Reflections from Guest Curator Elizabeth Curley

As this is my third week of working on Adverts 250 it places me at an advantage over some of my other classmates. This may or may not be fair, but I relished the opportunity to work on the project again. For me personally what makes the project so interesting and exciting goes beyond the advertisements. Adverts 250 sometimes looks at the advertisement as a whole, which is important to help us understand the way people organized, wrote, and lived. However, often Adverts 250 looks into a seemingly insignificant part that is only a small part of an advertisement. This is when you find out about the people themselves, what they held to be important to themselves.

Colonial America was filled with influential people beyond the ones we learn about in our text books. Granted those people are very important to history, but what about the “everyday” people and community that influenced their lives? That made them who they are? To me, that is what makes the work of Adverts 250 so fascinating — and important.

As with all work there are challenges and victories; however, because this was my third week as guest curator I was lucky enough to experience more victories than challenges. A challenge that I think all historians from beginner (such as myself) to experienced face is knowing when to stop. By stop, I mean knowing when to move on to the next topic or subject or advertisement. I could spend days looking into just one advertisement. Part of this is because you have to “dig” through sources to find credible information. One day of that can lead to another day of answering all the questions that the first day of “digging” left you. As a budding historian this process consists of me actively involving myself in “doing history.” Another challenge that I believe all historians face while “digging” for the answers to their questions is being stuck at a dead end. This is because of many reasons, however the largest is simply the preservation of information. The amount of preserved information available from any time span will differ. One major victory was getting to piece together multiple different sources to finish each day’s analysis of an advertisement. There are the primary and secondary sources, as well as the historical and not-so historical sources that come into play while “digging “for information.

A large part of working on the Adverts 250 Project is that it is “doing” history.   While “doing history” you get to incorporate history, your experiences, and multiple views that the hindsight of 250 years gives us. Even though we do not have as much information from the colonial American period as I would like, I was able to connect multiple sources together. I was also to connect my colonial American class to my Education class to the Adverts 250 Project.

Another connection that I was able to make was how similar marketing techniques are. Both today and in the 1700s, people marketed their goods and wares for consumers. Colonial America was a center of commerce that had many ports of trade. Trade was an important part of the colonial economy that affected the lives of many people.

All in all I would relish the opportunity to work on the Adverts 250 Project again. Highlighting different aspects of colonial life within the advertisements allows me to look deeper into the “everyday.” Even though it is 250 years later the colonial Americans lived lives similar to ours. They worked hard and had busy lives. They never knew which aspects of their lives would be something that we would later study, but neither do we in 2016 know what historians will examine from our lives.


October 8

GUEST CURATOR: Elizabeth Curley

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

Georgia Gazette (October 8, 1766).

“WENT AWAY from the subscriber about a week ago, AN INDENTED IRISH SERVANT MAN.”

This advertisement caught my eye because my ancestry is Irish. My father came to Boston in 1956. As with many Irish immigrants across time, he did not come with much money.   His aunt who lived in Boston sponsored him, and he had to work very had in the carpenters union to get to where he is now. Jeremiah Herrington, the “INDENTED IRISH SERVANT MAN” in this advertisement from the Georgia Gazette, made a similar journey for Ireland to North America.

In terms of culture and climate, Georgia was a big difference from what Jeremiah was used to in Ireland. Slavery had been banned in colonial Georgia until 1750, so indentured servitude was another way to get laborers during early years of settlement in the colony.

This advertisement had also been placed the week before on October 1, and not taken down. This leads me to believe that Joshua Vaughan had not heard from his Irish servant or any subscribers of the Georgia Gazette.   This could have meant that Herrington as still on the run.   Runaway advertisements were very popular in colonial newspapers; unfortunately, at the time owning a person was very common and desensitized. Missing servants and slaves were noticed quickly and often times if not found reported. If returned to their masters they were often punished. In some colonies, such as Virginia, masters could punish runaways with death if they were repeat offenders.



