Reflections from Guest Curator Ceara Morse

My second round of Adverts 250 was an interesting one to say the least. It took my experience from last semester and tried to find better sources. Sometimes I failed and at other times I excelled. Last semester I used JSTOR for all my sources but I found that to be difficult. This semester I tried to broaden my sources. I found a lot of better fitting sources and I found some very interesting stories to tell. This made my analysis that much better because I found sources I really enjoyed reading. Overall, this part of the project was the easiest. Of course there is always room for improvement. If I ever had an opportunity to do this project again, I think I would want to do more research on words I do not know in the advertisements. Plus, for some reason I thought brewers and distillers were one and the same. I learned something new.

I will say there were some crazy moments, however. I was juggling multiple projects, one of which was giving me loads of stress, but that’s a whole other story. In the beginning, I thought I was going to have an upper hand on the project because I had already done it once before, but nonetheless, life is full of curveballs and it was not as easy as I thought it would be. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, because it would not have been so satisfying to finish if it had been as easy as I expected.

I got to learn so many new things about life in the colonial and Revolutionary eras. I think my favorite thing to learn about was Eastern White Pine and the Pine Tree Riot of 1772 because that’s not something in most of the history books but it had an impact on the rising tension between the English and the colonists that led to the Revolutionary War. Another interesting thing I learned about was William Jackson. He had an interesting start thanks to his mother and he is riddled into American history, such as not participating in the non-importation agreements to being captured when he tried to flee Boston because he was a Loyalist.

I think the most rewarding part of this experience was the fact that I knew people were reading my work and getting something out of it. Most of the things I wrote about I had never even heard of before so I hope to some people who read my analysis learned something too. We gained this opportunity to read into advertisements and got the chance to delve into why certain items were so popular while others were unique. Being able “do history” is such a rewarding experience because there is always something new to learn about and then can teach that new information to someone else.

Overall, I once again thoroughly enjoyed working on this project. Learning about the past helps us in the future and I find it fascinating how some of the items being advertised can lead to much larger stories that could even relate to today. I am looking forward to continuing the Slavery Adverts 250 in a week and delving into the commercial trade of slaves.

March 25

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 25 - 3:25:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (March 25, 1767).

“HENRY SNOW, Distiller from London, MAKES and SELLS … FINE Georgia Geneva.”

Henry Snow distilled many different spirits, including “Georgia Geneva,” “Orange Shrub,” and “Mulberry Brandy.” Many of the spirits he distilled could probably be found in local taverns.

Taverns were very important gathering places in colonial and Revolutionary America. An article about the Queen’s Head Tavern (now more commonly known as Fraunces Tavern) in New York City states, “Taverns were centers of community in the 18th century.” They were where people came to stay as well as just come in for a drink and learn of what was going on in the area. Imported spirits sometimes did not come fast enough to keep up with their popularity in taverns and households, thus American produced spirits were needed to help provide taverns and other consumers with the alcoholic beverages they desired. That’s where American products, like Henry Snow’s spirits, came into play. Because it was expensive to even import these goods, the domestic products were that much better.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Henry Snow walked a fine line in his advertisement for a variety of spirits “Distilled and sold at his shop” in Savannah. As Ceara notes, he produced an array of cordials, brandies, and other liquor to compete with imports at affordable prices. Yet he wanted to assure potential customers of the quality of the spirits he distilled. To do so, he adopted a strategy deployed by many artisans who placed advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers: he indicated his place of origin along with his occupation.

In this case, Snow was not merely a distiller but instead a “Distiller from London.” This imbued him and his products with greater cachet by suggesting connections to the cosmopolitan center of the empire and perhaps even specialized training compared to his local competitors. It also served as a recommendation for the dozen or so different types of spirits he distilled, suggesting that they were among the most popular among consumers in the metropole. Just as tailors implied their familiarity with the latest fashions by stating they were “from London,” Snow hinted that he distilled spirits currently in vogue rather than backwater alternatives to the beverages enjoyed by “gentlemen” on the other side of the Atlantic.

