March 25

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 25 - 3:24:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (March 24, 1766).

“Just imported in the Cornelia, Capt. Harvey, (via New-York) …”

This advertisement by merchant John Dockray caught my attention because of the fact that the goods came to the colonies via New York City before being sold in Newport, Rhode Island. The Cornelia, commanded by Capt. Harvey, was the ship that brought Dockray’s merchandise to New York. At this time Newport, itself a bustling port, was still smaller in size and population compared to New York or Boston.

The advertisement lists many different everyday goods for everyday people. Dockray clearly characterized these goods as “WINTER GOODS,” the uppercase letters and the placement made that the prominent and eye-catching feature. Due to the fact that it was March, colonists’ winter stores would be getting low as the season came to an end. With spring arriving soon, people would be getting ready for planting, farming, and other occupations.

Dockray also said that the store was attached to his house, which allowed for easy management and control.



Elizabeth’s final observation, that Dockray operated his business in “his Store adjoining to his House,” allows us to further consider some of the ramifications of the work that she did yesterday when she located the general area where several colonists sold their wares using addresses from newspaper advertisements and trade cards in combination with maps of Boston from the period.

John Dockray’s situation was not unique. In yesterday’s featured advertisement Elizabeth Clark announced that she sold seeds “At her Shop near the Mill Bridge, BOSTON.” Clark most likely resided at the same location. In the featured advertisement from two days ago, William Symonds indicated that he sold his wares “at his house, the corner of Market and Second streets, opposite the Quaker Meeting-house” in Philadelphia. In the portion of the advertisement devoted to Mary Symonds’s millinery business, she reiterated that her merchandise was “in the corner shop in said house.”

Colonial Americans who lived in urban ports – like Newport, Boston, and Philadelphia – often tended to work at the same location where they lived, whether shopkeepers or artisans, unlike today’s practice of residing at one location and working elsewhere. An artisan’s workshop, for instance, might be on the first floor of the domicile, with the family residing upstairs. Or portions of a house could have been set aside for running a shop, as was the case with Mary Symonds.

As a result, the addresses included in colonial advertisements help us to reconstruct more than just the commercial landscape of early American cities and towns. In many instances they also tell us where a variety of people lived, helping us to better understand who lived in which neighborhoods and what kinds of relationships – social as well as economic – developed there.

March 24

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1766 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (March 24, 1766).

Elizabeth Clark placed this advertisement to sell an assortment of seeds. She got her supplies “per Capt. Freeman” from London. The timing makes perfect sense, because April showers bring May, June, July, and August crops. With it being late March the planting season was right upon colonists in Boston and the rest of Massachusetts.


Anyone who frequently visits the Adverts 250 Project might notice that this advertisement seems repetitive. To be honest I had to review my work from my first week as guest curator in February. The historical impact that woman of the past have on women of the present and future interests me greatly so I try to pick advertisements that feature primarily woman if I am able. On February 17, I featured an advertisement from Lydia Dyar, who also sold garden seeds and had gotten them from Captain Freeman. In his additional commentary Prof. Keyes also pointed out an advertisement from yet another woman, Susanna Renken, who both sold seeds and bought them from Captain Freeman. All three of these woman posted similar advertisements, for mostly the same product, and bought their goods from the same man.

Two of them seem to have had shops in the same vicinity: Mill Creek. Susanna Renken states that her shop is “near the Draw Bridge” and Elizabeth Clark advertised that she was located “near the Mill Bridge,” which was located on Mill Creek. This trade card helped further convince me that these two woman shops were near each other because William Breck had a shop “at the Golden Key near the draw-Bridge Boston.”

Mar 25 - William Breck Trade Card
William Breck’s trade card (Paul Revere, engraver, ca. 1768).  This trade card is part of the American Antiquarian Society’s Paul Revere Collection.

Nathaniel Abraham, who also regularly advertised in the Boston newspapers, listed “Sign of the Golden Key, in Ann-street” as his location too.


