October 11

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-11-10101766-new-london-gazette
New-London Gazette (October 10, 1766).

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

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

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

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

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

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

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

April 8

GUEST CURATOR:  Maia Campbell

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

Apr 8 - 4:7:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (April 7, 1766).

“A FARM in Bristol, containing about 140 Acres of good Land.”

I find interesting the way in which the American colonies and European countries sometimes diverged economically in the eighteenth century. In my Western Civilization course, we have discussed the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. In Great Britain, where the revolution started, James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny in 1764, revolutionizing the speed at which cotton could be spun. In that same decade Richard Arkwright introduced his water frame, which harnessed waterpower, resulting in water-powered factories that could produce mass amounts of textiles. People began to flock to the cities and abandon their farmlands. As farming became more technological and less profitable, jobs in the cities, especially in factories, opened up.

However, in America, such was not the case – yet. Farms and farmland were still highly valuable in the British colonies. Even when the Industrial Revolution reached America, the government would still encourage people to go west and start their own farms. The advertised farm has everything that a farmer could need to produce for the market and provide for his family.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Urban areas in America increasingly grew during the eighteenth century. Existing cities – Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston – expanded, while others – such as Baltimore – emerged as population centers and hubs of commerce in their own right. Still, as Maia explains, the Industrial Revolution did not arrive in North America as quickly as it did in Europe. Factories that employed new technologies discussed popped up in New England by the end of the century, but they were not part of the colonial landscape in the 1760s.

That does not mean that rural areas remained untouched. Note the many ways in which this advertisement demonstrates that colonists shaped the land on which they lived and worked. In addition to the town of Bristol, an “East Road” cut through the landscape. The farm for sale included a “House, Barn, and Cribb, &c.” These buildings certainly modified the landscape. The property had been “Fenced with about 1200 Rods of Stone Wall,” a significant change to the landscape. How much of the land devoted to “Meadow, Pasture, and Tillage” existed in such a state before colonists arrived? How much of it had been cleared by colonists?

Sometimes we assume that major changes to the environment occurred only in recent times, only after the United States fully engaged in the Industrial Revolution. This real estate advertisement, however, lists a variety of ways in which colonists reshaped the landscape to suit their own needs. Those who lived in rural areas did not reside in an undisturbed natural world. Instead, they engaged in a process of simultaneously adapting to the land and adapting the land as they desired.