February 9

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

Feb 9 - 2:9:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 9, 1768).

“Greatful thanks for the encouragement he has had for eighteen years past in Charles-Town.”

Experience matters. That was the central theme James Lingard presented in his advertisement in the February 9, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. In the process of announcing that he had moved to a new location at the east end of Queen Street, Lingard expressed his appreciation to his former customers, noting that he had served the residents of Charleston for the past eighteen years. While merchants and shopkeepers occasionally referred to their years of experience in their attempts to entice customers, artisans most commonly made such appeals. Lingard, a blacksmith and farrier, continued a common practice among eighteenth-century artisans who placed newspaper advertisements.

Lingard enhanced his professional reputation by promoting his experience and expressing “his greatful thanks for the encouragement” he had received from those who had previously engaged his services. It would not have been possible for him to operate a shop in the busy port for nearly two decades had it not been for his skills in “the smiths and farriers business, in all its branches.” Still, it did not hurt to inform potential customers that he had honed those skills over the years and now possessed significant experience. For those who had resided in Charleston for quite some time, Lingard’s advertisement served as a reminder that he had been operating his shop for years. For newcomers to the city, however, Lingard seized an opportunity to inform them of his long history working with local customers.

Lingard likely attracted some of his business via word-of-mouth referrals built on his reputation. Turning to print could have been a strategy to prompt more referrals, presenting himself for consideration among members of “the public in general” who had not previously hired him but who might ask others if they had any experiences dealing with Lingard. In such situations, his appeals to skill and experience in his advertisement set the tone for conversations among customers.

January 14

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

Jan 14 - 1:14:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (January 14, 1768).

“He hath a medallion in clay … as a specimen of his abilities.”

In addition to marketing a “Neat assortment” of ceramics and hardware, Joseph Stansbury also used his advertisement in the January 14, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette to “acquaint the public, he is well versed in designing and executing any kind of ornaments in stucco, for cielings or walls of rooms, basto relievo’s, &c.” He offered his services as an artisan to colonists interested in sprucing up the interior architecture of their homes according to the prevailing styles and tastes.

Stansbury did not expect prospective clients merely to take him at his word that he was “well versed in designing and executing” those decorative elements. Instead, he presented an opportunity for them to examine a sample of his work and determine for themselves whether he possessed the level of skill he claimed. Interested parties could visit his shop on Market Street where “he hath a medallion in clay, of the present King of Poland, executed here from his coronation medal … which he will shew to the curious, as a specimen of his abilities.” This sample likely had some cachet among genteel colonists. According to Richard Butterwick, in 1764 the Polish king’s coronation medal had been “struck in England by Thomas Pingo, who had earlier struck the medal for George III’s coronation.”[1] As early as 1765 descriptions of the medal, supplemented by engraved images, circulated in magazines published in England and Ireland, which may have been Stansbury’s source for his clay specimen.[2]

Stansbury did not consider newspaper advertising alone sufficient to entice potential clients to commission his services. Advertisements acted as an opening salvo that informed colonists of the services he offered, but the specimen he displayed may have been the more powerful marketing tool. No matter how elaborate the description of his work he might publish, words could not compare to the opportunity to examine, by sight and by touch, a sample that demonstrated his abilities.

Jan 14 - Engraving
Detail of engraving of coronation medal for Stansilaw II from Gentleman’s and London Magazine (March 1765).


[1] Richard Butterwick, Poland’s Last King and English Culture: Stanislaw August Poniatowski, 1732-1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 221.

[2] Gentleman’s and London Magazine; or Monthly Chronologer (Dublin: John Exshaw, March 1765), 156 and leaf between 156 and 157.

December 5

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

Dec 5 - 12:5:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 5, 1767).

“All performed in the neatest and best manner.”

Blacksmiths Amos Atwell and Jonathan Ellis inserted an advertisement in the December 5, 1767, edition of the Providence Gazette to inform readers in “the Town and Country” that they had established a partnership and were “determined to carry on a large stroke of business.” Atwell and Ellis made a variety of items for use in the home, on the farm, in workshops, and aboard ships, including “broad and narrow axes, drawing knives, carpenters adzes, all sorts of coopers tools, farming tools, … kitchen utensils, and ships iron work of every kind.”

