January 27

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

New-London Gazette (January 27, 1769).

“At the Shop in Beach-Street, (lately improved by Winthrop and Roswell Saltonstall.)”

Like many other merchants and shopkeepers throughout the colonies, Winthrop Saltonstall made an appeal to consumer choice when he composed an advertisement for a “General Assortment of Ship Chandlery and Iron Monger’s Ware.” He did not merely state that he had an extensive inventory, but instead supplied a list that enumerated dozens of items. Among his wares, customers could purchase “Nails of all Sizes,” “Carpenter’s and Cooper’s Compasses,” and “long and short handled Frying Pans and Iron Tea Kettles.” For some categories of merchandise, he further underscored the range of choice: “Variety of Time and other Glasses,” “Augers various Sizes,” and “Variety Chest, Door, Cupboards and Padlocks.” He concluded with both “&c. &c. &c.” (the eighteenth-century rendition of “etc. etc. etc.) and “With a Variety of Goods,” combining two standard turns of phrase that customarily appeared separately in newspaper advertisements. Saltonstall encouraged prospective customers to image a vast array of goods available ay his shop; in so doing, he suggested that he could cater to their specific needs and tastes.

Yet consumer choice was not the only marketing strategy that Saltonstall deployed. He also made appeals to price and location, though more briefly. He asserted that he sold his wares “on the most reasonable Terms.” He also informed readers of the New-London Gazette that his “Shop in Beach-Street” had been “lately improved by Winthrop and Roswell Saltonstall.” He did not elaborate on what kinds of upgrades he and a partner had undertaken, but merely mentioning that they had made changes to the venue served multiple purposes. It alerted prospective customers that Saltonstall attended to their comfort and convenience while shopping. It also enticed readers, especially former customers, to visit the store out of curiosity, to see the improvements even if they did not intend to make any purchases. Such excursions could yield unanticipated sales or prime future purchases. Although Saltonstall’s comments about his venue were brief, they demonstrated a rudimentary understanding of shopping as an experience rather than a chore and the significance customers placed on location.

June 17

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

Jun 17 - 6:17:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 17, 1768).

“A new Shop … near Swing or Liberty Bridge.”

When Zechariah Beal, a cobbler, set up shop in a new location he placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform “his Customers and others, that he has Removed from Queen Street, to a new Shop, almost adjoining to that of Mr. John Noble’s Barber, near Swing or Liberty Bridge, not far from the Long-Wharfe in Portsmouth.” Beal advertised in an era before American cities and towns adopted standardized street numbers, though some of the largest American cities would do so in the final decade of the eighteenth century.

In the absence of street numbers, Beal and other colonists relied on a variety of landmarks to establish locations and give directions. Sometimes these instructions were short, simply referencing the name of the street. In other cases, they were quite lengthy (and even rather convoluted from the perspective of modern readers accustomed to precise street numbers designating the locations of homes and businesses), as was the case when Beal listed his new location in his advertisement.

Among the landmarks he invoked, Beal noted that his new shop was “near Swing or Liberty Bridge.” This description reveals that colonists in Portsmouth were in the midst of reconceptualizing the meaning they attributed to a local landmark. On January 6, 1766, the Sons of Liberty had paraded an effigy of George Grenville around Portsmouth in protest of the Stamp Act. They burned the effigy of the prime minister and, like several other cities and towns in the colonies, erected a liberty pole that flew a flag that read “LIBERTY, PROPERTY, and NO STAMPS,” according to an account that appeared in the January 20, 1766, edition of the Boston Evening-Post. That same account reported that the pole and flag were “now fixed near LIBERTY-BRIDGE.”

Some advertisers in Portsmouth quickly adopted the name, indicating that they and other colonists continued to commemorate the protest by associating new significance with the Swing Bridge that predated the protest. Yet this process was not universal among those who resided in the area. The bridge now had two names, “Swing or Liberty Bridge,” among the inhabitants of Portsmouth. An older way of describing the urban landscape did not disappear just because some colonists now preferred a new designation for one landmark. Even those who supported protests against the Stamp Act and, more recently in the summer of 1768, the Townshend Act likely discovered that they sometimes had to consciously correct themselves when it came to associating names with political significance with landmarks previously known as something else. In Portsmouth, that meant that one landmark simultaneously had two names, “Swing or Liberty Bridge,” as colonists collectively reconceptualized their descriptions of their environs.

June 6

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

Jun 6 - 6:6:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post- Boy (June 6, 1768).

“His House is very well calculated for an Inn.”

