June 25

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

Jun 25 - 6:23:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 25, 1769).

“He hereby offers, and assures a FREE PARDON.”

In late May 1769 Major General Alexander Mackay issued a pardon to “Soldiers who have deserted from His Majesty’s Troops quartered” in Boston, provided that they returned and surrendered by the last day of June. It was not, however, a blanket pardon; Mackay did exclude nearly twenty deserters who had committed other crimes. Instead of the promise of a pardon, he offered a reward for “apprehending and securing them in any of the public Goals [jails].” To get the word out about the pardons (and the rewards for the excluded soldiers), Mackay had one of his officers, “C. FORDYCE, Major of the Brigade,” insert notices in the public prints.

Dated May 23, the notice first appeared in the Boston Chronicle and the Boston Weekly News-Letter (published on the same broadsheet and distributed with Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette) on May 25. Within a week, the same notice ran in all of the newspapers published in Boston, appearing in the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy (published in the same broadsheet and distributed with Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette) at the first opportunity on May 29.

Over the next several weeks, publication of the notice concerning Mackay’s pardon radiated out from Boston. It next appeared in the Essex Gazette on May 30 and then the New-Hampshire Gazette and the New-London Gazette on June 2. The notice soon found its way into both newspapers published in Rhode Island, running in the Providence Gazette on June 3 and in the Newport Mercury on June 5. A week later, the same notice appeared in Hartford’s Connecticut Courant. With the exception of the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven, the notice about the pardon ran in every newspaper in New England. (Copies of the Connecticut Journal for June 9 and 23 were not available for consultation. The notice may have appeared in one or both of those issues of the newspaper published at the furthest distance from Boston.)

At the same time that more newspapers featured the notice, most continued to include it in subsequent editions. It ran in every issue of the Boston Chronicle, the Boston-Gazette, the Boston Weekly News-Letter, the Connecticut Courant, the Essex Gazette, the New-London Gazette, the Newport Mercury, and the Providence Gazette from the time of first insertion through the end of June. It appeared in most issues of the Boston Post-Boy and the New-Hampshire Gazette, though it quickly disappeared from the Boston Evening-Post after only two insertions. In total, the notice ran at least fifty-one times in at least eleven newspapers published in New England over the course of five weeks. It made sense to print the notice far and wide considering that deserters were likely to leave Boston to evade capture.

Although information about the pardon could have been considered news, in each instance the notice appeared among the advertisements in every newspaper that carried it. Purveyors of consumer goods and services sometimes published advertisements in multiple newspapers in their city, but a coordinated advertising campaign of this magnitude was extraordinary in 1769. Members of the book trade sometimes inserted subscription notices among the advertisements in as many newspapers as possible, but even their efforts did not usually match the campaign created by Fordyce. He harnessed the power of the press to spread news of the pardons throughout New England, depending on both distribution networks and subsequent word of mouth to inform deserters that they would receive forgiveness if they only returned to their posts.

June 15

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

Jun 15 - 6:15:1769 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (June 15, 1769).

Half a Dollar per Dozen, it being the lowest that I can get them to yet.”

Two advertisers offered lemons for sale in the June 15, 1769, edition of the Boston Weekly News-Letter. One advertisement simply stated: “JUST IMPORTED, and to be Sold by Jonathan Snelling, At his Store on Treat’s Wharf, A few Boxes of choice Lisbon Lemons.” The other advertisement was more elaborate. Opening with a headline that proclaimed “Fresh Lisbon LEMMONS,” John Crosby then went into detail about the low prices that he managed to finagle for his customers in Boston and its environs.

Even before publishing this advertisement, Crosby was familiar in the local marketplace. He advertised frequently, not only in the Boston Weekly News-Letter (co-published with Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette) but also in the Boston Chronicle, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy (co-published with Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette). Usually short, his advertisements always advised potential customers to seek him out “At the Basket of Lemmons” (his preferred spelling) in the South End. Between his easily recognizable shop sign and regularly placing advertisements in multiple newspapers, Crosby made sure that residents of the busy port were aware of his citrus venture.

Yet he further enhanced the visibility of his business by emphasizing the prices of his fruit. Shopkeepers and other purveyors of goods infrequently listed prices in their advertisements in the 1760s, making it all the more notable that Crosby set the price for lemons at “Half a Dollar per Dozen.” Underscoring that this was a particular bargain, he informed readers that was “the lowest I can get them to yet.” He also had “Very good China Oranges at 24 Shillings per Dozen.” This was not the extent of his attention to prices. He also pledged to continue inserting “a Weekly Account in this Paper as usual, of the lowest Price I can Sell [lemons] for.” His marketing strategy depended not only on constantly presenting his name and the “Basket of Lemmons” to potential customers but also providing regular updates about prices so consumers could assess deals and bargains for themselves.

