Reflections from Guest Curator Lindsay Hajjar

I have always loved learning about colonial America. As silly as it may sound, Plimoth Plantation is one of my favorite places, because it allows the visitor to experience what it felt like to be a colonist. Through this project I got a similar experience; it was very interesting reading though colonial newspapers and putting myself in a colonist’s shoes. I believe there is a misconception that the colonists’ lives were insular and their goods were obtained primarily from trade within the local community. However, from the Adverts 250 Project, it was plain to see that although they did not live in the type of global society on the same scale we live in today, colonists lives were interconnected with faraway places in many ways.

One big difference between people of the twenty-first century and the colonial era is that they lived more simply, with less excess, very much in contrast to the way most people live today. Many colonial newspaper advertisements were very specific to consumers’ needs. Consumers purchased items based on the information in the advertisements. The colonists were sometimes limited in access to products and offers. The insight into commercial behavior that the Adverts 250 Project provided is something that has changed the way I look at colonial America.

Consumerism was never something I really thought of as being part of the culture in colonial America. The large size of the colonial consumer market was very surprising. This intrigued me and made me want to find out about the products, the target consumer, and the methods the sellers used to motivate colonists to buy their products. I always thought of consumer psychology as something much more recent than the colonial era. However, as I was reading the primary sources and the advertisements, I found them to have a psychological component involved in enticing people to want to come to their stores or buy what they were selling over the competition. Using consumer psychology to determine ways to persuade customers to purchase products relies – and relied — on fundamentally understanding human nature, not on learned behavior, which was something that became very evident to me through this project.

When I first started doing this project I thought that the hardest part was going to be writing the analysis for the advertisements. I was worried that I would not have enough to say, or my point would get lost and I would not be able to find primary sources to back it up. However, this was one of the easiest parts. With the help of Professor Keyes, I was able to reflect on colonial consumerism in a logical and cohesive way that was reinforced by primary sources. I really enjoyed looking at the different sources that led me to draw my conclusions. It was a very interesting learning experience because there are not a lot of classes where for seven days you get to learn about something unique that really interests you. I really loved the sense of freedom and independence that I got from doing this project. It allowed me to grow immensely as a student. The hardest part was definitely tweeting for the project. It was hard to condense something that I had become very passionate about into just 140 characters. I like detail, and being succinct proved to be very difficult for me.

This project has made an impact on me. It has forced me to go outside of my comfort zone and has allowed me to research and learn in a new way. I learned much, not only from participating in the project, but also from reading other contributors’ entries. I will continue to be an active reader of the Adverts 250 Project.

October 22

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-22-10221766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 22, 1766).

“Who is as good a cooper as any of his colour in this province.”

The word “cooper” was new to me. After doing some research I learned that it means someone who makes casks or barrels. David Waldstreicher talks about how important it was to owners that slaves had a trade because it allowed them to be more useful than just another farmhand.[1] Being a good cooper would have been a very useful skill; it would have made this ‘HEALTHY YOUNG NEGROE MAN” more valuable, to both the seller and the new owner.

In many other advertisements goods tended to be sold by the cask or barrel. For slave owners who wanted to sell things they were producing by the barrel having a slave who was able to produce the barrels would have been desirable. It would have been a way to save money, because they would not have to pay a third party. All the owner would have to do was buy the supplies and then have the slave make the casks. Waldstreicher talks about how different slaves had different value to their owners and “A HEALTHY YOUNG NEGROE MAN” who had a trade would be a slave that would have been considered profitable.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

This advertisement, which ran for several weeks, has already been featured on the Slavery Adverts 250 Project. That project, however, limits the description and analysis of each advertisement to a single tweet. At the end of the semester, the curators will write an essay about slavery in colonial America that draws from the work they have done for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project and other course material. That means that the bulk of the analysis has been delayed. It might also have the unintended consequence of guest curators for the Adverts 250 Project choosing to examine other sorts of advertisements and not including advertisements for slaves in the rotation of commercial notices they select for research and analysis. I’ve made a commitment to including advertisements that treated slaves as commodities from the very start of this project. In selecting today’s advertisement, Lindsay has further augmented that aspect of the Adverts 250 Project.