Elizabeth has chosen an advertisement that provides an important corrective to some of the research she and her classmates are doing this semester. In addition to guest curating the Adverts 250 Project for a week, each student in my colonial America class is also curating the newly established Slavery Adverts 250 Project on Twitter. Regular visitors here know that all of the advertisements from that project are republished here in a daily digest.

In designing that project, I chose to focus exclusively on slaves in colonial America, excluding other sorts of unfree laborers, such as indentured servants and convict servants. In part, I wanted to keep the project focused rather than risk becoming too diffused. In addition, modern Americans continue to grapple with the legacy of slavery in our culture, politics, and economics every single day; we are rather confronted with a legacy of indentured servitude that challenges us in the same way.

From a practical standpoint, I knew that the Slavery Adverts 250 Project would be an experimental collaborative research effort with my students. In launching something new like that I wanted to start off relatively small and leave room to expand at a later time, if the project worked out. As an instructor, I knew that the project needed to be self-contained and manageable for undergraduates who were studying colonial America for the first time and who were new to using digitized primary sources to conduct independent research. To test the viability of the project, I gathered all the slavery advertisements for a single week several months ago. In the process, I determined that the scope in terms of research, effort, and time was an appropriate substitute for the essay assignment the project replaced on the syllabus.

Still, I have questioned my decision because featuring slavery advertisements exclusively tells only part of the story of unfree laborers in early America. Each student submits hard copies of all the newspapers printed in colonial America during his or her week as curator of the Slavery Adverts 250 Project. I carefully skim through them to confirm that all the advertisement they have highlighted belong to the project as well as flag any that they might have missed. In the process, my students and I have encountered significant numbers of advertisements for indentured servants (and a smaller number for convict servants), both for sale and runaways. Such advertisements were especially common in newspapers published in Philadelphia and New York in 1766.

I stand by my decision to focus exclusively on advertisements concerning slavery for the class project, but that does not mean that our conversations in class exclude other forms of unfree labor, nor does it mean that the Adverts 250 Project cannot examine advertisements for indentured servants and convict servants in colonial America. This week Elizabeth has examined and advertisement for each.

October 7

GUEST CURATOR: Elizabeth Curley

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 7, 1766).


This advertisement has different kinds of letters throughout, and that is originally what made me pay attention to it. I am sure that the middle of the page placement and the large “M” of Mahogany would have caught consumers’ eyes as well. Reeves and Cochran start their advertisement by politely addressing consumers and noting the exact location of their shop. This seems to have been a common practice in the colonial American marketplace. Another common practice in advertisements from the 1760s was to let customers know where goods came from. In this case Reeves and Cochran’s goods came from London on board the Queen Charlotte.

“Furniture of the best workmanship” could be hard to come by in colonial America. Artisans did build fine furniture in the major cities, but mahogany furniture was commonly built in Ireland and imported.[1] Many of the other goods that had just finished unloading from the Queen Charlotte came from different English colonies throughout the world as well as other faraway places. Reeves and Cochran sold “India and Barcelona silk handkerchiefs,” “French trimmings,” and “Manchester velvet.” By naming the origins of the goods that they sold, they made everyday items seem exotic and exciting.

This is not much different than what companies do today to market to twenty-first-century consumers. From the placement of the advertisement to the different kinds of letters to the wording, it is fair to say that colonial merchants and shopkeepers planned their marketing strategies.

Earlier in the week I talked about John Taylor and how he had multi-newspaper marketing technique.   This strategy is not much different than what multiple companies do today, such as placing radio, newspaper, and online advertisements.   As for Reeves and Cochran, their advertisement was designed to catch and keep the eye of consumers. Colonial merchants may have lived and worked 250 years ago, but they used and possibly developed marketing strategies that are still used today.



Elizabeth expresses interest in the layout and graphic design of Reeves and Cochran’s advertisement. While it may seem strange to suggest that this dense advertisement consisting exclusively of text with no woodcuts or ornamental type does indeed have graphic design elements, recall that it must be compared to the hundreds of other advertisements for consumer goods and services that appeared in colonial newspapers during the same week in 1766.

