March 31

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Mar 31 - 3:31:1766 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (March 31, 1766).

“Augustus Deley, … CONTINUES to carry on the Business of manufacturing TOBACCO.”

I find it interesting that this advertisement starts by stating that the advertiser “CONTINUES to carry on the Business of manufacturing TOBACCO, in all its Branches.” This makes me wonder if something happened to cast doubt in the minds of his customers about whether they would be able to continue purchasing their tobacco from him or not. This advertisement has the air of someone reassuring his customers that he was indeed still in business.

The fact that Deley mentioned that he needed sufficient notice from those wishing to purchase large quantities of tobacco makes me think that he was not a minor tobacconist. To have customers purchase large amounts of tobacco must have occurred often enough for him to specifically ask those who wished to purchase those amounts to let him know beforehand. It must have been inconvenient for him to have a customer come in and take most of his supply because afterward he would have to potentially turn other customers away while he waited for a new shipment.



Augustus Deley certainly wanted residents of Hartford and its hinterland to know that he continued to sell tobacco, that he was still in business, but his advertisement also alluded to a notice that he posted in the Connecticut Courant nearly three months earlier. Perhaps Deley had recently moved to Hartford and was settling in. After all, his earlier advertisement announced that he was a “Tobaconist (from New-York),” but he dropped that description in his updated advertisement. He may have become an increasingly familiar face in Hartford, but he likely wanted to let potential customers not yet aware of his shop or uncertain of its success that he did indeed “CONTINUE to carry on the Business of manufacturing TOBACCO.”

Among the various updates to his advertisement, Deley listed a location: “At the Sign of the Black Boy, Near the North Meeting-House in Hartford.” It was no coincidence that a tobacconist set up shop “At the Sign of the Black Boy.” After all, slaves provided the labor involved in cultivating tobacco in the Chesapeake colonies. Just as many trade cards or tobacco wrappers from the era featured images of enslaved men and women at work on plantations or interacting happily with white masters and overseers, Deley selected a shop sign that reduced a “Black Boy” to the colonial equivalent of a mascot or a brand to market his product.

January 7

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

Jan 7 - 1:6:1766 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (January 6, 1766)

“Augustus Deley, Tobaconist (from New York) … keeps constantly for Sale, ALL Sorts of TOBACCO.”

I suggested that yesterday’s advertisement for Yorkshire muffins (Yorkshire pudding) used words to evoke some of the smells of a colonial port city.  This advertisement does so as well.  It also prompts readers to imagine other goods that consumers needed to purchase or possess.  Just as sugar nippers were necessary for consuming the sugar loaves featured earlier this week, “Chewing, or Smoaking” tobacco required various accoutrements.

Daley notes he supplies “Hog-Tail, Pig-Tail, and Shagg in Papers.”  These wrappers were likely unadorned, marking a significant deviation from tobacco advertising on the other side of the Atlantic.  By the turn of the eighteenth century, as Catherine Molineux notes, “Tobacconists and other tradespeople began commissioning local artisans to engrave or etch trade cards, billheads, and what the British Museum characterizes as tobacco papers, or wrappers.” [1]  Although trade cards and billheads became increasingly common among other occupational groups in America as the eighteenth century progressed, either tobacconists did not provide wrappers that advertised their wares or such printed ephemera has not survived.

If you have encountered eighteenth-century tobacco wrappers distributed by American tobacconists, I would very much appreciate knowing about them!

An eighteenth-century tobacco advertisement from the collections of the British Museum, London.

[1] Catherine Molineux, “Pleasures of the Smoke:  ‘Black Virginians’ in Georgian London’s Tobacco Shops,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd. ser., 64, no. 2 (April 2007): 343.