November 5

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

nov-5-1151766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 5, 1766).

“A SMALL ISLAND or NECK of LAND in the RIVER MIDWAY … known by the name of Baillie’s Island.”

This notice in the Georgia Gazette advertises an island being sold by “the estate of Col. Kenneth Baillie, deceased.” This island, “containing 600 acres,” already had “a good dwelling-house and other convenient out-houses” and good land for growing crops. Land sales of this sort would have been interesting to men like Jonathan Bryan.

Bryan bought a lot of land in both Georgia and South Carolina during the eighteenth century. Alan Gallay notes that Bryan’s “possessions [lands he purchased or that were granted to him] placed him at the very top of the small group of men who ruled Georgia during the quarter century before the American Revolution.”[1] Bryan was able to capitalize on both undeveloped and developed lands, which would have made the island in this advertisement very appealing. To make the most of the land he had, Bryan created plantations and bought African slaves to perform the labor. By 1763, he owned 125 slaves in Georgia.[2] Owning land was an important step for colonists like Jonathan Bryan to become prosperous and powerful.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Colonel Kenneth Baillie’s executrix and executors painted quite a picture of the bounty available on Baillie’s Island. Whoever purchased this land would possess a variety of resources and could produce a variety of commodities to send to market, including corn, indigo, rice, barrel staves, lumber, and all sorts of livestock. All of these goods, the advertisement promised, could be easily transported because there were “four good landing places to said island, one of which the largest vessel that comes to Sunbury may lie and load it.” Furthermore, Baillie’s Island was close to Sunbury, “it not being more than five miles by water to that town, and seven by land.” The island’s proximity to Sunbury and the trade that took place there was a selling point.

Sunbury, founded in 1758, likely sounds unfamiliar to modern readers, but for a few decades in the middle of the eighteenth century it rivaled Savannah as a port city. Readers of the Georgia Gazette would have known that it was a seaport on the Medway River, south of Savannah. Today, however, Sunbury has disappeared. Some call it “one of Georgia’s most famous ‘dead’ or lost towns.” William Bartram, the prominent naturalist from Pennsylvania, visited Sunbury while en route to Florida shortly before the American Revolution. “There are about one hundred houses in the town neatly built of wood frame having pleasant Piasas around them,” Bartram wrote. “The inhabitants are genteel and wealthy, either Merchants or Planters from the Country who resort here in the Summer and Autumn, to partake of the Salubrious Sea Breeze, Bathing & sporting on the Sea Islands.”

Sunbury was a vibrant town and emerging center of commerce in the 1760s and 1770s, but it never recovered after the disruptions of the American Revolution.

**********

[1] Alan Gallay, “Jonathan Bryan’s Plantation Empire: Land, Politics, and the Formation of a Ruling Class in Colonial Georgia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser. 45, no. 2 (April 1988): 253.

[2] Gallay, “Jonathan Bryan’s Plantation Empire,” 275.

November 4

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

nov-4-1141766-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 4, 1766).

“Irish and Drogheda linen.”

In this advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Thomas Dennison sold various items, such as “Fine white salt, coals, cheese, potatoes, [and] crates of yellow ware.” Nonetheless one item specifically drew my eye: “Irish and Drogheda linen.” I had never before heard of Drogheda and Iam also Irish so I was immediately drawn to it.  I learned that Drogheda is one of Ireland’s oldest towns.

The commercial relationship between Ireland and colonial America was beneficial and profitable. Thomas M. Truxes notes that it was expensive to produce linen in the colonies while in Ireland it was far cheaper. This made Irish linen that much more desirable because it was “attractively priced” and “became progressively less expensive.”[1] This was also ideal for England who wanted to discourage “industrial development in the colonies.” Plus the English merchants earned money when they were the middlemen who imported Irish linens into the colonies, but “Irish merchants and factors played key roles in the distribution system” too.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Price, Hest, and Head listed a variety of goods in their advertisement. From among them, Ceara chose to investigate a commodity that appeared repeatedly in eighteenth-century advertisements: Irish linens. Ceara consulted Thomas M. Truxes’s Irish-American Trade, 1660-1783 to identify some of the reasons why Irish linen was transported to the colonies. As Ceara and I worked together on researching and revising her analysis of this advertisement, I was struck by the data Truxes provided to demonstrate the magnitude of the Irish linen trade.