Many of those advertisements were disambiguated lists of goods, often grouped in a single paragraph. Sometimes similar types of goods were listed together, such as mentioning all the textiles before moving on to all the hardware, but in other instances the lists seemed to have no organization at all.

This advertisement listed a great variety of goods, but Reeves and Cochran constructed an advertisement easy for potential customers to navigate, not a hodgepodge favored by some of their competitors. Note that the advertisement was divided into several short paragraphs, each devoted to a different sort of merchandise stocked at Reeves and Cochran’s “STORE on the BAY.” (The final paragraph did revert to the dense list form. Why didn’t Reeves and Cochran divide it into two shorter paragraphs based on the different sorts of goods listed in the first and second halves?) Each paragraph included a key word or phrase in all capitals: “GLASS WARE” or “PEWTER and TIN WARE” or “HOSIERY and HABERDASHERY.” This would have made it easy for potential customers to find the sorts of goods that interested them, but it may have also attracted attention to items readers previously had not realized they might like to purchase.

I have suggested before that most of the evidence indicates advertisers generated the copy but printers had primary responsibility for layout as they set the type. In the manner it deviates from most others of the period, this advertisement seems to be an exception. Quite likely Reeves and Cochran included instructions when they submitted both copy and design specifications to the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.


[1] James Peill and John Rogers, Irish Furniture: Woodwork and Carving in Ireland from the Earliest Times to the Act of Union (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2007).

October 5

GUEST CURATOR: Elizabeth Curley

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

New-London Gazette (October 3, 1766).

“A Passage Boat … is now Established between Long-Island and New-London.”

A “Passage Boat” between New London, Connecticut, and Long Island, New York, was a quicker way of travelling than by over land. Ebenezer Webb pointed out that passengers would save fifty miles when they traveled to New York. Webb also developed a schedule and a system of rates, which allowed passengers to be able to plan their passage. Printing the schedule in an advertisement allowed prospective customers to save it if needed for future reference. Webb also made sure to include where he could be found at both locations; he gave the locations of the taverns and which days he would be in what area.   He also let potential customers know that if they would like to become customers of the New-London Gazette, he would drop them off on any of the islands off the coast of Long Island. Those islands included Shelter Island, Plum Island, and Gardiners Island. Another courtesy that passengers in Sterling could enjoy was a “Ferry-Boat” for carrying them to Shelter Island. Webb listed three different rates, which needed to be paid in New York currency. The different rates included “Man and Horse” for eight shillings, a “single Passenger” for three shillings, and for “Packs or Bundles” of goods it depended on their weight.



Today’s advertisement provides important information about ferry service between Connecticut and Long Island during the colonial period, reminding us that the most efficient forms of travel in the eighteenth century differed from modern conveniences made possible by a much more complex transportation infrastructure. As Elizabeth notes, colonists who needed to travel from New London to New York could shave fifty miles off their journey, plus benefit from “the excellent Road on the Island,” if they opted for Webb’s “Passage Boat” service rather than traveling via a land route. In comparison, ferry service today does not seem to offer the same advantages, given the conveniences of travel by car, bus, and train.

I found the final portion of this advertisement to be especially interesting for what it suggests about the business practices and distribution of the New-London Gazette. Webb noted that he would deliver the newspaper to “Those Person on any of the Islands that encline to become Customers.” Despite the distance between New London and those islands (and their separation by Long Island Sound), the New-London Gazette would have been a local newspaper for residents of the islands, at least as much of a local newspaper as those printed in New York. The printer of the New-London Gazette certainly welcomed opportunities to increase distribution to paying subscribers and would have approved of Webb’s efforts to deliver newspapers to Shelter Island and other locales. Given that they were associates in that regard, might the printer have given Webb a discount on advertisements for the ferry service? After all, Webb’s success could also drum up additional business for the New-London Gazette, a mutually beneficial relationship.

October 4

GUEST CURATOR: Elizabeth Curley

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

Providence Gazette (October 4, 1766).

“To be sold at Public Vendue … One Joseph Hart!