Every time that I have encountered this advertisement I have been struck by the backhanded compliment about the enslaved young man’s skill as an artisan: “as good a cooper as any of his colour in this province.” The seller worked toward two very different purposes, creating an astounding dissonance within the advertisement. To gain the best price and make the slave as attractive as possible, the seller underscored his skill as a cooper. As Lindsay notes, this would have added value for a variety of reasons. As with other advertisements for enslaved tradesmen, it also demonstrates that slaves contributed expertise and experience to the colonial economy, in addition to labor.

Yet the seller also found it necessary to qualify the remark about the skills the enslaved cooper possessed. He was not as good as any cooper in the colony but rather as good “as any of his colour.” This diminished his skill by implying that white coopers were categorically better at their trade. No matter how skilled this “HEALTHY YOUNG NEGROE MAN” may have been, the seller perpetuated a hierarchy in which the enslaved cooper was still inferior to white artisans.

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[1] David Waldstreicher, “Reading the Runaways: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture, and Confidence in Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic,” William and Mary Quarterly 56, no. 2 (April 1999): 244.

October 21

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-21-10201766-south-carolina-gazette
South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

“RUM … superior in quality to what is usually imported.”

This advertisement is interesting because it closely resembles advertisements we would see today, playing on people’s emotions that this rum was better than what they usually drank. I learned about types of persuasion in my Social Psychology class taught by Professor Maria Parmley. I think the type of persuasion the seller used is peripheral route to persuasion. The advertisement called for consumers to make the decision based on emotion, not facts (like how the rum was made or why it was better quality). Potential customers were told that the rum they were used to drinking was lesser quality than this rum “FROM the Island of Grenada.” This type of precaution tactic is commonly seen in advertisements today; when many people see a commercial with a beautiful model using the product they are more likely to buy it because the product then becomes associated with the model’s beauty. It’s interesting that the way of inciting people to buy one product over another has changed very little in 250 years.

John J. McCusker shows the importance of rum in the colonial American economy.[1] Rum, which was made from sugar that was being produced in the Caribbean colonies, was an important part of the import and export trade. Drinking alcohol, like rum, became an essential part of life for many of the colonists, providing an escape from the pressures of everyday life. Social drinking was something that the colonists have in common with people today. Even though we may not always realize it we have more in common with the people who lived in colonial America than we might assume. Through this advertisement you can see two things that the colonists and people of the twenty-first century had in common, the way consumers can be persuaded to buy goods and how both people today and people then care about the quality of the alcohol they drink.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Lindsay’s analysis of the sophisticated tactics Anthony Lamotte used to market his rum made me wonder how it compared to other advertisements for rum in the same issue of the South Carolina Gazette. Two other notices featured rum prominently.

oct-21-10201766-rum-in-south-carolina-gazette
South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

One brief advertisement announced that William Gibbes(?) had “CHOICE JAMAICA RUM, best MUSCOVADO SUGAR, and COFFEE, to be sold cheap.” This advertisement included two of the most common appeals from eighteenth-century advertising: price (“to be sold cheap”) and quality (“CHOICE”). However, Gibbes did not compare the quality of his Jamaican rum to any other rum, whether from the same island, the Windward Islands, or any other place. (The “3M.” in brackets may have been a printer’s note indicating that the advertisement was to run for three months. Perhaps Gibbes relied on repetition of his advertisement, rather than other means of persuasion, to attract customers.)

