April 13

GUEST CURATOR: Bryant Halpin

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (April 13, 1769).


In this advertisement, Isaac Gray lists goods for sale, including “CYDER”. Mark Turdo provides descriptions of cider written in the eighteenth century by Reverend Israel Acrelius as part of A History of New Sweden: Or, the Settlements on the River Delaware. Acrelius included many different kinds of cyder, such as Apple-wine (cider),” “Cider Royal,” and “Mulled cider,” and “Sampson.” Colonists used wooden mills to help prepare cider. This was a long process that began with a horse-powered grinding up apples. They then placed the apples under a press until the juice ran off. The juice went into a barrel and left to ferment. If the apples were “not of a good sort,” they boiled the cider and added a few pounds of ground ginger into it, and it became “more wholesome and better for cooking.” Acrelius stated, “This liquor is usually unwholesome, causes ague when it is fresh, and colic when it is too old.” Some people heated their cider with a red-hot iron.



When they visited Isaac Gray’s warehouse to purchase cider, some customers likely acquired some of the grocery items also listed in his advertisement, intending to use them to enhance the beverage. As Bryant notes, Israel Acrelius described adding ginger to one kind of cider, a variation that he called “Apple-wine.” The minister also offered a recipe for “Cider Royal,” made by adding “some quarts of brandy” to a barrel of cider “along with several pounds of Muscovado sugar.” This resulted in a drink that “becomes stronger and tastes better.” It could be further improved by drawing it off into bottles, putting raisins in them, and then allowing the mixture to age “for a year or so.” Gray listed both raisins and “double and single refined loaf and lump sugars” among his wares. Although he did not mention brandy, he carried enough varieties of beer, wine, and spirits that he may have had some brandy among his merchandise as well.

Acrelius also described other sorts of cider commonly consumed in Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. “Mulled cider” was served warm. In addition to sugar, it included “yolks of eggs and grains of allspice.” Gray named pepper and ginger in his advertisement, but also made a generic nod to other spices that he had in stock. If sugar, eggs, and allspice did not sufficiently enhance mulled cider then Acrelius recommended adding rum “to give it greater strength.” The recipe for “Sampson” required fewer ingredients: “Sampson is warmed cider with rum in it.” Gray certainly offered rum for sale, though he referred to it as “OLD Jamaica spirits.” In a final variation, “Cider Royal of another kind,” Acrelius described a mixture “in which one-half is cider and the other mead [honey liquor], both freshly fermented together.”

Gray marketed his “CYDER” for home consumption. Some customers may have enjoyed it in its original form as purchased from his warehouse, but Acrelius suggests that many others would have doctored it to their own tastes before they consumed it. In that regard, Gray operated a business similar to modern liquor stores that provide not only alcoholic beverages but also various accouterments, such as tonics and bitters, to make mixed drinks. Then and now, purveyors of beer, wine, and spirits, sell other products intended to enhance consumers’ enjoyment of their beverages.

October 11


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

New-London Gazette (October 10, 1766).

“A valuable FARM, containing about 130 Acres of choice good Land.”

The majority of people in colonial America lived on farms. This advertisement could have been directed at someone who was new to Connecticut and needed somewhere to start a new life. Settling in the New World offered most colonists the chance to own land for the first time so this advertisement might have attracted colonists that came to New England for that reason. The buyer would not have to start from scratch since the farm already had “a Large double House well finished two good Barns, a good Well, and every Convenience for a pleasant Place.”

Colonists needed to make profits off their farms so a main selling point in this advertisement was that the farm had “a good Orchard, that will make 100 Barrells of Cyder.” The buyer knew that his land would already be making a profit. T.H. Breen states, “Consumer demand was the driving engine of economic change” in the eighteenth century.[1] Purchasing this farm would have allowed a colonist to take part in consumer culture by selling the surplus of products from the farm.



Although the Adverts 250 Project focuses primarily on the marketing of consumer goods and services in eighteenth-century America, newspapers included advertisements that colonists placed for many other purposes. The guest curators often find such advertisements as interesting as those that attempted to persuade readers to become consumers. In addition, those advertisements provide a means of exploring other aspects of the colonial American experience, which is the overarching purpose of the class in which the guest curators are enrolled. Accordingly, I allow each guest curator to select one advertisement that deviates from the usual methodology.

Such entries certainly enhance the Adverts 250 Project by acknowledging and incorporating the other types and purposes of eighteenth-century advertisements. That being said, the guest curators sometimes draw interesting connections between consumer culture and an advertisement that did not explicitly market consumer goods and services. As part of her examination of an advertisement for “A valuable Farm,” Jordan has done so by linking the profits from surplus production on the farm (especially the revenue generated from “100 Barrells of Cyder” coming out of the “good Orchard”) to opportunities to participate in the marketplace as consumers in addition to producers. Potential buyers would have also seen advertisements for goods and services in the New-London Gazette, invitations to be part of a transatlantic network of exchange that accelerated throughout the eighteenth century as the number and variety of possessions in households significantly increased. I appreciate the cause-and-effect relationship that Jordan suggests would have linked the two sorts of advertisements: colonists hoping to be active consumers first needed a means of earning the money (or at least demonstrating that they had the resources to barter or merited credit) necessary to make purchases.


[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 476.