Doing so also meant making assurances about the quality of his locally produced liquors, describing some of them as “fine” or “superfine.” (The layout of the advertisement suggests that the distiller may have intended for “FINE” to describe all of the spirits in the first column and all or most in the second.) As far as Snow’s brandy was concerned, “Any gentlemen who may be pleased to favour him with their orders” could depend on it being “equal to French” brandy. His usquebaugh, however, was an exception. It was merely “little inferior to Irish.” It appears that Henry Snow knew better than to suggest that his whiskey was equal or superior to any produced and imported from Ireland. “Little inferior to Irish” was exceptionally high praise indeed!

March 24

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 24, 1767).

“SUNDRY houshold goods, plate, several dozen bottles of old arrack.”

Even though eighteenth-century America was built on drinks – the social and often political drink of tea and the economic production of rum – some colonists also enjoyed more expensive choices of drinks. The commodity that drew me to this advertisement was the “several dozen bottles of old arrack.” From the context, I gathered that it was some form of drink, most likely alcoholic. According to Chuck Hudson’s explanations of “Beverages in the Georgian Era,” Arrack is a form of alcohol from Indonesia which was distilled from sugarcane. It was first popular in London, and through Anglicization, it became popular in the colonies. This was the type of drink one would get if one “could afford better than the basic.” Since England wanted to control trade with the colonies, the Arrack was “shipped from the East Indies to England before it could be trans-shipped to America.” This also made it quite expensive.

This brings me back to the advertisement itself. The previous owner, the late Robert Hume, must have been a wealthy man with what was being sold. He had several bottles of Arrack, which was a feat in it of itself. This was also shown with how much land Mr. Hume seemed to own.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans who promoted new goods placed most advertisements for consumer goods featured on the Adverts 250 Project, yet early Americans acquired goods a variety of ways. In addition to imported items recently arrived on ships from London and other ports in the British Atlantic world, secondhand goods circulated widely in eighteenth-century America. Colonists willingly sold or passed on some of their possessions for a variety of reasons, but other goods reentered the marketplace via theft or estate sales.

In addition to “several dozen bottles of old arrack,” the executors of Robert Hume’s estate also advertised “SUNDRY houshold goods,” likely a more affordable option for some colonists than purchasing new wares from South Carolina’s merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans. Another advertisement in the same issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal announced an auction for “SOME HOUSHOLD FURNITURE, WEARING APPAREL, and sundry other Articles, lately belonging to a Person deceased.” Surely readers could find some bargains there as well!

Elsewhere in the same issue, Alexander Caddell announced that he had “STOPT from a Negro who offered them for sale, a pair of very good Buck-skin Breeches, almost new.” Caddell indicated that he ran a “breeches-maker’s shop in Broad-street.” Presumably the “Negro” approached Caddell with an opportunity to supplement his inventory, hoping that the breechesmaker would not much care about the origins of the breeches. Advertisements for runaway slaves and indentured servants often listed clothing they had taken with them, which could be used for disguises or sold or exchanged. On a fairly regular basis, shopkeepers placed notices indicating that thieves had stolen multiple items, not just a single article of clothing. Black and white colonists frequently colluded in what Serena Zabin has called the “informal economy” of stolen and secondhand goods.

John Davies advertised an assortment of textiles and other wares “Imported in the Minerva, from London” in the March 24 issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He informed potential customers of his inventory not only because he competed with other merchants and shopkeepers but also because colonists acquired some of their possessions through the market for secondhand goods.

March 23

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 23 - 3:23:1767 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (March 23, 1767).

“THE METHOD and plain PROCESS FOR MAKING POT-ASH.”

Before reading this advertisement, I had not even heard of potash. After a bit of research I found an article by William Roberts III, “American Potash Manufactured Before the American Revolution.” I discovered that potash, “the principal industrial chemical of the eighteenth century,” came from wood ashes and had many different uses, from bleaching cloth to making soaps to creating dyes.[1] Nonetheless, this industry did not become widespread in the colonies until a decade before the Revolution.