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South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

Thomas Shirley advertised a hodgepodge of imported commodities, from flour to iron to Windsor chairs. “A few Puncheons of Jamaica Rum” appeared in the middle of Shirley’s list. Like Gibbes (“to be sold cheap”) and Lamotte (“TO BE SOLD, reasonably”), Shirley made an appeal to price (“to be sold reasonably”), but he made no other effort to distinguish the rum he sold. Some modern readers may be tempted to think that listing Jamaica in italics was intended to highlight the origins of his rum for consumers that considered production in some places superior to others. However, listing place names in italics was common practice throughout eighteenth-century advertisements. In addition, printers – not the advertisers themselves – usually made the decisions about typography.

As Lindsay notes, rum was an extremely popular commodity in colonial America. Amid already high demand, advertisers like Anthony Lamotte worked to direct that demand in their favor. To do so, Lamotte used a marketing strategy that emphasized more than just price and quality. He promised potential customers that his rum was “superior in quality” to others, playing on their emotions in the absence of providing evidence to explain why it was a better product.

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[1] John J. McCusker, “The Rum Trade and the Balance of Payments of the Thirteen Continental Colonies, 1650-1775,” Journal of Economic History 30, no. 1 (March 1970): 244-246.

October 20

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-20-10201766-boston-post-boy
Boston Post-Boy (October 20, 1766).

“CHOICE FRESH RAISINS.”

Why did William Whitwell emphasize “RAISINS” in his advertisement? In Food in Colonial and Federal America, Sandra Oliver describes how colonists ate and cooked with raisins. Raisins were one the most common dried fruits imported in the colonies. However, the raisins that colonists ate were dried with seeds in them so they were much larger than the ones we have today. When cooking with raisins many recipes called for them to be “stoned” or deseeded meaning the colonists had to rehydrate them. Raisins were baked into cakes, eaten with nuts and other fruits, and even soaked in rum and eaten with a spoon.[1] They had diverse uses to the colonists and they lasted for long periods of time. Raisins were not only something that would keep well in storage, they were also a good source of fiber. They also contained antioxidants that might not have been present in other stored foods.

Colonists in Boston understood how harsh and unpredictable New England winters could be. In October they started preparing for the storms to come. Having the opportunity to buy dried fruit in advance of winter was probably very welcome. New England’s erratic weather patterns called for extra precaution and preparedness. This advertisement provided one way to get ready for the oncoming winter.

Even living in the twenty-first century we can sometimes be ill prepared for what a New England winter might entail, waiting until the last minute to take precautions when we hear that a big storm could be coming. We all know what it is like to go to the grocery story before a big storm, sometimes arriving a little too late. We live with many more amenities, like radars that can tell us a storm is coming or another grocery story a few miles down the road. The colonists, however, did not have these luxuries and had to gear up well in advance if they were going to make it to the spring. Living in colonial Massachusetts meant being as prepared as possible and storing food that would keep well into the winter months. The way raisins could be transformed into many other recipes with a few other ingredients, had a great nutritional value, and kept well made them a hot commodity for the colonists.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

On the whole, raisins have probably received less scholarly attention than other grocery items listed in eighteenth-century advertisements, especially sugar and spices. Still, historians of food, commerce, and consumer culture have not completely ignored the humble raisin. Lindsay consulted Sandra Louise Oliver’s Food in Colonial and Federal America to uncover several aspects of eating and cooking with raisins that differ quite significantly from modern practices. In the process, she offered a helpful reminder that even commodities that might appear familiar have changed over time. Raisins once came with seeds (until the late nineteenth century when seedless grapes were developed). Sugar once came in loafs. Colonists ate foods that modern Americans would consider simultaneously familiar and foreign.

In Consumerism and the Emergence of the Middle Class in Colonial America, Christina J. Hodge elaborates on raisins and their uses in the eighteenth century. “Raisins were used in cooking as a sweetener and, if soaked in water, to produce homemade vinegar (a useful preservative).” How many modern consumers realize that raisins had such versatile uses 250 years ago? Hodge also reports that raisins grown in Spain were considered superior, but “British trade laws made direct importation to America from Spain illegal.”[2] As a result, most raisins consumed by colonists likely came from grapes that had been locally grown. Advertisers were not the only colonists who promoted raisins in colonial newspapers. According to Hodge, in 1728 the Boston News-Letter ran an article of dietary suggestions for “Families of a Middling Figure, who bare the Character of being Genteel.” It listed raisins (along with currants, cranberries, and apples) as an appropriate supplement to be enjoyed as part of the main meal of the day.[3] It seems that raisins truly merited the oversized headline in William Whitwell’s advertisement.