Mar 24 - Nathaniel Abraham - 2:20:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (February 20, 1766).

This map shows that Ann Street intersected Mill Creek.  The drawbridge crossed Mill Creek.  Elizabeth Clark, Susanna Renken, William Breck, and Nathaniel Abraham had shops located near each other.

Mar 24 - Detail of Map
Detail of A Plan of the Town of Boston.
Mar 24 - Map of Boston.jpg
A Plan of the Town of Boston with the Intrenchments &ca. of His Majesty’s Forces in 1775, from the Observations of Lieut. Page of His Majesty’s Corps of Engineers, and from Those of Other Gentlemen (1777?).  Library of Congress.



I am impressed with the way that Elizabeth mobilizes several different primary sources –newspaper advertisements, trade cards, maps – in a preliminary attempt to reconstruct neighborhoods and marketplaces in Boston in the 1760s. This is work that historians and scholars in related fields have undertaken on a grander scale.

I appreciate that Elizabeth draws attention to an aspect of eighteenth-century advertisements that has not yet received much attention here: when examined systematically the locations listed in the advertisements help us to understand not only the geography of early American towns and cities but also relationships of various sorts.

More than two decades would pass before publication of the Boston Directory, the city’s first directory that listed the occupations and residences of its inhabitants, in 1789. That and subsequent city directories from Boston and other urban centers in early America have been invaluable to historians, but such sources do not exist for earlier periods.

Elizabeth has discovered on her own – and helps to demonstrate – that newspaper advertisements provide more information than just lists of goods or attempts to convince potential customers to make purchases. They include valuable information about where people worked and where they lived, details that fill in some of the blanks for an era before city directories.

March 23

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 23 - 3:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 20, 1766).

“She makes up goods in the millinery way.”

Mary Symonds owned a corner shop and placed a very lengthy advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette.   Symonds was a milliner, which is “a person who designs, makes, trims, or sells women’s hats.”

Symonds describes the different materials and trimmings she sold, such as “a great variety of printed calicoes and cottons” and “A great variety of figured and plain ribbons” along with “sattins of different colours.” Unfortunately, I could not identify a lot of descriptive words, but I could tell that all those paragraphs were different trimmings, fabrics, and their descriptions.

In the 1760s all types of people – from the rich to the poor – wore hats. The difference, however, was the material and how much detail was put into them. Hats could be extremely detailed, depending on how much money the colonist could pay. Milliners could add ribbons and other trimmings like the ones in Symonds’ advertisement if customers so chose. Like today, how people dressed was a status symbol that was very important to American colonists. Whether her customers had enough money to wear a different hat every day or wore the same hat every day, they could keep Symonds in business for years to come.

I was curious about how hats in America and England looked in the 1760s. These paintings all show women with hats during the period.

Mar 23 - Copley Portrait of Mary Clarke
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Mary Clarke, Mrs. Samuel Barrett (Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1765-1770).
Mar 23 - Boucher Portrait of Madame Bergeret
Francois Boucher, Madame Bergeret (French, possibly 1766).
Mar 23 - Collett - High Life
John Collett, High Life Below Stairs (London, England, 1763).



There’s so much going on in this advertisement that it’s hard to know where to begin. Indeed, an entire chapter or more could be devoted to teasing out the various aspects of this advertisement. As Elizabeth notes, average readers today do not recognize the various kinds of textiles and trimming that Symonds listed. Material culture specialists, on the other hand, have written entire books about the quality and characteristics, production and consumption, and social and cultural meanings of these fabrics and accoutrements.

