September 12

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

Sep 12 - 9:12:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (September 12, 1769).

“GLOVES of our own Manufacture.”

Throughout the colonies advertisers launched “Buy American” campaigns in the late 1760s. Some adopted this marketing strategy during the Stamp Act crisis, but even greater numbers resorted to it when colonists received word that the Townshend Acts would impose new duties on certain imported goods, including paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea. Colonists were already concerned about a trade imbalance with Britain, prompting some to encourage “domestic manufactures” or the production and consumption of goods in the colonies. The Townshend Acts exacerbated the situation, inciting merchants, shopkeepers, and others to draft new nonimportation agreements. They hoped that this method of economic pressure would serve their political goals, just as nonimportation agreements played a role in convincing Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act. As long as nonimportation was in effect, domestic manufactures were an especially attractive alternative to goods delivered from across the Atlantic.

William Pool banked on this when he advertised gloves in the September 12, 1769, edition of the Essex Gazette. He proclaimed that he sold “GLOVES of our own Manufacture, done in the neatest Manner.” Although he did not explicitly compare the quality of these gloves made in the colonies to those imported from Britain, he assured prospective customers that they need not worry about purchasing inferior goods. Other artisans, shopkeepers, and merchants who placed “Buy American” advertisements made similar claims, anticipating what consumers might think about their wares. Pool further described his gloves, stating that they were “such as are generally made use of for Funerals by such Persons as are esteemed Friends to America.” Here he invoked a popular custom in New England: families of the deceased often distributed gloves to mourners at funerals. This ritual caused some controversy, an act of such conspicuous consumption that some critics found it distasteful. Yet those who continued the ritual did not want the gloves they passed out to reflect poorly on them or the departed. Once again Pool offered assurances, letting prospective customers know that they could distribute these gloves with confidence. He made this pledge to colonists as consumers and, perhaps more significantly, as “Friends to America.” In so doing, he expressed an obligation to provide patriots with merchandise of the best quality. They had earned such treatment through their political allegiances.

November 14

GUEST CURATOR: Mary Williams

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

nov-14-11141766-new-hampshire-gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 14, 1766).

“Buckskin and Sheepskin Gloves – The neatest made Gloves for Funerals.”

In this advertisement from the New-Hampshire Gazette, James and Matthew Haslett offered several leather goods. The first thing I noticed was the description of gloves that were specifically made for funerals.

For my research, I found “The Handsome Tokens of a Funeral: Glove-Giving and the Large Funeral in Eighteenth-Century New England” by Steven Bullock and Sheila McIntyre. Bullock and McIntyre explain that the family of the deceased distributed leather gloves to funeral attendees. They write that this tradition was short-lived, but when it was popular it was a very important funeral custom in British North America. “Well-to-do families distributed them to everyone, often using far more than twelve dozen pairs. A particularly substantial ceremony might require a thousand – or more.”[1] This tells us that a wide variety of people might have responded to this advertisement for funeral gloves: both common people and the elite. The difference between the groups would most likely be that the elite would purchase a large amount of gloves that would be more widely distributed, while common people would purchase a smaller number of gloves that would be reserved for specific funeral attendees.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

James and Matthew Haslett advertised regularly in the New-Hampshire Gazette. The Adverts 250 Project featured one of their advertisements just two months ago, selecting that advertisement because of the woodcut depicting the “Sign of the Buck and Glove” that accompanied it. Over a period of several weeks the Hasletts published three advertisements that included two different woodcuts depicting the sign that marked their place of business. Considering that very few newspaper advertisements included visual images (and that those that did usually relied on stock images of houses or ships that belonged to the printer), it was quite exceptional that the Hasletts commissioned not only one but two woodcuts.

Just two months later, however, neither woodcut was anywhere in evidence in their advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette. The image was missing and so was any mention of the sign. The Hasletts previously announced that “they have set up their Factory at the Sign of the Buck and Glove, adjoining Canoe Bridge.” Now they reported that they had REMOVED from the Canoe Bridge, to the House lately belonging to Mr. Matelin, next Door to Capt. George Boyd’s, and almost opposite the Sign of the State House.” These new directions were extensive, which would have allowed new and returning customers to find the Hasletts.