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[1] Sandra L. Oliver, Food in Colonial and Federal America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 69-70.

[2] Christina J. Hodge, Consumerism and the Emergence of the Middle Class in Colonial America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 88-89.

[3] Hodge, Consumerism, 87.

October 19

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-19-10171766-new-hampshire-gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 17, 1766).

“A Beautiful Saddle MARE”

Owning nice things was a luxury that not every colonist had the opportunity to experience because of their financial situation. This advertisement targeted someone who could afford the extravagance of having a horse that was intended to be an accessory and a marker of status. When the seller described the mare he said,“She Both Trots and Paces well and easy.” This showed that the mare was in good condition, was even tempered, and could be ridden for leisure and pleasure. The mare was probably not meant to be a working house. This seems clear because the seller did not provide her age and weight, whether she had had any colts, or whether she was healthy and fit to work and breed. He described her as “A Beautiful Saddle MARE,” one ready to be shown off.

Conspicuous consumption of this sort suggests a growing sense of individuality among the colonists. As time went on and as their farms and businesses flourished and grew many had the financial stability to purchase goods that they would not have been able to afford had they stayed in Europe. The colonists’ sense of self was starting to shine through more and more as their wealth grew. Many colonists were able to make purchases that reflected their desires rather than just obtaining necessities.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Newspapers advertisements provide revealing glimpses of how the colonial marketplace operated, but sometimes they fall frustratingly short of revealing all the details that would allow us to make sense of the transactions they promoted. Lindsay has selected an advertisement that tells only a portion of a longer story.

An unknown seller sought a buyer for “A Beautiful Saddle MARE,” noting that she was “fit for any Gentleman.” In this case, referring to the purchaser as a “Gentleman” most likely was not a courtesy but rather an indication that the owner of such a horse would be an individual of some stature in the community, somebody with the resources to maintain the mare as a status symbol.

The same was presumably true of the current owner of the “Beautiful Saddle MARE,” yet the advertisement does not reveal the seller’s identity. Instead, it merely stated “Enquire of the Printers.” Who was the seller? Why was the horse offered for sale? Why did the seller conceal his identity?

A dozen different stories and scenarios spring to mind, each of them pure conjecture because the advertisement offers so few clues. In that regard, this advertisement seems ideal for working on a project with students. It demonstrates the historians must work within the limits of the documents available to us. We can work imaginatively but responsibly with our sources. We can make inferences from the language and context, as Lindsay has done in positing that this was not a workhorse intended for labor on a farm. Doing so allowed her to imagine what else could be learned from this advertisement, even if it was not stated explicitly. In the process, she reconstructed the social meanings of colonists’ possessions, extrapolating from the advertisement.

In that regard, Lindsay demonstrates that this advertisement tells us more about colonial society than might have initially seemed apparent. However, some aspects of the advertisement remain out of reach. I was drawn to this advertisement because it indicated that since “Cash is scarce, West India Goods will be taken for her.” What did the seller intend to do with a quantity of “West India Goods” exchanged for “A Beautiful Saddle MARE” that was “fit for any Gentleman?” Would those goods have been put to personal use or would they have been traded or sold to other consumers? That is a story of the colonial marketplace that will remain untold.

 

October 18

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-18-10181766-providence-gazette
Providence Gazette (October 18, 1766).

