Slavery Advertisements Published May 25, 1770

Guest Curator: Jenna Smith

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 for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – 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 own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. 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 slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Jenna Smith served as guest curator for this entry. Working on this project fulfilled her senior capstone requirement for completing the major in History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

May 25 - New-Hampshire Gazette Slavery 1
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 25, 1770).

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May 25 - New-London Gazette Slavery 1
New-London Gazette (May 25, 1770).

May 24

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

May 24 - 5:24:1770 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

“AN entire Assortment of all Kinds of DRUGS.”

In eighteenth-century American newspapers, compositors did not organize advertisements according to category or classification.  Advertisements for consumer goods and services, legal notices, advertisements concerning runaway servants and enslaved people who escaped from those who held them in bondage, and notices placed for a variety of other purposes appeared one after the other.  This required active reading on the part of subscribers in their efforts to locate advertisements of interest.

Occasionally, however, compositors did cluster together certain kinds of advertisements.  When the female seed sellers of Boston placed their advertisements in the spring, compositors working for several of the newspapers published in that city often tended to place their notices in a single column in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  Similarly, the compositor for the Pennsylvania Gazette often arranged legal notices placed by the sheriff one after the other during the same period, though this may have been prompted in part from receiving them all at once.  Still, notices placed by different sheriffs often tended to appear in succession in a single column.  Whatever the explanation, these examples were exceptions rather than standard practice.

Did compositors sometimes experiment with grouping other advertisements according to their purpose?  That may have been the case in the May 24, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  Advertisements appeared on the third and fourth page of the standard issue as well as both pages of the supplement.  Advertisements placed by apothecaries and druggists could have been dispersed throughout the issue, yet three of them ran together in the upper left corner of the final page.  Robert Bass, apothecary, advertised “AN entire fresh Assortment of all Kinds of DRUGS [and] … a great Variety of Patent Medicines.”  Duffield and Delany, druggists, promoted their “fresh and general Assortment of DRUGS and MEDICINES.”  John Day and Company listed some of the items available among their “LARGE and general assortment of the very best Drugs” at their “Medicinal Store.”  Due to their placement one after the other, readers could easily consult and compare these advertisements.

Yet if that were the intention of the compositor, it was not fully realized.  Further down the column, separated by four advertisements (a real estate notice, another for horses and a carriage for sale, one for grocery items, and the last for hardware), another advertisement announced that John Gilbert, physician and surgeon, had opened “AN APOTHECARY’S SHOP.”  A newcomer to the city, Gilbert focused on establishing his credentials rather than providing a list of medicines similar to those that appeared in the advertisements by Bass, Duffield and Delany, and John Day and Company.  On the previous page, Isaac Bartram and Moses Bartram, apothecaries, ran an advertisement that more closely resembled those placed by their competitors.

The cluster of advertisements placed by apothecaries and druggists in the May 24,1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette was notable because such placement was unusual.  Elsewhere in the same issue and its supplement, the compositor arranged legal notices together, but not all of them.  No particular organizing principle seems to have guided the placement of other advertisements, except for fitting them to the page to achieve columns of equal length.  Perhaps the cluster of advertisements for Robert Bass, Duffield and Delany, and John Day and Company was a mere coincidence.  Alternately, it may have been a rudimentary attempt at classifying and organizing at least some of the advertisements for the benefit of readers.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 24, 1770

Guest Curator: Jenna Smith

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 for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – 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 own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. 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 slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Jenna Smith served as guest curator for this entry. Working on this project fulfilled her senior capstone requirement for completing the major in History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

May 24 1770 - Maryland Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Supplement to the Maryland Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 1770 - Maryland Gazette Supplement Slavery 2
Supplement to the Maryland Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 1770 - Maryland Gazette Supplement Slavery 3
Supplement to the Maryland Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - New-York Journal Slavery 2
New-York Journal (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - New-York Journal Slavery 3
New-York Journal (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 3
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 4
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 5
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 6
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 7
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 8
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser Supplement Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser Supplement Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Slavery 11
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - South Carolina Gazette Supplement Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 6
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 7
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 8
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

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May 24 - Virginia Gazette Purdie and Dixon Slavery 9
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (May 24, 1770).

May 23

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

May 23 - 5:23:1770 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 23, 1770).

“RUN AWAY … BEN … of the Guiney country … TOM … very sensible and artful … his wife … BELLA.  DUBLIN … of the Ebbo country, marked on the cheeks.”