What happened to the “Sign of the Buck and Glove” that marked their previous location? Presumably it moved with them. After all, other colonial artisans and shopkeepers were known to have operated under the same shop sign for years or decades. For some, it became a brand of sorts, especially when they commissioned woodcuts that consistently appeared in their newspapers advertisements and on their trade cards and billheads. The Hasletts were in a position to create their own brand with their shop sign. Considering the verbiage involved in the directions they provided in today’s advertisement, it would not have been any more complex to include the name of their shop sign as a means of encouraging readers to always associate their products with the Sign of the Buck and Glove. This appears to have been a missed opportunity.

It may have also been a pragmatic decision. Although this advertisement did not include a woodcut, very little else changed from the previous iteration. The headline was identical. The text was identical from the fifth line of the body of the advertisement until the conclusion of the nota bene, although an additional call for ashes was eliminated. If the Hasletts paid for a certain amount of space or to have type reset, then it made sense to leave out a reference to their shop sign in favor of inserting sufficient information to direct customers to their new location.

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[1] Steven Bullock and Sheila McIntyre, “The Handsome Tokens of a Funeral: Glove-Giving and the Large Funeral in Eighteenth-Century New England,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 68, no. 2 (April 2012): 336.

April 11

GUEST CURATOR:  Kathryn J. Severance

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

Apr 11 - 4:11:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 11, 1766).

“Jam. & Mat. Haslet, Leather Dressers from Boston.”

This advertisement showcases the opening of a leatherwork “Factory” in Portsmouth that would sell leather products (wholesale to shop owners or retail to consumers) by James and Mathew Haslet, who were “Leather Dressers.” In colonial America, a leather dresser was a tradesman who spent the workday obtaining and then tanning various animal hides (this advertisement mentions deer and moose). These hides would be used to craft various items, including gloves and breeches, as the advertisement mentions. Other items that were crafted from leather mainly consisted of shoes, saddlebags, and belts. It should be noted that shoes were actually put together by tradesmen known as cobblers.

Many tradesmen who were leather dressers actually left England and migrated to the thirteen colonies to provide leather goods and leather dressing services to the inhabitants of the colonies. Unlike in colonial days, in today’s society, products made to imitate leather are actually more commonly found in American homes than are authentic leather products. Of course, imitation leather was not available to the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies, which meant that the toiling process and expertise associated with leather dressing made tradesmen with these skills a necessary part of society.

For more information on leather workers, especially in colonial Virginia, check out this research report from the Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

The Haslets mentioned gloves twice in their advertisement: “Buckskin and Sheepskin Gloves” and “The neatest Mode Gloves for Funerals.” In so doing, they suggest that the former were intended for everyday use but the latter were reserved for the rituals of mourning the dead.

What may not be apparent to modern readers was that “Gloves for Funerals” were intended for the living, not for the deceased. Although the practice declined after the Revolution, in colonial New England families distributed gloves to mourners who attended the funerals of their loved ones. For families from more humble backgrounds this usually meant giving away a handful (pun intended!) of gloves, but wealthier families sometimes distributed hundreds of pairs of gloves. This ritual occurred only occasionally at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but it became a common and expected part of funerals by the 1760s. Elite families distributed funeral gloves to acknowledge their relationships with each other, but also to demonstrate their commitment to the communities of which they were part.

Distributing funeral gloves became a status symbol by the end of the colonial period. It also became a competition and a form of conspicuous consumption that sometimes garnered criticism as an inappropriate expression of luxury. After the Revolution, large-scale glove-giving declined as elites and others forged new relationships as new rhetoric of egalitarianism emerged. Today, the practice of giving away funeral gloves to mourners is little more than a distant memory of our colonial past, not a standard part of our funeral rituals.

For a more extensive examination of funeral gloves, I recommend: Steven C. Bullock and Sheila McIntyre, “The Handsome Tokens of a Funeral: Glove-Giving and the Large Funeral in Eighteenth-Century New England,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 69, no. 2 (April 2012): 305-346.