November 23

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

Nov 23 - 11:23:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 23, 1768).

“The stalls and stallages of the publick market of the town of Savannah.”

An advertisement in the November 23, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette bore the signature of “HUGH ROSS, C.M.” It was in his capacity as Clerk of the Market that he placed a notice addressing the operations of the stalls at Ellis Square, just a couple of blocks from the docks along the Savannah River. He gave “publick notice” to those who “have refused and neglected to pay their respective fees, rents, and arrears, due for the stalls and stallages” that they could expect legal action if they did not pay “before the first day of December next.” He also warned “sundry persons” who “for some time past have made a practice of lumbering” the Publick Wharf to removed their “staves, scantling, boards, shingles, &c.” to remove that lumber. Its accumulation had become a hindrance to “free and open recourse” to the market for the residents of Savannah.

According to Harold Davis, “the royal government created and regulated a public market” in the 1750s. Ross served as Clerk of the Market throughout most of its existence. That role included enforcing fair weights and measures in addition to collecting the fees owed by vendors who occupied the stalls. Davis notes that even though the “market theoretically was a place where all kinds of goods or provisions might be sold … in practice Georgians looked to it principally for vegetables, fruits, meats, poultry, and fish.” For residents of Savannah, it was “the most dependable place to buy fresh produce.”[1] The law allowed for anyone to buy or sell at the market, with the exception of free blacks and slaves. However, court records indicate that black vendors sometimes violated both that law and slave codes that made similar prohibitions.

The market became a significant landmark in Savannah. In its early years, a bell rang for five minutes at sunrise every day except Sunday to announce that the market was open for business. In 1764, the interval extended to fifteen minutes. Davis describes the market at Ellis Square as “sixty feet square with four little houses for truck at each corner. Stalls stretched from corner house to corner house.” One passage on each side allowed for entry into the enclosed square. A belfry at the center housed the bell. Ross’s notice would have conjured images of shopping at the market for readers of the Georgia Gazette, sights and sounds and perhaps even recollections of tastes and smells associated with the business conducted there.

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[1] Harold E. Davis, The Fledgling Province: Social and Culture Life in Colonial Georgia, 1733-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1976), 69-70.

September 21

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

Sep 21 - 9:21:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 21, 1768).

“Whoever is inclinable to purchase the said sloop may treat with Mrs. Germain at her house in Savannah.”

The September 21, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette included several estate notices. The executors of Robert Adams’s estate informed readers about the sale of “ALL THE HOUSEHOLD GOODS” scheduled to take place at the end of October. Similarly, the executors of James Love’s estate announced an auction of “A LARGE QUANTITY of MAHOGANY, RED BAY, and WALNUT PLANK, an ASSORTMENT of CABINET-MAKERS and JOINERS TOOLS, and SOME HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE” to be held in early November at the shop he formerly occupied. Another estate notice described a “SLOOP called the BUTTERFLY, lately the property of Mr. Michael Germain, deceased.”

Each of these estate notices identified a female executor. “ANN ADAMS, Administratrix,” was presumably the widow of Robert Adams, given that the notice advised that the sale would take place “at the house of Mrs. Adams in Savannah.” The notice concerning the Butterfly did not formally specify that Michael Germain’s widow was an executor, but it did advise that “Whoever is inclinable to purchase the said sloop may treat with Mrs. Germain at her house in Savannah.” The notice concerning James Love’s estate does not reveal the relationship connecting “ELIZABETH WHITEFILED, Executrix,” and the deceased cabinetmaker, but she may have been a daughter or sister. In each instance, a woman assumed important legal and financial responsibilities and turned to the public prints to carry them out.

Yet they did not do so alone. “ANN ADAMS, Administratrix,” fulfilled her duties in coordination with “JAMES HERIOT, Administrator.” “ELIZABETH WHITEFIELD, Executrix,” worked with “PETER BLYTH, Executor” to settle Love’s estate. Mrs. Germain had a male counterpart as well. Those interested in purchasing the Butterfly had the option of negotiating “with Hugh Ross” instead of the widow. None of these advertisements reveal the division of labor undertaken by the executors, but they do demonstrate that colonial women were not excluded from these important duties. Their male counterparts may have provided oversight, but wives and other female relations likely possessed more knowledge about family finances and the commercial activities of deceased men than just about anybody else. Even when adult sons or former business partners also served as executors, women made invaluable contributions in the process of settling estates.