This advertisement announced “One Joseph Hart” would be sold into servitude for three years as punishment for stealing “sundry goods from Mr. Obadiah Sprague.” After an auction at the Providence jail, Hart would give up a few years of his life to someone else to work off his crimes as a convict servant. The second half of the advertisement included a brief physical description and a description of the crimes that he committed. This way that the person who purchased and brought him into their service would know what type of person that they were bringing into their home. This also allowed them to see what type of jobs he would be able to do. Since he was “a stout able-bodied active man,”,Hart would have been able to do or assist with any job that his future master bought him for.   These possible jobs could have ranged from blacksmith to carpentry to farming.

The court systems in colonial America had varied punishments.   Today some of them would seem cruel, but then they were commonplace consequences. According to James A. Cox in “Bilboes, Brands, and Branks: Colonial Crimes and Punishments,” sometimes criminals had an ear nailed to the pillory, were dragged along from the stern of a boat, or branded on the hand for stealing, as well as many other punishments that today would be considered cruel and inhumane. As we see with Joseph Hart, another common form of “paying” for crimes was through a form of indentured servitude.   Vengeance and humiliation were the background idea for many of these punishments. The public and the punished would remember and hopefully not do it again. In colonial America, the factor of shame was added because punishments took place in public so that anyone could see.   In addition, placing an advertisement in the newspaper was a very public way to shame Hart and his family, as was the public auction for someone to “buy” his time. Becoming a convict servant would have been embarrassing, but Hart may have seen it as a preferred way to avoid bodily harm as punishment.



In selecting this notice about a “Public Vendue” to auction off “One Joseph Hart” as a convict servant for a period of three years, Elizabeth chose an advertisement that looks quite different from most featured by the Adverts 250 Project. I briefly contemplated asking her to choose a different advertisement, one that more explicitly demonstrated how entrepreneurs used advertising to incite demand and fuel the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century. However, I would not have dissuaded her from selecting advertisements in which people were treated as commodities. Quite the contrary, I have encouraged all the guest curators to grapple with advertisements that sought to buy and sell indentured servants and enslaved men, women, and children. This announcement about an auction for a convict servant – a punishment doled out by the Superior Court as punishment for the crimes Joseph Hart committed – further demonstrates how easily and casually people could be bought and sold in eighteenth-century America, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, race, or color of their skin.

That was reason enough to approve this advertisement when Elizabeth presented it, but the nature of Hart’s crime confirmed that this advertisement merited inclusion in the Adverts 250 Project. What crime had Hart committed that prompted the Superior Court to order that he be “sold at Public Vendue” in order to “satisfy the damages and costs of his prosecution and conviction?” Hart was guilty of “stealing sundry goods from Mr. Obadiah Sprague.” Not all colonists participated in the consumer revolution in the same manner. They certainly did not have the same access to the myriad of goods produced and exchanged throughout the Atlantic world. Other advertisements that appeared in the same issue of the Providence Gazette encouraged potential customers to visit local shops and purchase an assortment of products, many of them imported from faraway places. Many colonists, however, did not have the resources to shop in those establishments. Many purchased used goods at auctions or estate sales, but others participated in an informal economy that included trading stolen goods. It appears that Joseph Hart was eager to get his hands on “sundry goods,” stealing them rather than buying them. In the end, Hart was offered for sale himself.

October 3

GUEST CURATOR: Elizabeth Curley

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

New-London Gazette (October 3, 1766).

A Night-School will be opened on Monday Evening.”

Evening schools allowed children and adults who would not have normally attained an education to get the opportunity. In my Education class, Schools and American Society (taught by Prof. Casey Handfield), we discussed educational disparity in colonial America.[1] Children’s formal education in the colonies was limited, often to a select group of middling and elite white males. However, there were many other forms of education that took place in the colonies, such as apprenticeship, indentured servitude, and dame schools. Apprenticeship was a way for many children to learn a skill over time; although their formal education may have been limited, they learned a skill that provided them with a livelihood once they were older and finished the apprenticeship. Some forms of indentured servitude also allowed for learning a skill from the master. At dame schools, children learned basic skills from women (usually childless or older and widowed). However, most of these women had little formal schooling themselves, but would teach based on religious ideals.

