April 17

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

Apr 17 - 4:17:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 17, 1770).

“NEW Bourdeaux RAPPEE.”

In an effort to launch a new product Henry Margue inserted an advertisement in the supplement that accompanied the April 17, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Margue announced that he sold rappee, a coarse snuff made from dark strong-smelling tobacco leaves, “made by the French Protestants, at New Bourdeaux.”  Since this product was as yet unfamiliar to most consumers, Margue offered assurances of its quality, asserting that the snuff “is allowed, by Connisseurs, to be very good.”  In a nota bene, he suggested that rappee from New Bordeaux could become very popular, “a considerable Manufacture,” if the French Protestants encountered “any Encouragement” in their endeavor.  Margue challenged consumers to find out for themselves if they agreed with the “Connisseurs” and be among the first to demonstrate their good taste.

Even if “NEW Bourdeaux RAPPEE” met with immediate success, it did not last long.  The new settlement, established in 1764, ceased to exist during the American Revolution.  On behalf of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, Cheves Leland offers a brief history of New Bordeaux as well as six other towns settled by French Protestants who migrated to the colony.  New Bordeaux was the destination of the “last large group of French Protestants to arrive and settle in South Carolina.  Led by the Rev. Jean Louis Gibert and the Rev. Jacques Boutiton, some 371 French, Swiss and German immigrants sailed into Charlestown harbor” on April 12, 1764.  Leland indicates that their efforts to cultivate grapes for wine and silkworms for silk “did well until financial considerations, political intrigues in England and France and the coming American Revolution ended them,” but does not mention the Huguenots cultivating tobacco or producing snuff.  However, Owen Stanwood contends that residents of New Bordeaux “seemed more interested in tobacco” than wine, citing Margue’s advertisement in the April 5, 1770 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.[1]  On behalf of the French Protestants, Margue promoted snuff from New Bordeaux in more than one newspaper.

Margue and the Huguenots introduced new products to consumers in South Carolina at a time when the “governor had dedicated himself to diversifying the colonial economy, something that he saw as especially important in an era of rising tensions between colonists and Parliament.”[2]  The governor placed far more emphasis on viniculture, but Margue’s advertisement for snuff suggests that some Huguenot settlers had other ideas when it came to which enterprise they wished to develop.

**********

[1] Owen Stanwood, “From the Desert to the Refuge:  The Saga of New Bordeaux,” French Historical Studies 40, no. 1 (February 2017):  26.

[2] Stanwood, “From the Desert to the Refuge,” 26.