“As people have heretofore been obliged to send their Money to Boston and New-York …”

This advertisement gave a long list of much of the merchandise sold by Thompson and Arnold at their shop in Providence. The shopkeepers were looking for customers who were in a financial position that they did not need to barter or buy on credit; their imported goods were “TO BE SOLD, FOR READY MONEY ONLY.” They stated that previously the residents of Providence would have had to travel to Boston and New York to acquire many of the goods in the advertisement, but now they could come to their shop and buy them in town and for a fair price, one that was cheaper than found in Boston or New York.

They tried to entice consumers in Providence with their abundance of goods that they sold and with two other advertising techniques that are very familiar today. First, they emphasized the fact that potential customers did not have to travel far to get them. They also promised low prices. Today consumers often expect prices to be more expensive in urban place. The same was true for the colonists; being able to get these goods close to home for a reasonable price was enticing.

As a second strategy, they compared their prices to other stores in Providence with the same goods. Today, consumers love comparing pricing and trying to get the best deals. Thompson and Arnold knew that this would be an effective tactic because it would draw people in and they could end up buying more than they originally intended.

American consumers have a long history of expecting to find what they need when they need it. T.H Breen confirms this: “after the 1740s American shoppers came to expect a much larger selection, and merchants had to maintain ever larger inventories.”[1] In colonial America consumers sometimes needed to make the compromise of either getting what they wanted close to home but at an escalated price or traveling and getting a better price. Thompson and Arnold made it possible for the consumers in Providence to get both convenience and low prices.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

For my commentary on today’s advertisement, I must once again address the project’s methodology as well as my pedagogical goals. Once again one of the guest curators has selected an advertisement that should look very familiar to regular readers. At a glance, it appears that Lindsay has selected the same advertisement that guest curator Nicholas Commesso analyzed a few weeks ago. The same shopkeepers previously published the same list of goods with the same introductory remarks (the same copy from start to finish) and the same decorative border in the same publication. On closer inspection, I uncovered only one difference between the two advertisements: a colon substituted for a period at the end of the sentence immediately before the advertisement listed the goods available at Thompson and Arnold’s shop. (I have no ready explanation for why the printer would have made this change.) Technically, that single change qualifies this as a new advertisement.

That hardly seems like a satisfactory explanation or rationale for repeating an advertisement, deviating from the usual methodology and commitment to examining a new advertisement every day. Other factors played a more significant role in my decision. First of all, Thompson and Arnold published a very robust advertisement that made multiple implicit and explicit appeals to potential customers. Nick examined some of them when he selected this advertisement, but Lindsay picked up on others. Both students learned about aspects of colonial commerce and marketing; both contributed, in different ways, to the ongoing conversation at the Adverts 250 Project. One short entry about Thompson and Arnold’s advertisement was not sufficient to do it justice. In addition, featuring this advertisement a second time also underscores the frequency that some entrepreneurs resorted to advertising. Some shopkeepers ran an advertisement just once or for just a few weeks, but others, like Thompson and Arnold, ran their advertisements so many times that readers would have recognized them on sight. Repetition likely helped to cement Thompson and Arnold’s shop in the popular imagination around Providence.

The rhythm of newspaper publishing in colonial America also influenced my decision to allow Lindsay to feature this advertisement a second time. Nineteen newspapers (that have survived and have been digitized) were published during the week that Lindsay is serving as guest curator. Monday was the most popular day for publishing newspapers, with nine of the nineteen published on Monday. Saturday was one of the least popular days. The Providence Gazette was the only newspaper regularly published on Saturdays in 1766. That means that once a week the featured advertisement for the Adverts 250 Project should come from the Providence Gazette, the only newspaper published on that day 250 years ago. No newspapers were published on Sundays. The methodology for the project requires going back to the most recently published newspaper, which means that the featured advertisement should be drawn from the Providence Gazette twice a week. This places disproportionate emphasis on the Providence Gazette, a problem compounded by the fact that it included less advertising than some other newspapers (but more than others). Other newspapers, especially those printed in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charleston, could better bear that burden, but between the relative scarcity of advertisements and the tendency to run them for weeks or months, the Adverts 250 Project has pretty much exhausted the advertisements for consumer goods and services printed in the Providence Gazette in the fall of 1766. I could have insisted that Lindsay go back one day earlier to select an advertisement from the New-London Gazette (which usually had even fewer advertisements), the New-Hampshire Gazette (which also had relatively few advertisements), or the Virginia Gazette (which typically ran many advertisements that have not yet been featured here). Future guest curators will have to do so, but I determined that even though today’s advertisement repeated an earlier one (except for that colon that replaced a period!) Thompson and Arnold still had something to tell us about colonial marketing and life in early America more generally.