Evening schools were another important form of education in colonial times, as I learned from also consulting Robert Francis Seybolt’s Evening School in Colonial America.[2] Some of the colonists sent their apprentices or indentured servants to night school during the winter months. Because the days were shorter, less light meant fewer work hours. This allowed some apprentices and servants to learn a skill during the day and then go to an evening school to learn basic writing, reading, and math skills. Apprentices and servants who got to go to evening schools would have been very lucky to learn both a skill that would provide them with a livelihood and the skills to make their future business successful.

Evening schools in the colonies originated in the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1661. Once that colony became part of the New York in 1674, the evening schools were slowly taken over by English night schools. In Boston, the first mention of an evening school was in 1724 in the Boston Gazette. According to Seybolt, these two port cities, New York and Boston, were the first to establish this sort of schools, with inland towns and villages getting them later.

John Franks advertised his school in the New-London Gazette. He taught it in his home. Starting the classes in October and continuing every Monday for the whole of winter provided Franks’ students ample time for work during the week and then once darkness fell and the work day was done they could go to class.



Elizabeth is a veteran guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project, having already taken on these responsibilities for two weeks as part of my introductory Public History course last spring. As a result, she came to the project this time already possessing familiarity with the advantages and disadvantages of working with digitized sources. Rather than using my additional commentary to elaborate on her analysis of the advertisement she selected for today, I’ve decided instead to discuss one of the challenges inherent in using digital surrogates for the New-London Gazette.

First, it’s necessary to understand the material aspects of the original October 3, 1766, issue of this newspaper. Like other colonial newspapers, each issue consisted of four pages created by printing on both sides of a broadsheet and then folding it in half. While some surviving issues have remained separate, many others have been gathered together, arranged chronologically, and bound into large volumes, either by printers or subscribers in the eighteenth century or by archivists and librarians at some point since. As a result, when historians consult eighteenth-century newspapers, they often work what look like oversized books that must be supported in special wooden cradles in order to preserve the bindings and avoid damage to the individual issues.

As a result of binding so many newspapers together, sometimes it is difficult to read the material in the column printed closest to the fold. Without sufficient space devoted to the margin that could later be used by the bookbinder, the binding draws the pages too close together to read (or photograph or digitize) all of the printing on the page. On the other hand, the distinctive appearance of a newspaper in a tightly bound volume makes it easy to determine at a glance which were even- and odd-numbered pages when reading the newspaper on microfilm or a computer screen. Both media eliminate other aspects of the material text that readers would otherwise use when working with an original issue. Have a look at the third and fourth pages of the issue that included today’s advertisement.

Oct 3 - Page 3 New-London Gazette.jpg
Third Page of New-London Gazette (October 3, 1766).


Fourth Page of New-London Gazette (October 3, 1766).

It is easy to tell which side of the page was adjacent to the binding, which also makes it easy to determine which was an even-numbered page and which was an odd-numbered page. Note that the advertisement Elizabeth chose appeared far away from the original fold of the newspaper and, thus, far away from the binding of the bound volume. This helped to make it legible when it was photographed and digitized. On the other hand, news items and advertisements that appeared close to the binding have been partially obscured. It is difficult to read them. Keyword searches using current technologies do not effectively “read” those items either. Readers working with the original bound volume of newspapers can shift position to view the page from a slightly different angle or carefully open the volume just a little wider, but these options are not available to researchers using microfilm or digital surrogates. The image of the page as it appears is the only possible image available to them.

As I have argued many times, digitization is wonderful, but it is not perfect. Sometimes it introduces new problems or eliminates possible solutions that working with original documents would allow. As an Education and History major, Elizabeth is especially interested in advertisements about colonial education. That John Franks’ advertisement for “A Night-School” was is legible for Elizabeth and other historians to consult is a wonderful circumstance that was in no way guaranteed by the historical and technological processes that have contributed to the production, preservation, and dissemination of the original documents.


[1] See also Joel Spring, American Education, 16th ed. (McGraw Hill, 2013)

[2] Robert Francis Seybolt, The Evening School in Colonial America (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1925).