One reason that the potash industry grew in the colonies was because of the great amount of trees in North America while in England there was an “early depletion of English woodlands [that] had discouraged growth of the industry.”[2] Thomas Stephens had an part in the development of the potash industry in the colonies. Around the middle of the eighteenth centruy, he claimed “to have developed a method of making potash profitably in North America” to the Board of Trade.[3]

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Today’s advertisement did not attempt to sell potash itself but rather Thomas Stephens’s pamphlet detailing how to produce the commodity, The Method and Plain Process for Making Pot-Ash Equal, If Not Superior to the Best Foreign Pot-Ash. As Ceara indicates, potash production and export did not become a viable enterprise in the colonies until just before the Revolution. Until that time, Britain depended primarily on Germany and the Baltic for potash. Given the competition, it makes sense that Stephens sought to assure readers and potential potash entrepreneurs that, with the guidance offered in his book, they stood to produce a profitable commodity.

Parliament was indeed interested in cultivating an American potash industry. In response to Stephens’s claim that he had developed a method that would significantly expand potash production in the colonies, Parliament promised “the sum of £3000 whenever he had done enough promoting and publicizing to satisfy the Board of Trade and the Treasury Lords.”[4] That promoting and publicizing resulted in his pamphlet, advertisements to promote the pamphlet, and perhaps even “PROOF BOTTLES belonging to this Treatise” that contained samples to verify the quality of potash made using his “METHOD and plain PROCESS.” Selling the pamphlet may have generated some revenues for printer William Weyman, but Stephens stood to benefit from a much more significant windfall once enough copies had been distributed.

According to Carl Bridenbaugh, Stephens made a tour of several southern colonies to promote his pamphlet in 1757, beginning in Charleston and visiting more than half a dozen cities and towns in the Carolinas and Virginia.[5] Stephens returned to England that same year, but a decade after his departure his pamphlet was still advertised in American newspapers. In the early 1760s, James Stewart, dispatched from London by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, toured New England and New York. Bridenbaugh credits Stewart with being such a successful advocate that “potash became a staple commodity of New York and New England.”[6] For readers of the New-York Gazette interested in entering or improving potash production, Stephens’s pamphlet may have supplemented Stewart’s instruction.

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[1] William I. Roberts, III, “American Potash Manufacture before the American Revolution,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 116, no. 5 (October 1972), 383.

[2] Roberts, 383.

[3] Roberts, 383.

[4] Roberts, 384.

[5] Carl Bridenbaugh, The Colonial Craftsman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950), 104.

[6] Bridenbaugh, Colonial Craftsman, 105.

March 22

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 22 - 3:20:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 20, 1767).

Choice Green Coffee.”

When it comes to choices of drink when thinking of the colonial and Revolutionary eras, the first one that probably comes to mind is tea. This advertisement is interesting because it sold coffee instead. According to Christina Regelski, coffee was sometimes used as a way of showing wealth or status in the colonial era due to the expensiveness of producing the coffee grounds from the beans. In the southern colonies slaves were often in charge of grinding the coffee beans in the kitchens for their wealthy owners. Sadly, they had no access to the coffee they prepared.

Coffeehouses became hubs of information that could be accessed by many in the eighteenth century. Similar to taverns, men from any status and station could go to coffeehouses to drink coffee and discuss what was going on in their lives and their colony. John Adams even noted the importance of coffeehouses in a letter to James Warren in 1775: “the Debates, and Deliberations in Congress are impenetrable Secrets: but the Conversations in the City, and the Chatt of the Coffee house, are free, and open.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Some colonists very well may have encountered Noah Parker’s advertisement for “Choice Green Coffee” when they visited a coffeehouse, such as the Crown Coffeehouse on Queen Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In the same issue that Parker hawked coffee, Isaac Williams placed an advertisement announcing that he had just opened the “CROWN Coffee-House” and provided many amenities for customers (including “the best of LIQUORS” and “large and small Entertainment, provided in the most genteel manner” in addition to coffee). At many eighteenth-century coffeehouses, the amenities included newspapers.

