April 18

GUEST CURATOR:  Anna MacLean

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

Apr 18 - 4:18:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (April 18, 1768).

“TO BE SOLD … BEST HYSON TEA.”

An advertisement in the April 18, 1768, issue of the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy announced “BEST HYSON TEA” in addition to “Mustard, Raisins, Currants, Figs, Chocolate, with other Kinds of Grocery.” I felt compelled to select this advertisement because it sounds absurd to conceptualize a time when America didn’t “run on Dunkin’” coffee (a testament to marketing in modern America). However, by similar means, tea drinkers in colonial America looked forward to the caffeine buzz found in their kettles and teacups.

Hyson tea, characterized by Oliver Pluff & Co. as having a long twisted appearance, was a favorite among American colonists. According to the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, during the first half of the eighteenth-century tea was a costly luxury that only a small percentage of the colonies’ population could afford. By the middle of the century, tea was in high demand throughout the colonies and costs decreased making it an everyday beverage for the vast majority. Over time, the American colonies had evolved into a province of tea drinkers.

Yet drinking tea was far more than a hobby in colonial America but rather an “instrument of sociability,” according to the review of Rodris Roth’s “Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America” on Colonial Quills. An invitation to drink tea was an invitation to a social event, perhaps a small, informal gathering or maybe an elegant dinner party.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

In addition to the “other Kinds of Grocery” that he sold at his shop on Beaver Street in New York, Isaac Noble also advertised “all Kinds of French Liquors” and listed eight varieties.  Since Anna chose to examine one of Noble’s wares that remains popular today (even if it has not retained the cultural currency it enjoyed in eighteenth-century America), I decided to take a closer look at some of these other beverages that colonial Americans drank but that might be less familiar to consumers today.

The Oxford English Dictionarydescribes “Parfaite Amour” as “a sweet liqueur of Dutch origin, flavoured with lemon, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander, and coloured red or purple.”  In addition to the taste, colonists may have been entertained by the color!  Several other items on Noble’s list appear to have been liqueurs as well, including “Anise,” “Essence of Tea,” “Essence of Coffee,” and “Oil of Hazle Nuts.”  While it may be fairly easy to imagine the flavor and composition of each of those “French Liquors,” the “Oil of Venus” presents more of a challenge.  One Household Encyclopedia published in the middle of the nineteenth century includes recipes for both Oil of Jupiter and Oil of Venus.  It describes Oil of Venus as brandy infused with caraway, anise, mace, and orange rinds and mixed with sugar.  Published nearly a century after Noble’s advertisement appeared in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy, that recipe may not have been the same as the “Oil of Venus” colonists drank, but the mixture of spices does appear consistent with methods for distilling the “Parfaite Amour” listed immediately before it.  The nature of the “Free Mason’s Cordial” remains more elusive, but it turns out that the “Usquebaugh” was not as exotic as the name might suggest. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates “usquebaugh” is an Irish and Scottis Gaelic word for whisky.  Like tea, usquebaugh/whisky remains a popular beverage today, even if the average person does not consume either in the same quantities as colonists did in the eighteenth century.

The various “Kinds of French Liquors” advertised by Noble may not seem readily identifiable to twenty-first-century consumers, at least not by the names used to describe them in the eighteenth century, but several continue to be sold and consumed today. As a result of advances in marketing practices, some are now better known by specific brand names rather than the general descriptions deployed in the colonial era.

January 29

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

Jan 29 - 1:29:1768 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 29, 1768).

“Choice GENEVA.”

John Armbruester placed an advertisement in the January 29, 1768, edition of the New-London Gazette to inform residents of Norwich and the surrounding area that he distilled and sold Geneva. Advertisers regularly promoted Geneva in eighteenth-century newspapers, either on its own, as Armbruester did, or along with an array of other spirits. Colonists certainly knew what they were being offered, but the name Geneva has largely fallen out of use today. What was Geneva?

The Oxford English Dictionary provides some clarification in its entries for gin and genever. Dutch distillers first produced a variation of gin in the late sixteenth century. This aromatic drink, flavored with juniper berries and a variety of herbs and spices, was known in Dutch as genever, but in English as Dutch gin or Hollands gin (shortened from Hollands geneva). In the middle of the eighteenth century, distillers in London produced a “less coarse, more subtly flavoured gin” that became known as London gin. That variation became the most usual form of the drink. Today consumers enjoy (London) gin in mixed drinks and cocktails, whereas genever (or jenever) is usually drunk neat.

