapers that have been digitized and made available via Accessible Archives, Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital Library, and Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers.  There are several reasons some newspapers may not have been consulted:

  • Issues that are no longer extant;
  • Issues that are extant but have not yet been digitized (including the Pennsylvania Journal); and
  • Newspapers published in a language other than English (including the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote).

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Slavery Advertisements Published May 14-20, 1767:  By Date

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Date May 14

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Slavery Advertisements Published May 14-20, 1767:  By Region

Slavery Adverts Tables 1767 By Region May 14

Slavery Advertisements Published May 20, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

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May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

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May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

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May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 4
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

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May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 5
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

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May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 6
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

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May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 7
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

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May 20 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 8
Georgia Gazette (May 20, 1767).

May 19

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

May 19 - 5:19:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

“He served his apprenticeship in London, of which city he is a freeman.”

As a standard part of their advertisements, merchants and shopkeepers noted that they sold goods imported from faraway places, especially London. In so doing, they established themselves as conduits who connected their customers to both the quality and fashions associated with goods produced and popularly consumed in the largest city in the British empire. Artisans who made the items they sold in local workshops, however, could not make quite the same claim. Instead, those who had migrated across the Atlantic proudly proclaimed their origins, announcing that they were “FROM LONDON,” as Whiting the saddler did in today’s advertisement.

On occasion, artisans elaborated on the training they had received in workshops in London, demonstrating to potential customers why they should take notice of their origins. Whiting asserted that he was capable of “execut[ing] all the branches of that business in the compleatest manner” precisely because “he served his apprenticeship in London, of which city he is a freeman.” This meant that Whiting belonged to the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, one of the city’s livery companies that originated as trade guilds. These companies oversaw members who practiced their trade; they kept standards high, an early modern version of quality control. To become a member, known as a freeman, an artisan had to serve an apprenticeship under a master of the trade who was already a freeman. Alternately, some joined by patrimony if a parent ad been a freeman or by redemption upon paying a fee. Working within the walls of the City of London required achieving freeman status. This conferred some level of prestige on the artisans, a certain cachet that Whiting suggested could be transferred to those who hired him. Whiting wanted prospective customers to know that he had earned the rank of freeman via servitude rather than patrimony or redemption, that he had honed his skills through an apprenticeship to a master saddler.

Although he was an ocean away from the livery companies that oversaw artisans in the City of London, Whiting called on their privileged position and his membership in their order to advance his own workshop in Charleston. He expected that this would resonate with local residents.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 19, 1767

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.  Daily updates also available on Twitter:  @SlaveAdverts250.

May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 11
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 12
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 13
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 14
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 15
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 16
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

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May 19 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 4
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).