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[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.

October 17

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-17-10171766-new-london-gazette
New-London Gazette (October 17, 1766).

“ALSO, An able body’d hearty Wench 16 Years old (with a sucking Child.”

This advertisement started with the sale of a twenty-nine-year old slave, described as “strong and healthy.” The seller then indicated where he was born and that he has skills in farming. Next, he stated he was selling a “Wench” who was sixteen years old. By calling her a wench he degraded her status as a woman even further. In this case, a female slave was held at even lower regard than a male slave, perhaps because of the fact that when she had a child it took away from her ability to do work. The girl being sold was “able-bodied” and could “do all Sorts of House Work,” but was being sold because of “her breeding.” The words “breeding” and “wench” show the seller’s opinion about women, especially enslaved women, as well as an assumption that because she was a women and a slave she should be good at housework because that was what she was born to do.

In “Work, Pregnancy, and Infant Mortality among Southern Slaves,” John Campbell talks about how in the South slave owners placed value not on the gender of slaves but rather their age and physical condition. Campbell also points out that both male and female slaves were “harvesting equal proportions of cotton,” showing that in the South it did not matter to the slave owners the gender of the slave as long as they were capable of doing the work.[1] However, this advertisement was printed in the northern colony of Connecticut during an earlier period; the seller’s tone was different. It changed, becoming more aggressive and angry when going from depicting the man to the girl being sold. It is as if the seller was annoyed that she had a child that was now going to be a burden on him and he had to sell them because the child would be a distraction to her. He was not willing to make the long-term investment in the child, showing that Northern slave owners in the colonial period were not as ambivalent about their slaves’ genders as Southern slave owners were in the nineteenth century. In his advertisement the seller said the young woman came “with a sucking child.” He seemed upset with the fact that she had a child and that the child was nothing but an inconvenience, because the child was still breastfeeding. Female slaves could be looked at as beneficial because they had the ability to produce more slaves for their owners but that could also be a shortcoming because when they were pregnant and while the child was dependent mothers were not able to work to the same capacity.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

I appreciate how Lindsay compares the sentiments expressed in today’s advertisement to the attitudes adopted by slaveholders in another region during another period, underscoring that there was not a monolithic experience of slavery in America. Instead, different people (both enslaved and free) faced very different circumstances depending on the period and place in which they lived.

Another notice that appeared on the same page of the New-London Gazette further complicates today’s advertisement. “We are told,” an anonymous narrator (perhaps the printer) proclaimed, “that the Negro Wench advertised for Sale in this Paper, has had Three living Children, tho’ she is only 16 Years old. — A rare Instance of Prollfickness!” (Presumably the last word was supposed to be “prolificness.”) As Lindsay noted, the seller wished to be rid of this young woman solely because of her “breeding” and the inconveniences that it caused. The other notice, however, seemed to celebrate the young enslaved woman’s ability to produce children, promoting her fecundity as a selling point for potential buyers.

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New-London Gazette (October 17, 1766).

Who was responsible for the announcement that the sixteen-year-old “hearty Wench” already had three children? Was this an advertisement – a puff piece – placed by the current owner of the young woman in hopes of generating interest and making a sale? Or did the printer insert it of his own volition, as a point of interest he hoped would inform and entertain readers? The placement on the page makes it difficult to reach any particular conclusion. The notice appeared among the advertisements included in that issue of the New-London Gazette, but it appears at the bottom of the column immediately to the left of the column in which the advertisement for the “hearty Wench” was printed. It may have been positioned to prime readers to consider purchasing the young woman, but it also could have been intended as amusing filler when news and advertising did not completely fill the column. Either way, it now provides disheartening evidence concerning the levels of degradation one enslaved woman experienced at the hands of her captor and his community.

