July 26

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

Boston Evening-Post (July 26, 1773).

“Upon the whole, Justice and Equity, Law, Reason and Necessity urges me to draw the following Conclusion.”

A. Bowman defiantly advertised that he would sell a “Large Assortment of ENGLISH, SCOTCH and IRISH GOODS” at his “AUCTION-ROOM” on the “North Side of the Market” in Boston on August 6, 1773. He prefaced the details of the “PUBLIC VENDUE” with a lengthy address “To the PUBLIC” in the July 26 edition of the Boston Evening-Post, providing an overview of recent events involving the General Court and an Act for the Regulation and Limitation of Auctioneers.

Bowman explained that when the Court initially passed the act in February “Seven Persons officiated daily in that Business.”  However, “when the time came that this Act was to be in force, and the Select Men gave out Licences according to the Letter of the Law, Five were set aside.”  Bowman was among the auctioneers that did not receive a license, as he previously lamented in a series of advertisements in several newspapers published in Boston.  In May, those five auctioneers presented petitions to the Court in hopes that “we might be reinstated in our former Business.”  In turn, the Court exercised “Wisdom and Goodness” and passed a new act that permitted the selectmen to bestow six more licenses.  The intention of the Court, according to Bowman, had been to provide relief to the former auctioneers, but when the selectmen appointed six additional auctioneers Bowman learned that he was not among them.  “Cruel Fate!”

Bowman considered his options, “revolving and re-revolving the whole Matter in my Mind,” and decided to “go on with my Business in form as the Law directs,” though lacking a license.  In other words, he intended to obey every aspect of the law except for holding a license granted by the selectmen, asserting that it “is not my fault” and “no Reason has ever been assigned to me” why he did not receive a license.”  Bowman contented that “every Inhabitant of the Town of Boston” knew that the “additional Act was framed & enacted for the sole purpose of relieving me and my fellow Sufferers.”  He therefore upheld “the very Spirit of the Law” by resuming business as an auction, even if he did not adhere to the letter of the law.  He had been forced into that position when the selectmen neglected to act according to the intention of the legislature in passing the new act.

In addition, Bowman argued that he had a right to earn his livelihood, especially since the colony assessed taxes on him.  “Early after my Arrival in this Province,” he explained, “the Laws of it soon found me out and commanded me to contribute for their Support.”  He had paid his share “all along,” but a few weeks earlier “a large Demand was made upon me from that Quarter, and considering my hard Fate of late I was very unable to answer.”  To his chagrin, “this Creditor takes no denial, and tome made no Abatement.”  On the one hand, the law demanded that Bowman pay taxes, but, on the other, a law passed with the intention of allowing him to pursue his occupation instead prevented him from doing so.  Such injustice did not represent the “Genius of America.”

Instead, it demanded a response.  Bowman resolved to resume his business as an auctioneer, realizing that he risked prosecution “for a supposed Breach of a Law.”  In that case, he anticipated that a “Jury of my Peers” would hear his case and acknowledge what had actually happened.  He also encouraged the “Compassionate Legislative Body who have already exerted their Authority for my Relief” would once again address his predicament and “adhere to the same human Principles on which they founded the late Act.”

The community also had an opportunity to respond when Bowman once again “contend[ed] for my daily Bread” according to the “honour and fidelity with which I conducted my business in former times.”  With a flourish at the end of his lengthy account, Bowman declared that “Justice and Equity, Law, Reason and Necessity” prompted him to hold an auction at the end of the following week.  “A. BOWMAN, Auctioneer,” had no choice but to follow that path.  He knew it and so did the public, at least once he published an advertisement that framed the narrative to demonstrate how much he had been wronged throughout the entire ordeal.

June 13

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

Massachusetts Spy (June 10, 1773).

“(The particulars in Monday’s papers.)”

After opening the “New Auction-Room” in Boston in 1773, auctioneer William Greenleaf sometimes deployed a two-step strategy for promoting upcoming sales in the public prints.  Consider the notice that he placed in the Massachusetts Spyon Thursday, June 10.  Greenleaf advised readers that a “great variety of English GOODS” “Will be sold by PUBLIC VENDUE” on the following Tuesday.  Rather than publish a roster of those items, he encouraged colonizers to look for subsequent advertisements with “The particulars in Monday’s papers.”  That meant that readers had to consult newspapers other than the Massachusetts Spy.  All five newspapers published in Boston in 1773 were weeklies, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Massachusetts Spy appearing on Thursdays and the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy on Mondays.  The auction would be over by the time the printer published the next edition of the Massachusetts Spy.