October 2

GUEST CURATOR: Elizabeth Curley

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

Massachusetts Gazette (October 2, 1766).

“Just Published … The Examination of Doctor BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, before an AUGUST ASSEMBLY.”

In the eighteenth century and today, most people agree that Benjamin Franklin significantly influenced colonial American politics and commerce. Some count him as an honored founding father, but if you ask my seven-year-old nephew he’ll declare that Franklin was his favorite president (despite my repeated attempts to tell him that, no, Mr. (or Dr.) Franklin was in fact not a president). Franklin made many contributions to early America history and life.

One of his most significant contributions was his delegation to England on behalf of Pennsylvania and other colonies. On February 13, 1766, he testified before Parliament about repealing the Stamp Act. On March 18, 1766, Parliament did in fact repeal the Stamp Act, although on that same day they voted in the Declaratory Act. News of the repeal reached the colonies around six weeks later, around the start of May.

As I was reading this advertisement I wondered, “Why would this be an August Assembly?” I found myself needing to know more, and went to J.L. Bell’s blog, Boston 1775. There I learned that Parliament’s proceedings were very secretive. Actions that Parliament took were made public, but the debates and arguments were private. Speaking about conversations held within either of the two houses was considered a breach of privilege and punishable by both houses.

To protect Franklin, his previous printing partner (and now owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette), David Hall changed the story. By saying that Franklin simply had spoken at an “August Assembly,” Franklin and Hall were attempting to get around the legality of publishing Franklin’s “Examination,” which discussed the flow of the questions and testimony and even recalled some speakers in Parliament by name. Publishing the testimony was a big deal, not only because many times colonists heard news months later, but also because this kept them better informed about Parliament, which met very far away from them.



Elizabeth introduces the curious history of “The Examination of Doctor BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, before an AUGUST ASSEMBLY, relating to the Repeal of the Stamp-Act.” The colonists were certainly hungry for information, which meant that advertisements for this pamphlet did not have to offer much in the way of marketing other than announcing that it was “Just Published … And Sold” by local printers and booksellers.

Indeed, members of the book trades in multiple cities produced, distributed, and sold pamphlets about Franklin’s testimony before “an AUGUST ASSEMBLY.” The American Antiquarian Society’s catalog indicates that at least five editions were printed in British mainland North America in 1766. As Elizabeth indicates, the original edition came off the presses of Hall and Sellers in Philadelphia, but that did not prevent other printers from producing their own editions. In each instance, politics and profit overlapped as printers and booksellers simultaneously sought to keep colonists informed about what was taking place in Parliament and generate revenues for themselves in the process.

Still, even with the subterfuge involved in allusions to “an AUGUST ASSEMBLY,” printers took on some risk when they decided to reprint their own copies of this pamphlet. The edition printed in New York did not list a printer, though bibliographers have associated James Parker with this imprint. An edition from New England listed neither printer nor city, but book historians believe Edes and Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, produced it. The title page of an edition from Virginia stated that it had been “Printed and sold by William Rind, opposite the Capitol” in Williamsburg. Back in Philadelphia, Heinrich Miller printed a German translation, which should come as little surprise considering the large population of German settlers in Pennsylvania. Timothy Green did not bother with printing another separate edition in Connecticut; instead, he reprinted the pamphlet in the New-London Gazette, beginning with the October 10, 1766, issue. In addition to being a treat for his readers and keeping them better informed, this stunt may have attracted new subscribers.

Today’s advertisement suggests that politics and a desire to keep colonists informed of Parliament’s machinations sometimes trumped competition among colonial printers. Note that the pamphlet was sold by “T. and J. Fleet, at the Heart & Crown in Cornhill,” yet the advertisement appeared in a newspaper “PUBLISHED by RICHARD DRAPERS, Printer to the Governor and Council, and by SAMUEL DRAPER, At their Printing Office in Newbury-Street.” In other words, the printers of Boston Evening-Post stocked and sold a pamphlet most likely produced by the printers of the Boston-Gazette and placed advertisements for it in the Massachusetts Gazette. This suggests cooperation and coordination rather than competition among the printers in Boston, all of whom faced a challenge to their livelihoods when the Stamp Act was in force.