This is the last advertisement from the Georgia Gazette that will be featured on the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project.  James Johnston founded the Georgia Gazette and printed it from April 7, 1763, through at least February 7, 1776, with a hiatus from late November 1765 through late May 1766 due to the Stamp Act.  The newspaper ultimately ceased publication due to the Revolutionary War.  Although Johnston published the Georgia Gazette from 1770 through 1776, for some of those years either no copies are extant (1771) or very few have survived (1772 and 1773), according to Edward Connery Lathem’s Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820.  Complete or extensive coverage exists for 1770, 1774, and 1775, but no copies published after May 23, 1770, have been digitized.  As a result, the Georgia Gazette will no longer be part of the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project.

This is unfortunate.  Printed in Savannah, the Georgia Gazette provides a glimpse of advertising in a smaller port city compared to the newspapers published in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.  Established in 1732, Georgia was the only one of the thirteen colonies that eventually declared independence founded in the eighteenth century.  The contents of the Georgia Gazette present a city and a colony that had not yet reached the same maturity as others.  As the only newspaper regularly published on Wednesdays, it was frequently featured on this project.  Its contents document life in a southern colony, including the high proportion of advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children.  That will be the most significant loss relating to the missing or unavailable issues of the Georgia Gazette from June 1770 through May 1776.  The intersections of advertising, commerce, and culture can be examined in newspapers published in other colonies, but the stories of enslaved people that appeared only in the Georgia Gazettewill no longer play a significant role in demonstrating the ubiquity of advertising about enslaved Africans and African Americans in the early American press.

This also means that stories of courage, resistance, survival, and enslaved people seizing their own liberty during the era of the American Revolution will be truncated as the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Projectcontinue.  Consider today’s advertisement, the last one drawn from the Georgia Gazette.  The people known as Ben, Tom, Bella, and Dublin by those who enslaved them made their escape from Alexander Wylly in 1770.  The advertisement tells only a portion of their stories.  Ben “of the Guiney country” endured the Middle Passage and spoke “indifferent English.”  Tom and Bella were a couple.  Dublin “of the Ebbo country” bore ritualized scars on his cheeks, a testament to his African origins even after he learned to speak English.  Did these four escape together, perhaps led by the “very sensible and artful” Tom?  Their story, refracted through Wylly’s rendition of it, is incomplete … but it is more of their story than we would otherwise know about Ben, Tom, Bella, and Dublin.  Stories of Black people who were bought and sold and stories of Black people who escaped from those who held them in bondage appeared among the advertisements in every issue of the Georgia Gazette.  The Slavery Adverts 250 Project seeks to uncover those stories and make them more visible to both scholars and the general public.  The coming silence due to missing and unavailable issues of the Georgia Gazette will unfortunately suggest an absence of those stories, an absence that did not actually exist.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 23, 1770

Guest Curator: Jenna Smith

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 for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – 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 own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. 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 slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Jenna Smith served as guest curator for this entry. Working on this project fulfilled her senior capstone requirement for completing the major in History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

May 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 1
Georgia Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 2
Georgia Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - Georgia Gazette Slavery 3
Georgia Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

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May 23 - South Carolina and American General Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (May 23, 1770).

May 22

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

May 22 - 5:22:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

“A Few Bales of well bought WHITE PLAINS.”

When he prepared to go to press with the May 22, 1770, edition, Charles Crouch, printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, found that he had too much content to fit into a standard four-page issue.  To remedy the situation, he also produced a two-page supplement comprised entirely of advertisements.  That was not unusual, but one of the decisions Crouch made about the format of that supplement differed from the approach usually taken by printers and compositors throughout the colonies.  In an effort to fill every square inch of space on the page, Crouch included three advertisements that deviated from the standard width for columns in his newspaper.

Understanding this strategy first requires a closer look at the entire supplement.  Crouch did not have enough material to fill two sides of a half sheet, the most common format for supplements.  Instead, he used a smaller sheet, one that was wide enough for only two columns with generous margins.  Regular issues had three columns.  To take advantage of the empty space, Crouch selected shorter advertisements to rotate perpendicular to the rest of the text.  Those he inserted in several columns.  This was a common trick for printers and compositors.  It saved the time and effort of resetting type by arranging in a different configuration several advertisements that previously appeared in the newspaper.

Crouch could have left space on either side of these advertisement.  Instead, he positioned them with margins as narrow as if they appeared in the regular columns.  This left empty space at the bottom of the page, but it was not wide enough for an advertisement of the same width.  Here Crouch’s method departed from the usual practice.  Rather than adjust the margins, he instead inserted advertisements that were narrower than any of the other columns throughout the standard issue or the supplement.  Doing so required resetting type for advertisements that previously ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Crouch chose to expend the time and effort rather than surrender the otherwise empty space.  He made use of every last inch of the smaller half sheet when he published this particular advertising supplement.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 22, 1770

Guest Curator: Jenna Smith

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 for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – 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 own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. 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 slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Jenna Smith served as guest curator for this entry. Working on this project fulfilled her senior capstone requirement for completing the major in History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 10
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

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May 22 - South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 22, 1770).

