September 4

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

Sep 4 - 9:4:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (September 4, 1770).

“A Person acting in direct Opposition to the general Sense of the Town.”

When Parliament repealed the duties on most imported goods that had been imposed in the Townshend Acts, New York quickly abandoned its nonimportation agreement and resumed trade with British merchants.  Boston and Philadelphia, however, maintained their nonimportation pacts for several month because duties on tea yet remained.  Merchants and traders had specified that they would not import goods from Britain until Parliament eliminated all of the duties.  All the repeal of most of the duties was a victory, it was a partial victory.  For months, colonists in Boston and Philadelphia debated whether they should relent.

Yet this discourse was not confined to the largest port cities.  Similar discussions took place in other towns as well.  In Salem, Massachusetts, for instance, the Committee of Inspection determined in late August 1770 that John Hendy was “a Person acting in direct Opposition to the general Sense of the Town” because he “persist[ed] in his Refusal to sign the Agreement against selling Tea.”  Even worse, he also continued to sell tea.  In an advertisement that ran in the September 3 edition of the Essex Gazette, the Committee of Inspection instructed the public “to withdraw their Connections from the said Hendy” for refusing to support the patriotic principles put into action in the “Agreement against selling Tea.”  The committee further described Hendy as “preferring a little private Interest to the public Good, and thus favouring the Designs of the Enemies to American Liberty.”  Other merchants and shopkeepers made sacrifices to support and maintain the nonimportation agreement, understanding that the stakes were much larger than their own businesses.  By selling tea, the committee argued, Hendy became a collaborator and thus should suffer the consequences.  The advertisement was a public shaming intended meant to have an impact on both Hendy’s business and his reputation.  It also served as an additional mechanism for possibly bringing Hendy into line with “the general Sense of the Town” if enough readers did indeed cease doing business of any sort with him or refused to socialize with him.  Hendy had not been swayed so far, but the Committee of Inspection hoped that the advertisement might help turn the tide and bring him into compliance.  At a time when some entrepreneurs used advertisements to proclaim their patriotic principles as part of their marketing strategies, newspaper notices also informed the public about violators to avoid.

August 28

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

Aug 28 - 8:28:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 28, 1770).

“Still believing the former Piece to be more agreeable to Truth than the latter.”

When Joseph Symonds, Joseph Hobbs, and Joseph Hobbs, Jr., placed an advertisement in the August 28, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette, they depended on readers being familiar with a series of advertisements that previously appeared in that newspaper.  In the first, Addison Richardson accused “an Apprentice Lad, named Samuel Hobbs” of running away and taking a box “containing sundry Articles of Cloathing.”  Richardson had already recovered the box.  He warned others “to be very cautious in having any Concern” with the apprentice.

In an unusual turn of events, Hobbs placed his own advertisement to respond.  Usually runaways either did not have the resources to respond in print or chose not to draw additional attention to themselves by doing so.  Hobbs, however, sought to set the record straight, declaring that he “was not bound” to Richardson or “under any Obligation to live with him any longer than we could agree,” that the box and most of its contents did not belong to Richardson, and that his purported master had not treated him well during “almost five Years Service.”  Symonds, Hobbs, and Hobbs, all relations of the alleged runaway, signed a short addendum stating that they believed the young man’s account to be “real Truth” and encouraged that “the Publick will take no Notice.”

In turn, Richardson published yet another advertisement, this time masquerading as “SA——EL H—BBS.”  That notice paralleled the format of the one placed by Hobbs, offering an alternate version of events that corrected what Richardson considered inaccuracies in the clarifications that Hobbs offered the public.  Richardson-as-H—BBS also pointed out that “two Uncles and a Brother” of the apprentice might not be the most reliable witnesses in the dispute.  In order to continue the parallel format, he concluded the advertisement with a short declaration about having “Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth” and signed it “A. RICHARDSON.”