Truxes devotes an entire chapter to Irish linen, which he begins by stating that “British America was Ireland’s second largest market for linen and its most important vent for coarse, low-priced cloths.”[2] For the purposes of placing today’s advertisement in context, let’s have a look at some of the numbers for the middle of the eighteenth century. “With the English bounty of 1743,” Truxes explains, the linen export to America experienced a surge in growth of unprecedented proportions, reaching a level of 4.4 million yards per annum by the early 1770s.” Furthermore, between 1750 and 1770, the quantity of Irish linen exports to the American colonies quadrupled. During the same period, the colonies became an increasingly important market for Irish linens: the share of Ireland’s total linen export that went to British America doubled.

Advertisements for textiles were incredibly common in eighteenth-century newspapers. Many of those advertisements relied on lengthy lists of fabrics of varying qualities, colors, and patterns. Amid that diversity, any list of imported textiles almost invariably included Irish linens. Those advertisements offer impressionistic evidence that Irish linens were ubiquitous in the colonial American marketplace, though they rarely specified how many yards of Irish linen merchants imported or shopkeepers stocked. Truxes clarifies the volume of Irish linens that flowed to America in the decades before the Revolution, confirming the significance of this commodity.

**********

[1] All quotations in this entry: Thomas M. Truxes, Irish-American Trade, 1660-1784 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 170.

[2] As above, all quotations and statistics in this entry: Thomas M. Truxes, Irish-American Trade, 1660-1784 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 170.

November 3

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

nov-3-1131766-connecticut-courant
Connecticut Courant (November 3, 1766).

“Choice Bohea Tea.”

In this notice in the Connecticut Courant, William Lamson advertised different goods, such as “Bohea Tea,” “Cod Fish,” and “Black Barcelona Handkerchiefs.” Lamson sold his goods at the stores of Ebenezer Bernard in Hartford and Oliver Pomeroy at Rockey-Hill.

Drinking tea was an important part of colonial life. Drinking tea was a symbol of status in England; this was true in colonial society also. According to Rodris Roth, “During the first half of the eighteenth century the limited amount of tea, available at prohibitively high prices, restricted its use to a proportionately small segment of the population. About mid-century, however, tea was beginning to be drunk by more and more people, as supplies increased and costs decreased, due in part to the propaganda and merchandising efforts of the East India Company.”[1] (Bohea tea, a category of black and oolong teas, originates from China. The East India Company acquired it and distributed it to England and the colonies.) As tea became more accessible more people were able to buy it and partake in the social rituals of drinking tea.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

William Lamson’s advertisement for tea, codfish, handkerchiefs, sugar, and mackerel included a rather unique feature. He included a price for each of the items listed. Eighteenth-century advertisements rarely included prices. Advertisers that hawked only one or two commodities sometimes indicated their prices. Shopkeepers occasionally named a price for one or two items included in their lengthy lists of merchandise. It was rare, however, for any advertisement to match a price to every item offered for sale.

Lamson made it possible for potential customers to engage in comparison shopping more easily. He depended on readers remembering their recent purchases and having some general familiarity with the prices local shopkeepers charged for the popular commodities he sold. Many potential customers likely would have known at a glance if Lamson offered good deals. That made it unnecessary for him to resort to one of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertising, emphasizing low prices. Lamson did not need to underscore that these were low prices; readers would have made that determination on their own. Lamson also cultivated a sense of trust with prospective customers by letting them know in advance what they could expect to spend when they purchased any of these commodities from him.

On the other hand, Lamson may have also had some practical reasons for listing specific prices. As Ceara noted, he sold tea, sugar, and other goods “At Mr. Ebenezer Barnard’s in Hartford, and at Mr. Oliver Pomeroy’s at Rockey-Hill.” Lamson may never have been present at either location; instead, Bernard and Pomeroy may have sold his commodities on commission or by some other arrangement. By indicating specific prices, Lamson eliminated the possibility that potential customers would have to haggle with a third party. Lamson did not need to be present for transactions or empower agents to act on his behalf. His advertisement, with prices plainly indicated, could stand in on his behalf.

**********

[1] Rodris Roth, “Tea Drinking in Eighteenth-Century America: Its Etiquette and Equipage,” in Material Life in America, 1600-1860, ed. Robert Blair St. George (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1988), 442.