Mary Symonds operated her shop in the same location as William Symonds, but this advertisement suggests that they operated their businesses independently of each other. Although William’s business appeared first in the advertisement, Mary’s list of wares comprised a significantly lengthier section. Mary also noted that she had once been in partnership with “her sister Ann Pearson,” a milliner who ran her own advertisements in Philadelphia’s newspapers. The two sisters ran a series of advertisements in previous weeks announcing that they were dissolving their partnership and dividing the merchandise in anticipation of running separate shops. Such advertisements help to demonstrate that some colonial women operated businesses independently or in partnership with other women. Male relations, including William Symonds, did not necessarily oversee women who acted as retailers.

There’s another reason I was excited when Elizabeth selected this advertisement. I’ve identified only a handful of eighteenth-century trade cards and billheads distributed by women. Mary Symonds is the only female advertiser from Philadelphia with a trade card still extant (as part of the Cadwalader Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Her trade card, listed a broad range of millinery supplies similar to what appeared in her newspaper advertisements, circulated in 1770 and perhaps even earlier. It included a border and her name in a rococo-style cartouche. Overall, it was less ornate than some of the trade cards distributed by male advertisers, but it was the most impressive trade card known to have been used by a female advertiser. It appears that Symonds took pride in her business and invested in it accordingly.

Mar 23 - Mary Symonds Trade Card
Trade card (with receipted bill on reverse) distributed  by Mary Symonds in 1770 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania:  Cadwalader Collection, Series II: General John Cadwalader Papers, Box 5: Incoming Correspondence: Pa-Sy, Item 19: Su-Sy).

The copy at the HSP has been dated to 1770 because a receipted bill appears on the reverse. On five different occasions in October and November 1770, somebody – probably Symonds herself – recorded more than a dozen purchases made by “Mrs. Cadwalader” (including “White Gloves,” a “Lace Cap,” and several yards of satin and muslin) amounting to more than £20. This receipted bill indicates that Symonds “Recevd the Contents in full” on November 22, 1770.

March 22

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 22 - 3:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 20, 1766).

“JAMES ASKEW, Post-Rider … desires the Favour of his Customer that have not paid … to pay him … before the 30th of March.”

James Askew placed this advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette to notify his customers of an impending stoppage of service. As the local post rider he delivered newspapers once a week along with any mail for that area. His route included the towns of Lancaster, Carlisle, and Shippensburg, founded in 1709, 1751, and 1730, respectively, some of the oldest inland settlements in colonial Pennsylvania. Askew seems to have covered the southwestern area of colonial Pennsylvania to the boundary of established counties.

Pennsylvania Counties 1752
Pennsylvania Counties as of 1752 (Ber = Berks; Buc = Bucks; Ch = Chester; Cu = Cumberland; Lan = Lancaster; Nhn = Northampton; Ph = Philadelphia; Yo = York).

He most likely delivered the Pennsylvania Gazette with his own advertisement in it for his own customers to see. Askew used very polite and proper language, such as “desires the favour of his customers that have not paid” and “their compliance will oblige their humble servant,” to get his customers to pay their outstanding bill with him. He then reminds them of their yearly “Entrance Money” for his services, which is common even today for some services. With this advertisement being placed in the March 20 paper he gave customers until March 30 to pay their bills. This would be one more week of newspapers to be dropped off, the Thursday, March 27 issue. Since it was already March that meant that some of these bills were very old because the language that he used made it seems like some of them came from before the new year. Even the “Entrance Money” that was due on March 30 was three months late! Askew gave clear instructions that the money should be left were he delivered his customers’ papers or to pay him in person.

However, a second look at the advertisement that goes beyond the pleasant wording reveals an interesting underlying tone. When I read it I sensed a slightly aggressive or threatening tone by the end. When someone says to “expect further trouble” I do no think of good things. Although each colony had its own laws regarding what would happen to debtors, none of the punishments sound good. As I was doing research for this advertisement I discovered Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey (edited by William Nelson and published in 1903). It included an excerpt from the Pennsylvania Gazette‘s April 10, 1766, issue: an advertisement calling debtors and their creditors into court to figure out what to do.