Two weeks later, Symonds, Hobbs, and Hobbs placed an advertisement of their own accord.  Just in case any readers were confused about whether Samuel Hobbs was responsible for the notice signed by SA——EL H—BBS, they proclaimed that it “was not put in by him, for he did not know any Thing of it.”  They also reported that some accommodation had been reached:  Mr. Richardson hath returned the Box, with what was in it, and offered to cloath [Hobbs] honorably if he will come and live with him again.”  Seeing this as a satisfactory outcome, the uncles and brother decided to “forbear, and say no more,” though they opined that Richardson would “be very cautious how he advertises Runaways for the future.”  As a parting shot, they stated that the advertisement by the real Hobbs was “more agreeable to Truth” than the one by Richardson-as-H—BBS, “and not merely because the Boy told us so neither.”  Even after accommodation had been reached, these three men sought to clarify which version of events was more accurate.

Buying space in the local newspaper gave Richardson, Hobbs, and Hobbs’s relations opportunities to shape the narrative of what transpired between master and apprentice in the summer of 1770.  Rather than working out their disagreements among themselves, they put their dispute on display before the general public, each attempting to convince the community that they were in the right and someone else behaved poorly.  These advertisements amplified gossip and word-of-mouth reports of the discord between Hobbs and Richardson.

August 14

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

Aug 14 - 8:14:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 14, 1770).

“WHEREAS Addison Richardson has advertised me as a Runaway.”

When Addison Richardson advertised Samuel Hobbs as a runaway apprentice in the Essex Gazette in the summer of 1770, Hobbs took the extraordinary step of placing his own advertisement in response.  In most similar situations, “runaways,” whether apprentices, indentured servants, enslaved people, or wives, did not possess the resources to publish their own advertisements or did not wish to call attention to themselves by doing so.  As a result, masters, enslavers, and husbands controlled the narrative in the public prints.  Yet Hobbs did manage to insert an advertisement that contested Richardson’s version of events in the August 7, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette.  His brother and two of his uncles attested to the “real Truth” of Hobbs’s depiction of what transpired with Richardson.

The aggrieved master was not amused by his apprentice’s advertisement.  In the next issue, he ran a new advertisement in which he masqueraded as “SA——EL H—BBS.”  He began by stating that “Addison Richardson has advertised me as a Runaway” and “I have told the Public one Story very contrary to Truth,” but “I now tell them another Story that is very agreeable to Truth.”  Richardson as H—BBS then repeated each detail from Hobbs’s advertisement along with a clarification he considered the actual truth.  For instance, “I told [the public] that I was not bound to him, but I was by the Rules of Justice, which the Public always looks upon as the strongest Obligation whatever.”  In the original advertisement, Richardson accused Hobbs of stealing a box “containing sundry Articles of Cloathing,” but noted that he had recovered it.  In his response, Hobbs stated that the box did not belong to Richardson, that the contents belonged to Hobbs except for “one Pair of Stockings full of Holes, and a Pair of Shirts which [Richardson] gave me,” and that Richardson did not provide him with adequate clothing during “almost five Years Service.”  Richardson as H—BBS contested that narrative, offering this alternative:  “I told the Public, that he had found me but one Shirt, which was very false, for I am very conscious he has found me five new Shirts since I lived with him, and a sufficient Quantity of all other Cloathing.”  Richardson provided for H—BBS even though “I served him but very poorly for almost five Years.”

Richardson was equally unimpressed with the character witnesses who had testified to the “real Truth” of Hobbs’s advertisement.  “As to the Conduct of the three that signed at the Bottom of my Piece,” Richardson as H—BBS opined, “ they say ‘We the Subsribers have Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth:’—What Reason? says the By-Stander: Why, say they, the Boy that run away from his Master told us so, and so it must be true; and that is all the Evidence they had.”  To cast further doubt on the motives of these witnesses, Richardson as H—BBS requested that “the Public judge for themselves” if that was “sufficient Reason for two Uncles and a Brother to sign such a story.”

This new advertisement ended with a short statement of support by “A. RICHARDSON” for the version of events presented by “SA——EL H—BBS,” replicating the structure of Hobbs’s advertisement and deploying some of the same language.  “I the Subscriber have Reason to believe the Piece above to be real Truth,” A. RICHARDSON declared before admonishing that he “still hope[s] the Public will hold Runaways in Contempt, and all their Abettors.”

The dispute between Richardson and his (alleged) apprentice played out in the public prints beyond a standard runaway advertisement.  Both parties placed lengthy notices that impugned the honesty and character of the other in their efforts to convince others in their community which of them had indeed been wronged by the other.  Most runaway apprentice advertisements went unanswered, but in this case both apprentice and master made further use of the press to present their version of events to the public.