Comparing the advertisements for lemons placed by Snelling and Crosby demonstrates that not all eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements for consumer goods were alike. While it might be tempting to dismiss them as mere announcements, their variations testify to the efforts advertisers made to incite demand and the innovations they adopted to distinguish their businesses from their competitors. Although brief, Snelling’s advertisement did make appeals to freshness and quality, noting that his “choice” lemons had been “JUST IMPORTED.” Crosby much more elaborately leveraged price as he endeavored to sell his lemons. He achieved impressive visibility for his business with his weekly account of prices in his advertisements.

June 8

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

Jun 8 - 6:8:1769 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (June 8, 1769).

“He will take second-hand Chaises in Pay for new.”

Adino Paddock offered several methods for consumers to acquire carriages of very sorts when he advertised in the Boston Weekly News-Letter in June 1769. In an advertisement that ran along the outer margin of the second page of the June 8 edition, the coachmaker proclaimed that he “has to sell a second-hand Post-Chaise, a very light Phaeton, and a Variety of Chaises, some of them genteel, and very little wore.” To facilitate purchases, he suggested that he “will take second-hand Chaises in part pay for new.” He also noted that he carried “Wilton Carpeting for Chaises.” In a rather brief advertisement, this eighteenth-century coachmaker invoked several marketing strategies that became common practices for the automobile industry in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

First, Paddock offered several models to meet the diverse needs, tastes, and budgets of prospective customers: a post-chaise, a phaeton, and a “variety” of chaises. He also realized that some buyers might not have the means to afford a new carriage but would be willing to purchase a used one, provided that it was in good condition. The “second-hand Post-Chaise” was the eighteenth-century equivalent of a used car. Yet “second-hand” did not have to mean inferior. Paddock stressed that his used carriages “were very little wore,” their quality and durability hardly reduced by having been driven by previous owners. In addition, they some of them were quite fashionable or “genteel.” To aid buyers who aimed to purchase new carriages, Paddock encouraged trade-ins, not unlike the modern automobile industry. In response to his offer to “take second-hand Chaises in part Pay for new,” prospective customers could expect to negotiate for the value of their used carriages that would be applied to the purchase price of new ones. Finally, Paddock acknowledged the benefits of a comfortable and luxurious interior, stressing that he installed “Wilton Carpeting for Chaises.” A carriage was not merely a means of transportation but also a status symbol that incorporated various accessories that contributed to both appearances and comfort.

More than a century before anyone even conceived of producing and selling automobiles, coachmaker Adino Paddock deployed marketing strategies for selling carriages that eventually became staples of the modern automobile industry. An array of models, used carriages, trade-ins, and accessories all played a role in selling vehicles for personal transportation in the eighteenth century, just as they would continue to do when invention and technology made more advanced products available to consumers in subsequent centuries.

June 1

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

Jun 1 - 6:1:1769 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (June 1, 1769).

North American Manufactures.”

In the late 1760s, shopkeeper John Gore, Jr., became familiar to readers of several of Boston’s newspapers thanks to the steady series of advertisements he ran to promote the goods he sold at “Opposite LIBERTY TREE, BOSTON.” Gore adopted the famous symbol to mark the location of his shop at the time of the Stamp Act crisis, as did several other advertisers. Gore, however, consistently incorporated the Liberty Tree into his advertisements long after Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in response to various resistance efforts mobilized by the colonists. He could have given other sorts of directions, as was the custom for other advertisers. Caleb Blanchard, for instance, noted that his shop was located “In Union-Street.” Joshua Blanchard stated that his “Wine Cellar” was in “Dock-square, Near the Market.” Oliver Greenleaf directed prospective customers to his shop at “the Corner of Winter-Street (Opposite Seven-Star Lane).” Gore could have incorporated street names or other landmarks into his advertisement, but “Opposite LIBERTY TREE” apparently provided sufficient information while also associating his business with political principles that resonated with many consumers.