When Josiah F. Davenport opened an inn on Third Street in Philadelphia, he advertised in newspapers published in both Philadelphia and New York. Doing so made sense since he billed “the Bunch of Grapes” as “a genteel House of Entertainment, for Travellers and others, who may depend on the best Fare and civilest Treatment.” Davenport positioned his tavern and inn as a destination not only for visitors to the city but also for local residents “who may have Occasion to meet on Business or Recreation.” In addition to the “best Liquors” and the “elegant and spacious” accommodations for guests, Davenport also promoted the location. He proclaimed that Third Street “is becoming one of the grandest Avenues into this City.” The Bunch of Grapes “stands in the Neighbourhood of many principal Merchants and capital Stores.” Furthermore, it was also located “very near the Market.” Visitors traveling to Philadelphia on business could lodge in an establishment close to their associates, one that also happened to be in a swank neighborhood. Local patrons could also take advantage of the convenient location for conducting business or enjoying the various entertainments at the Bunch of Grapes.

Jun 6 - 6:6:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 6, 1768).

Davenport submitted identical copy to the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy and the Pennsylvania Chronicle (but the compositors for each made their own decisions about capitalization and italics throughout the advertisement). He also adorned the notice in the Chronicle with a woodcut depicting the sign that marked his establishment, a bunch of grapes suspended from a signpost. He acknowledged that the “large and commodious Inn” he now operated had been “for some time known by the Name of the Bull’s Head.” However, it was now known as the Bunch of Grapes under the management of the new proprietor. The new sign and an image in one of the city’s newspapers helped to cement the switch in branding for the inn. This was especially important considering that the Bull’s Head had established its own reputation for operating at that location.

Davenport realized that the success of the Bunch of Grapes depended on attracting a mixture of customers, both residents of Philadelphia who patronized his “House of Entertainment” for an afternoon or evening and visitors from other places who spent one or more nights. Accordingly, he highlighted a variety of amenities and, especially, the location of the inn in newspapers published in more than one city. Through his marketing efforts, he encouraged travelers to think of the Bunch of Grapes, rather than Philadelphia, as their destination.

March 24

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1768 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 24, 1768).

“Work will be taken in either at said Shop, or by Edward Wentworth, at Milton Bridge.”

In the early spring on 1768, Theophilus Chamberlain, a clothier, turned to the public prints to announce that he “HAS opened Shop near the Sign of the White-Horse in BOSTON.” Like many other artisans in the garment trades, he promoted both his skill and his prices, pledging that he did “the Clothier’s Business in the best and cheapest Manner.” Perhaps realizing that this did not sufficiently distinguish him from his competitors, Chamberlain supplemented those appeals by offering prospective customers a choice for dropping off and picking up textiles and garments. In a nota bene, he advised that “Work will be taken in either at said Shop, or by Edward Wentworth, at Milton Bridge; and may be had again at either Place as the Owner may choose.” By extending these options, the clothier marketed convenience to his clients. He acknowledged that his location might be attractive to some, but out of the way for others. In an effort to increase his clientele he made arrangements to serve them at two locations.

The typography of the advertisement highlighted the additional appeal made in the nota bene, placing special emphasis on the convenience that Chamberlain provided that his competitors did not. While the graphic design of the advertisement – indenting the entire nota bene so the additional white space on a page of dense text drew more attention to it – likely drew more eyes, it does not appear that Chamberlain made particular arrangements concerning the format of the advertisement. The advertisement immediately below it also featured a short nota bene and identical decisions concerning the layout.

Chamberlain carefully crafted the copy for his advertisement to entice readers of the Massachusetts Gazette to hire him to dress their textiles and garments, finishing them so as to give a nap, smooth surface, or gloss, depending on the fabric. He underscored price, his skill, and, especially, the convenience of multiple locations. Fortuitously for Chamberlain, the typography of the advertisement amplified the most unique of his appeals. Some of the innovation of his advertisement was intentional, but other aspects that also worked to his benefit seem to have been merely circumstantial since they depended on decisions made by the compositor independently of the advertiser.

March 5

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

Mar 5 - 3:5:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 5, 1768).

“All persons … will not repent coming so far down town.”

Location! Location!! Location!!! Today many businesses promote the convenience associated with their location, but an awareness of the potential effect of location on the success of a business goes back to the colonial era. James Brown and Benoni Pearce, for instance, promoted their shops “On the West Side of the Great-Bridge” in Providence by advising that “their Customers coming from the Westward, may save both Time and Shoe-Leather” by visiting their establishments rather than crossing to the other side of the river to browse the wares sold by merchants and shopkeepers there.