November 2

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

nov-2-1111766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (November 1, 1766).

“A Variety of English, East and West-India GOODS, … to be sold at the cheapest Rate for CASH.”

In this advertisement in the Providence Gazette, Samuel Nightingale, Jr., sold an assortment of goods from England, as well as both the East and West Indies, in his “new Shop, near the Great Bridge” in Providence.

Since this advertisement mentions earlier issues that included the actual information about what was being sold, I went in search of them. In issue 145, published on October 25, 1766, I found a much larger advertisement with a vast list of goods. The majority of the items on the list were linens and other sorts of textiles, but it also included other things, such as “Ivory and buckling combs,” “Pewter dishes, plates and basons,” and “Flat irons. English Steel.”

nov-1-10181766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (October 18, 1766).

Pewter was very popular in the eighteenth century. James A. Mulholland notes that “[a]ll but the poorest families owned at least one or two pewter items, and wealthier families accumulated substantial inventories of pewterware, including porrigngers, tankards, coffeepots, and candlesticks.”[1] He also noted that the majority of pewter came from England.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

I was very excited when Ceara selected this advertisement. When guest curators are participating in this project I leave the decisions about which advertisements to feature to them, provided they follow the project’s methodology. That means that they sometimes pass over advertisements that I find either interesting or significant, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes when working on a collaborative project. After all, the guest curators can learn something interesting or significant about colonial America from any advertisement.

Why was I so excited when Ceara submitted this advertisement for approval? She mentioned the reason in her own analysis. Samuel Nightingale, Jr., instructed potential customers to “[see No. 144 and 145 of this Gazette]” for a list of the “Variety of English, East and West-India GOODS” that he sold. When she noticed this, Ceara did the sort of historical detective work that I consider an enjoyable part of this project: she consulted the earlier issues (October 11 and 18, 1766) of the Providence Gazette to find out more about those advertisements. In the process, she discovered an advertisement that resembled others by Thompson and Arnold and Benjamin Thurber and Edward Thurber, both previously featured by the Adverts 250 Project.

In the course of a few weeks, Nightingale published two advertisements with rather extraordinary features. His first advertisement borrowed innovations from competitors, but those innovations had not been so widely adopted that Nightingale’s advertisement blended in with others. With a decorative border and spanning two columns, Nightingale’s earlier advertisements dominated the pages on which they appeared.

nov-2-10181766-page-4-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (October 18, 1766).

Today’s advertisement did not have the same visual impact, but it did incorporate one rather unusual feature. It instructed readers to consult another newspaper to see the original advertisement. Nightingale assumed a high level of interest among potential customers. At the very least, he hoped to incite interest by offering a brief description and then challenging readers to find the original advertisements in earlier issues.

This tells us something about how colonists used newspapers. Nightingale’s directions to “[see No. 144 and 145 of this Gazette]” only worked if readers still had access to those issues. It suggests that subscribers held on to newspapers for at least several weeks to consult the news, advertisements, and other items they contained. Newspapers were not immediately ephemeral in the eighteenth century. In turn, that means that the advertisement printed in colonial newspapers had longer lives than the week that passed before the publication of the next issue.

Running his lengthy advertisement for two weeks may have been a significant investment for Samuel Nightingale, Jr., but it may also have been a risk worth taking if he could depend on it to keep circulating for quite some time after that. To shore up his bet, today’s brief notice directed potential customers back to the impressive original advertisement.

**********

[1] James A. Mulholland, History of Metals in Colonial America (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1981), 95.

November 1

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

nov-1-1111766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (November 1, 1766).

“A GENERAL Assortment of English and India Goods.”

In this advertisement in the Providence Gazette, James Green sought to sell an “assortment of English and India Goods.” The “India Goods” had been sent to London by the British East India Company.

Originally, the British East India Company’s primarily goal was trade, but it eventually became a ruling power in India. How? What kept the British East India Company in India was something more useful than any goods that could be exported: armies. They realized that Indians with modern weaponry could be just as good as European soldiers, but for half the price. The Company also used its armies to gain favor with rulers in India. Those armies aided Indian princes, thus creating opportunities for the Company to have sway in governing India.