Often Gore invoked the Liberty Tree and allowed it to stand alone when it came to political discourse in his advertisements, but in early June 1769 he began pairing the popular icon with “North American Manufactures.” In so doing, he indicated to prospective customers that he heeded the calls to encourage greater self-sufficiency within the colonies through the production of more goods locally as a means of addressing a trade imbalance with Britain. Such plans had the additional benefit of avoiding the duties placed on certain imported goods by the Townshend Acts. In his advertisement he also noted that he had on hand “a genteel Assortment of ENGLISH GOODS.” For as long as Boston’s merchants and others had been promoting “domestic manufactures” as well as enforcing a nonimportation agreement, Gore had continued to advertise English goods (apparently imported before the agreement went into effect) in notices that boldly proclaimed his proximity to the Liberty Tree. Only in the late spring of 1760 did he seek to exchange “Mens and Womens Ware manufactured in New-England” for imported English goods. That offer usually appeared as a nota bene at the conclusion of his advertisements. His notice in the June 1, 1769, edition of the Boston Weekly News-Letter was his first that made “North American Manufactures” the focal point for attracting prospective customers. Although he consistently included the Liberty Tree into his advertisements, his understanding of how to most effectively incorporate politics into his marketing efforts slowly evolved. He more explicitly linked his wares to political discourse over time, especially in the wake of news articles that reported on whether merchants and shopkeepers adhered to the nonimportation agreements. The changing emphasis in his advertisements accompanied other advertisers becoming increasingly explicit in their own invocations of the politics associated with purchasing the goods they provided. Advertisers learned from each other as they experimented with mobilizing politics as a means of making sales as the nonimportation agreement continued to have an impact on their inventories.

May 11

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

May 11 - 5:11:1769 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (May 11, 1769)

“Lately imported … before the Resolution of the Merchants for Non-Importation took Place.”

Erasmus Williams’s advertisement for “A large Assortment of all kind of Linnen Drapery” looked much the same as so many other advertisements placed in the Boston Weekly News-Letter and other newspapers by merchants and shopkeepers seeking to sell a variety of imported textiles. Nearly half of the advertisement consisted of a lost of the fabrics included among Williams’s merchandise at the Sign of the Blue Glove, from “Cambricks” to “printed Linens” to “flower’d & plain Lawns.”

Yet Williams included a curious preamble with his advertisement: “Lately imported from London, but last from New-York, and before the Resolution of the Merchants for Non-Importation took Place.” Like others who promoted their wares in the public prints, Williams noted the origins of his textiles. Usually asserting a connection to London worked to the advantage of advertisers, but that was not necessarily the case in 1769. In defiance of the taxes levied on paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea by the Townshend Acts, “Merchants & Traders in the town of BOSTON” and other places participated in boycotts of most English goods. A week before Williams’s advertisement ran in the Boston Weekly News-Letter, Richard Draper inserted an overview of such agreements in the Massachusetts Gazette. Draper reprinted the original resolutions adopted by merchants the previous August. In addition, he published a report that assessed to what extent those merchants had abided by the agreement not to import “any Kind of Goods or Merchandize from Great Britain.” This report found that only six out of 211 signers had imported such goods, but acknowledged that they had done so “through Inattention” and did not “countermand their Orders.” All six “readily and of their own Motion” agreed to surrender their goods to the committee of merchants overseeing the boycott. For the most part, even those “Merchants & Traders” who had not signed the agreement had adhered to it anyway. Only six or seven people continued to import goods from Great Britain “as usual.” Of equal concern, “It likewise appeared that a Quantity of Goods had been imported from New-York” since the nonimportation agreement went into effect, a strategy that might have allowed local merchants to sidestep the boycott. That being the case, those merchants who did abide by the terms of boycott determined that “the Articles of their Agreement should be printed in the Public Papers” as a reminder to merchants, shopkeepers, and consumers alike.

Two weeks before that report appeared in Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette, Williams commenced publishing his advertisement, complete with the preamble that declared he had imported his merchandise “before the Resolution of the Merchants for Non-Importation took Place.” As a committee of merchants went about assessing compliance to the boycott, he proclaimed that he had not violated the agreement. Furthermore, his preamble advised prospective customers that they could still acquire English goods they wanted at his shop without defying the boycott, on a technicality. Politics need not infringe too much on his business or his customers’ desires.

April 20

GUEST CURATOR: Matthew Ringstaff

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

Postscript to the Boston Weekly News-Letter (April 20, 1769).

LOST … A Stone Sleeve Button with a red Cypher set in Gold.”

