Reflections from Guest Curator Jordan Russo

I felt as in the past years of learning history I was just told facts and was tested on them. This project allowed me to do a lot more than just memorize facts. Facts are just a starting point while the process of doing history was much more. This process of doing history allowed me to become the researcher and better understand what I was learning. The searching and analyzing of the advertisements allowed me to actually comprehend and see what the colonists were like. This project allowed me to be even more active about my learning. The advertisements allowed me to learn about the colonist as individuals, understand what they went through, and compare myself and others from the twenty-first century to them.

I have actually been using primary sources in two other classes as well this semester so I was prepared to use the advertisements and knew how important primary sources are. Most of the primary sources I have been using, however, are books and pictures and not digitized sources. Using of the internet introduces other really great sources. It allows people from all over the world to find primary sources. I never realized how important the use of technology was because we are so used to just always having the internet right there. Digitized sources are definitely a main attribute of this project. Without digitized sources, using eighteenth-century newspapers may have been impossible. Using primary sources was important because I got to look at the advertisements as they were created and experienced by colonists. They were not changed or summarized. The primary sources allowed me to dig deeper because they were not simplified. The more I found out about these advertisements the more I connected the colonists to life in America today.

That was probably the most rewarding part of the project. It is interesting to see that a lot of things have not changed over long periods of time. A lot of the advertisements were directed towards women and the fashion, just like advertisements today. People are directed towards things that will make them look better and even the colonists felt like this, which I thought was interesting. I figured the colonists would be concerned about a lot of different things, like food and supplies, but fashion was still just as important. Another thing I thought was interesting was that advertisements made it a point to say they had cheap prices. People today still want the best deal for their money. The advertisements from the 1760s influenced how people advertise today. I found this rewarding because it shows we still have a connection to people from colonial times. We still have similar interests and concerns as people back them; their history is telling us where we came from. Because I found the advertisements so interesting I did not find this project as difficult as I thought it was going to be.

I really liked looking at the newspapers so that also made the project easier than I thought. At first it was challenging to read the advertisements because of the mixing of the F for the S. In addition to reading the articles I had to look more into what they were selling and why they were selling those items; the answers were not always obvious. I found it difficult at some points to understand why they were selling those items but then it became easier as the week went on. I liked looking into what colonists bought 250 years. I went home last weekend and showed my parents what I have been researching.

As this past week went on I learned a lot more about the colonists and how they lived. It made me wonder what other historical things I could research more to find connections to our lives today. History has affected us so much and I think more people need to realize that. This project allowed that to happen for me.

October 15

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-15-10151766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 15, 1766).

“Goods, suitable for the season.”

Cowper and Telfairs’ store had just received a large assortment of items imported from London. After the lengthy list of items that they sold, the partners added that “they shortly expect other articles from England and Scotland to make a complete assortment of goods for this country and season.” It was good to add that they would be receiving other items so customers would come back and purchase more from their store.

This advertisement was in the newspaper in October; colonists would soon need items for the winter that was coming, even if it would not be as cold as in New England or even Virginia. The advertisement states the supplies and clothing were “suitable for the season,” making potential buyers aware that this store had goods that would help them get through the winter. Throughout the colonies, settlers made preparations. According to David Robinson, “Mothers taught daughters how to card wool and coax soft fibers from the hard stems of flax; how to spin fibers into threads; how to stitch and mend the heavy coats and hooded cloaks that soon must ward off the biting winds.” Cowper and Telfairs’ store had “a variety of other ready-made cloaths” that colonists could purchase as well as an assortment of textiles they could use to make coats, cloaks, and warmer clothing that they would need for winter weather, even if winter in Georgia was not as extreme as in colonies further north.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Not long ago guest curator Nicholas Commesso examined an advertisement from the Massachusetts Gazette in which William Palfrey marketed “Articles suitable for the approaching Season.” He noted that colonists in Boston and its hinterland needed to take into account that fall had commenced and winter would arrive soon. Palfrey attempted to sell his goods by reminding colonists that it was time to start making preparations.

In my additional commentary I noted that “suitable to the season” was a stock phrase deployed in newspaper advertisements in Philadelphia and, more generally, in New England the Middle Atlantic colonies. I have not worked as extensively with advertisements from the Chesapeake or the Lower South, so I was uncertain if that was the case in those locales or if regional differences existed. I suggested that this merited further investigation.