Shopkeepers in Providence and other colonial cities and towns frequently advertised a similar array of hardware, though they often indicated that they had imported their inventory from London and other English cities. In the face of assumptions that such goods might have been superior in quality to any produced locally, Atwell and Ellis concluded their advertisement with assurances that the items they sold had been made “in the neatest and best manner.” In so doing, they adopted a marketing strategy often deployed by colonial artisans. Advertisers of all sorts made appeals to the price and quality of their merchandise, but artisans – who produced the goods they sold – supplemented those common appeals with commentary about their own skill and expertise. Those attributes associated with individual artisans, not just the features of the goods they sold, played an important role in efforts to convince potential customers to purchase their wares.

Atwell and Ellis also promised to serve their patrons “with fidelity and dispatch,” but invoking those qualities fell into the realm of customer service rather than artisanal skill and expertise. Merchants and shopkeepers also played on personal characteristics of “fidelity and dispatch” when describing how they interacted with customers, but rarely did they express the sort of intrinsic responsibility for the quality of their merchandise that artisans made part of their testament to potential patrons.

April 11

GUEST CURATOR:  Kathryn J. Severance

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

Apr 11 - 4:11:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 11, 1766).

“Jam. & Mat. Haslet, Leather Dressers from Boston.”

This advertisement showcases the opening of a leatherwork “Factory” in Portsmouth that would sell leather products (wholesale to shop owners or retail to consumers) by James and Mathew Haslet, who were “Leather Dressers.” In colonial America, a leather dresser was a tradesman who spent the workday obtaining and then tanning various animal hides (this advertisement mentions deer and moose). These hides would be used to craft various items, including gloves and breeches, as the advertisement mentions. Other items that were crafted from leather mainly consisted of shoes, saddlebags, and belts. It should be noted that shoes were actually put together by tradesmen known as cobblers.

Many tradesmen who were leather dressers actually left England and migrated to the thirteen colonies to provide leather goods and leather dressing services to the inhabitants of the colonies. Unlike in colonial days, in today’s society, products made to imitate leather are actually more commonly found in American homes than are authentic leather products. Of course, imitation leather was not available to the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies, which meant that the toiling process and expertise associated with leather dressing made tradesmen with these skills a necessary part of society.

For more information on leather workers, especially in colonial Virginia, check out this research report from the Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library.



The Haslets mentioned gloves twice in their advertisement: “Buckskin and Sheepskin Gloves” and “The neatest Mode Gloves for Funerals.” In so doing, they suggest that the former were intended for everyday use but the latter were reserved for the rituals of mourning the dead.

What may not be apparent to modern readers was that “Gloves for Funerals” were intended for the living, not for the deceased. Although the practice declined after the Revolution, in colonial New England families distributed gloves to mourners who attended the funerals of their loved ones. For families from more humble backgrounds this usually meant giving away a handful (pun intended!) of gloves, but wealthier families sometimes distributed hundreds of pairs of gloves. This ritual occurred only occasionally at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but it became a common and expected part of funerals by the 1760s. Elite families distributed funeral gloves to acknowledge their relationships with each other, but also to demonstrate their commitment to the communities of which they were part.

Distributing funeral gloves became a status symbol by the end of the colonial period. It also became a competition and a form of conspicuous consumption that sometimes garnered criticism as an inappropriate expression of luxury. After the Revolution, large-scale glove-giving declined as elites and others forged new relationships as new rhetoric of egalitarianism emerged. Today, the practice of giving away funeral gloves to mourners is little more than a distant memory of our colonial past, not a standard part of our funeral rituals.

For a more extensive examination of funeral gloves, I recommend: Steven C. Bullock and Sheila McIntyre, “The Handsome Tokens of a Funeral: Glove-Giving and the Large Funeral in Eighteenth-Century New England,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 69, no. 2 (April 2012): 305-346.