Readers who turned to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy for “The particulars” on the following Monday did not encounter any additional information, but those who perused the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette did indeed discover a more complete preview of Greenleaf’s next auction.  In nearly identical advertisements, the auctioneer listed dozens of items, including “a fine Assortment of Chints, Callicoes and Printed Linens,” “a Number of Silver Watches,” and “a suit of Green Bed Curtains.”  The sale would begin “precisely at Ten o’clock” the next morning, so readers interested in bidding on any of the items needed to arrive in time that they did not miss that part of the sale.  Those advertisements likely contained information that had not yet been finalized the previous Thursday, yet given that Greenleaf competed with several other auctioneers in Boston he wished to generate some level of visibility for his next vendue, especially since those other auctioneers regularly advertised in multiple newspapers as well.  As advertisements placed by merchants and shopkeepers came and went in the public prints, notices from auctioneers, updated weekly, remained a constant feature in the city’s many newspapers.  In this instance, Greenleaf oversaw an advertising campaign that he updated more than once a week, coordinating with multiple printing offices.

April 11

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (April 8, 1773).

“He will open a Place for Sale of Goods to be known by the Name of The Silent Auction-Room.”

When he established the “Silent Auction-Room” in Boston in the spring of 1773, A. Bowman did not even pretend politeness toward his competitors in his advertisements.  In a notice that he placed in the April 8 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, he mocked the advertisements placed by three of his competitors.  All three advertisements appeared in that issue, making for easy reference for readers, though Bowman previously encountered them in other newspapers.

The auctioneer stated that he would “receive and sell all Sorts of Merchandise, House-Furniture,” and other goods.  However, “‘Houses, Lands and Shipping,’ he does not pretend to sell,” he snidely comments, “because he is apprehensive it would be very difficult to get them up Stairs.”  Bowman quoted directly from William Greenleaf’s advertisement.  His rival stated, “In the Sale of Houses, Lands, Shipping, Merchandize, Household Furniture, &c. &c. my Employers may depend on my exerting myself for their Interest.”

The cantankerous auctioneer then declared that “Goods from ‘Servants and Minors’ will be received if they are properly authorized to deliver them.”  In this instance, he taunted Martin Bicker, a broker who handled “all sorts of English and Scotch Goods [and] Household Furniture … to as good Advantage as can be done at any Auction whatever.”  Bicker proclaimed that “the Public may rest assured, that no Goods will be received by him of any Servants or Minors.”  Bowman established a different policy for his “Silent Auction-Room.”  He took another jab at Bicker when he asserted that “His ‘Books’ shall be kept in good Order, so that it gives him no Concern whether they are ‘liable to Inspection,’ or not.”  Before noting that he did not accept goods from servants or minors, presumably to avoid peddling stolen items, Bicker confided that “his Books are not liable to Inspection.”  Bowman treated such lack of transparency with skepticism.

The final portion of Bowman’s advertisement, a short poem, most directly addressed the source of his anger and frustration.  Joseph Russell, the proprietor of an auction room on Queen Street, previously published an advertisement that concluded with a poem that promoted his own business and mocked the demise of Bowman’s auction house.  In addition to the poem, Russell announced that he “received a License from the Gentlemen Select-Men, to be an Auctioneer for the Town of Boston, conformable to the late Act for that Purpose.”  Similarly, Greenleaf trumpeted that the “Gentlemen Select-Men … approbated me to officiate as one of the Vendue-Masters [or auctioneers] for this Town.”  Bicker carefully described himself as a broker and made clear to prospective clients that his services rivaled those offered by auctioneers.

Boston Evening-Post (March 29, 1773).