Gin was just gaining in popularity in England at the time Armbruester distilled and sold his Geneva in Connecticut. Either he had not yet learned the process for making gin rather than genever or the demand for gin had not yet increased so significantly that he determined producing it would yield greater revenues. Whatever his reasons, the advertisement made it clear that he did indeed distill genever rather than gin. He favorably compared his “Choice GENEVA” to “that brought from Holland” rather than any produced in London, noting that “This GENEVA is esteemed by good Judges, to be equal.” In his competition with transatlantic rivals, Armbruester assured local consumers that his product was not inferior to any genever they could import from the region where it had originally been distilled two centuries earlier.

March 24

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 24, 1767).

“SUNDRY houshold goods, plate, several dozen bottles of old arrack.”

Even though eighteenth-century America was built on drinks – the social and often political drink of tea and the economic production of rum – some colonists also enjoyed more expensive choices of drinks. The commodity that drew me to this advertisement was the “several dozen bottles of old arrack.” From the context, I gathered that it was some form of drink, most likely alcoholic. According to Chuck Hudson’s explanations of “Beverages in the Georgian Era,” Arrack is a form of alcohol from Indonesia which was distilled from sugarcane. It was first popular in London, and through Anglicization, it became popular in the colonies. This was the type of drink one would get if one “could afford better than the basic.” Since England wanted to control trade with the colonies, the Arrack was “shipped from the East Indies to England before it could be trans-shipped to America.” This also made it quite expensive.

This brings me back to the advertisement itself. The previous owner, the late Robert Hume, must have been a wealthy man with what was being sold. He had several bottles of Arrack, which was a feat in it of itself. This was also shown with how much land Mr. Hume seemed to own.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans who promoted new goods placed most advertisements for consumer goods featured on the Adverts 250 Project, yet early Americans acquired goods a variety of ways. In addition to imported items recently arrived on ships from London and other ports in the British Atlantic world, secondhand goods circulated widely in eighteenth-century America. Colonists willingly sold or passed on some of their possessions for a variety of reasons, but other goods reentered the marketplace via theft or estate sales.

In addition to “several dozen bottles of old arrack,” the executors of Robert Hume’s estate also advertised “SUNDRY houshold goods,” likely a more affordable option for some colonists than purchasing new wares from South Carolina’s merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans. Another advertisement in the same issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal announced an auction for “SOME HOUSHOLD FURNITURE, WEARING APPAREL, and sundry other Articles, lately belonging to a Person deceased.” Surely readers could find some bargains there as well!

Elsewhere in the same issue, Alexander Caddell announced that he had “STOPT from a Negro who offered them for sale, a pair of very good Buck-skin Breeches, almost new.” Caddell indicated that he ran a “breeches-maker’s shop in Broad-street.” Presumably the “Negro” approached Caddell with an opportunity to supplement his inventory, hoping that the breechesmaker would not much care about the origins of the breeches. Advertisements for runaway slaves and indentured servants often listed clothing they had taken with them, which could be used for disguises or sold or exchanged. On a fairly regular basis, shopkeepers placed notices indicating that thieves had stolen multiple items, not just a single article of clothing. Black and white colonists frequently colluded in what Serena Zabin has called the “informal economy” of stolen and secondhand goods.

John Davies advertised an assortment of textiles and other wares “Imported in the Minerva, from London” in the March 24 issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He informed potential customers of his inventory not only because he competed with other merchants and shopkeepers but also because colonists acquired some of their possessions through the market for secondhand goods.

February 27

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-27-2271767-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

“LONDON, New-York, and other MADEIRA WINE, by the Pipe, Hogshead, Quarter Cask, or Dozen.”

Colonial Americans drank alcoholic beverages all the time and at any time they wanted. According to Ed Crews, colonists commonly had a drink for breakfast, brunch, lunch, pre-dinner snacking, during supper, and right before bed. Colonists enjoyed drinking at social events, work, and, even during studies at colleges. In fact, Crews reports, in 1639 Nathaniel Eaton, the President at Harvard College at the time, “lost his job” when he did not provide enough beer for students and staff. Alcohol was a wonder drink believed to have many beneficial properties ranging from warming the body, making people stronger, aiding the sick, and generally causing people to have a good time.

Today’s notice advertised the sale of a variety of wines and spirits imported from across the Atlantic, including Madeira, Port, Burgundy, Claret, and Brandy, as well as Jamaican Rum from the Caribbean. Colonists had a variety of different drinks they preferred, including mixers called Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle, Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip, and just as many names for being drunk.

Wine, rum, and whiskey were favored drinks among the colonists, with rum being king amongst the common man. Elites imported wine, especially Jefferson who loved French wine and attempted to produce wine in America, a failed endeavor. George Washington, on the other hand, owned and operated a private whiskey distillery on his property at Mt. Vernon.

American colonists consumed a large variety of alcoholic beverages for various occasions and at times throughout the day, with wine, rum, and whiskey being especially favorite drinks.