August 7

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

Aug 7 - 8:7:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 7, 1770).

“Addison Richardson hath advertised me as a Runaway.”

Eighteenth-century newspapers carried advertisements for all sorts of “runaways.”  Those runaways included enslaved people who liberated themselves from enslavers who held them in bondage, wives who “eloped” from their husbands to remove themselves from patriarchal authority (and often mistreatment) in the household, and apprentices and indentured servants who broke the terms of their contracts.  Few of these advertisements garnered responses in the public prints.  Even if they possessed the resources to place advertisements, enslaved people who liberated themselves had no reason to call additional attention to themselves.  Aggrieved husbands usually declared that they would pay no debts on behalf of their absent wives, eliminating their ability to publish notices in response.  Occasionally, some wives did find the means to run their own advertisements.  Apprentices and indentured servants, like enslaved people who escaped, also avoided publishing responses to the advertisements that declared them runaways and requested aid in locating and returning them.

That made a pair of advertisements that ran in the Essex Gazette in the summer of 1770 especially notable.  Addison Richardson first advertised Samuel Hobbs as a runaway on July 24.  He claimed that the “Apprentice Lad” ran away and recommended that others “be very cautious in having any Concern with him.”  Richardson also noted that Hobbs had “carried off a Box, containing sundry Articles of Cloathing,” but Richardson had since recovered the box and the stolen items.  Richardson’s advertisement ran again on July 31.  When it appeared for a third time on August 7, a response from Hobbs accompanied it.  The compositor placed one notice after the other, making it easier for readers to follow the saga as it unfolded.

In an advertisement twice the length of the one that named him a runaway apprentice, Hobbs asserted that he “was not bound” to Richardson not was he “under any Obligation to live with him any longer than we could agree.”  Hobbs suggested that Richardson had not lived up to whatever terms they had set, but if he had “fulfilled his Promise” then Hobbs “should not have left.”  In response to the accusation of theft, Hobbs stated that neither the box nor the contents belonged to Richardson, except for “one Pair of Stockings full of Holes, and a Pair of Shirts, which he gave me.”  Everything else in the box belonged to Hobbs, yet Richardson refused to return any of it.  Hobbs also lamented that in “almost five Years Service” Richardson had not provided adequate clothing as was his responsibility.  In response to Richardson’s advice that others be cautious in their dealings with Hobbs, he turned the tables by warning others to “be very cautious where they put out Children, especially poor fatherless ones, such as I am.”

To strengthen his credibility, Hobbs also included a short note from three men who endorsed his version of events.  Joseph Symonds, Joseph Hobbs, and Joseph Hobbs, Jr., some or all of them probably relations to the alleged runaway apprentice, stated that they “have Reason to believe the Piece above to be the real Truth.”  They asked that “the Publick … take no Notice of the Advertisement.”  Quite possibly these supporters paid to insert Hobbs’s advertisement in the Essex Gazette.

Runaway apprentice advertisements rarely generated responses in print in eighteenth-century America, making this an extraordinary case of an alleged runaway defending his reputation, revealing mistreatment by his master, and marshalling the support of others who advocated on his behalf.  Yet this was not the end of the exchange in the Essex Gazette.  The following week Richardson published a response to Hobbs’s response.  That will be the featured advertisement on August 14.

July 24

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

Jul 24 - 7:24:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (July 24, 1770).

“An Exhibition of modern Books, by AUCTION.”

Robert Bell, one of the most influential booksellers and auctioneers in eighteenth-century America, toured New England in the summer of 1770.  Bell is widely recognized among historians of the book for his innovative marketing practices.  The tone and language in his advertisement in the July 7, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette, however, seems rather bland compared to the flashy approach that eventually became the hallmark of Bell’s efforts to promote his books and auctions.  On the other hand, another advertisement in the Essex Gazette just a few weeks later hinted at the showmanship that Bell was in the process of developing and refining.

In announcing auctions that would take place at a tavern in Salem on three consecutive nights, Bell addressed prospective bidders as “the Lovers of literary Instruction, Entertainment, and Amusement.”  Deploying such salutations eventually became a trademark of his newspaper advertisements, broadsides, and book catalogs.  The advertisement in the Essex Gazette gave customers a glimpse of the personality they would encounter at the auction.  Bell described each auction as “an Exhibition of modern Books” and proclaimed that one each evening “there will really exist an Opportunity of purchasing Books cheap.”  He seemed to take readers into his confidence, offering assurances that the prospect of inexpensive books was more than just bluster to lure them to the auction.