Bowman apparently did not receive a license.  In advertisements in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette on March 22 and in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on March 25, he referred to his business as “BOWMAN’s Dying Auction-Room.”  His advertisement in the March 29 edition of the Boston Evening-Post featured a thick black border, a symbol of death and mourning in early American print culture.  Bowman lamented that his auction room “is soon to be sacrificed for the Good of the Province” and that he will be legally dead, (the taking away a Man’s Bread or his Life being synonymous) before another News-Paper comes out.”  That advertisement appeared in the Boston-Gazette on the same day, though without the mourning border that clearly indicated how Bowman felt about the situation.  That explains why Bowman described himself as the “late Auctioneer” at the “Dead Auction-Room” in his advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on April 8.  That he proposed opening a “Silent Auction-Room” suggests he identified some sort of loophole to defy the licensing act, perhaps as a broker rather than an auctioneer.  In subsequent advertisements, he noted that he sold goods on commission.

Russell observed Bowman’s commentary in his advertisements, prompting him to allude to it in the poem he included in his own notice: “While some this Stage of Action quit, / And Dying advertise; / For Cash the Buyers here may meet / With constant fresh Supplies.”  Not done with his own editorializing about his competitor, Russell added another stanza: “For Favors past, due Thanks return’d; / New Bargains, cheap and dear, / At the Old Place may still be found / J. RUSSELL, Auctioneer.”  Russell pointedly declared that his business continued at a location familiar to residents of Boston.

In response, Bowman published his own poem at the end of his advertisement.  “A License granted! pray for what? / To show their Parts in Rhyme; / But hear the Tale the Dead will rise, / And that in proper Time.”  Bowman did not think much of Russell’s poetry nor his abilities as an auctioneer.  At the same time, he pledged to revive his business, a footnote indicating that the public could anticipate that happening “When the expected Ships discharge their Cargoes.” Bowman critiqued the licensing act in a final stanza: “Fair LIBERTY thou Idol great, / How narrow is thy Sphere! / Ye Men of Sense say where she dwells, / For sure she reigns not here.”  As colonizers in Boston debated the extent that Parliament infringed on their liberties, Bowman asserted that the new act, a local ordinance, curtailed liberty in the city.

By and large, auctioneers and other advertisers usually ignored their competitors.  The angry and defiant Bowman, however, did not do so.  Instead, he mocked several of the auctioneers and brokers who advertised in Boston’s newspapers, parroting their notices when he taunted them.  He also continued to protest the new licensing act that caused him to close his auction room.  In addition to promoting his next endeavor, the “Silent Auction-Room,” he used advertisements as a means of disseminating his commentary on the state of affairs in Boston.

July 16

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (July 16, 1772).

“Printed Catalogues may be had at the Auction-Room.”

In the summer of 1772, Joseph Russell, the proprietor of the “Auction-Room in Queen street” in Boston,” advertised a sale of a “very Large and Valuable Collection of BOOKS, in almost every Branch of polite Literature” scheduled for July 17.  In anticipation of the auction, he offered “Printed Catalogues” for customers to peruse and mark.  Some historians of the book have suggested that many catalogs mentioned in newspaper advertisements never existed.  Some booksellers and auctioneers may have promised catalogs as a means of increasing foot traffic, achieving their goal whether or not they passed out any catalogs to anyone who visited their shops or auction halls.  Others may have had the best intentions of supplying catalogs, but lack of time or lack of resources worked against them.

Revisions to Russell’s advertisement as the day of the auction approached suggest that he did indeed distribute catalogs.  In an advertisement in the July 6 edition of the Boston-Evening Post July 9 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Russell informed the public that “Printed Catalogues may be had at the Auction-Room in Queen-street, the Monday preceding the Time of Sale.”  On Monday, July 13, the Boston Evening-Post ran the same advertisement again, but a new advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy stated that “Printed Catalogues may be had at the Auction-Room in Queen-street.”  A few days later, the advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter featured some new copy.  Instead of opening with “On Friday 17th July,” the new headline proclaimed “TO-MORROW.”  Russell also removed reference to “the Monday preceding the Time of Sale,” asserting that “Printed Catalogues may be had at the Auction-Room in Queen-street.”  That brought his advertisement in line with the one recently placed in the Massachusetts Gazette and Post-Boy.  Even though Russell neglected to update the advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post, he altered the notice in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, suggesting that he sought to bring it into conformity with new developments.

February 14

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

Pennsylvania Journal (February 14, 1771).


