January 15

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

Jan 15 - 1:15:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 15, 1768).

“Mein and Fleeming’s REGISTER … With all the BRITISH LISTS.”

John Mein and John Fleeming marketed “Mein and Fleeming’s REGISTER FOR NEW ENGLALD [sic] AND NOVA SCOTIA, With all the BRITISH LISTS, AND AN Almanack for 1768” in several newspapers in New England in late 1767 and early 1768. Their advertisement in the January 15, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette indicated that readers could purchase copies directly from Mein at his “London Book Store, in Kingstreet Boston” or from local vendors, either William Appleton, a bookseller, or Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the colony’s only newspaper.

Their advertisement, which extended an entire column, also elaborated on the contents. Despite the length, the advertisement placed relatively little emphasis on many of the standard items included in almanacs, such as “Sun’s rising and setting” and other astronomical details. Instead, Mein and Fleeming devoted much more space to the various “BRITISH LISTS” in their Register, including “Marriages and Issues of the Royal Family,” “Summary of the house of Commons,” and “Officers of His Majesty’s houshold.” The Register also contained lists of colonial officials in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Nova Scotia.

Both the contents and the advertisement distinguished “Mein & Fleeming’s REGISTER” from all other almanacs for 1768 advertised anywhere in the colonies. Though useful, the astronomical calculations seemed secondary to content that positioned the American colonies within an expansive and powerful British empire. Mein and Fleeming, both Tories, began publishing the Boston Chronicle, near the end of December 1767. Although that publication only ran until 1770, it qualifies as a Loyalist newspaper based on the editorial position of the printers. Mein and Fleeming pursued a single purpose in simultaneously publishing the Boston Chronicle and their Register: deploying print culture to celebrate their identity as Britons at a time that the imperial crisis intensified as a result of an ongoing trade imbalance between colonies and mother country, the imposition of new duties when the Townshend Act went into effect in November 1767, and renewed nonimportation agreements that commenced at the beginning of 1768.

Even if readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette and other newspapers that carried Mein and Fleeming’s advertisements did not purchase or peruse the Register, the extensive notice reminded them that they shared a common culture with king, nobles, and commoners on the other side of the Atlantic. Lengthy lists of officials that served the empire and colonies on both sides of the Atlantic suggested good order and the benefits of being British, a system that many colonists did not wish to disrupt unnecessarily in the process of seeking redress of grievances from Parliamentary overreach. Mein and Fleeming may not have been able to make such arguments explicitly among the news items in newspapers published by others, but they could advance that perspective implicitly in the advertisements they paid to place in those publications.

March 8

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

mar-8-381767-part-1-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette

mar-8-381767-part-2-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (March 6, 1767).

“A DISSERTATION ON THE RECIPROCAL ADVANTAGES OF A PERPETUAL UNION BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN and her AMERICAN COLONIES.”

Robert Wells stocked a variety of items at “the great Stationary and Book Shop on the Bay” in Charleston. Among the wares he imported from England, he first listed “LARGE and elegant prints of Mr. PITT and LORD CAMDEN,” members of Parliament considered friendly to the American cause during the Stamp Act crisis. Wells concluded this advertisement by devoting significant space to a book printed in Philadelphia, a volume which included four “DISSERTATIONS” on the “RECIPROCAL ADVANTAGES OF A PERPETUAL UNION BETWEEN GREAT-BRITAIN and her AMERICAN COLONIES.” The first, authored by John Morgan, won “Mr. Sargent’s Prize Medal,” awarded at commencement exercises for the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania).

This advertisement provides valuable insight concerning how most colonists interpreted their relationship with Great Britain in the first months of 1767, still fairly early in the imperial crisis that eventually – over the course of more than a decade – led to the colonies declaring independence. One of the challenges of teaching about the American Revolution lies in helping students understand that it was not an instantaneous event but rather a long process that involved a transition from resistance to Parliamentary overreach while seeking redress of grievances to, eventually, revolutionary rhetoric and actions when Americans determined that they had exhausted all other options.

In early 1767 continued to underscore the “RECIPROCAL ADVANTAGES” of being part of the British Empire. In his “DISSERTATION,” Morgan ranked commerce and trade among some of the most significant advantages. By this time the Stamp Act had been passed and repealed, in large part due to the protests and petitions of the colonists but also thanks to advocacy by merchants and politicians, like Pitt and Camden, in England. The Americans had discovered means for having their grievances addressed, though they did not particularly care for the Declaratory Act that accompanied repeal of the Stamp Act. Still, the rupture in relations did not seem insurmountable. Indeed, most Americans believed it foolish not to attempt to make amends.