Welcome Back, Guest Curator Elizabeth Curley

Elizabeth Curley is a junior at Assumption College. She is an Elementary Education and History double major, with the goal of becoming a sixth grade social studies teacher. When it comes to history her favorite topics are colonial America, the American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution.  Beyond the classroom, she enjoys learning about different world cultures and cooking. You can follow her Public History Twitter account:  @WomenOfAC.  She has previous public history and digital humanities experience, including using T-PEN to transcribe and tag ballads for the Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project at the American Antiquarian Society. She was previously guest curator of the Adverts 250 Project during the weeks of February 14 to 20 and March 20 to 26, 2016. She is returning for the week of October 2 to 8, as well as curating the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 30 to November 5, 2016.

Welcome back, Elizabeth Curley!

Interview with Guest Curator Elizabeth Curley

Elizabeth Curley has completed her second and final week as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project.  As we say farewell to her, let’s take a few moments to find out more about her  behind-the-scenes contributions to this project.

Adverts 250:  This was your second week as guest curator. How did it compare to the first time? Did you make any changes to your research or writing process based on what you learned the first time?

Elizabeth Curley:  My second time as guest curator was much less stressful on one side, and much more stressful on another side. This time I had my process down and I knew how I wanted to procced with gathering my information. I got a whole new cycle of advertisements to research and to interpret. The first week I had no idea of where to do research, how much research to do, what I wanted to say. The second week I had all that knowledge and was able to put it to good use. The analogy that comes to my mind to describe the feeling is that I was no longer a freshman running around on the first day of my first semester wondering where the heck all my classes were. By my second week as guest curator I was the sophomore laughing at all the freshman running around on the first day!

Adverts 250:  What is the most important or most interesting thing that you learned about early American history throughout the process of working on this project?

Elizabeth Curley:  Early American history is not nearly recorded or taught enough about. The whole time I was doing this project I would get a piece of information, then research it, then was left with another question, which would lead me to a source, which wouldn’t be creditable. So I would have to find a creditable source which led me to one little piece of information, which would lead me to another why question. It was horrible. It was at the same time the most exhilarating and stressful process.

Obviously when the colonial Americans were living their lives they did not know we would care so much (except the founding fathers: they definitely knew we would care). They did not record or keep enough information for my liking. Coming from the Lexington, Massachusetts, public school system, when it comes to colonial American history I considered myself at an advantage. Then I started researching these advertisements. At very turn I wanted more information, and I was lucky if I could find it.

Adverts 250:  What is the most important thing you learned about “doing history” as a result of working on this project?

Elizabeth Curley:  Doing history is not easy; it’s actually very hard. It is not something you can turn off easily once its been turned on either. For two weeks my mind has been connecting things learned in my Public History class with my education class and with my art class. It’s exhausting, but it puts a whole new wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. Doing history is being mindful and active with knowledge. As a college student, I take in so many fact a day then only take them out of my head when I have to, but when you’re doing history you can not do that. You must place all the factors together, and involve yourself beyond remembering the information. If you do the Advert 250 Project without actively involving yourself, you’re doing a project your professor assigned to you, not doing history.

Adverts 250:  What is your favorite advertisement from your two weeks as guest curator? Why?

Elizabeth Curley:  I couldn’t pick a favorite, to be honest. All the advertisements I worked on had some type of personal connection to me, which made me like all of them. However, the top three have all been in my second week for sure. The advertisement about Harvard Library was so interesting just because I never knew about that, and finding it out made me feel like I was finding out a secret. The advertisement about James Askew was so interesting because I can be completely honest with the fact that I knew nothing about Pennsylvania before, and all the other interesting information I found out about colonial bankruptcy was fun too, even though it did come out with the advertisement. My advertisement about Elizabeth Clark and the Boston seed merchants was so fascinating because it was about Boston: a city that I proudly declared myself from and part of.

Adverts 250:  Is there anything else you would like to share with visitors to the Adverts 250 Project?