Unlike the vast majority of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements composed primarily of text, a visual image dominated the notice that Hart and Patterson placed in the February 14, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal to announce that they “opened a VENDUE-STORE, in Front-street, below the Draw-bridge.”  The partners pledged that “ALL those who please to favour them with their custom, may depend on their best endeavours to render satisfaction,” but a woodcut depicting a hand holding a bell enclosed in a frame occupied far more space than the copy of the advertisement.  With the exception of the masthead, Hart and Patterson’s notice featured the only visual image in that edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  Both its size and its uniqueness surely demanded attention from readers.

When images did accompany newspaper advertisements, they were usually a fraction of the size of Hart and Patterson’s woodcut.  They tended to depict ships at sea, houses, horses, and enslaved people, a small number of standard images that could adorn any relevant advertisement.  Printers provided those woodcuts for advertisers interested in including them in their notices.  For other images, those associated with specific businesses, advertisers commissioned woodcuts that then belonged to them.  Such woodcuts often replicated shop signs or represented some aspect of the business featured in the advertisement.  For Hart and Patterson, the hand and bell suggested that they vigorously called attention to the items available for sale and auction after their “VENDUE-STORE.”

The previous publication history of that woodcut makes clear that it belonged to the advertisers rather than printers of the Pennsylvania Journal.  A year earlier, Hart included it in an advertisement he placed in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on January 8, 1770.  Irregularities in the border, perhaps due to damage sustained from making so many impressions on a hand-operated press, demonstrate that the same woodcut appeared in both newspapers.  Hart originally provided it to William Goddard and Benjamin Towne, the printers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but later reclaimed it.  After Hart formed a new partnership with Patterson, the auctioneers supplied William Bradford and Thomas Bradford with the woodcut when they submitted their advertising copy to the Pennsylvania Journal.

A year after first including the woodcut in an advertisement, Hart aimed to achieve a greater return on the investment he made in commissioning it.  He used the image of the hand and bell once again when he launched a new advertising campaign after embarking on a new enterprise with a new partner.  That the woodcut ran in a different newspaper than the one that first published it demonstrates that advertisers, not printers, usually owned any specialized images that appeared in eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements.

November 12

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 12, 1770).

“Two valuable negro men, and a negro wench with a female child.”

Auctioneers Thomas William Moore and Company regularly advertised in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, advising prospective bidders of a constantly changing array of new and secondhand goods for sale at their “AUCTION-ROOM.”  On November 12, 1770, for instance, they ran advertisement announcing that the next day they would continue “the sale of a large parcel of dry goods” that included textiles, ribbons and trimmings, “printed handkerchiefs,” and “ladies gloves.”  They also had “a quantity of ironmongery” that included “scythes, frying pans, [and] wool cards” for the highest bidder.

In addition to the sales at their Auction Room, Moore and Company also sponsored other sales “On the Bridge, At the Coffee-House,” a popular meeting place for transacting business.  The auctioneers advised that a “large parcel of genteel furniture” would be sold the same day that their advertisement ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  In addition, “two valuable negro men, and a negro wench with a female child” would go on the auction block the following day.  The notice did not elaborate on the men and child, but did state that the woman was “honest, sober and good tempered.”

Enslaved people comprised a significant portion of the population of New York City during the era of the American Revolution.  Advertisements offering enslaved men, women, and children for sale as well as notices offering rewards for capturing enslaved people who liberated themselves from those who held them in bondage frequently appeared in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and other newspapers published in the busy urban port.  Some advertisements focused on enslaved people exclusively, such as a notice offering a “LIKELY young NEGRO MAN” for sale in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy on the same day that Moore and Company ran their auction notice.  Other advertisements, like the one placed by the auctioneers, embedded the sale of enslaved people among other aspects of daily life, like buying clothing and housewares.  At a glance, it was not immediately apparent that Moore and Company’s advertisement was part of the infrastructure of the slave trade.  That only became apparent on closer inspection, but offering two Black men, a Black woman, and a Black girl for sale would not have surprised newspaper readers.  Casually inserting enslaved people among goods for sale was both insidious and ubiquitous, even in newspaper advertisements published in northern colonies.  The consumer revolution of “printed handkerchiefs” and “ladies gloves” operated in tandem with the transatlantic slave trade and the maintenance of a system of exploitation in eighteenth-century America.

July 24

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

Jul 24 - 7:24:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (July 24, 1770).

“An Exhibition of modern Books, by AUCTION.”