The Company was able to avoid certain taxes that would normally be put on them for trading. Some Indian leaders tried to oppose the Company, such as the nawāb (or governor) Sirajud-Dawla and the Mughal emperor. They failed when the Company’s army defeated their armies in 1764. After that, the British East India Company gained more control over trade, including the revenue systems of Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar.

Learn more about the British East India Company Raj.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

James Green sold “A GENERAL Assortment of … Goods” and commodities that had been transported great distances. The “Bohea and Green Tea” came from China, the indigo came from France, the spices came from the East Indies, and the “India Goods” came from the Indian subcontinent.

Ceara traces some of the history of the British East India Company in the years immediately before this advertisement appeared in a newspaper on the other side of the world. In providing glimpses of the British East India Company’s interventions in India, she demonstrates that colonists in New England were connected to faraway places that, until recently, have not been associated with the colonial American experience. For a generation and more, however, scholars have been reconceiving of colonial America as only a portion of a larger Atlantic world, but even those expansive boundaries cannot contain the webs of commerce and conquest that spread around the globe. Historians continue to discover that early America was much more vast than we previously realized!

For instance, in a book published earlier this year, Selling Empire: India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600-1830, Jonathan Eacott “recasts the British empire’s chronology and geography by situating the development of consumer culture, the American Revolution, and British industrialization in the commercial intersections linking the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.” Eacott examines “evolving networks, ideas, and fashions that bound India, Britain, and America” in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries.

In doing her research to write about today’s advertisement, Ceara discovered a portion of this story on her own. It is a story that departs from traditional definitions and expectations about what should be included in a history of colonial America, but it is a more complete story that acknowledges that shopkeepers like James Green and his potential customers who read the Providence Gazette represented only two links in a much longer chain of supply and exchange that extended far beyond London to British merchants and officials operating in a very different colonial context in India.

October 31

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

oct-31-10311766-new-hampshire-gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 31, 1766).

An Astronomical DIARY, Or ALMANACK, For the Year of our Lord CHRIST 1767.”

In this advertisement the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette announced that their almanac for 1767 “soon will be Publish’d, and Sold.”

My previous knowledge of almanacs was that they told about the weather, moon phases, and other astronomical events, as well as gave information that helped with raising crops. Many different almanacs were published, each depending on the location where colonists lived. The almanac in this advertisement was made for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the surrounding area.

As a result of my research on this advertisement, I learned that almanacs were almost as popular as the Bible in colonial America. Jon Butler discusses the demand people had for information about the next year such, such as “all of the astronomical information … necessary to make astrological calculations.[1] Colonists enjoyed the predictions about the weather and astronomical events, often craving more.

Butler also noted that some colonists used “almanacs rather than Bibles to solve personal crises through occult means.”[2] The authors of some almanacs, however, “linked astrology to the ‘filthy Superstition of Heathens.’”[3] Some authors saw astrology as a form of sorcery and witchcraft, even though many colonists demanded almanacs with astrological features, including the “anatomy,” which was “a crude figure of a man … circled by signs of the zodiac that pointed to the parts of the body that each controlled.”[4]

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Ceara correctly notes that almanacs were extremely popular in eighteenth-century America. Thanks to the useful and entertaining information they contained, these pamphlet-like periodicals could be found in all sorts of households, from the elite to the most humble. This advertisement hints at their popularity: the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette sold their almanac both “Wholesale and Retail.” In addition to individual customers purchasing copies for personal use, the printers anticipated that booksellers, shopkeepers, and other retailers would buy in volume and then resell almanacs.

Printers in practically every city that had a printing press produced almanacs for local use in the eighteenth century. This was not merely a matter of authors and printers attempting to get a share of the market (though that played a part as well); each almanac contained precise astronomical information specific to a particular location. Note that the almanac promoted in this advertisement was “Calculated for the Meridian of Portsmouth in New-Hampshire, Lat. 43. 15 N. Long. 70 45 W.” Provided the calculations had been done correctly, readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette would have found this almanac more accurate and useful than one keyed to nearby Boston and certainly better than almanacs produced in other cities. The printers underscored that “Care and Pains ha[d] been taken to have this Almanack Correct.”