Mar 22 - 4:10:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 10, 1766).

Often the offender would be sent to debtors’ prison or would have to sell off his belongings to pay his creditors. In colonial America, even worse then being sent to debtors’ prison was the public shame and embarrassment, often including publishing offenders’ names in the newspaper for everyone to see. Many colonial Americans were not very forgiving of those who fell from grace this way.



James Askew was anxious for his customers to pay him for the newspapers he delivered from Philadelphia. As Elizabeth explains, some owed arrears from the previous year, while others had not yet paid for the current year. Askew gave plenty of notice that his patrons needed to pay or else face legal consequences. Today’s advertisement also appeared in two previous issues: on March 6 and 13. The post rider gave delinquents fair warning that he would no longer tolerate their refusal to pay for the services he provided.

Advertisements like this one suggest that printers were not the only ones who took a financial risk when extending credit while selling and distributing newspapers. (Recall a recently featured advertisement in which the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette called on subscribers and advertisers to pay their bills.) John Bolton, another post rider who had patrons from Chester to West Nottingham, placed a similar advertisement in the same issue as this notice from Askew. He also threatened that those who refused to pay “may depend on being dealt with as the Law directs, without respect of Persons, or further Notice.” Bolton stated that he did not care if his (former) customers were the most humble or the most prominent residents in the towns he served. Anyone who contracted a debt with him was expected to pay up.

Mar 22 - Post Rider 3:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 20, 1766).

Most of the advertisements featured here highlight attempts to sell goods and services to colonial consumers. Elizabeth has chosen an advertisement that demonstrates another aspect of doing business: some colonists eagerly obtained certain goods and services yet neglected to pay for them, at least not in a timely fashion. As a result, some advertisements encouraged payments from those whose demand had so far outstripped their willingness to pay.

March 21

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 21 - 3:20:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 20, 1766).

This found this advertisement on the second page. It intrigued me because of the goods described and the layout. From a marketing point of view, I wonder if William Taylor intentionally had the printer put the “Choice St. Georges WINE” at the top in the largest print because that was his best selling item. Wine was a very common drink for the every day as was the ale mention at the bottom of the advertisement. The ale came from Liverpool, England, as did many of the goods on the ships that supplied Taylor and other shopkeepers.

As I was scanning the advertisements the phrase “Ship Chandlers Ware” caught my attention and made me keep reading the other items Taylor sold. A ship chandler is “a person who deals in cordage, canvas, and other supplies for ships.” With Boston being a major seaport, much of the population relied on the shipping, importing, exporting, and shipbuilding industries. Other materials such as the nails, hooks, hemp, and cod and mackerel lines would also been in high demand for day-to-day usage in colonial America, but also in the fishing industry. It makes sense that William Taylor ran his shop on “the Long- Wharff,” where many similar businesses operated.



Elizabeth notes that today’s advertisement appeared on the second page of the Massachusetts Gazette. This detail gains in significance when examining the customary layout of this publication.

In the eighteenth century American printers tended to take different approaches when it came to the placement of advertisements within broadsheet newspapers folded in half to create four-page issues. Some printers tended to place advertisements on the first and final pages, which would have been printed with one impression (and, after the ink dried, flipped over to print the second and third pages in a single impression). In such instances, the first and last pages were printed earlier in the week; the “freshest advices foreign and domestick” were set in type and printed on the second and third pages later in the week. These seems counterintuitive to modern readers accustomed to headlines for major news stories appearing just below a newspaper’s masthead on the front page.

Other printers relegated advertisements to the final page. If their publication carried enough advertisements, they placed advertisements on the third and fourth pages, which, as explained above, would have been printed at different times during the week. Given that advertisements often repeated for multiple weeks, many would have been set in type already. Although the advertisements appeared together, they were not otherwise organized or “classified” by type. Printers who utilized this system sometimes placed short advertisements earlier in the newspaper as a means of filling space at the end of the final column on a page.