Robert Bell, one of the most influential booksellers and auctioneers in eighteenth-century America, toured New England in the summer of 1770.  Bell is widely recognized among historians of the book for his innovative marketing practices.  The tone and language in his advertisement in the July 7, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette, however, seems rather bland compared to the flashy approach that eventually became the hallmark of Bell’s efforts to promote his books and auctions.  On the other hand, another advertisement in the Essex Gazette just a few weeks later hinted at the showmanship that Bell was in the process of developing and refining.

In announcing auctions that would take place at a tavern in Salem on three consecutive nights, Bell addressed prospective bidders as “the Lovers of literary Instruction, Entertainment, and Amusement.”  Deploying such salutations eventually became a trademark of his newspaper advertisements, broadsides, and book catalogs.  The advertisement in the Essex Gazette gave customers a glimpse of the personality they would encounter at the auction.  Bell described each auction as “an Exhibition of modern Books” and proclaimed that one each evening “there will really exist an Opportunity of purchasing Books cheap.”  He seemed to take readers into his confidence, offering assurances that the prospect of inexpensive books was more than just bluster to lure them to the auction.

In the same advertisement, Bell sought to incite interest in another trilogy of auctions.  “An Opportunity similar to the above,” he declared, “will revolve at the Town of NEWBURY-PORT.”  Readers of the Essex Gazette who could not attend any of the book auctions in Salem had another chance to get good bargains while mingling with other “Lovers of literary Instruction, Entertainment, and Amusement.”  Like other itinerants who announced their visits in the public prints, whether peddlers or performers, Bell made clear that he would be in town for a limited time only.  He advised that “the Public may be certain that the Auctionier’s Stay in those Towns will not exceed the Time limited as above.”  Bell would be in Salem for just three nights and then in Newburyport for three more nights before moving along to his next destination.

Compared to his recent notice in the Providence Gazette, the advertisement Bell placed in the Essex Gazette much more resembled the style of promotion that made him famous in the eighteenth century and infamous in the history of the book.  His lively language suggested that his auctions would be more than the usual sort of sale.  They would be events that readers would not want to miss.

July 7

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

Jul 7 - 7:7:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 7, 1770).


Historians of the book have long credited Robert Bell as one of the most innovative, industrious, and successful booksellers in eighteenth-century America.  His auctions achieved great success, due in part to the larger-than-life personality he cultivated and in part to the marketing strategies he developed.  Carl Bridenbaugh asserts that Bell “institutionalized the colonial book auction, and more than any one else in [the era of the American Revolution] laid the solid foundations for book publishing in America.”[1]

At the time that he ran his advertisement for “An OLD LOOKING-GLASS For the LAITY and CLERGY Of all Denominations” in the Providence Gazette in the summer of 1770, he had only recently arrived in the colonies.  James N. Green explains that Bell, “a Scot who reached Philadelphia in 1768 after a career as a reprinter of English properties in Ireland, was the first American bookseller to reprint systematically new and popular British books in direct competition with imports.”[2]  This distinguished him from other booksellers who sold primarily imported books rather than taking on the risk and expense of publishing and selling American editions.  In 1770, Bell circulated a subscription proposal for Blackstone’s Commentaries.  Upon acquiring sufficient subscribers, he published an American edition in 1771 and 1772.  Green echoes Bridenbaugh, describing Bell as an “innovative and dynamic” promoter of printed wares who provided “a model of what the book culture of an independent country might be like, and he foreshadowed the transformation of the book trade in the postwar years.”[3]

Yet Bell sometimes resorted to traditional means of advertising books, especially near the beginning of his career in America.  Bell’s advertisement in the Providence Gazette was muted compared to others.  Some of his subsequent newspaper advertisements addressed readers and prospective customers as “Sons of Science,” “Sentimentalists of America,” and “The Lovers of literary entertainment, amusement and instruction.”[4]  By 1780, Bell devised advertisements that hawked his own personality in addition to describing the community of readers, including in a broadsheet in which he described himself as “Bookseller, Provedore to the Sentimentalists, and Professor of BOOK-AUCTIONEERING in America.”  According to Green, “Before Bell, book advertisements consisted of nothing more than a transcription of their titles; no one had ever used language to sell books in this way.”[5]  The length of Bell’s advertisement in the Providence Gazette, however, set it apart from others in the same issue, but the language did not distinguish it from other advertisements for books from the period.  The personality associated with his bookselling and auctioneering enterprise was still a work in progress.