On April 20, 1769, the Postscript to the Boston Weekly News-Letter contained this advertisement for a lost “Stone Sleeve Button with a red Cypher set in Gold, and with a gold Chain.” I was interested in this piece of jewelry. According to Thomas Hamilton Ormsbee, “Although carelessness, loss by theft, and general wear and tear have taken a heavy toll on colonial jewelry so that comparatively small amount is still extant, portraits of well-to-do citizens and their families from Puritan-founded New England to South Carolina and newspaper advertisements of colonial goldsmiths show that jewelry of all sorts was in high favor. In fact, it was a natural accessory to the elaborate satin and brocaded costumes affected by both men and women of substance and social standing.” Who made the jewelry that colonists owned? “Some of this jewelry was imported; much was made by the various gold and silversmiths of the colonies.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

For the purposes of this project, Matt selected an especially interesting source to support his analysis of today’s featured advertisement. In a “Flashback” article published online in March 2009, Collectors Weekly republished Thomas Hamilton Ormsbee’s two-part series on “Colonial Americans and Their Jewelry” originally published in the March and April 1941 issues of American Collector magazine. As the twenty-first-century editors explain, “This article discusses the various types of fine jewelry that was popular among 18th-century Americans, using advertisements written by jewelers and notices written by Americans who had lost previous pieces as examples.” The advertisements for the lost “Stone Sleeve Button with a red Cypher set in Gold, and with a gold Chain” falls in the latter category. Matt selected an article that demonstrates how multiple advertisements can provide a revealing overview of the history of a particular product in early America when considered collectively.

That article also references other sorts of advertisements from eighteenth-century newspapers. Ormsbee declares that items created and sold by jewelers, goldsmiths, and silversmiths were “evidently as tempting to the ‘have-nots’ of that time as [they are] today, for news items about robberies were fairly numerous.” He then tells the story of a Boston goldsmith who inserted an advertisement in the March 21, 1765, edition of the Boston News-Letter to list the jewelry stolen from his shop and offer a reward. The Boston-Gazette later reported that the thief had been caught and punished with “40 stripes at the public Whipping Post,” but did not indicate whether the goldsmith recovered his merchandise. Although the anonymous colonist who placed today’s featured advertisement described the jewelry as “LOST” rather than stolen, he or she did worry that anyone who found it might attempt to sell it rather than return it to its rightful owner. “If offer’d to Sale,” the advertiser pleaded, “it is desired it may be stop’d.” In other words, confiscate the jewelry and inform the printer to contact the advertiser that the lost jewelry had been recovered.

Ormsbee’s two-part series about eighteenth-century advertisements for jewelry is a lively read that includes images of both jewelry and portraits of colonists wearing their precious possessions. Alas, the article does not include images of the advertisements, privileging images of material culture over the print culture that provides important context for understanding the significance of jewelry in colonial American commerce and culture.

March 9

GUEST CURATOR: Olivia Burke

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

Boston Weekly News-Letter (March 9, 1769).

“LEMMONS new Fruit.”

Many kinds of fruit were considered a rare luxury in the eighteenth century, primarily only available for the wealthy. This was a direct result of where fruit grew and how people got it. Colonists had two options when it came to acquiring fruit: locally grown or imported, both of which were only available in season.

Colonists enjoyed fruit they introduced to North America, like apples and peaches, as well as indigenous plants that they had added to their diet, like strawberries, cherries, and grapes. Even with this variety, colonists had to settle for what could be grown in their specific climate or a particular time of year. John Crosby advertised another kind of fruit: lemons. As Mark Ziarko explains, “Naturally, tropical species like citrus fruits and pineapples became the zenith of the colonial fruit hierarchy. If someone really wanted to demonstrate their wealth, these imported fruits were the way to go.”

Because fruit was expensive to acquire, it became a form of showing status. Fresh fruit could be displayed on a fruit dish as decoration and as a status symbol. People who could afford fruit wanted to show it off to others. Fresh fruit was not always a practical purchase because it could be expensive and did not have a long shelf life. For colonial Americans, eating fresh fruit was more than just a tasty and healthy snack; it was a way to show wealth and class.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

John Crosby set up shop “at the Sign of the Basket of Lemmons, South-End” in Boston. In an era before standardized street numbers, colonists relied on various landmarks, including shop signs, to give directions and indicate locations. Many merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, tavernkeepers, and others purveyors of consumer goods and services erected signs to mark where they conducted business. Some tied the images they selected directly to their occupation, as John Crosby, “Lemmon-Trader,” did with his “Sign of the Basket of Lemmons,” but others chose distinctive images that did not necessarily testify to the merchandise they offered for sale.

