July 6

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

Jul 6 - 7:6:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 6, 1770).

“At the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham.”

In early July 1770, Thomas Achincloss placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform consumers that he sold “a Variety of English Goods, suitable to the Season,” at his shop on King Street in Portsmouth.  To help prospective customers identify his location, he reported that his shop was “next Door to Jacob Tilton’s,” an inn and tavern “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham.”  Tilton’s choice of a device to mark his establishment resonated with cultural and political meaning in ways that other tavern and shop signs often did not.  Samuel Wheeler, a cutler in Philadelphia, marked his workshop with “the sign of the Scythe, Sickle and Brand-iron.”  His sign depicted the products he made and sold.  Duffield and Delany, druggists in Philadelphia, operated their shop “At Boerhaave’s Head.”  Like other eighteenth-century apothecaries, they associated Herman Boerhaave, the influential Dutch physician and botanist, with their business due to his renown as a healer.

In contrast, Tilton did not name his inn and tavern for the Marquis of Rockingham due to any particular connection between the British peer and keeping a public house but instead as a cultural and political statement.  Charles Watson-Wentworth, the second Marquess of Rockingham, served as Prime Minister from July 13, 1765, through July 30, 1766.  During that brief tenure in the office, the American colonies dominated Parliament’s attention.  The Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, 1765, but Rockingham wished to repeal it.  The House of Commons heard testimony about the Stamp Act for three days in February 1766 and voted to repeal the measure on February 21.  George III gave royal assent on March 18.  Internal dissent within the cabinet lead to Rockingham’s resignation a few months later.  He spent the next years in opposition, further enhancing his reputation as a supporter of constitutional rights for the American colonies.  He would briefly become Prime Minister again in 1782, during the final years of the American Revolution.  He used his influence to encourage the British government to acknowledge the independence of the United States.  Already in the late 1760s and early 1770s, the Marquis of Rockingham had a reputation as a friend to the American colonies and a defender of their liberties within the British Empire.  Tilton recognized this and amplified Rockingham’s political stance by making him the personification of the inn and tavern he ran in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during the era of the imperial crisis that ultimately resulted in the American Revolution.

April 14

GUEST CURATOR: Matthew Ringstaff

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (April 14, 1769).

“Public Vendue … at Capt. Jacob Tilton’s Tavern.”

This advertisement from the New-Hampshire Gazette on April 14, 1769, sparked my interest because of what was being sold and where the sale took place: “TO BE SOLD … at Capt. Jacob Tilton’s Tavern … SUNDRY HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE.” The location of this “Public Vendue” or auction, Tilton’s Tavern, seemed unusual. How often does a bar have an auction for household furniture? In the twenty-first century when a bar holds some type of event it is often a car or motorcycle show, but not a furniture auction. According to Leigh Zepernick, a collections intern at the Old State House in Boston, “It is difficult to overstate the importance of taverns in 18th century life. In addition to providing food, drink, and lodging, they were venues for town meetings, legal proceedings, and business transactions. Taverns were a place to debate politics, play games such as cards or dice, and catch up with the latest news and gossip. They were the hub of social life, and in Boston in particular, they were ubiquitous. In 1765, there was one tavern for every 79 adult men.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Edward Moyston’s trade card for the City Tavern (1789). Courtesy Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Society Miscellaneous Collection).

As Matt notes, a lot more than eating and drinking took place at taverns in eighteenth-century America. Two decades after the New-Hampshire Gazette ran the advertisement about an auction at Tilton’s Tavern in Portsmouth, Edward Moyston distributed a trade card for the City Tavern in Philadelphia. His marketing made it clear that the City Tavern was a place for conducting business. Indeed, the “CITY-TAVERN” appeared in much smaller font than the headline for the trade card that announced the “Merchants’ Coffee-House & Place of Exchange” could be found at the tavern. Moyston had set aside the “two Front Rooms,” noting that they had been “specially appropriated to these purposes” due to a subscription agreement with “Merchants, Captains of Vessels, and other Gentlemen.” Although Moyston also marketed the rest of his establishment as “a TAVERN and HOTEL: Where Gentlemen and the Families are accommodated, as usual, with the most superior Liquors … and every article for the Table is served up with elegance,” he positioned the City Tavern as a place to conduct business. To that end, he likely supplied newspapers published in Philadelphia and other cities for his patrons so they could stay informed of politics and commerce. Those “Merchants, Captains of Vessels, and other Gentlemen” certainly also shared news and gossip with each other in conversations that took place as they cast up accounts and pursued new transactions.

Tilton’s Tavern in Portsmouth may not have been as grand as the City Tavern in Philadelphia (which has been reconstructed and serves visitors today), but it served a similar purpose. As the advertisement Matt selected demonstrates, it was a gathering place familiar to readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette and other members of the community. Holding an auction at Tilton’s Tavern was business as usual in the eighteenth century, one of the many activities that took place at an establishment where people gathered to exchange information and goods in addition to consuming food and beverages. Its convenience and central location likely made it a preferred venue compared to the home of the patron who intended to auction furniture and housewares.