Jordan turned her eye to that question today, identifying the same language in an advertisement from a newspaper printed in the Georgia Gazette. While one advertisement does not demonstrate a pattern or widespread usage of “suitable for the season,” it does indicate that the phrase was not unknown in the area. Cowper and Telfairs likely meant something a bit different – or had somewhat different merchandise in mind – than William Palfrey did when they described their wares as “suitable for the season.” Each advertiser would have taken into account local conditions.

As Jordan notes, the shopkeepers concluded by describing the items “from England and Scotland” they intended to have in stock soon as “goods for this country and season.” In addition to attempting to lure customers back to their store for subsequent visits, Cowper and Telfairs also signaled that they knew exactly what kind of merchandise would be arriving on ships expected in port soon. Most likely they had negotiated with their contacts on the other side of the Atlantic and placed orders for specific goods. London merchants sometimes tried to pawn off surplus inventory, expecting colonial retailers to accept and sell whatever was sent to them, but Cowper and Telfairs suggested that their customers would be pleased with the selection they offered because their wares had been chosen with Georgia and its climate in mind.

October 14

GUEST COMMENTATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-14-10141766-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 14, 1766).

“Exceeding fine Hyson Tea.”

 

In addition to “Water Bread” and “superfine Flour in barrels,” Benfield and Jones advertised “two chests of exceeding fine Hyson Tea.” T.H. Breen states, “Perhaps the central item in this rapidly changing consumer society was tea. In the early decades of the eighteenth century, tea began to appear in the homes of wealthier Americans.”[1] Tea was a drink that elite colonists socialized over. Moreau de Saint-Méry, a foreign visitor to Philadelphia in the 1790s, wrote, “The whole family is united at tea, to which friends, acquaintances, and even strangers are invited.” Drinking tea united and brought people together, allowing them to get to know each other better. According to Carla Olson Gade’s summary on Colonial Quills, “Obviously, young men and women enjoyed the sociability of teatime, for it provided an ideal occasion to get acquainted.”

It is also interesting that this advertisement was promoting their goods to be sold to retailers. Benfield and Jones wanted retailers to buy their goods so they could sell them to others. The customers that bought the tea from Benfield and Jones may not have been the end users.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Benfield and Jones did indeed appear to be wholesalers rather than retailers, though some colonial firms did pursue both. This advertisement suggests that they specialized in moving high volumes of staples and supplies (bread, flour, iron, and tea), for which they accepted cash “at a very low advance” or “exchange[d] for coarse goods” that they then likely sold and exported in bulk.

Benfield and Jones provided tea to the Charleston market, but colonial consumers could not enjoy the social rituals Jordan describes without also purchasing a variety of other accouterments and supplies. Drinking tea practically demanded sugar. It also required a variety of equipment: tea sets that included cups, saucers, tea kettles, covered sugar bowls, creampots, hot-water urns, salvers, trays, and canisters for dried tea leaves. Drinking tea required purchasing more than just the tea itself.

As Jordan notes, tea was initially a luxury enjoyed by wealthy colonists, but over time it gained widespread popularity. Colonists of every station and background developed a taste for tea, often considering it just as much a staple as the bread and flour listed alongside it in Benfield and Jones’ advertisement. This prompted a further expansion of consumer activity as colonists purchased tea equipage of various styles and made of various materials. Fashions changed and consumers opted to display and use tea sets that reflected their own tastes, wealth, and status.

In providing tea to the Charleston market, Benfield and Jones distributed an important commodity, one that became an emblem of eighteenth-century consumer culture. Yet they sold only one component necessary for the extensive practices and rituals of socializing over tea: the tea itself. Other advertisers promoted an array of additional items necessary for drinking tea that colonists would have imagined while reading Benfield and Jones’ advertisement, products that may not be as readily apparent to modern readers accustomed to modern convenience and methods of preparing tea.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 488.

October 13

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-13-10131766-new-york-mercury
New-York Mercury (October 13, 1766).

“BEING the largest and most curious collection …”

In this advertisement Gerardus Duyckinck described the merchandise in his “Universal STORE” as a “Medley of GOODS for the CURIOUS.” Duyckinck sold “plain and ornamented looking-glasses” and “maps, charts and prints of various sorts.” I imagine the items in Duyckinck’s store were not sold everywhere else or else it would not have made sense to call them “GOODS for the CURIOUS.”

Duyckinck sold items for a variety of customers. Some of merchandise was high end while others was not. For example, his glassware was “plain” or “ornamented.” The differences in merchandise meant that the prices varied between items. Duynkinck said that he had “high and low-priced paper hangings.” Duycknick was not attempting to sell his items to one type of customer; he had items and prices welcoming to all.