As Ceara notes, coffeehouses were hubs for exchanging information in the eighteenth century. Patrons certainly traded stories, but they also had access to newspapers the proprietors provided for their convenience and entertainment. Customers read newspapers to learn about politics and current events that affected their daily lives and commercial transactions. As a result, the advertisements that appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette and other colonial newspapers had a far wider reach than just local subscribers. Visitors to the Crown Coffeehouse most likely had access to recent issues of many newspapers other than just the New-Hampshire Gazette, especially newspapers from Boston and other parts of New England, but also from elsewhere in the colonies, the Caribbean, and London. Similarly, coffeehouses in other colonial port cities also provided newspapers from near and far for patrons to consult.

In addition to sharing news and gossip, coffeehouses were also places to conduct business. Merchants gathered to settle accounts in comfortable surroundings. Vendue sales or auctions also took place in coffeehouses. Noah Parker may have visited the Crown Coffeehouse to meet with associates interested in purchasing the various commodities he listed in his advertisement. Despite the atmosphere of gentility that Williams and other proprietors cultivated, coffeehouses were also sometimes the venue for buying and selling slaves. Although not as rowdy as taverns, coffeehouses were busy places for exchanging information and conducting business in the era of the Revolution.

March 21

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 21 - 3:21:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 21, 1767).

“Eastern White Pine Boards and Plank.”

The “Eastern White Pine Boards and Plank” drew me to this advertisement. Where did they come from and what purpose did they serve in the Revolutionary era? The Eastern White Pine is native to the Northeast in North America, making it local to where Samuel Chace resided in the Providence area. Surprisingly, the Eastern White Pine had a role in the events that led to the Revolution, in particular the Pine Tree Riots.

As for the purpose of this product, colonists discovered that this tree was ideal for building ships. England wanted to stay on top being the most powerful European country in the region and one way to do so was to have the best quality and fastest ships. Eastern White Pine tree became a valuable commodity for making masts and Britain reserved the tree for that use. According to Justin Corfield, “The New Hampshire General Court passed an act in 1722 making it illegal to cut down any white pine that was more than 12 inches in diameter.” It was a crime to cut down these trees and resulted in a fine. “Any timber found in violation of this,” Corfield states, “was marked with white arrows painted on the wood, signifying that these trees were property of the British Crown.”[1]

For some time the law was not enforced as harshly as it was in the early 1770s. In April 1772, this law led to a riot when some sawmill owners were fined, and a group attacked two local officials and their horses. When the officials returned with more support, the riot had dissipated; nonetheless eight people were found responsible for the incident. This was later referred to as the Pine Tree Riot.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Had I been responsible for choosing which advertisement to feature today, I likely would have passed over Samuel Chace’s simple notice announcing that he sold “A Quantity of the very best Sort of Eastern White Pine Boards and Plank, all clear and seasoned.” When Ceara selected it, I wondered what she would do with it, but I have learned from experience that oftentimes the most interesting entries result from guest curators gravitating to advertisements that I would otherwise dismiss. In this case, I am exceptionally pleased that Ceara decided to work with an advertisement that turned out to be deceptive in its simplicity. Those “Eastern White Pine Boards and Plank” led Ceara to a little known story of colonial resistance during the period of the imperial crisis.

Throughout the semester, Ceara, her classmates, and I have examined the role of consumer culture in the Revolutionary era, focusing primarily on colonists’ relationship to imported goods and acts of resistance – nonconsumption and nonimportation agreements – predicated on abstaining from purchasing or using certain items. The Pine Tree Riot, however, requires us to approach some of our familiar questions from different perspectives as we consider commodities produced in the colonies that settlers were forbidden from using for their own purposes. When it came to prohibitions against cutting down Eastern White Pines less than a foot in diameter, the acts of resistance took the form of appropriating those commodities and, in some cases, ostentatiously displaying the results. For instance, cutting down Eastern White Pines “led to a fashion among anti-British activists to display proudly the width of the boards” used to construct their floors.[2] The material culture of resistance played out in floorboard, not just homespun clothing.