The “DISSERTATIONS” written and published in Philadelphia served to cement colonists’ understanding of their place and privileges within the British Empire, but they also reminded English observers of the benefits of amicable relations between parent country and colonies. This publication simultaneously shored up British identity among colonists while alerting those in England that it was not in anyone’s best interest to attempt to take advantage of the colonies, a warning that Parliament did not heed when it promulgated the Townshend Acts later in 1767.

Return once again to the prints of Pitt and Camden that led the list of goods Wells stocked. They set the tone for the rest of the advertisement, especially the “DISSERTATIONS” that appeared at the end. Colonists considered themselves Britons, so much so that Wells expected consumers would display images of English politicians – especially those who understood and advocated for the proper sort of relationship between Great Britain and the American colonies – in public and private spaces. Most Americans had not yet been radicalized in favor of independence in early 1767, at least not according to the merchandise Robert Wells expected to sell at his shop in Charleston.

January 20

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

jan-20-1201767-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal-supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina and Country Journal (January 20, 1767).

“A great Variety of handsome Pictures … amongst which are several of their Majesties.”

George Parker advertised “a general Assortment of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS” recently imported on “Vessels from LONDON and BRISTOL.” His merchandise included “a great Variety of handsome Pictures … amongst which are their Majesties, both plain and in Colours.” Not only did Parker stock goods from the metropolitan center of the British Empire, he also promoted memorabilia that celebrated George III, the ruler and personification of Britain.

In preparation for the work they will be doing on the Adverts 250 Project, yesterday the students in my Revolutionary class read and discussed T.H. Breen’s landmark article, “Baubles of Britain,” and my own chapter, “A Revolution in Advertising.”[1] (Based on the quality of that conversation, I have high expectations for their contributions to this project.) In its consideration of both the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century and the political revolution that began in the 1760s, Breen’s article provided a foundation for consumer culture studies that will be one of the main themes throughout the semester. Drawing on Breen’s narrative, students articulated the close connections between England and the colonies created by consumption practices as well as the politicization of decisions about what to import and purchase (or not import and purchase).

Any time I teach a course that covers the American Revolution, whether an introductory survey or an upper-level seminar, I have a responsibility to emphasize change over time. Many students, like many Americans more generally, think of the events of the revolutionary era as happening simultaneously rather than as a process that unfolded over years. This advertisement helps me to demonstrate that point. Published after the Stamp Act controversy, boycotts of imported British goods, and the repeal of the despised legislation, this advertisement demonstrates an “ASSORTMENT of GOODS” from London found their way to the colonies once again, including “Pictures … of their Majesties” intended to be displayed in public and private spaces.

The goods offered for sale in this advertisement suggest that throughout the 1760s shopkeepers and their customers engaged in resistance to British policies, but they had not yet moved to outright revolution and determination to sever political ties with Britain. Transitioning from resistance to revolution was a long and complicated process. Elsewhere on the same page as Parker’s advertisement, Charles Crouch, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, advertised several items he sold, including “Dr. FRANKLIN’s Examination before an August Assembly, relating to the American Stamp-Act.” Advertisements that celebrated colonists’ British identity and others that critiqued Parliament’s overbearing regulation of the colonies appeared side by side.

Americans had not yet made the decision to declare independence – and would not do so for almost another decade. After making that transition, as I argued in my own chapter that my students read and discussed yesterday, American merchandisers offered new sorts of memorabilia that celebrated the new nation, its leaders and heroes of the Revolution, and important events in achieving independence. No longer did advertisements hawk “Pictures … of their Majesties” but instead promoted a variety of prints and medals depicting George Washington and other patriots. Advertisers encouraged a new sort of veneration intended to unite citizens throughout the nation, just as veneration of “their Majesties” via purchasing and displaying prints had been intended to strengthen British identity and unity throughout the British Atlantic world a few decades earlier.

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[1] T.H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 119 (May 1988): 73-104.

Carl Robert Keyes, “A Revolution in Advertising: ‘Buy American’ Campaigns in the Late Eighteenth Century,” in Danielle Coombs and Bob Batchelor, eds., Creating Advertising Culture: Beginnings to the 1930s, vol. 1, We Are What We Sell: How Advertising Shapes American Life … And Always Has (New York: Praeger, 2013), 1-25.