To that end, many printers and authors created a sort of brand loyalty associated with the almanacs they produced throughout the eighteenth-century. Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard” lives on in popular memory as the most famous, but other authors gained prestige for the accuracy of their astronomical calculations. Year after year the titles of many almanacs included the names of authors who had gained the public’s confidence. This advertisement also makes a nod in that direction: “’tis presum’d ‘twill be as Acceptable as tho’ it appear’d under the very respectable Name of the late Doctor AMES, or his surviving Son and Successor Nathaniel.” The advertisement did not indicate the author of this particular almanac, but the printers sought to at least associate it with the names of two of the most popular and trusted authors.

Like newspapers and the advertisement they contained, almanacs provided an important source of revenue for colonial printers. The printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette announced that their almanac would soon be for sale while it was still in press, an entire two months before the new year began. Other printers began advertising their almanacs two months earlier. Demand certainly existed for these slim periodicals, but printers used frequent advertisements over many months to encourage even greater numbers of customers to purchase almanacs.

**********

[1] Jon Butler, “Magic, Astrology, and the Early American Religious Heritage, 1600-1760,” American Historical Review 84, no. 2 (April 1979): 330.

[2] Butler, “Magic, Astrology,” 331.

[3] Butler, “Magic, Astrology,” 340.

[4] Butler, “Magic, Astrology,” 330.

October 30

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

oct-30-10301766-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (October 30, 1766).

“Madeira Fish.”

In this advertisement certain types of fish were being sold: “Madeira Fish” and “Jamaica Fish.”

What drove me to pick this advertisement? I was interested in where these fish came from and how they show the vast networks of trade the colonies are involved in. At the time Jamaica was under British rule; however, Madeira was (and continues to be) an archipelago in the eastern Atlantic that belongs to Portugal. I found this quite interesting since before this I had never heard of Madeira and found it intriguing that the island traded with the New England colonies.

T.H. Breen notes that economic growth of colonial America was not just due to the exporting of goods from the colonies but also consumption thanks to the importation of new goods.[1] These fish are prime examples of this. Breen argued that colonists were not as self-sufficient as later historians claimed. They imported food, like “Madeira Fish” and “Jamaica Fish,” to supplement what they produced themselves. This also showed a taste or craving for goods rather than the common fish from the area.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Ceara rightly notes that this relatively plain advertisement reveals transatlantic networks of commerce. Despite the rich fishing grounds of the North Atlantic, colonists imported and consumed fish from Madeira and the Caribbean, diversifying their diets.

Even as this advertisement conjured an imaginative map of trade throughout the Atlantic, it also oriented colonists toward London, the center of the British Empire. The anonymous purveyor of “Madeira Fish” and “Jamaica Fish” gave few directions to the shop where customers could acquire these fish: “Enquire at the Crown and Sceptre in Back street.” This shop sign invoked two symbols of royal authority. The proprietor could have selected from among countless other devices to mark the location of this shop but chose a sign that asserted allegiance to the king and the British nation. Furthermore, the proprietor continued to display this particular shop sign even after the Stamp Act controversy and the Declaratory Act. Three days earlier, William Murray published an advertisement in the supplement to the Boston Evening-Post, an advertisement that listed his location as “at the Sign of General Wolfe.” Murray associated his shop with the English hero killed at the Battle of Quebec during the Seven Years War. Both Murray and the anonymous proprietor at the “Crown and Sceptre” promoted British identity as integral to their own commercial identities. They also expected this would resonate with potential customers. Elsewhere in the same issue of the Massachusetts Gazette, however, John Gore, Jr., stated that he sold goods imported from London “Opposite LIBERTY-TREE, BOSTON.”

These advertisements reveal a tension that began to emerge in advertisements and elsewhere during the 1760s as colonists contemplated how to organize the spatial geography of urban ports in light of their evolving relationship with Britain. Many continued to put great stock in their British identity and membership in the empire, despite new regulations passed by Parliament, but others used new symbols to define their businesses and their relationship to England.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 478-485.

Welcome, Guest Curator Ceara Morse

Ceara Morse is a sophomore majoring in History and Secondary Education at Assumption College. From a young age she found history interesting because history is being made every day, not just in the distant past. She is fascinated by many historical periods and places, but wants to focus on U.S. History. She will be guest curator of the Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 30 to November 5, 2016.  She previously curated the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 9 to 15, 2016.

Welcome, Ceara Morse!