Whatever method they used, colonial printers tended to be fairly consistent from issue to issue. Richard Draper and Samuel Draper took a bit of a different approach. Like the latter method, the fourth page of the Massachusetts Gazette was often covered with advertisements exclusively, but the other three pages were peppered with advertisements. Those notices did not always appear in the final column of a page or at the bottom of a column. They sometimes appeared first or before news items or interspersed with news items. In that regard, the Drapers printed a newspaper that more closely resembled modern publications than many others: it featured both a separate section (page) for advertisements as well as additional advertisements alongside other content.

Such was the case for the Massachusetts Gazette on March 20, 176. The Drapers devoted the fourth page to advertising as usual, but a small number of short advertisements appeared at the end of the first and third columns on the first page. The second page featured news items, but only in the third column. The advertisement Elizabeth selected appeared in the first column of the second page. It would have been one of the first things a reader noticed when opening the newspaper to find more news.

What explains the Drapers’ decisions about layout? Was this mere expediency and efficiency? Or were they experimenting with different formats as a means of delivering advertisements to readers and potential consumers?

March 20

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 20 - 3:20:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 20, 1766).

“All such Gentlemen as have generously offered to give Books to the Library of said COLLEGE, would be pleased to send them.”

In this advertisement a well-known university asked students and others to both return and donate books to the College Library. This was 128 years after the college was founded. When I think of Harvard University this advertisement asking for books is not what I usually think of.

Shortly after Harvard was founded and the Great and General Court ordered that it would be established in Newetowne (later renamed Cambridge). In 1638, John Harvard willed his library of approximately 400 books and his estate to the college, making him the first Harvard College benefactor.

My question when I saw this advertisement was: why would a 128 year old well respected college library ask their students in a very public way to return those books they promised or borrowed? The answer to that question: because they didn’t have many books any more. On January 24, 1764, there was a fire in the original Harvard Hall, which burned around 4,500 volumes, and left only one of their original benefactor’s books. The collection went from approximately 5,000 to 500 due to about 400 books being out on loan to students and faculty. An additional 100 new books had yet to be unpacked and were being stored in a different location.

The fire is suspected to have started in the library hearth, where the floor quickly caught fire. Due to the fact that the Massachusetts General Court was there when the fire started they claimed responsibility. Through funds supplied by the Court and numerous generous donations of funds and books, by the end of 1766 a new Harvard Hall had been built and the Harvard library had more books than it did on that cold night in January two years previously.

Beyond my curious nature this advertisement caught my eye because throughout my childhood I loved wandering throughout Boston and Cambridge. From since I can remember I have gone to the Harvard –Yale game every other year, tailgating before and eating pastrami with my family. It’s an honored and loved tradition, and one I can not wait to continue this fall. I might even take detour and stop by Harvard Hall. Go Crimson!



I appreciate the way that Elizabeth’s personal experiences enrich her appreciation of this advertisement and the story of the Harvard College library that she discovered in the process of asking questions about why this particular advertisement appeared at that particular time. As I have noted several times, the advertisements featured here often hint at hidden stories. In some instances the full details of those stories will likely never be recovered because we simply lack the necessary documents, but in this case the advertisement turned out to be just one of the many pieces of evidence that contribute to reconstructing the events of a particular event that continued to unfold in 1766.

I also like the way that this advertisement helps us to imagine the movement of goods after their initial purchase, in this case the use of books by students at Harvard College. The guest curators and I focus primarily on advertisements for consumer goods that were newly crafted or imported (along with occasional notices for used goods at vendue sales), which allows us to suggest how sellers envisioned that their wares would be used. In examining assorted appeals, we note the reasons that advertisers expected potential customers to visit their shops or engage their services.

This advertisement, however, illuminates the motivations of those who purchased books, whether they bought new ones to pass along to the library immediately, donated volumes that had been in their personal collections for some time, or gave funds for the purpose of acquiring books for the new library. A spirit of generosity animated the exchange of goods – specifically books – in the story this advertisement helps to tell.