Other entrepreneurs, however, admitted that their location might present certain disadvantages if potential customers considered them too far out of the way. In his advertisement in the March 5, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette, Nicholas Cooke announced that he sold “a Quantity of Dry Goods” at his shop “At the lower End of the Town.” Cooke realized that being situated at the outskirts of town was not an ideal location. Attracting customers required making alternate marketing appeals, such as emphasizing consumer choice. In addition to highlighting his “Quantity of Dry Goods,” Cooke also deployed the word “assortment” to describe certain categories of merchandise: “An assortment of Irish linen, checks and stripes” and “a large and neat assortment of glass, stone and earthen ware.” He had so many of those housewares that he proclaimed his inventory was “too large to enumerate.” In addition, he also stocked “many other articles” sure to delight shoppers.

To further justify making the trip to “the lower End of the Town,” Cooke also explained that he offered prices that his competitors could not beat. He stated that because he “imported the above goods directly from England” that he “can afford them as cheap as can be sold by any in this place.” He promised customers a bargain, assuring them that they “will not repent coming so far down town.” Brown and Pearce also attempted to convince certain prospective customers to venture beyond the nearest shops. Those who resided “on the other Side” of the Great Bridge would not “save both Time and Shoe-Leather” by visiting their shops, but they would be “well paid for crossing the Pavements, and be kindly received and well used.”

Eighteenth-century shopkeepers sometimes promoted their location when doing so worked to their advantage, but they did not neglect to acknowledge when they were located in a spot that consumers might not consider ideal. In such instances, they attempted to convince prospective customers that a variety of other benefits outweighed the inconvenience of traveling farther to their shops.

July 28

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

Jul 28 - 7:28:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (July 28, 1766).

“Daniel Jones INFORMS his Customers and others … that he has Removed … to a Corner Shop.”

Like many shopkeepers and other advertisers, Daniel Jones used his advertisements to communicate with different groups of readers: “his Customers and others,” those who had previously purchased his wares and those that he hoped to entice to visit his shop as new patrons.

In order for customers of all sorts to buy his merchandise, they first needed to know where to find Jones. He opened his advertisement by announcing that he had recently moved “to a Corner Shop” (a location that likely increased the foot traffic moving past his door and window). In an age before standardized street numbers, he listed his location as “the Easterly side of Newbury-Street,” sufficient directions to find the shop. To further aid former customers familiar with his previous location, however, he added that his new shop was “situated about three Rods to the Southward of that he Removed from.”

Such directions may have also been helpful to readers who had not previously made purchases from Jones. Even if they had not visited his shop, many likely knew where it was (or had been). Boston was, after all, a fairly compact city despite being a busy port. Customers who had not been to the Jones’s previous location may have also been intrigued to check out his “Corner Shop (which was lately improved by Capt. John Smith).” Even if the list of goods for sale did not draw them in, curious readers may have wanted to check out what kinds of improvements had been made to the shop itself.

In addition, Jones also addressed readers “both in Town and Country.” For former customers who lived outside Boston yet visited his shop when they came into town, an announcement about the new location and where it was located relative to his previous establishment was imperative. Jones did not want to risk disrupting his relationship with existing customers by having them arrive at a location he no longer maintained and not know how to find him. Especially if another shopkeeper set up business in Jones’ former location, he wanted former customers to know that he still kept shop in the same neighborhood.

April 23

GUEST CURATOR: Trevor Delp

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

Apr 23 - 4:21:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (April 21, 1766).

By Benjamin Faneuil, Junr. At his Store in Butler’s Row

Today’s advertisement caught my eye because of the author’s name, “Benjamin Faneuil Junr.” As a Massachusetts native, Faneuil Hall is a place I have always loved to visit and explore. According to Faneuil Hall’s website, Faneuil Hall was first a “home to merchants, fishermen, and meat and produce sellers, and provided a platform for the country’s most famous orators.” Furthermore, it tells how Samuel Adams organized the citizens of Boston to seek independence from Britain and “George Washington toasted the nation there on its first birthday.” Faneuil Hall is a cornerstone of American culture and history. As excited as I was, I could not jump to the conclusion that this Benjamin Faneuil, Jr. was a relation to the prominent Boston Faneuil family name until further researching it.