T.H. Breen notes that “British imports initially flowed into the households of the well-to-do. These are the goods that catch our eyes in modern museums and restored colonial homes.”[1] When we visit museums today, we are most likely to see the sort of chic merchandise that Duynkinck sold to elite customers.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Historians of eighteenth-century consumer culture and material culture frequently discuss the sense of wonder that colonists experienced as they encountered an expanding array of goods that they purchased and put to use for a variety of purposes. Some goods were completely utilitarian; others were luxury items. Some denoted conspicuous consumption; most testified to the identity of the consumer in one fashion or another.

In some instances historians have carefully excavated the sense of excitement that colonists felt when confronted with new consumer choices. For instance, the standard list advertisement (with its heavy and dense format) may not seem especially exciting when viewed through modern eyes, but thick descriptions of how such lists presented a new world of imagination, sensation, and possession to eighteenth-century consumers uncover raucous enthusiasm.

Jordan has chosen an advertisement that does not require quite as much excavation. Gerardus Duyckinck verbalized the sense of wonder and excitement that he knew consumers felt, mobilizing it to bring customers into his “Universal STORE.” He offered a variety of specialty goods among his “Medley of GOODS for the CURIOUS.” He deployed hyperbole to describe his wares, which included “the largest and most curious collection” of looking glasses “ever imported in America, consisting of the greatest variety.” He stocked paper hangings (wallpaper today): “an extraordinary assortment … as has yet been imported at one time into New-York.” His general merchandise included “the greatest variety of goods in the several branches, suitable for country and city tradesmen, mechanicks, and private families.”

What would it have been like to visit Duyckinck’s shop? Was he as much of an entrepreneur, an early modern carnival barker, in person as he sounded in his advertisement? Interacting with the shopkeeper may have been an important part of the entertainment involved in shopping at his establishment, just as significant as the pleasures of inspecting his merchandise and exercising choice in selecting among his wares.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 487.

October 12

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-12-10101766-new-hampshire-gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 10, 1766).

“TIcklenburgs and Oznabrigs.”

Two words in larger type near the top of this advertisement caught my interest: “Ticklenburgs and Oznabrigs.” They were words that I had not seen before. Both of these items are textiles; the majority of the items listed in the advertisement were textiles. As I mentioned earlier this week, clothing was an important way for colonists to indicate their position in society. The list of items is very long and diverse; there were many types of items all different types of people would have wanted.

T.H. Breen indicates that the volume of consumer goods imported into the colonies allowed prices to decrease. Samuel Cutts’ advertisement states that he sold his goods “at lowest Rate.” Cutts was making sure his potential customers knew that he had the lowest prices and they could have the best deals for all these items. We could compare this to today’s consumer culture; stores are always advertising that they are having sales and have better deals than other stores. Modern customers are always attracted to being able to purchase something for the least amount of money.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

In her work as guest curator so far, Jordan has identified some of the most significant aspects of eighteenth-century advertising. In one sense, she has returned the Adverts 250 Project to its origins, examining the most common appeals that appeared in early American advertisements. Today we take such appeals — price, choice, fashion — for granted, but that was not the case during the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century. Those appeals were the building blocks of the first generation of advertising for consumer goods and services in American newspapers and magazines, but not all advertisers deployed one or more of those most basic appeals.

As the eighteenth century progressed, appeals to price, choice, and fashion became increasingly common. Some advertisers experimented with incorporating two or all three into their advertisements. In one form or another, each of those appeals appeared in the advertisement Jordan selected for today. Samuel Cutts explicitly made an appeal to price. As Jordan notes, he offered his wares “at the lowest Rate.” Several aspects of his advertisement suggested that customers had many choices in his store, from the extensive list of merchandise to the repetition of the word “variety” to concluding the advertisement with “&c. &c. &c. &c.” Indeed, inserting the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera would have been sufficient to signal that he carried other goods, but repeating it so many times underscored that customers could examine many more items if only they visited his store. Cutts’ appeals to fashion were more subtle, but colonial consumers would have had the ability to classify which textiles were intended for which consumers. Those who wished to attire themselves in the finer textiles, for instance, would not have purchased “Oznabrigs,” a coarse fabric commonly used for clothing for slaves.

In examining some of these most common appeals, Jordan identifies some of the concerns that were most important to eighteenth-century advertisers and consumers. In the process, she also demonstrates that in some regards colonists were not that much different from modern Americans participating in the marketplace.

October 11

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-11-10101766-new-london-gazette
New-London Gazette (October 10, 1766).

“A valuable FARM, containing about 130 Acres of choice good Land.”