Reflections from Guest Curator Elizabeth Curley

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

The Adverts 250 Project has immensely changed my view of Colonial American history. Before it had been a one-dimensional thing I had learned about in a textbook, and then later in my hometown, Lexington, Massachusetts, from walking around. But that was just it: it was history. I never thought about beyond my tests or projects. Delving into the world of early American newspaper advertisements, however, changed this view. I was able to see and connect every day events from the 1760s to the things I see and do in the twenty-first century. They obviously did not have cell phones or tweet as much as I do (@WomenOfAC ) but their day-to-day lives were not much different. They went to work, they went shopping for wares, and had lives beyond the Redcoats and Patriots. That thought is what made me so interested in this project and made colonial America history seem three-dimensional.

I will say though in the beginning this project was difficult because there are so many small steps in finding each advertisement.  For each advertisement you must first do general research on the Early American Newspapers database.  Then you must map out the days that have newspapers, and which ones have advertisements.  This takes a while and you need to be very organized.  Then they must be approved by Professor Keyes.  After they are all approved then you must write the commentary which has even more research involved.  Once you get the process down it can be much quicker.

The most difficult part of this project for me was actually finding the advertisements and getting them approved. It was hard, because many of the advertisements were published in multiple weeks, so previous guest curators Maia Campbell and Kathryn Severance beat me to them. When you pick your adverts you have to go through and line them up based on the date and also find ones that connect to you somehow. I choose to use ones that connected with me because I feel that it made my commentary easier to write and more genuine for the audience that would be reading them. I wanted the audience to know that: “No, I’m not just some bored college kid doing this because my professor told me to. I genuinely enjoyed the project and the process that was involved.”

Beyond finding the advertisements was the next little step: writing the commentary. This required research, lots and lots of research. However, because I was able to choose advertisements that interested me doing the research and writing the commentary about it was actually enjoyable, because I was interested in what I was learning and writing about.   That did make my commentary a little bit longer than was required, but I felt it was appropriate based on the content of the advertisement and the knowledge that I had gained from the research I had done.

By doing this project I was able to actually be involved in making history relevant and that is what I believe “doing” history is. It is taking history and making it relatable and three-dimensional for as much of the audience as possible. Now that I have done Week 1 of the Adverts 250 project I can say with confidence that Week 2 will be much easier for me. I can not wait to be the guest curator for March 20-26.



Thank you, Elizabeth, for an engaging selection of advertisements this week.  I appreciate the way that you found a personal connection to each advertisement and your enthusiasm for how these everyday advertisements helped to make colonial America come alive for you.  As she mentioned above, Elizabeth will be returning for a second week as guest curator later in the semester.

February 20

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Feb 20 - 2:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (February 20, 1766).

“INTENDS to open a School in the Country.”

Joseph Garner, “Master of the Church School,” and John Todd, “Master of the Friends Public School, in Philadelphia,” were looking for a fellow teacher to go into the Pennsylvania countryside to teach at a new school.   Many people think of teaching as a women’s profession but in 1766 it could be considered a man’s profession because they were the ones who had schooling in some subjects.

Garner and Todd go on to list different skills they would like this gentleman teacher to have, such as the ability to teach Navigation, “Mensuration of Superficies and Solids,” Surveying, and “Extraction of the Square and Cube Roots.” These arithmetic skills would have been applicable to the banker, the merchant, and the insurance officer.

The final application requirement was that the applier have an “Unexceptional Recommendation, respecting Morals.”

The key reason I chose this advertisement was because I am studying to become an elementary educator with a concentration in history. I believe that being an educator to the next generation of leaders, CEOs, union workers, pro athletes, service employees, and mothers and fathers is the biggest honor that can be bestowed upon me. I think all teachers believe this at their core, although there are many other benefits. Taking Professor Keyes’s Public History class has shown me all the ways history can be brought inside and beyond a classroom, and, as a future educator, it will be my job to show children that history is not just in their textbooks but all around them.