In the same advertisement, Bell sought to incite interest in another trilogy of auctions.  “An Opportunity similar to the above,” he declared, “will revolve at the Town of NEWBURY-PORT.”  Readers of the Essex Gazette who could not attend any of the book auctions in Salem had another chance to get good bargains while mingling with other “Lovers of literary Instruction, Entertainment, and Amusement.”  Like other itinerants who announced their visits in the public prints, whether peddlers or performers, Bell made clear that he would be in town for a limited time only.  He advised that “the Public may be certain that the Auctionier’s Stay in those Towns will not exceed the Time limited as above.”  Bell would be in Salem for just three nights and then in Newburyport for three more nights before moving along to his next destination.

Compared to his recent notice in the Providence Gazette, the advertisement Bell placed in the Essex Gazette much more resembled the style of promotion that made him famous in the eighteenth century and infamous in the history of the book.  His lively language suggested that his auctions would be more than the usual sort of sale.  They would be events that readers would not want to miss.

July 3

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

Jul 3 - 7:3:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (July 3, 1770).

The Pains taken by some to represent him in the unpopular Light of an Importer.”

On July 3, 1770, Thomas Robie of Marblehead, Massachusetts, placed an advertisement in the Essex Gazette.  In it, he promoted “GUN-Powder, Shot, Bar-Lead, and Wool-Cards” as well as nails in a variety of sizes and “a Number of other Articles, in the Hard Ware Way, imported in August last.”  Yet Robie did more than merely mention the merchandise he offered for sale.  The shopkeeper devoted just as much space in his advertisement to explaining the circumstances for acquiring those goods, asserting that he abided by the nonimportation agreement adopted in protest of the duties on certain imported goods.  In so doing, he defended his reputation and responded to rumors that apparently circulated about the origins of his inventory.

He hereby informs the Public,” Robie proclaimed, “that notwithstanding the Pains taken by some to represent him in the unpopular Light of an Importer, he is not now, nor ever has been , possessed of any Goods ordered since April, 1769 (six or eight Months before the nonimportation Agreement was entered into by this Town) excepting the four first mentioned Articles, which are allowed by said Agreement.”  He offered an accounting of his activities, noting both when he ordered goods and which items did not fall under the nonimportation agreement and thus did not count as violations.  In specifying that he ordered (rather than received) goods prior to the agreement going into effect, he may have revealed the source of some of the confusion if those orders had not arrived before the prohibition on placing new orders went into effect.  Some merchants and shopkeepers parsed the provisions of nonimportation agreements, especially when they allowed for gradual implementation that allowed for the receipt of orders already placed but not new orders.  Robie noted that his hardware had been imported in August 1769, but he had not placed any new orders since April 1769.

Whether Robie adhered to the letter of the agreement, the spirit of the agreement, or neither, he believed that gossip that “represent[ed] him in the unpopular Light of an Importer” damaged his standing in the community.  That prompted him to turn to the public prints to address those stories and offer reassurances to prospective customers that they would not become complicit in undermining the political principles that inspired the nonimportation agreement if they purchased his goods.

June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (June 12, 1770).

“A large convenient House … finely situated on the main Street.”

Location!  Location!  Location!  Francis Symonds highlighted the location of the “front Part of a large convenient House” that he offered for sale or rent in the June 12, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette.  He noted that the property was “finely situated on the main Street in Danvers, within about a Quarter of a Mile of the Rev. Mr. Holt’s Meeting-House.”  Symonds also reported an array of goods and services available in close proximity to the house, inserting a census that was not a standard feature of eighteenth-century real estate notices.  Within a quarter mile, buyers or renters would be “accommodated with a very capable Schoolmistress, a Victualler, a Baker, 2 Merchants, 4 Shopkeepers, 2 Doctors, 1 Surgeon, 3 Carpenters, 2 Masons, 3 Blacksmiths, 3 Potters, 2 Tanners, 2 Curriers, 1 Saw-Mill, 1 Weaver, 2 Tailors, 1 Barber, 1 Chaisemaker, 2 Saddlers, 2 Joiners, 1 Glazier, and 8 Cordwainers.”  In addition, they had access to “a good Grist-Mill within half a Mile.”  Although not nearly as bustling as nearby Boston, the town of Danvers was “so growing, that most of the said Tradesmen have lately set up their Businesses.”  Symonds suggested that buyers or renters would reside in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