Some advertisers did not incur the expense of having their own sign painted or carved. Instead, they treated signs posted by neighbors as landmarks to help guide prospective customers to their own shops. On the same day that Crosby inserted his advertisement in the Boston Weekly News-Letter, Elias Dupee announced upcoming auctions at his “New AUCTION-ROOM” in the Boston Chronicle. Lest potential bidders confuse his establishment with any of the several other auction houses in the bustling port city, he offered extensive directions that included a shop sign: “Between the Swing and Draw-bridge, near the Golden-key, over Mr John Dupee Mathematical Instrument-maker’s shop.” Similarly, Hammatt and Brown sold imported groceries and housewares “near the Sign of the Cornfield, in Union-street.” According to his advertisement in the same issue of Boston Evening-Post as Hammatt and Brown’s notice, John Hunt hawked “a good Assortment of Ironmongery, Braizery, Cutlery and Pewter” at a shop located “next Door Northward of the Heart and Crown, in Cornhill.” The Heart and Crown happened to be the emblem that marked the printing shop operated by T. and J. Fleet, the publishers of the Boston Evening-Post. The image also appeared in the masthead of the newspaper, augmenting its familiarity to colonists in Boston.

Crosby’s advertisement does more than reveal what kinds of goods were offered for sale in Boston as spring approached in 1769. It also testifies to the sights colonists glimpsed as they traversed the streets of the city. Shop signs, like the “Basket of Lemmons,” decorated buildings while also aiding both residents and visitors as they made their way through the busy port. Some advertisers adopted the images depicted via their shop signs as brands that represented their businesses, but those signs first served other purposes in the visual landscape of Boston and other cities.

January 29

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

Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 26, 1769).

“Sundry stolen Goods.”

News did not appear solely among the news items in eighteenth-century newspapers. Instead, several sorts of advertisements, including legal notices and estate notices, frequently covered the news, making readers aware of recent events in their communities and beyond. Advertisements concerning stolen goods also relayed news to readers. The last two advertisements in the January 26, 1769, edition of the Boston Weekly News-Letter did just that.

The first reported that on January 6 “sundry stolen Goods, the Property of Joshua Winslow & Son and John Rowe,” had been found concealed in the home of Thomas Vickers. In the wake of that discovery, Vickers had fled. The remainder of the advertisement, placed by Rowe, offered a description of his physical appearance and clothing. Rowe suggested that Vickers might try to escape Boston “on board some foreign bound Vessel,” alerting mariners and others to keep their eyes open for him on the docks. Rowe offered a reward to anyone who apprehended Vickers and presented him to Edmund Quincy, “Justice of Peace in Boston.”

The second advertisement also told the story of a theft, but this one perpetrated “by some evil-minded Person or Persons yet unknown.” Rather than a description of the thief, it provided descriptions of the items stolen from onboard the sloop “Wilkes, William Campbell, Master,” on January 9. The stolen goods included “One Piece check Linnen narrow strip’d, 32 Yards,” “Three Dozen Pair dark speckled Hose,” and “A Suit blue Broad-Cloth Cloaths, Waistcoast and Breeches.” Campbell hoped that descriptions of the goods would aid in capturing the thief as well as recovering the property he had lost.

These two advertisements appeared immediately below others placed by John Gerrish, Richard Smith, and William Jackson. Gerrish advertised an auction scheduled to take place the following day. Smith and Jackson both listed merchandise available at their stores. All three named wares that corresponded closely to the kinds of items stolen from aboard the Wilkes and presumably those discovered in Vickers’s house. In their efforts to participate in the consumer revolution, not all colonists acquired goods from merchants, shopkeepers, and auctioneers. Some stole them and other purchased items either knowing that they had been pilfered or not inquiring too carefully about their origins. A single column of advertisements in the Boston Weekly-Mercury reveals the spectrum of choices available to colonists when it came to acquiring consumer goods.

January 5

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

Boston Weekly News-Letter (January 5, 1768).

“A Strong and healthy Negro MAN … addicted to be out of Nights.”

An advertisement in the January 5, 1768, edition of the Boston Weekly News-Letter offered a “Strong and healthy Negro MAN, about twenty Years old” for sale. The advertiser also proposed swapping the enslaved man “for a Negro Girl.” The notice did not offer many other details about the slave except to specify that he was “most suitable for the Country,” not because of any particular skills that he possessed but instead because he was “addicted to be out of Nights.” The anonymous advertiser implied that the enslaved man would be easier to manage when removed from an urban environment.

