December 28

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

Dec 28 - 12:28:1769 Advert 1 Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (December 28, 1769).

Advertisement in Reply to Mr. Samuel Anthony’s, inserted in the first Page of this Paper.”

It began as an advertisement concerning “a Negro Man named Cuffe, about 22 years of Age” who made his escape from Edward Bardin. That advertisement followed a standard format, offering a physical description of Cuffe, listing the clothes he wore when he departed, offering a reward for his capture and return, and warning “Masters of Vessels” and others against “harbouring, concealing or carrying off” Cuffe. Bardin’s advertisement generated a response that called into question whether Cuffe actually escaped from Bardin. Samuel Anthony inserted a notice in the December 25, 1769, edition of the Boston-Gazette to advise the public that Isaac Winslow had sold Cuffe to him and, in turn, Anthony had sold Cuffe to James Lloyd. Anthony suggested that Cuffe had not escaped from Bardin, advising that “All Persons are therefore hereby caution’d against taking up said Negro as they may depend on being prosecuted therefor by Dr. Lloyd, who purchas’d him fairly, and is determined to defend his Right to him by Law against all Persons whatever.” That same advertisement included details of several transactions that had transferred Cuffe from one enslaver to another.[1]

Dec 28 - 12:28:1769 Advert 2 Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (December 28, 1769).

Three days later, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter carried both advertisements. The compositor helpfully placed them one after another on the front page, inserting a heading to inform readers that Anthony’s notice was a “NOTIFICATION in Answer to the above ADVERTISEMENT.” Bardin had apparently seen Anthony’s advertisement in the Boston-Gazette. He penned a response on December 27, in time for it to appear in the December 28 edition of the Weekly News-Letter, but not early enough for it to run alongside the other advertisements. Instead, the compositor once again devised a header, this one labeling Bardin’s notice as an “Advertisement in Reply to Mr. Samuel Anthony’s, inserted in the first Page of this Paper.” This new addition to the feud between Bardin and Anthony filled as much space as the other two notices combined, going into even more detail about the agreements Bardin, Anthony, Winslow, and Lloyd made concerning Cuffe. Bardin concluded by asserting, “[A]s I am threatned by Doctor Lloyd to be sued to the uttermost of the Law if I dare or any one else to touch the said Negro, as he claims him as his Property, I am determined for to know by the Law who has the best Right to him,” excluding the possibility that Cuffe had the “best Right” to himself.

This series of advertisements suggests that Cuffe never “RAN-away” from Bardin. Instead, Bardin advertised that Cuffe escaped and offered a reward for his capture and return as a ploy for getting him back from others who claimed that they now rightfully held him in bondage. The subsequent advertisements did not report that Cuffe had escaped amid all the confusion over whom “has the best Right to him.” Bardin adapted the standard runaway advertisement to suit other purposes.

**********

[1] Bardin and Anthony both described Cuffe as a “Servant,” but neither provided other details that identified him as an indentured servant rather than an enslaved man. For instance, they both provided extensive details about the agreements they negotiated concerning Cuffe, but neither mentioned how much time remained of his indenture. Although Black men, women, and children were sometimes indentured rather than enslaved in colonial New England, in this instance it appears that Bardin and Anthony conflated the words “servant” and “slave” in describing Cuffe.

August 28

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

Aug 28 - 8:28:1769 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (August 28, 1769).

“Tavern at the King’s Arms on Boston Neck.”

In the summer of 1769, the George Tavern on Boston Neck became the Tavern at the King’s Arms. When Edward Bardin of New York acquired the property from Gideon Gardiner, he rebranded the business as part of his efforts to “merit Favour” from prospective patrons. The establishment Bardin described in advertisements that ran in the Boston-Gazette and the Boston Post-Boy offered amenities for both “Ladies and Gentlemen,” including a garden “prepared … in an elegant Manner.” This was not a tavern for raucous drinking but instead a place to gather for leisurely dining, drinking, and conversation. In addition to “an Assortment of neat Wines … and other Liquors,” Bardin supplied the “best Tea and Coffee … to accommodate his Customers.” If they preferred, ladies and gentleman could enjoy “New-York Mead and Cakes” instead of tea or coffee.

To aid prospective patrons in visiting the new Tavern at the King’s Arms, Bardin arranged for a shuttle service that ran between “Capt. Paddock’s, Coach-Maker in Common Street” and the tavern. He advised potential customers that he had “prepared a commodious Coach to wait upon any Ladies or Gentlemen, from 3 o’Clock till 4 in the Afternoon.” Those who did not wish to board the carriage at Paddock’s shop could instead be picked up “at any other Place in Town,” provided that they gave sufficient notice when sending their requests. Not only could patrons enjoy the many amenities of the Tavern at the King’s Arms during their visit, they could also travel there in style in the “commodious Coach.” Bardin and Paddock charged one shilling per person for a round trip.

The new proprietor of the tavern offered another convenience for consumers: take out food. In addition to serving breakfast in the morning, dinner at midday, and supper in the evening, he also prepared “hot Chicken Pies for ready Suppers” for “Customers who are pleased to send for them.”   Bardin opened his advertisement pledging “to merit Favour by a constant and diligent Application” to the “Command” of the “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Town of Boston.” To that end, he offered a variety of amenities and conveniences for prospective patrons to enjoy, including gardens, an assortment of food and beverages, shuttle service to and from the tavern, and take out food for those unable to dine at his establishment. Bardin not only promised hospitality, he also helped prospective customers envision what they could expect to experience at the new Tavern at the King’s Arms.