To start, I looked into the history of the Faneuil name, starting with Peter Faneuil, the merchant who donated Faneuil Hall. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, Peter’s father, Benjamin, and two uncles emigrated from France. One of the uncles, Andrew Faneuil, made a name for himself as one of New England’s wealthiest men through trading and Boston real estate investments. Benjamin Faneuil fathered two sons, Peter and Benjamin Jr., and three daughters. Peter worked tirelessly as a trader between Europe and the West Indies, acquiring a lot of money and eventually donating Faneuil Hall. There is little history on Benjamin Jr., except that he married against his uncle Andrew’s wishes, making Peter “heir to most of his fortune.” This means that although Benjamin Jr. did not have the same financial notability that his brother had, he may have had the help of his brother as a merchant. I hypothesize that this would greatly benefit Benjamin Jr.’s business as a store owner and give him recognition among other colonists.

After researching the Faneuil family name I wanted to find the location of Benjamin Jr.’s store to further my understanding of who he was. In the advertisement it reports that Benjamin Jr.’s store was located on Butlers Row. After using Google Maps to find the current location of Butler’s Row, I found that is it bordering Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

Apr 23 - Fanueil Hall on Map
Location of Butler’s Row in relation to Faneuil Hall in modern Boston.

After researching both the Faneuil family name and Butler’s Row, I believe that the author of today’s advertisement was indeed Peter Faneuil’s brother. This advertisement gave me the opportunity to dig deeper into the history of Faneuil Hall and, more specifically, the rich history of the Faneuil family.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

This advertisement, like so many others, suggests that eighteenth-century consumers spoke a very different language than we do today. Some of this is a matter of non-standardized spelling: “Fyal Wines” most likely refers to wine from Faial, one of the islands in the Azores. Other words and phrases have passed out of everyday usage: “Russia and Ravens Duck, Ticklinburg, Oznabrigs.” What were these?!

Each was a kind of fabric. Today I’d like to examine “Ravens Duck.” The term duck most likely comes from the Dutch word doek, meaning cloth. Considering that Holland was a major supplier of sailcloth in the early modern era, it makes sense that “duck” came to mean a heavy fabric among English speakers. According to Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles, sailcloth imported to the colonies was often trademarked for identification: “The light flax sail fabrics imported mostly from England and Scotland bore the trademark stencil of a raven [commonly referred to as ravens duck at the time] while the heavier weights bore the trademark picturing a duck.”[1]

To learn more about this textile, check out “The Great Age of Duck” from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

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[1] Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles (New York: 1967), 99.

April 1

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Apr 1 - 3:31:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (March 31, 1766).

“A Large and good Assortment of loose STONES.”

I found a few things interesting about this advertisement: first, that Welsh’s goods were imported from London; second, the goods he sold; and, third, that his shop was located next to an insurance office.

Compared to other advertisements I chose for this week, Welsh explicitly stated that his goods were imported from London. While the Revolution had not officially started, there was a lot of unrest in the colonies and tension with Britain. On the other hand, from the goods he sold, Welsh would have wanted to let his potential customers know that they were getting a good product.

From the products he advertised, Welsh’s clients were likely elites or merchants with disposable income. I cannot imagine a farmer or shopkeeper with enough money to spend on garnets, topazes, or rubies. This is the first time I have seen an advertisement for such luxury items.

This leads me to the third thing that interested me about this advertisement: the location. Other than using the shop next door as a point of reference, I believe that John Welsh might have been trying to establish subconsciously a sense of security for his customers. By stating that his shop was located next to an insurance office he projected an air of reliability. He likely also has insurance with the office and he was well protected so his customers should have felt the same.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Like Mary, I am interested in where “JOHN WELSH, Jeweller,” kept shop, but from a different angle. He indicated that he sold “Jeweller’s and Goldsmith’s Work” at “his Shop next to Mr. Pigeon’s Insurance-Office, at the North End of BOSTON.” The advertisement, however, appeared in the Newport Mercury! This caught me by surprise because in the 1760s most men and women who placed newspaper advertisements for consumer goods and services did so only in publications printed in the city or town where they operated their business. They targeted their marketing at relatively local consumers, those who resided in their city or the hinterland served by the city’s newspaper(s). An increasing standardization of goods in eighteenth-century American helps to explain this: shopkeepers in Newport by and large stocked the same merchandise as their counterparts in Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston. Accordingly, advertisers focused on attracting local customers.

There were, however, some exceptions, including John Welsh. His specialized merchandise may help to explain why he advertised in a newspaper printed and distributed in a port city about seventy miles away.  He needed to reach a critical mass of potential customers. Certainly wealthy merchants who could afford his wares resided in Newport. Note that he stated that “any Gentleman may be as well used by Letter as if present.” Welsh offered a form of mail order shopping for customers who could not visit his shop.