While that made daily life more comfortable, it also contributed to the prospects of earning a livelihood in the area, especially for anyone interested in the “Shop on the lower Floor” of the house.  In addition to prospective customers who lived nearby, Symonds declared, “It is thought about three Quarters of the Marketing that goes into the two great Towns of Salem and Marblehead passes by said House.”  Furthermore, the house was “situated within a Mile and an half of Salem Court-House” as well as “near the Bell Inn.”  Anyone who intended to operate a business in the shop would not lack for foot traffic.  Prospective customers passed by on their way to market, court, and a popular tavern.

Unlike others who advertised real estate, Symonds offered only a brief description of the house and land.  He focused primarily on the location and the businesses located nearby, his extensive account of the area conjuring images of a lively neighborhood where residents could readily access services and entrepreneurs could easily engage customers.  Considering that many of the local “Tradesmen have lately set up their Businesses,” he may have considered this necessary to attract buyers or renters unaware of the recent growth in the town of Danvers.

May 15

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

May 15 - 5:15:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (May 15, 1770).

“Said HILLER has to sell, a Variety of Watch Chains, Strings, Keyes, Seals.”

When Joseph Hiller, a clock- and watchmaker, set up shop in a new location, he inserted an advertisement in the Essex Gazette to alert “the Public and his Customers in general, and those of them in the County of ESSEX in particular.”  Hiller had not only moved to a new location, he also moved to a new town.  He explained that he formerly operated a shop on King Street in Boston, but now customers could find him at “a Shop opposite the Court-House, on the Exchange, in SALEM.”  He hoped to retain those customers that he could, especially those who resided close to his new location, but he also aimed to attract new clients in Salem and its environs who may not have been previously inclined to seek out his services in Boston but would now consider his shop a viable option given its proximity.

To that end, he proclaimed that he would “execute all Sorts of CLOCK and WATCH WORK with such Accuracy, Fidelity and Dispatch, as to merit the Approbation of his Employers.”  Previous customers were already familiar with Hiller’s skill and service, so that portion of the advertisement served as an introduction to those who had not previously hired him.  He deployed appeals that artisans commonly incorporated into their advertisements, “Accuracy” testifying to the quality of his work and “Fidelity and Dispatch” applying to the customer service he provided.  While Hiller’s advertisement was not particularly innovative, it did demonstrate that he was competent, at least in how he represented his business in print.  Prospective clients could test those claims for themselves.

In an additional effort to entice customers into his new shop, Hiller appended a nota bene advising that he did more than make and repair clocks and watches.  He also carried a variety of accessories associated with his business: “Watch Chains, Strings, Keys, Seals.”  Selling these items supplemented the revenues that Hiller earned from his primary occupation; purchasing them allowed consumers to express their own tastes in embellishing their clocks and watches.  That Hiller made them available at all may have aroused the curiosity of prospective customers, encouraging them to visit his new shop to examine the accessories even if they did not wish to purchase a clock or watch or arrange for repairs.  As a newcomer in Salem, Hiller offered various reasons for consumers to make a call at his shop.

May 8

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

May 8 - 5:8:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (May 8, 1770).

“Negro Boy … can work in the Iron Works, both at Blooming and at Refining.”

Advertisements concerning several enslaved men and women ran in the Essex Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal on May 8, 1770.  A notice in the latter offered for sale a “NEGRO FELLOW who is a good Sawyer and Caulker.”  On the same page, another advertisement sought to sell an enslaved woman who “is a very good Sempstress.”  In the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, Massachusetts, an advertisement for a “Negro Boy, 20 Years old,” indicated that the young man “can work in the Iron Works, both at Blooming and at Refining.”  These enslaved people each possessed specialized skills beyond agricultural labor and domestic service.  Advertisements that described enslaved men and women published in newspapers from New England to Georgia testified to the range of skills they acquired and the many contributions they made to commercial life and economic development in the colonies.