For more on “Drinking in Colonial America,” see Ed Crews’ article on the Colonial Williamsburg website.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Cunningham and Sands, purveyors of all sorts of alcohol, emphasized quality and service in their advertisement. Whether customers purchased any of a dozen different varieties of wine or instead opted for rum from Jamaica and other locales in the West Indies, all were “warranted to be excellent in Quality.” This was possible because Cunningham and Sands took “the greatest Care” in choosing which wines and rum to import and sell, implying a certain level of expertise on their part. They also took great care in “the Management” of the wines they stocked, suggesting that they were shipped and stored under the best conditions in order to avoid any sort of contamination or turning. Cunningham and Sands implied that they knew wine as well as artisans knew their trades.

In terms of service, the partners offered several options to potential customers interested in obtaining their products. Consumers could visit Cunningham and Sands at one of two locations in Charleston, either “at their Counting-House fronting the Bay, on Mr. Burn’s new Wharf, or at their Store in Union-street.” Realizing that not all readers of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette – and prospective customers – resided in the Charleston or had easy access to either of their two locations, Cunningham and Sands also announced that “All Orders from the Country will be punctually complied with.” In effect, they offered mail order service! They apparently believed this convenience would attract customers. Not only did they include it in their advertisements, they also drew special attention to it by inserting it as a separate nota bene rather than including it in the paragraph of dense text that detailed the other aspects of quality and service they provided. (Whether Cunningham and Sands or the printer decided that the nota bene should be printed in italics is much more difficult to determine. Advertisers generally wrote their own copy and printers generally made decisions about layout, but occasionally advertisers exercised some influence over format.)

Sam notes that Americans consumed a fair amount of alcohol and enjoyed various sorts of wines and spirits. Today’s advertisement reveals some of the options available to them as well as part of the process involved in shopping for these items.

November 13

GUEST CURATOR: Mary Williams

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

nov-13-11131766-new-york-journal
Supplement to the New-York Journal (November 13, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD, By THOMAS DOUGHTY, IN DOCK-STREET: CHOICE old Madeira Wine.”

In this advertisement published in the New-York Journal, Thomas Doughty offered a lot of different beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, for sale in his shop on Dock Street. What caught my eye was that Madeira wine was the only drink listed with a description: “old.”

After researching the history of Madeira wine, I discovered that it was created specifically to withstand long travels overseas when it would be shipped to other countries. Steven Grasse, author of Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History, writes, “The idea – and what made Madeira so durable and, in turn, beloved by early Americans – is that the wine is essentially spoiled, professionally and on purpose.”[1] Madeira wine was advertised as being old, because that’s what it was known for: never going bad despite the passing of time.

Madeira wine was a favorite drink amongst colonists. Grasse writes that although Madeira was a more expensive item, it was still very popular in British North America. “Madeira wasn’t cheap. Common people wouldn’t have drunk it – or, at least, not often – but that didn’t stop it from becoming part and parcel of the story of the American Revolution.”[2] Grasse goes on to say that Madeira became a leading import during the Revolution.[3] Madeira was a favorite choice of colonists because it kept constant quality over long periods of time.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

In addition to “Madeira Wine,” Thomas Doughty sold “sundry other Articles of Grocery” imported from faraway places. To help potential customers navigate his advertisement he grouped similar items together: first alcoholic beverages, hot drinks (tea, coffee, and chocolate) next, then sugars followed by fruits and spices, and finally tobacco. That he listed alcohol first indicates which products he believed would attract readers’ attention and prompt them to peruse the rest of the goods he offered for sale.

Mary has examined the origins of Madeira, a wine that may be less familiar to modern readers than the rum, port, and wines Doughty hawked in his advertisement. He also sold another spirit that remains very popular today, Holland Geneva, though it is now commonly known as gin (which is a corruption of the word “Geneva”). Originally produced in Holland, gin almost immediately became one of the most popular drinks when it was introduced in England, especially after William and Mary assumed the throne. It had a reputation for being both inexpensive and strong.

Each of the alcoholic beverages in Doughty’s advertisement was either named after its place of origin (Madeira and Holland Geneva) or included a place in their description (“Lisbon Red Port,” “Tenriffe Wines,” “Jamaica Spirits,” and “West-India Rum”). Modern consumers certainly still identify their potent potables by their place of origin, but for colonists that was not merely a means of making distinctions of quality or reputation or other attributes. In addition, they also thought about the networks of trade and commerce that brought alcoholic beverages to British mainland North America from Portugal and its island outposts in the eastern Atlantic, the Netherlands, and the Caribbean. The range of alcohols and groceries items in Doughty’s advertisement demonstrates that colonists participated in transatlantic and global networks of trade during the eighteenth century.

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[1] Steven A. Grasse, Colonial Spirits: A Toast to our Drunken History (New York: Abrams, 2016), 74.

[2] Grasse, Colonial Spirits, 75.