As with yesterday’s featured advertisement, Elizabeth has chosen a notice that does not explicitly mention women yet allows us to explore how gender shaped women’s (and men’s) experiences in the late colonial period.

By and large, men and women received different kinds and levels of education in eighteenth-century America. In addition, schoolmasters operated “Latin” schools modeled on classical curricula in European schools for a small number of pupils, usually male, and “English” schools that provided instruction in basic reading, writing, and arithmetic for a greater number of students, both male and female. Men served as instructors at Latin schools, but both schoolmasters and schoolmistresses operated English schools.

This advertisement makes it clear that Garner and Todd envisioned a school for boys and young men who would eventually go on to careers as merchants or bankers or secure jobs in customs houses and insurance offices. It is possible that the school would have admitted girls and young women for instruction in basic skills. It is also possible that they would have pursued some of those lessons in mixed-sex classrooms (though other advertisements from the period make it clear that in such cases students would be closely monitored to make sure everyone behaved appropriately, as concerns about “Unexceptionable Recommendations, respecting Morals” make clear). When it came time for the more advanced and supposedly masculine subjects, male students would have met separately in sex-segregated classrooms with male instructors.

February 19

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Feb 19 - 2:17:1766 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (February 17, 1766).

“A large Assortment of Kilmarnock Carpets.”

Lewis and Bant posted this advertisement to advertise their carpeting and flooring company. They also say they have a good assortment of other English goods which would be sold to the consumer for “very low for cash.” Their shop was located in Cornhill Street, which is now part of Washington Street in Boston.

The advertisement describes their carpets as Kilmarnock and being imported from Glasgow. Glasgow is a major river port city, whereas Kilmarnock is in west central Scotland. Many goods were made in the country and they would be brought into populated port cities to be sold or exported.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 9.32.04 AM
Location of Kilmarnock in Scotland.

The carpet is being sold in ½ , ¾, and yard measurements, which is not much different than today. Unless you are buying a standardized size (usually 8×12 ft or 6×9 ft) today, carpets are custom measured in either yards or feet. Also parts of the advertising style haven’t changed much for carpet companies in the Boston area. Lechmere Rug Co. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a local family-owned carpet company that has been in the area since 1975.

This advertisement grabbed my attention because I have worked at Lechmere Rug since I was little, alongside my father, who owns the business, and my brother. I have measured homes and dropped off rugs, so naturally I chose this advertisement because it reaches close to home for me.



One of the things that I enjoy most about working on the Adverts 250 Project is discovering the ways that eighteenth-century advertisements resonate with others. For some readers, specific advertisements speak to their own scholarly interests. Others draw connections between certain advertisements and their everyday lives, their occupations, their hobbies, their interests, their choices as consumers in the early twenty-first century.

I would not have predicted that Elizabeth would select this particular advertisement. It appeared right above shopkeeper Jane Eustis’s much lengthier advertisement. Knowing that Elizabeth is especially interested in women’s history and sought to include as many advertisements from women as possible during her time as guest curator, I would have guessed Jane Eustis’s advertisement would have been at the top of her list.

But that was before I knew that Elizabeth had worked in the family business at Lechmere Rug Co. Her father’s name is listed on the web site, but not the names of their expert installers or other staff. Patrick Curley speaks with pride on behalf of the craftsmen he employs. Lewis and Bant’s advertisement does not indicate the names of others who worked in their shop either, but many historians of women in early America have demonstrated that wives and other female relations often assisted in operating family businesses in the colonial era. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has described them as “deputy husbands” because these women temporarily assumed traditionally masculine responsibilities in the marketplace when their husbands were not available.