The majority of people in colonial America lived on farms. This advertisement could have been directed at someone who was new to Connecticut and needed somewhere to start a new life. Settling in the New World offered most colonists the chance to own land for the first time so this advertisement might have attracted colonists that came to New England for that reason. The buyer would not have to start from scratch since the farm already had “a Large double House well finished two good Barns, a good Well, and every Convenience for a pleasant Place.”

Colonists needed to make profits off their farms so a main selling point in this advertisement was that the farm had “a good Orchard, that will make 100 Barrells of Cyder.” The buyer knew that his land would already be making a profit. T.H. Breen states, “Consumer demand was the driving engine of economic change” in the eighteenth century.[1] Purchasing this farm would have allowed a colonist to take part in consumer culture by selling the surplus of products from the farm.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Although the Adverts 250 Project focuses primarily on the marketing of consumer goods and services in eighteenth-century America, newspapers included advertisements that colonists placed for many other purposes. The guest curators often find such advertisements as interesting as those that attempted to persuade readers to become consumers. In addition, those advertisements provide a means of exploring other aspects of the colonial American experience, which is the overarching purpose of the class in which the guest curators are enrolled. Accordingly, I allow each guest curator to select one advertisement that deviates from the usual methodology.

Such entries certainly enhance the Adverts 250 Project by acknowledging and incorporating the other types and purposes of eighteenth-century advertisements. That being said, the guest curators sometimes draw interesting connections between consumer culture and an advertisement that did not explicitly market consumer goods and services. As part of her examination of an advertisement for “A valuable Farm,” Jordan has done so by linking the profits from surplus production on the farm (especially the revenue generated from “100 Barrells of Cyder” coming out of the “good Orchard”) to opportunities to participate in the marketplace as consumers in addition to producers. Potential buyers would have also seen advertisements for goods and services in the New-London Gazette, invitations to be part of a transatlantic network of exchange that accelerated throughout the eighteenth century as the number and variety of possessions in households significantly increased. I appreciate the cause-and-effect relationship that Jordan suggests would have linked the two sorts of advertisements: colonists hoping to be active consumers first needed a means of earning the money (or at least demonstrating that they had the resources to barter or merited credit) necessary to make purchases.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 476.

October 10

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-10-10101766-new-london-gazette
New-London Gazette (October 10, 1766).

Linseed-Oil … for ready CASH.”

 

Lindseed oil has many uses today, but this advertisement made me wonder how colonists used linseed oil in the eighteenth century. According to the historians at Historic Jamestowne, linseed oil was “used in wood treatments, paint and animal fodder.” Linseed oil had many uses so it is understandable why people would need it back then as well.

For ready CASH” meant that the customer needed to have money for that item right as they bought it. “In colonial America,” according to David Walbert, “nobody had enough cash. There wasn’t enough cash to go around — not enough to cover the value of all the goods and services that were available to be bought and sold.” The advertisement I examined yesterday included some of the goods the colonists wanted to purchase, such as necklaces, ribbons, and teas.” It also stated that the shopkeeper sold those goods “for CASH only.” Both Jolley Allen and the company selling the linseed oil wanted cash right away for the goods they sold. They did not want to give credit over time to colonists it seems.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Linseed oil (or flaxseed oil) is a byproduct of flax production, which made it a widely available product in colonial America because farmers grew flax to process and ultimately weave into linen in small-scale production. Flax possessed many advantages. For instance, it “has the greatest tensile strength of any natural fiber,” except for ramie. On the other hand, “its overwhelming disadvantage [was] the amount of labor, skilled and otherwise, required from sowing to harvest.” Furthermore, processing flax was “an extremely labor-intensive process” that involved many steps, as explained in greater detail by Historic Jamestowne. After harvest, the first step was removing the seeds in a process called rippling, which involved putting flax bundles through coarse combs. Jordan has chosen an advertisement that appears rather plain; it belies the amount of labor involved in producing linseed oil before offering it for sale.

I found the placement of this advertisement rather interesting. Except for the colophon, it was the last item that appeared in the final column of the October 10, 1766, issue of the New-London Gazette. The printer devoted more than half of the issue (the first two pages in their entirety, excepting the masthead, and most of the first column on the third page) to reprinting “The EXAMINATION of Doctor Benjamin Franklin, before an August Assembly, relating to the Repeal of the Stamp-Act.” As we saw last week, colonial printers deployed a bit of subterfuge to publish Franklin’s testimony before Parliament.

