March 7

GUEST CURATOR: Olivia Burke

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

Essex Gazette (March 7, 1769).

“The best New-England Flour of Mustard.”

In “A Taste for Mustard: An Archaeological Examination of a Condiment and Its Bottles from a Loyalist Homestead in Upper Canada,” Denise C. McGuire provides an overview of mustard production and consumption and examines an excavation of the Butler Homestead site in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. “Flour of Mustard” was very popular in Britain. It played an important role in eighteenth-century cooking, but was also considered to have medicinal value. It also reveals changes in transatlantic trade. Initially imported in the American colonies, it was subsequently grown there. As we can see in this advertisement, flour of mustard was sold in the colonies; it even specifically states that it was “New-England Flour of Mustard,” proudly showing that the mustard was grown and produced in the colonies.

That production continued after the American Revolution, intended for local consumption as well as export. When a cache of glass bottles was discovered, the square shape led McGuire to believe that they were mustard bottles. The discoveries at the Butler Homestead show that Loyalists got their flour of mustard from American producers after the Revolution. “[E]ven two generations after the first wave of Loyalist settlement, the ability to acquire simple commodities was not always easily accessible in more remote locations.”[1] Such evidence shows that the Butler family retained commercial ties to upstate New York even after the Revolutionary War.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

When she consulted me about including this advertisement among those she would examine during her week as guest curator, Olivia expressed some concern about Chloe Amour previously examined flour of mustard in another advertisement recently featured on the Adverts 250 Project. She did not wish to duplicate the work of one of her peers. I encouraged her to continue with Thomas Walley’s advertisement, especially after she revealed that she had already consulted McGuire’s article. We certainly had more to learn about this particular commodity. As we move chronologically from the imperial crisis to the early republic, our Revolutionary America class has so far focused on the politics and economics of producing, trading, and consuming goods in the 1760s through the early 1780s. By incorporating mustard bottles uncovered during an archaeological excavation of a Loyalist site in Canada, Olivia has given our class a preview of the period we will be examining later in the semester.

For my part, I’m interested in the many similarities between Walley’s advertisement in the Essex Gazette and William Chace’s advertisement in the Providence Gazette. Both named their products “New-England Flour of Mustard,” emphasizing that it had been produced locally. Walley underscored that his mustard “has been greatly admired, both for its Strength and Flavor, by all that have used it.” Similarly, Chace proclaimed that his mustard “is allowed by the best Judges to be superior both for Strength and Flavour to any imported.” In this instance, Chace more explicitly attached a political meaning to acquiring his mustard, comparing it imports that many colonists had vowed to eschew as acts of economic resistance against the Townshend Acts. Walley made a nod toward such appeals when he offered to make “An Allowance … to those that buy to sell again, in order to encourage this Manufacture.” Such discounts may have helped to move his product out the door and, eventually, into the hands of greater numbers of consumers, but they also invoked images of “domestic manufacture” so often touted in news and editorials, especially in those moments that the imperial crisis intensified. Even Samuel Hall, the printer of the Essex Gazette, stocked a “small Parcel of the above Mustard” to make it available to residents of Salem who might not otherwise have an opportunity to acquire it from Walley at his store in Boston. In advancing similar appeals to prospective customers, Walley and Chace demonstrated that they participated in a larger conversation about the meaning of mustard. In the late 1760s, mustard did more than merely flavor food. It was enmeshed in the politics of the period.

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[1] Denise C. McGuire, “A Taste for Mustard: An Archaeological Examination of a Condiment and Its Bottles from a Loyalist Homestead in Upper Canada,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 20, no. 4 (December 2016): 680.

February 25

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

Providence Gazette (February 25, 1769).

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

“A QUANTITY of choice NEW-ENGLAND FLOUR of MUSTARD.”

“FLOUR of MUSTARD” was popular in eighteenth-century Americas. Mustard was an essential ingredient in many common recipes. According to Colonial Williamsburg, “It was used as whole seeds or even ground into a powder they called flour of mustard. … The powder was often rolled into balls and sold to be mixed up with water.” William Chace sold his flour of mustard “by the Dozen or single.” This suggests that Chace’s target audience included consumers as well as shopkeepers and merchants. To sell in bulk indicates others would purchase to then sell to the colonists in their town. Chace wanted to extend business beyond one place, Providence, to other locations.

It is important to look at the influence of advertisements in colonial newspapers. Colonists relied on newspapers to obtain information about consumer goods. Richard L. Merritt notes, “Colonial businessmen were quick to recognize the newspapers’ potential as advertising media.”[1] It served as an effective way to communicate and promote products. Advertising an item such as mustard, to be bought individually or in bulk, appealed to a large range of people. Without advertisements, it would be more difficult to sell. Word of mouth only goes so far, and the newspaper gave sellers an advantage.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

As Chloe indicates, mustard was popular in both England and the colonies in the eighteenth century. William Chace made clear that he sold flour of mustard that had been produced in the colonies rather than imported on the same ships that transported glass, lead, paints, papers, and tea subject to duties under the Townshend Acts. The use of all capitals proclaimed “NEW-ENGLAND FLOUR of MUSTARD,” but Chace did not consider merely listing the origin of his product sufficient to convince prospective customers to purchase it. Lest anyone have any doubts about its quality or suspect that this locally produced alternative might be inferior to flour of mustard sent from England, he assured skeptical readers that his product was “superior both for Strength and Flavour to any imported.” This was not Chace’s pronouncement alone. He reported that the “best Judges” had reached this conclusion.

In presenting these appeals to consumers, Chace participated in a larger movement, a form of economic resistance based on encouraging production and consumption of “domestic manufactures” as an alternative to purchasing imported goods – and not just for those items indirectly taxed under the Townshend Acts. Other advertisements more explicitly made this argument, such as those that promoted the production of paper in the colonies, but shopkeepers like Chace could depend on prospective customers being aware of the discourse concerning consumption. He did not need to stridently denounce Parliament in his advertisement, especially since the news items elsewhere in that issue of Providence Gazette primed prospective customers to consider the political meaning associated with their consumption habits. A letter from “A LOVER OF MY COUNTRY,” reprinted from Rind’s Virginia Gazette, “LETTERS in Answer to the Farmer’s LETTER III,” and editorials reprinted from the London Gazetteer and the Newport Mercury rehearsed various perspectives concerning the imperial crisis. The arguments that dominated public debate appeared alongside Chace’s advertisement, providing all the political context necessary for readers to consider why the “Strength and Flavour” of his flour of mustard were not the only reasons they might wish to purchase it.

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[1] Richard L. Merritt, “Public Opinion in Colonial America: Content-Analyzing the Colonial Press,” Public Opinion Quarterly 27, no. 3 (Autumn 1963): 366.