In that regard, this advertisement seeking to sell an enslaved man differed from most others that listed enslaved men, women, and children for sale. When describing why they intended to part with their human property, advertisers frequently declared that they were “for sale for no fault, but the want of employ” (as was the case in a notice that ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette on the same day). Other times advertisers reported that they were selling their possessions in advance of leaving the colony or provided other reasons that assured prospective buyers that the enslaved men, women, or children were not for sale because they were disobedient, disabled, or in poor health. This advertisement, on the other hand, did identify a fault, though one that could be managed in the right circumstances. In so doing, it offered a story of resistance not present in other advertisements that presented enslaved men, women, and children for sale.

Another category of advertisements concerning slaves regularly recounted stories of resistance. Advertisements for runaway slaves, as well as advertisements for captured fugitives who had been imprisoned, described their subjects in very different ways. Such advertisements purposefully adopted derogatory language, including adjectives like “cunning,” “artful,” and “bold” to report that runaways were intelligent, creative, and courageous. Advertisers offering slaves for sale avoided such disparaging characterizations or else risk scaring away buyers. The anonymous advertiser who wished to sell or exchange a “Strong and healthy Negro MAN,” however, apparently did not believe that he or she could avoid disclosing that the enslaved man was indeed sometimes difficult to control.

Read from the perspective of the enslaved man “addicted to be out of Nights,” this advertisement reveals an inquisitive young person who refused to be confined when a bustling port city offered so many possibilities for exploring and interacting with others outside of the supervision of the slaveholder. The friends and associates that he chose may have been as much a concern as his absence at nights. The unnamed “Strong and healthy Negro MAN” could have made a habit of departing in the evenings in order to be intentionally disruptive, fully realizing that such behavior inconvenienced and angered the slaveholder who perpetuated his bondage. That the advertiser did not sign the notice but instead instructed interested parties to “Enquire at Draper’s Printing Office” further suggests that the slaveholder did not want it widely known that he or she failed to exercise sufficient authority to keep the recalcitrant slave in check. Although advertisements for runaways categorically told stories of resistance, advertisements offering slaves for sale also sometimes related stories of resistance and challenges to the racial hierarchy in early America.

October 9

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

Oct 9 - 10:6:1768 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 6, 1768).

“Strong and Small Malt Beer and Spruce, by the Barrel.”

In the fall of 1768 John Coleman advertised the several varieties of beer he sold at “his Brew House [at] the sign of the Green Dragon and Free Masons Arms, near the Mill Bridge” in Boston. He advised “Gentlem[e]n, Masters of Vessels, House keepers” and others that he brewed spruce beer and two sorts of malt beer, strong and small. His spruce beer may or may not have contained alcohol. Many consumers, including “Masters of Vessels,” purchased it as a means of warding off scurvy. His small beer contained less alcohol than strong beer. A safer alternative to water, some customers likely served small beer to children, servants, and other members of their households. Coleman marketed his beers in several quantities – “by the Barrel, half Barrel, Ten Gallons or Six” – and allowed his customers to choose according to their needs.

The brewer made many of the most common appeals that appeared in advertisements throughout the eighteenth century. He made an appeal to price, stating that he sold his beer “at the lowest Prices.” He also made an appeal to quality, stating that he brewed “as good Beer of both Kinds as the Country affords.” His beer was equal to any other produced in the colonies. In another regard, however, Coleman deviated from the marketing strategies deployed in most other advertisements of the era. For the convenience of his customers, he provided delivery service. He concluded with these instructions: “By leaving a Line mentioning the Kind, Quantity and where to be delivered” customers will have their beer “conveyed with the greatest Care and Speed.” Coleman provided an alternate address for placing such orders, “the sign of General Wolfe, the North Side of Faneuil Hall” rather than at “his Brew House.” Presumably customers could have also submitted orders at the latter as well; the additional location compounded the conveniences offered to them.

Coleman had previously advertised in the Boston Weekly News-Letter.   Just two months earlier he announced that his former partner, Benjamin Leigh, was so busy with his new enterprise running an “Intelligence Office” that Coleman now operated the brewery on his own. He called on prior customers to settle accounts and briefly mentioned the price of a barrel of beer. In this subsequent advertisement, however, he incorporated several new appeals intended to market his beer more effectively. Having assumed sole responsibility for the business, he may have determined that attracting customers demanded greater innovation.