[1] Carl Bridenbaugh, “The Press and the Book in Eighteenth Century Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 65, no. 1 (January 1941): 16.

[2] James N. Green, “The Rise of Book Publishing,” in Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, eds., An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790-1840, vol. 2, A History of the Book in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 77.

[3] Green, “Rise of Book Publishing,” 77.

[4] Bridenbaugh, “Press and the Book,” 15.

[5] James N. Green, “English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin,” in Hugh Amory and David D. Hall, eds., The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World, vol. 1, A History of the Book in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press with the American Antiquarian Society, 2007), 285.

July 2

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

Jul 2 - 7:7:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 2, 1770).

Catalogues may be had the day of viewing at the place of sale.”

On Monday, July 2, 1770, John Taylor ran an advertisement that announced an auction scheduled for the following Thursday.  He advised readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that the items up for bid included “houshold furniture, china, glass, and jewellery ware, silver watches, some copper, tea, and kitchen furniture.”  He concluded the list with “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera), an indication of even more items than the newspaper advertisement could contain.

Prospective bidders did not, however, need to consult the newspaper advertisement for a complete listing of the items offered for sale.  Taylor announced that “Catalogues may be had the day of viewing at the place of sale.”  Auctioneers and booksellers both made frequent reference to catalogs in their advertisements, though relatively few of those eighteenth-century auction catalogs or book catalogs survive.  Some historians suspect that many of those catalogs never existed; it is impossible to know for certain.  The mere promise of a catalog may have helped to convince some readers to visit Taylor’s auction house.  Taylor scheduled an advance viewing of the goods as a means of priming interest, but handing out catalogs encouraged viewers to continue engaging with items of potential interest after departing the auction house.  Upon examining the items for sale, prospective bidders did not have to rely on memory alone as they contemplated which actions they would take.  A catalog also provided additional details that prospective bidders could further enhance with their own notes.

Like other auctioneers, Taylor almost certainly realized that anticipation was an integral component of a successful auction.  Prospective bidders envisioned acquiring goods before they had an opportunity to purchase them.  They could imagine bargains if others did not bid on the items they wanted, but they could also imagine steadily increasing their bids if they encountered competition.  Either way, prospective bidders made some sort of commitment before the auction began.  By providing catalogs, Taylor facilitated these acts of imagination, increasing the likelihood that prospective bidders put them into action at the auction.

February 26

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

Feb 26 - 2:26:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 26, 1770).

Advertisement to the Ladies.”

Like other auctioneers and vendue masters, Moore, Lynsen, and Company used newspaper advertisements to alert prospective bidders to upcoming sales.  In an advertisement that appeared in the February 26, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, they noted upcoming auctions of Irish linens, gloves, and sugar.  Moore, Lynsen, and Company also indicated that they handled a portion of the estate of “his late Excellency Sir HENRY MOORE, Baronet,” the royal governor of New York who had passed away the previous September.  Among the items for the Moore estate, the auctioneers advertised “Genuine old Madeira WINE of the first quality” and “A COACH, CARRIAGE, HORSES, AND SADDLERY.”  Those items were slated for sale the following day.

Rather than conducting a single estate sale, Moore, Lynsen, and Company scheduled a second auction, that one to be begin more than a week later on March 6 and “continue every morning” until everything was sold.  For that “great auction,” the vendue masters inserted a special “Advertisement to the Ladies.”  They called attention to the “great variety of the genteelest furniture, made by the first workmen,—all new, and in the best order” as well as “PLATE, CHINA, &c. &c.”  The double “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) promised a vast assortment of goods.  In addressing “the Ladies” in particular, Moore, Lynsen, and Company made a relatively rare appeal.  Editorials that appeared in other parts of eighteenth-century newspapers frequently accused women of becoming too enamored of the consumer revolution, asserting that female consumers surrendered to the vice of luxury.  Yet purveyors of goods and services rarely targeted women exclusively when they marketed the “genteelest” merchandise.  Eighteenth-century advertisements suggest that despite the rhetoric of gendered consumption that circulated widely, those who sold goods pursued customers of both sexes and anticipated that men were as likely as women to make purchases.  Moore, Lynsen, and Company were relatively unique in their assertion that “the Ladies” would be most interested in the “genteelest” wares that they put up for bid.