When Lindsay first presented this advertisement for my approval, I thought I might contemplate whether it suggested a family was being separated. When I examined it in the context of the rest of the issue, however, I discovered a much more revolting situation.

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[1] John Campbell, “Work, Pregnancy, and Infant Mortality among Southern Slaves,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 14, no. 4 (Spring 1984): 797.

October 16

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-16-10161766-boston-news-letter
Boston News-Letter (October 16, 1766).

In Union-Street, opposite to Mr. James Jackson’s; BOHEA Tea by the Chest.”

This advertisement was directed at consumers in the Boston area who not only knew their way around (including how to get to Union Street), but also who James Jackson was. Joseph Dennie pinpointed a very specific location and called upon readers to purchase distinct goods. The fact that the seller uses “Mr. James Jackson’s” as a landmark could mean that the seller did not have a shop sign of his own. The seller knew that the people of Boston were interested in the goods he had and that if he used a commonly known place such as “opposite to Mr. James Jackson’s” he would be able to turn over the most profit.

T.H Breen says how important it was for the colonist to stay connected to England for trade purposes because they wanted to feel as if they had never left England while at the same time having left. Being Anglicized, or making themselves feel English, was important for a lot of colonists because even though they were living in the New World the Old World connections gave them a sense of identity. Joseph Dennie knew that the good he was selling would be in high demand because they were valued throughout the British Empire.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Lindsay chose an advertisement that appears relatively plain at first glance, but it reveals quite a bit about how colonists navigated Boston and how they conjured imaginative maps of themselves as consumers.

In an era before American cities adopted standardized street numbers (an innovation ushered in shortly after the Revolution), urban residents and visitors used landmarks to give directions and find their way around. Some advertisers indicated that their shops were located on a certain street and specified the number of “doors” from the nearest intersection. Others, as Lindsay indicates, had their own shop signs. Dozens of shop signs crowded the streets of Boston in the eighteenth century. We know of most of them not because they survived but rather because they were included in advertisements from the period. Not every shopkeeper had his or her own sign, but some advertisers indicated their proximity to shop signs that would have been familiar to potential customers. Joseph Dennie used a similar method, but chose an individual, James Jackson, rather than a shop sign to orient his prospective clients.

Dennie’s short advertisement also mapped global networks of global commerce and identity. Lindsay notes that customers would have enjoyed the grocery items Dennie sold because they were also popular in England, but that tells only part of the story. The “BOHEA Tea by the Chest” came from China. Nutmegs, mace, and cloves came from the Spice Islands in the East Indies (modern Indonesia). Cinnamon came from Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka).

Many colonists were anxious about their status as Britons. They did, after all, live in faraway outposts of the empire. Importing, purchasing, and consuming exotic grocery items from distant lands helped to confirm their identity as they participated in the same rituals of consumption as their counterparts in London and throughout England.

Welcome, Guest Curator Lindsay Hajjar

Lindsay Hajjar is a junior at Assumption College, majoring in Elementary Education and History. She intends to focus on early childhood education when obtaining her master’s, but has a strong interest in Colonial and Revolutionary America. Outside the classroom, she is an active member of many different organizations on campus, including Class Assembly, Peers Advocating Wellness for Others, Human Services Club, and the Assumption College Chorale. Last spring she traveled with the Chorale to the Czech Republic and Austria. She has a passion for travel and cannot wait to explore more of the world. For now, history provides opportunities for her to see a lot of the world. She will be the guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project during the week of October 16 to 22, 2016, as well as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project during the week of December 4 to 10, 2016.

Welcome, Lindsay Hajjar!