In Which Addresses in Adverts Reveal Changing Conceptions of Urban Landscapes in Early America

I have devoted several years to studying advertising in early America. As the project has unfolded, I have discovered that some people are drawn to certain advertisements because the addresses they include seem quaint or charming compared to modern systems of dividing up space and denoting locations. I’m content that old-fashioned addresses, those that lack a street number but instead rely on landmarks or familiarity with the surrounding area, encourage others to learn more about what the other elements of advertisements reveal about early American life and culture. However, I also try to make the case that the addresses themselves consist of more than just obligatory or introductory material to commercial notices. The addresses, in whatever form they happened to take, also reveal quite a bit about the world inhabited by eighteenth-century Americans.

Whenever possible, I have noted the location or directions provided in eighteenth-century advertisements (including “At the Sign of the Black Boy” in yesterday’s advertisement from tobacconist Augustus Deley), exploring what they tell us about early American life and culture. Some advertisements featured earlier this week also suggested the connections early Americans made among politics, commerce, and their conceptions of the spaces and places around them, including Barnabas Clarke’s shop “Near Liberty-Bridge” in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Adam Collson selling wool “Under the TREE of LIBERTY” in Boston. In both instances, the advertisements referenced recent protests against the Stamp Act.

In many cases the addresses included in advertisements help to demonstrate change over time, how much our understanding of commerce and the urban landscape has changed in last quarter of a millennium. In other instances, however, the locations – especially shop signs – testify to continuity as much as change. Consumers may not look for the “Golden Key” or the “Sign of Admiral Vernon” any longer, but they do easily recognize a sign with a stylized red target or a pair of golden arches.

For the most part, modern businesses identify their location with a standardized address, even if their advertising offers additional information and directions to help potential customers find them. (Some advertising explicitly notes which standardized street address should be entered in a GPS device in order for customers to successfully navigate to their place of business.) Yet numbered street addresses do not appear in advertisements from 1766. When did this become a common practice? Once again, we have to look to the eighteenth century, though in this case the last decades of that century, to witness this innovation. Advertisements, along with other sources from the period, help us to understand how consumers reimagined urban spaces.

Under the pressure of increasing population growth, economic development, and urban expansion, residents of Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and other urban ports devised new ways of positioning themselves within the urban landscape, creating a new spatial geography that helped orient residents in these more complex commercial cities. As David M. Henkin stresses in his examination of antebellum New York, “urban texts,” including advertisements, street signs, and building numbers, became “indispensable guides” that helped residents and visitors maneuver through the city and its increasing commercial abundance. They were also “apt symbols for a new kind of public life,” marking “the streets as belonging to an inclusive and undifferentiated public of potential readers.”[1]

The prosaic directions listed in advertisements both registered and promoted these changes in mapping the cityscape. Let’s use Philadelphia as an example. During the first half of the eighteenth century, the city was small and easy to navigate. Colonists in 1735, for example, would have been able to purchase pickled sturgeon by following directions in a newspaper advertisement that was no more specific than “Caleb Elfreth in Third-Street.” Elfreth’s advertisement was typical of others that also appeared in the June 19, 1735, issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Others directed potential customers to “Mrs. Mankin” or “Miles Strickland … in Market-Street.” Some also included landmarks, including an advertisement for soap available at the “New Printing Office” and Theophilus Grew’s school “Over-against the Post-Office in Second-Street.” One advertiser made reference to a shop sign, “the Crooked Billet in Front-Street.” The city was compact enough and its population small enough that potential customers could find commercial places and people with minimal and unstandardized directions, using qualitative visual markers.

Time ran out on these older ways of marking the urban landscape during the second half of the century. Philadelphians were still likely to know the retailers who lived and worked in their neighborhoods and sometimes the locations of businesses elsewhere, especially when they had operated in the same spot for a number of years. But potential customers could no longer be counted on to know the whereabouts of most businesses, both because there were many more new commercial places and because a higher proportion of the city’s residents were newcomers. Accordingly, directions in advertisements became more specific and uniform. By the 1780s and 1790s, advertisers began to list locations that included “on the corner of Market and Third Streets,” “Front, between Arch and Race Streets,” and “Chesnut, the third door above Front street.” These were the locations or directions provided by W. Coulthard, Rundle and Murgatroyd, and Robert Smock, respectively, all in the July 5, 1790, issue of the Pennsylvania Packet. By this time other advertisers used numbered street addresses, both in newspapers and on other advertising media. For instance, James and Henry Reynolds listed their address as “56 Market Street” on their furniture label.[2] Apothecary Townsend Speakman’s billhead included “4 Second Street” as his address.[3]