Elizabeth Curley:  The Adverts 250 Project was both the best and the worst two weeks of my life. Ask my roommates and they will tell you I was sometimes miserable. There were at least three days I spent at least five hours (on the third floor of our school library in a small room, in complete silence) on just the next day’s advertisement. I ran through a whole pack of post-its to mark connections and make notes, and they were everywhere: in my bed, next to my toothbrush, on top of the fan above our stove (don’t tell my RA). I will agree with them too. I was miserable so much so I forgot to eat two of those times (and I never forget food).

But I would not have traded it for the world. Personally, I was so much more into the advertisements the second week that the research was overwhelmingly exciting and rewarding. Between finding sources, answering the questions I had, chasing answers and then compiling all the information was like a process of fulfilling destiny. I was making information that might never connect come together. Even if no one ever saw it, I was putting it there. If I was not already so in love with being a future teacher, I would look into being a history researcher for the rest of my life. This was truly one of the most rewarding projects of my life.


Thank you, Elizabeth.  You have made some very impressive contributions to the project!

March 26

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 26 - 3:24:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (March 24, 1766).

“A General Assortment of the freshest and best of DRUGS and MEDICINES.”

In this advertisement, Philip Godfrid Kast sold something a little different. Imported from the last ships from London (which is a way to guarantee their freshness), he sold “a general assortment of the freshest and best of DRUGS and MEDICINES.” I have never seen a pharmaceutical advertisement when looking through colonial newspapers for the Adverts 250 Project, which is why I chose this advertisement for today.

Kast characterizes his drugs as “Chymical” (which is the historical spelling of “chemical”) and “Galenical” (which is a medicine made from natural ingredients – plant or animal components – rather than synthetic components). Most prescription medications made today are of the chemical sort, since over time they have been proven to help more, and can be developed further to help more people.

What else further interested me was that this was a “dual” advertisement almost. Philip Godfrid Kast advertised for himself in Salem as well as for Dr. Stephen Huse in Haverhill, Maassachusetts. This is interesting because those towns are around twenty miles apart. Is it possible that these were the only two shops on the North Shore of Massachusetts that sold pharmaceuticals other than the port of Boston? Also, I noticed that Huse had the label of “Dr.” whereas Kast did not. This makes me wonder if they could possibly have been business partners or maybe Kast was more like a pharmacist today and Huse was more like a doctor today. Or maybe colonial Americans did not care as much about getting their medicines from such an official.



I intended to feature this advertisement (from a previous issue of the Boston Post-Boy) last week before my Public History students resumed their guest curator duties, but when Elizabeth submitted her list of proposed advertisements for this week I held off for a bit. I figured it would be much more interesting to see what each of us thought was interesting and important about this advertisement.

What originally drew me to this advertisement? In early January I included another advertisement from Kast in my analysis of the featured advertisement of the day. The Kast advertisement I used, however, was a trade card rather than a newspaper advertisement. I posted it because the trade card included an image of Kast’s “Sign of the Lyon & Mortar.” Most colonial shop signs have been lost to time, but trade cards provide an alternate form of preservation of the image if not the material object.

Philip Godfrid Kast Trade Card
Philip Godfrid Kast’s trade card engraved by Nathaniel Hurd in Boston in 1774 (American Antiquarian Society).

All of the advertisements that Elizabeth examined this week have told us something about consumer culture and life in eighteenth-century America, but in at least one aspect some of her advertisers themselves were extraordinary. Recall that Mary Symonds, the milliner from Philadelphia, also issued a trade card for her business. (Elizabeth also included a trade card from William Breck, whose shop “at the Golden Key” was located near the shop promoted in the featured advertisement on another day.) Very few retailers, merchants, producers, or suppliers distributed trade cards in colonial America. Only a small fraction of newspaper advertisers experimented with advertising campaigns that utilized multiple media. I’ve been hoping that some of my students would have an opportunity to examine some of those advertisers, but I never would have guessed at the outset of this project that any of them in any single week would encounter two or more advertisers who used trade cards to supplement their newspapers advertisements.