Today’s advertisement may not explicitly feature a woman, unlike others Elizabeth has chosen, but it does allow us to explore women’s history as we question who else might have been working in Lewis and Bant’s shop. Then and now, many members make valuable contributions to family businesses. Elizabeth has assisted her father and brother at Lechmere Rug Co. It is possible that wives and daughters worked in Lewis and Bant’s shop as well.

February 18

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Feb 18 - 2:18:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (February 21, 1766).

“Wants a Place, A Young Woman that is capable to attend Children.”

A woman looking for placement was not an uncommon thing in early American newspapers. Young women usually would look to be a housekeeper or cook, to care for children, or assist the women of the house. This young woman described her skills as “capable to attend Children, make up small Clothes,” and be all around helpful to the family. Our generation would describe her as a nanny.

In the American colonies, the number of servants a family had often depended on their economic status. Like the size and grandeur of a family’s house, the number of servants could be a status symbol. Not much has changed today.

Feb 18 - Masthead New-York Gazette 2:17:1766
Masthead for New-York Gazette (February 17, 1766).

For me, this advertisement was also an interesting find because normally the New-York Gazette published on Mondays. This week they published both a Monday (February 17) and a Tuesday (February 18) edition, which is were I found this advertisement. Normally for the Adverts 250 Project I would have had to go back to a Monday edition, but for this week I did not have to.

Feb 18 - Masthead New-York Gazette 2:18:1766
Masthead for New-York Gazette Extraordinary (February 18, 1766).



“Not much has changed today.” Indeed, conspicuous consumption was not an invention of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. It existed before the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century and genteel colonists engaged in it as a means of further differentiating themselves from each other as the middling and lower sorts gained greater access to consumer goods throughout the 1700s.

I believe that Elizabeth is the first guest curator to comment explicitly on the methodology used in selecting the featured advertisement for each day. She notes the same methods that I have described elsewhere in extended commentary about the project’s methodology and how it shapes the scope of the project.

As an instructor, this is an important behind-the-scenes element of students’ work. Each guest curator has compiled a census of newspapers published during his or her week based on the calendars generated by Early American Newspapers. As a result of supplements and extraordinary (“extra”) issues as well as publications starting or stopping in response to the Stamp Act or other reasons, the list of newspapers published in one week often differs from the list for the next week.

As Elizabeth indicates, many colonial American newspapers were published at the beginning of the week, on Mondays, but in most weeks no newspapers were printed on Tuesdays. As we examined this more closely, we discovered that William Weyman actually published the New-York Gazette three times during this week in 1766: the regular issue on Monday, February 17; a broadside (one-page) “Extraordinary” issue on Tuesday, February 18; and a two-page “2d Extra” on Friday, February 21.

Feb 18 - Masthead New-York Gazette 2:21:1766
Masthead for New-York Gazette 2d Extra (February 21, 1766).

This was not immediately apparent, however, due to a coding error in the metadata. The two extraordinary issues were treated as one in Early American Newspapers. As I have noted elsewhere, researchers need to be aware of faulty metadata (background information or “data that provides information about other data”) that may lead them to incorrect conclusions about digitized sources.

Feb 18 - Readex Calendar
Note that the calendar of issues generated by Early American Newspapers does not indicate that the New-York Gazette was published on February 21, 1766.  That “2d Extraordinary” has been conflated with the Extraordinary issue of February 18, 1766.

Elizabeth’s advertisement was actually published in the “2d Extra” on February 21. The February 18 Extraordinary did not include any advertisements. That means that today’s featured advertisement technically departs from the established methodology for this project.

I asked Elizabeth not to edit her original submission when we discovered this. Together we have fast forwarded three days to February 21, but this allows us to make a valuable point about the shortcomings that sometimes emerge when relying on digitized sources.

(Besides, February 18 is my birthday. I’m glad that we found a way to incorporate at least a masthead from a newspaper published 250 years ago on February 18, 1766, into the project.)