Earlier this semester Ceara and her peers read and discussed Ray Raphael’s chapter about “Blacksmith Timothy Bigelow and the Massachusetts Revolution of 1774.” Raphael argues that “because Bostonians played but a small role” popular narratives of the American Revolution do not commemorate events that took place throughout the Massachusetts countryside in 1774 when residents of Worcester and other towns “summarily cast off British rule” by closing the courts and forcing officials to resign.[3] The Pine Tree Riot in Weare, New Hampshire, occupies a similar position in our collective memory of the American Revolution. Like the perpetrators of the Boston Tea Party the following year, the rioters disguised themselves to evade recognition. In many ways, their refusal to allow British policies to dictate whether they could consumer certain commodities could be seen as precursor to the Boston Tea Party. Parliament did not respond to the Pine Tree Riot with legislation that rivaled the Intolerable Acts that punished Bostonians. Over time, the events in Weare, New Hampshire, in April 1772 have faded as other acts of resistance have been accorded much more prominence.

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[1] Justin Corfield, “Pine Tree Riot (1772),” in Steven L. Danver, ed., Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History: An Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 183.

[2] Corfield, “Pine Tree Riot,” 183.

[3] Ray Raphael, “Blacksmith Timothy Bigelow and the Massachusetts Revolution of 1774,” in Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation, ed. Alfred F. Young, Gary B. Nash, and Ray Raphael (New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 2011), 35.

March 20

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 20 - 3:20:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (March 20, 1767).

“BETWEEN sixty and seventy likely NEGROES … among whom are carpenters, coopers and sawyers.”

 

This advertisement said the slaves for sale included “carpenters, coopers and sawyers.” I had never heard of coopers or sawyers before so I decided to find out more about them. The job of a cooper was to make casks, buckets and other containers to store things. The sawyer worked in a saw mill. Daniel C. Littlefield states that in the 1700s plantation owners in South Carolina “expected enslaved people to perform a wide range of jobs that included carpenter, cooper, boatman, cook, seamstress, and blacksmith, to mention only a few of the skilled function required around plantations.”

This made me question, what other jobs could be found on South Carolina plantations. Since the majority of the plantations in South Carolina were rice plantations, the major jobs on the plantation were creating dikes or levees and sluices and to maintain them. Slaves also had to keep animals away from the area. Other jobs included planting, weeding, and harvesting the rice.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Each eighteenth-century slavery advertisement tells an important story that demonstrates the scope of enslaved people’s experiences in early America, but some of them tell stories less familiar to my students (and the general public) than others. When Ceara selected today’s advertisement, I encouraged her to focus on the “carpenters, coopers and sawyers” prominently listed among the slaves offered for sale.

That enslaved men, women, and children were exploited for their labor comes as no surprise, but most students do not realize that slaveholders benefited from far more than just the labor of their labors. Instead, slaves contributed valuable expertise to plantations and the colonial economy more generally. Many learned specialized skills. Enslaved artisans plied their crafts on plantations in the Chesapeake and the Lower South, but they also worked in urban centers throughout the colonies, north and south.

Advertisers often made special note of the skills their human property possessed, such as the “carpenters, coopers and sawyers” from today’s advertisement or the “FOUR very valuable NEGROES” advertised in the Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on March 17, 1767. Three of the four were considered particularly valuable because two were “good workmen at the cabinet-maker’s business” and one was “a good sawyer, and handles his tools so well in the coarser branches of that trade as to be capable of making a tolerable country carpenter.”

In some instances enslaved artisans were “hired out” for limited amounts of time, such as a “Negro Man, by Trade a Shoemaker” also advertised in the March 17 supplement. This practice granted slaveholders an even greater return on their investment by occupying the time of skilled laborers who might otherwise experience lulls in demand for their services on their own plantations.

I anticipate that Ceara will approach her responsibilities as curator of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project with a more nuanced appreciation of the different kinds of labor and expertise described in the advertisements now that she has a better understanding that slaves contributed knowledge and expertise as well as physical labor to the cultivation of crops and the production of commodities in colonial and Revolutionary America.