The Stamp Act intensified many colonists’ desire to become self-sufficient rather than rely on goods, especially textiles, imported from England and elsewhere. Both news items and advertisements promoted domestic manufactures as a means of reducing Parliament’s influence in North American affairs. However, schemes for the mass production of linen in the colonies continued to fall short because, as Michele Mormul explains, “they lacked funding and labor was too expensive.”

The October 10, 1766, issue of the New-London Gazette opened with explicitly political news coverage. The advertisement for linseed oil that concluded the issue may not appear particularly partisan at first glance, but some colonists may have drawn connections between the recent argument with Parliament, calls for nonimportation and domestic manufactures, and linseed oil’s connections to flax cultivation and linen production. Take into consideration the placement of the advertisement relative to the Franklin’s testimony as well. Although they appeared first and last, spatially they were not separated on the broadsheet newspaper when laid flat. In that case, the advertisement in the third column of the final page appeared next to the first column of Franklin’s testimony on the first page. When a reader held the newspaper open to peruse the second and third pages, observers would have seen the first and final pages, with the advertisement for linseed oil leading into the political news.

October 9

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-9-1091766-boston-news-letter
Massachusetts Gazette (October 9, 1766).

“A large and general Assortment of silver and other Ribbons, Necklaces, Earings and Pendants.”

This advertisement caught my eye because Jolley Allen ran a store in Boston. I live nearby in Medway, Massachusetts. Allen probably thought the items he sold would be bought mostly by women. His advertisement lists many items that women would want to look more fashionable, including “silver and other Ribbons, Necklaces, Earings and Pendants.” As Linda Baumgarten, Curator of Textiles at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, explains, “Like us, eighteenth-century people needed clothing for warmth and comfort, but they quickly abandoned those needs if fashion or the occasion dictated.”

Another reason Allen directed his advertisement towards women was because “the exercise of choice in the marketplace may have been a liberating experience” for women.[1] The choice of where to shop and what to purchase allowed women to bring business where they wanted. Jolley Allen probably knew this was the case and listed so many items to attract women to his store.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

This advertisement may look familiar to readers who visit the Adverts 250 Project regularly. Guest curator Nicholas Commesso selected an advertisement by Jolley Allen to feature and analyze on September 29, less than two weeks ago. Doesn’t this advertisement deviate from the methodology established for the project, a commitment to feature a new advertisement every day? Why did I allow Jordan to choose this advertisement instead of sending her back to the Massachusetts Gazette or either of the other two newspapers printed in colonial America on October 9, 1766?

I could justify that decision by noting that Allen’s extensive advertisement merits attention more than once. It possessed features commonly found across advertisements during the colonial period, such as the implicit emphasis on female consumers that Jordan examined today. Allen also incorporated a variety of distinctive features into his advertisement, such as the money-back guarantee that Nick examined or the unique decorative border that was the focus of my analysis. This single advertisement included a multitude of significant aspects that tell us about colonial culture and commerce and the development of marketing techniques in eighteenth-century America. Considering how much was “going on” in Allen’s advertisement, no short analysis by a guest curator (nor my own slightly extended additional commentary) could do this advertisement justice.

Still, that was not the deciding factor when Jordan submitted this advertisement for my consideration and I approved it and told her to move forward with research and writing. After all, I did not know at that time that she would take a different approach than Nick did in his analysis. Although this advertisement looks familiar, it is actually a different advertisement than the one Nick examined on September 29. The copy was almost identical, though today’s version added an additional sentence after the nota bene. In addition, careful analysis reveals that the type was set differently, both for the body of the advertisement and the decorative border, which should come as no surprise considering that today’s advertisement was printed in the Boston News-Letter, but Allen’s advertisement featured on September 29 came from the Boston Evening-Post. While this might seem like a technicality (after all, Allen composed only one advertisement but submitted it to multiple newspapers), that the “same” advertisement appeared in more than one publication tells us something interesting about colonial entrepreneurs attempting to maximize exposure for their advertisements, as guest curator Elizabeth Curley demonstrated with John Taylor’s advertisements last week.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 489.

 

Welcome, Guest Curator Jordan Russo

Jordan Russo is a senior at Assumption College, where she is double majoring in Elementary Education and History.  Her favorite historical topics are Ancient Egypt and Ancient China. In addition to her studies, Jordan works at a daycare and is a cheerleader at Assumption College. She has also participated in the annual UMass Medicine Cancer Walk and Run for the past three years and volunteered with Working for Worcester for the last two years. She will be guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 9 to 15, 2016, as well as curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of November 13 to 19, 2016.

Welcome, Jordan Russo!