Although some advertisers continued to rely on older ways of signaling location, including references to landmarks and the like, these began to look decidedly old-fashioned by the 1780s and, especially, the 1790s in the wake of city directories that listed a numbered street address for all residences and businesses. Some advertisers did incorporate traditional means of giving directions with newer forms, as did Thomas Dobson, a bookseller and stationer at “the New STONE HOUSE in Second street below Market street the seventh door above Chesnut Street” on his billhead in 1789.[4] Some advertisers also continued to refer to their shop signs, but this became less a way to signal location than one among several ways of branding their wares and their businesses. All in all, the newer directions that appeared in advertisements (in newspapers and other media) helped to disseminate a more standardized way of imagining the city spatially in the last decades of the century.

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[1] David M. Henkin, City Reading: Written Word and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), x, 40.

[2] James and Henry Reynolds’ furniture label, Decorative Arts Photograph Collection, Winterthur Library.

[3] Townsend Speakman’s billhead, “Bot. of Townsend Speakman” (Philadelphia: 1789), Stauffer Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[4] Thomas Dobson’s billhead, “Bot. of Thomas Dobson,” (Philadelphia: 1789), Levi Hollingsworth Receipted Bills, Society Small Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

March 28

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Mar 28 - 3:28:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette.gif
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 28, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD By Barnabas Clarke, Near Liberty-Bridge.”

This advertisement caught my eye because it mentioned Liberty Bridge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Almost yearly, I have visited Portsmouth, but have never heard of a Liberty Bridge. It turns out that the Liberty Bridge got its name in the year 1766 in connection with the Liberty Pole. On March 22, 1765, King George III signed the Stamp Act, which did not go into effect until November of that same year. It was later repealed on March 18, 1766, because of the strong opposition it met.

On January 6, 1766, a group of men who called themselves the Sons of Liberty made an effigy of George Grenville, the author of the Stamp Act, paraded it around, and burned it. To commemorate this event they erected a Liberty Pole bearing a flag with “LIBERTY, PROPERTY, and NO STAMPS.” On January 20, the Boston Evening-Post wrote up a story a few weeks after the event.

Mar 28 - 1:20:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (January 20, 1766).

The Liberty Bridge was the bridge that crossed what used to be Puddle Dock, which has since been filled in. The Liberty Pole did not get its official marker or a permanent pole until 1824. But the Liberty Bridge was notable enough and recent enough to be prominently displayed in this advertisement. People of the region would also have known exactly where this landmark was and would have been able to find the shop.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Even as Barnabas Clarke sold goods imported from England, the location he listed in his advertisement testified to the place he believed he and his fellow colonists inhabited in the British Empire. This place was not exclusively a geographic location but rather a sense of identity. “Near Liberty-Bridge” told potential customers where to find Clarke’s shop, but it also indicated the customary rights and privileges that Clarke and other colonists asserted they possessed. Mary selected an advertisement that, once again, demonstrates that advertising and consumption took on a political valence and encouraged colonists to think about the meanings of goods – social, cultural, and political – in the era of the American Revolution.

The Stamp Act had been repealed on March 18, 1766, ten days before this advertisement appeared, although it would take several weeks for word to arrive in the colonies. When that happened, colonists would also learn that the repeal of the Stamp Act had been accompanied by passage of the Declaratory Act, which asserted that Parliament had the authority to oversee and regulate the colonies. Liberty Poles and Liberty Bridges would continue to serve as potent symbols to colonists.

Nov 24 - 11:22:1765 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 22, 1765).

This advertisement also suggests how quickly colonists reconceived their surroundings. I have previously featured two advertisements Barnabas Clark(e) published in the New-Hampshire Gazette, one on November 1765 and the other in December 1765.* Both predated the activities of the Sons of Liberty on January 6, 1766, that Mary described. Protests by the Sons of Liberty were significant in their own right, but perhaps became increasingly effective as colonists remembered, commemorated, and incorporated them into their daily lives, including listing the location of their shops as “Near Liberty-Bridge.”

Dec 28 - 12:27:1765 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 27, 1765).

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*These two advertisements appeared via #Adverts250 on Twitter, prior to this blog launching on January 1, 2016.