What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He continues to carry on the Sail-making Business.”
In an advertisement in the March 30, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette, John Sinkins advised readers that “he continues to carry on the Sail-making Business, in all its Branches, in the cheapest and neatest Manner.” His notice was one of only a few that promoted goods and services. Others placed advertisements for a variety of reasons, many of them delivering news of various sorts. The notice that Joseph Clarke, General Treasurer of the colony, placed on behalf of the General Assembly concerning the conversion of “Old Tenor Bills” into “Treasurer’s Note or Notes” appeared once again, alerting readers to take action before July 1. An advertisement concerning “a fifth Packet-Boat” to transport mail between Falmouth and New York that ran in newspapers throughout the colonies found a place in the Providence Gazette again.
Many of the advertisements focused on real estate, including one from Thompson and Arnold that described two houses in Providence, a “Lot of excellent Land on the main Street,” and several acres of salt marsh for sale. Sylvanus Sayles sought to sell or lease a farm in North Providence, while John Andrews had a farm in Coventry to sell and a house in Providence to lease. Moses Lyon and Hezekiah Carpenter both placed notices about other properties, as did an anonymous advertiser who instructed anyone interested in a “Large Brick DWELLING-HOUSE” in East Greenwich to “enquire of the Printer” for “further Particulars.” Elizabeth Arnold, administratrix for her deceased husband, ran an estate notice that called on “all Persons who are indebted” and “all Persons who have just Demands” to settle accounts. She also noted that she had a “large and commodious Lot directly opposite the Court-House” to lease. James Seamans also ran an estate notice concerning Mary Jenckes, “late of Providence, deceased, and Widow of the late William Jenckes, Esq; of Pawtucket.”
John Jenkins continued to hawk a “NEAT Assortment of QUEEN’s WARE,” while Joseph Russell and William Russell sold garden seeds and Abiel Wood accepted orders for “North-American LUMBER.” Along with Sinkin’s advertisement for sails, these advertisements comprised a small fraction of the paid notices that appeared in that issue of the Providence Gazette. Purveyors of goods and services certainly attempted to harness the early American press in their efforts to generate sales, but many other kinds of advertisements ran alongside their notices. Those other notices relayed a variety of news and updates about local events that did not appear elsewhere in the newspaper.