Although historians of early America have long known this, misconceptions of enslaved men and women working solely in the fields and in plantation houses have deep roots in the popular imagination … and in the education many students receive before enrolling in college-level history courses.  Such misconceptions have proven stubbornly difficult to dislodge.  When I invite students to work as guest curators for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project in my various courses, they most frequently express surprise at two aspects of slavery in early America:  that it was a common practice throughout the colonies rather than confined to southern colonies and that enslaved people had far more occupations than agricultural labor.  Yet the misconceptions are so ingrained that even after being introduced to evidence to the contrary, some students continue to resort to those misconceptions as their default understanding of the experiences of enslaved people.  Correcting this is an iterative process.  Students have to be exposed to this information multiple times.  Sometimes I have to ask them if they would like to reformulate statements they make in class or in written work in order to take into account the evidence they have examined in advertisements and other primary sources, gently nudging them to embrace what they have learned and disregard their prior misconceptions.  Working as guest curators on the Slavery Adverts 250 Project facilitates the process of reimagining early America and learning about the many and varied experiences of enslaved people rather than relying on misconceptions that circulate in popular culture.  As guest curators, students encounter advertisement after advertisement describing enslaved people as artisans or otherwise highlighting their specialized skills.  That evidence is much harder to overlook than if I presented them with a couple of representative advertisements.  Similarly, scrolling through the Slavery Adverts 250 Project feed and seeing advertisement after advertisement is intended to have the same effect for both students and the general public.  Advertisement after advertisement in that feed mentions the skills possessed by enslaved men and women, making it difficult to maintain assumptions to the contrary.

April 3

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

Apr 3 - 4:3:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (April 3, 1770).

“(None of which have been imported since the Year 1768.)”

When it came to infusing his advertisements for consumer goods with politics, Nathan Frazier was consistent while the nonimportation agreements were in effect in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  On September 26, 1769, he placed an advertisement in the Essex Gazette to inform prospective customers that he sold “a very good assortment of Fall and Winter GOODS, (a single article of which has not been imported since last year).”  He did not explicitly invoke the nonimportation agreement, but the significance would have been clear to readers.

Six months later, Frazier once again advertised in the Essex Gazette, proclaiming that he “HAS still lying on Hand, a great Variety of saleable Articles, suitable for all Seasons, more especially for that now approaching.”  He listed dozens of items available for purchase at his shop, demonstrating the range of consumer choice.  For that array of goods, he assured both prospective customers and the entire community that “none … have been imported since the Year 1768.”  Again, he did not make direct reference to the nonimportation agreements adopted by merchants in Boston and other towns throughout Massachusetts, but that was hardly necessary for readers to understand his point.

After all, news items that appeared elsewhere in the same issue underscored that colonists continued their boycott of goods imported from Britain to protest the duties levied on certain goods by the Townshend Acts.  On the page facing Frazier’s advertisement, for instance, an “Extract of a Letter from Bristol, Dec. 30,” reported, “The Ministry have assured some Persons in the American Trade, that so far as the King’s servants can promote the Repeal of the Duties on Tea, Paper, Glass and Paints, they will, so that the Spring Trade to the Colonies shall not be lost.”  The nonimportation agreements had not yet achieved their desired effect, but this extract inspired hope that if the colonists remained firm that they would eventually prevail.  Moreover, their success might come quickly in order to avoid disrupting the “Spring Trade.”

A news item that began on the facing page and concluded on the same page as Frazier’s advertisement also commented on the nonimportation agreements:  “It will perhaps be surprizing to the People of the neighbouring Provinces to be told, that there is not above one Seller of Tea in the Town of Boston who has not signed an Agreement not to dispose of any more of that Article, until the late Revenue Acts are repealed.”  Other news items also commented on tensions with Britain, though not the nonimportation agreements specifically.  A “LIST of Toasts drank at Newport … on the Commemoration of the Repeal of the Stamp-Act” asserted “the Principles of Civil and Religious Liberty” and remembered the “massacred martyrs to British and American Liberty” at the recent Boston Massacre.

That was the context in which Frazier inserted his advertisement for consumer goods in the Essex Gazette in the spring of 1770.  He did not need to comment at length on the politics of the day.  Instead, a brief note that he had not imported goods “since the Year 1768” told readers what they needed to know about the political significance of purchasing merchandise from his shop.