[3] Grasse, Colonial Spirits, 75.

 

 

September 23

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

sep-23-9231766-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 23, 1766).

“Small Beer, Cyder and Perry.”

Today’s advertisement features a product that was common in the eighteenth century but has declined in popularity in the years since (though it seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence recently). The context made it apparent that “Perry” was a beverage, presumably containing alcohol, that some colonists might prefer instead of (or in addition to!) “small Beer and Cyder.” Beer and cider continue to be marketed to the masses and consumed widely in America. But what was this perry promoted in today’s advertisement?

I learned that perry is indeed an alcoholic beverage, made (as the name suggests) from pears, using a process similar to making cider from apples. Perry making became common in western England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but the beverage hit the high point of its popularity in the eighteenth century. Consumption of perry had spread to other parts of England following the English Civil War as the result of soldiers billeted in the Three Counties (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire) developing a taste for it. They may not have missed the fighting, but after being exposed to new food and drink during the conflict they incorporated that portion of their wartime experiences into their everyday lives. Perry also became more popular in England during the eighteenth century due to ongoing conflicts with France disrupting merchants’ ability to import wine from across the English Channel. Perry became a substitute. It comes as little surprise, then, that English colonists in Charleston and its hinterland imported and consumed perry along with small beer and cider.

In anticipation of writing today’s entry, I visited nearby Nashoba Valley Winery and Bolton Beer Works last Sunday to sample some perry, all in the name of research. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the drink was more subtle than I anticipated, the taste of pears apparent but not overwhelming. In the absence of reliable sources of potable water, I can understand why colonists saw perry as a welcome addition to the small beer and cider they consumed.

April 19

GUEST CURATOR:  Trevor Delp

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

Apr 19 - 4:18:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 18, 1766).

“Who has good white WINE by the Quarter Cask.”

The history of alcohol in colonial America is a long story of appreciation and sometimes conflict. Today I’m focusing on colonists’ appreciation of wine and other forms of alcohol.

According to Colonial Williamsburg, in 1770 “the colonies already had more than 140 rum distilleries, making about 4.8 million gallons annually.” Colonists’ dependence on alcohol was not necessarily due to alcoholism but due to poor water conditions. A dependence on beer and cider grew in Britain because crowded cities often did not have enough clean drinking water for all citizens, so they would resort to drinking beer and ciders. According to Melissa Swindell, “Alcohol-based drinks typically wouldn’t spread disease, and they had a much longer ‘shelf-life’ than non-alcoholic beverages.” This, combined with limited knowledge on the health effects of alcohol, made it the perfect hydration substitute to water.

The importance on alcohol consumption in colonial America also coincided with a lack of consistent clean drinking water. Colonial Williamsburg also reports that in 1768 “Virginians exported to Britain a little more than thirteen tons of wine while importing 396,580 gallons of rum from overseas, and another 78,264 from other North American colonies.” For every ton there are 264.48 gallons, so this means that while exporting thirteen tons (3,438.24 gallons) of wine the colonies were still importing far more rum than they were exporting wine.

Founders like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were not shy to indulge in alcohol consumption. According to Colonial Williamsburg once again, John Adams started his day with a glass of hard cider and Thomas Jefferson “imported fine libations from France.”

All of this suggests there was not the current stigma that alcohol was sinful or a moral failing. Cutter’s advertisement was not out of place, nor taboo, because it referenced alcohol, but merely a normal part of daily life.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

When Trevor “chose” this advertisement, I wasn’t certain what he might do with it, although I assumed he might choose one of the three commodities listed and offer a closer look at its role in colonial life and commerce. That was indeed the strategy he chose, demonstrating how a short reference to “good white WINE by the Quarter Cask” led him to learn about not only alcohol but also about public health conditions in Britain and America in the eighteenth century.

I say that Trevor “chose” (intentionally in quotation marks) this advertisement because he really had no choice at all. Regular visitors will remember that our methodology states that all featured advertisements must come from the most recently published newspaper exactly 250 years ago and advertisements cannot be featured more than once. Given those parameters, today’s advertisement had to come from the New-Hampshire Gazette. Compared to larger publications from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, only a handful of advertisements appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette. All of the other advertisements for consumer goods and services in this issue have already been featured previously, either by Trevor or, because advertisements often ran for several weeks, by previous guest curators. As a result, Trevor “chose” this advertisement. His work with it demonstrates that an advertisement need not be long or elaborate to help us learn about life in colonial America.

I appreciate that these circumstances presented another opportunity to reflect on the differences among colonial newspapers printed in the 1760s. To one extent or another, all of them included advertising (and even relied on advertising revenue to keep publishing), but the larger urban ports had newspapers overflowing with advertisements for consumer goods and services while such advertisements were not as prominent a feature in newspapers in smaller towns.