May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1770 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (May 21, 1770).

“JOHN GORE, jun. Opposite LIBERTY-TREE, BostonNorth-American Manufactures.”

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, John Gore, Jr., consistently associated his business with the patriot cause by describing its location in relation to the Liberty Tree in Boston.  In an advertisement in the May 21, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette, for instance, he listed his address as “Opposite LIBERTY-TREE, Boston,” and did not provide any additional information, not even the name of the street, to assist prospective customers in finding his shop.

The first portion of Gore’s advertisement listed a variety of textiles and adornments, presenting consumers an array of choices.  Gore did not explicitly state that he acquired these items before the nonimportation agreement went into effect.  Perhaps he hoped that readers would reach that conclusion because he so prominently made a connection between the Liberty Tree and his shop.  In the second portion of his advertisement Gore made a distinction between imported wares and those produced in the colonies.  In a header that appeared in larger font than most of the rest of the notice, Gore declared that he stocked “North-American Manufactures.”  That portion of his inventory included “black, pompadore, light and dark mix’d chocolate and drab colour’d Cloths,” “fine Teeth Horn Combs,” and the “best of Lynn Shoes.”  He also carried hose “equally as fine as any Imported from London.”  His customers did not need to fear accepting inferior goods when they selected among the “North-American Manufactures” he presented to them.

The headers in Gore’s advertisement told a story that did not require readers to peruse the rest of the advertisement.  Anyone who quickly looked over the page would see “JOHN GORE, jun. Opposite LIBERTY-TREE, BostonNorth-American Manufactures.”  Even if they did not choose to examine the advertisement more closely, they likely remembered the association among the shopkeeper, his location, and his merchandise produced in the colonies.

Slavery Advertisements Published May 21, 1770

Guest Curator: Jenna Smith

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 for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – 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 own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. 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 slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

From compiling an archive of digitized eighteenth-century newspapers to identifying advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children in those newspapers to preparing images of each advertisement to posting this daily digest, Jenna Smith served as guest curator for this entry. Working on this project fulfilled her senior capstone requirement for completing the major in History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

May 21 - Boston Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 1
Boston Gazette and Country Journal (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - Boston Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 2
Boston Gazette and Country Journal (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - Boston Gazette and Country Journal Slavery 3
Boston Gazette and Country Journal (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury Slavery 1
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury Slavery 2
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury Slavery 3
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury Slavery 4
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury Slavery 5
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 1
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1770).

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May 21 - New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy Slavery 2
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1770).

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:17:1770 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (May 17, 1770).

“Their ware is equal if not superior to any made in America or imported.”

Odgens, Laight, and Company, proprietors of the Vesuvius Air Furnace in Newark, New Jersey, placed an advertisement in the May 17, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal to inform prospective customers that they produced and sold “all kinds of hollow ware, and other castings.”  Their inventory included forge hammers and anvils, pots, kettles, griddles, “iron stoves for work-shops and ships cabins,” and a variety of other items.  Descriptions of some of their wares testified to their quality, such as “jamb and hearth plates neatly fitting each other,” yet Odgens, Laight, and Company made more extensive appeals to quality as well.

The partners proclaimed that “their metal is of the best quality” and underscored that “the construction of their furnace” as well as “manner of working and moulding” was “the most improved.”  Accordingly, they could claim that the items they manufactured at the Vesuvius Air Furnace were “equal if not superior to any made in America or imported.”  The comparison to imported goods held particular significance.  As colonists adopted nonimportation agreements to protest duties on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea that Parliament levied via the Townshend Acts, they also advocated supporting “domestic manufactures” as an alternate means of acquiring goods they needed and desired.  Even though colonists declared their support for goods made in the colonies, newspaper advertisements suggest that consumers experienced some skepticism that those goods matched imported wares in terms of quality.  Artisans and other who promoted domestic manufactures in the late 1760s and early 1770s frequently reassured prospective customers that they would not have to sacrifice quality in service to following their political principles.  In addition to asserting that their wares were “equal if not superior” to imported goods, Ogdens, Laight, and Company singled out their hammers and anvils, explaining that “the metal … is excellently well tempered, and found on repeated trials to be in general superior English hammers.”  They did not elaborate on who conducted those “repeated trials.”  That claim echoed marketing strategies frequently invoked by other artisans:  proclaiming that others with specialized knowledge of the product vouched for it.

Ogdens, Laight, and Company offered consumers an opportunity to demonstrate their support for the American colonies in their altercation with Parliament by purchasing goods made in the colonies rather than imported from England.  In so doing, they joined other advertisers in the New-York Journal and throughout the colonies who offered domestic manufactures to prospective customers.  The appeals they made in their advertisements resonated with the news that appeared elsewhere in the newspapers.