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 It was later repealed on March 18, 1766, because of the strong opposition it met.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The Stamp Act had been repealed on March 18, 1766, ten days before this advertisement appeared, although it would take several weeks for word to arrive in the colonies.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.

March 25

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 25 - 3:24:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (March 24, 1766).

“Just imported in the Cornelia, Capt. Harvey, (via New-York) …”

This advertisement by merchant John Dockray caught my attention because of the fact that the goods came to the colonies via New York City before being sold in Newport, Rhode Island. The Cornelia, commanded by Capt. Harvey, was the ship that brought Dockray’s merchandise to New York. At this time Newport, itself a bustling port, was still smaller in size and population compared to New York or Boston.

The advertisement lists many different everyday goods for everyday people. Dockray clearly characterized these goods as “WINTER GOODS,” the uppercase letters and the placement made that the prominent and eye-catching feature. Due to the fact that it was March, colonists’ winter stores would be getting low as the season came to an end. With spring arriving soon, people would be getting ready for planting, farming, and other occupations.

Dockray also said that the store was attached to his house, which allowed for easy management and control.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Elizabeth’s final observation, that Dockray operated his business in “his Store adjoining to his House,” allows us to further consider some of the ramifications of the work that she did yesterday when she located the general area where several colonists sold their wares using addresses from newspaper advertisements and trade cards in combination with maps of Boston from the period.

John Dockray’s situation was not unique. In yesterday’s featured advertisement Elizabeth Clark announced that she sold seeds “At her Shop near the Mill Bridge, BOSTON.” Clark most likely resided at the same location. In the featured advertisement from two days ago, William Symonds indicated that he sold his wares “at his house, the corner of Market and Second streets, opposite the Quaker Meeting-house” in Philadelphia. In the portion of the advertisement devoted to Mary Symonds’s millinery business, she reiterated that her merchandise was “in the corner shop in said house.”

Colonial Americans who lived in urban ports – like Newport, Boston, and Philadelphia – often tended to work at the same location where they lived, whether shopkeepers or artisans, unlike today’s practice of residing at one location and working elsewhere. An artisan’s workshop, for instance, might be on the first floor of the domicile, with the family residing upstairs. Or portions of a house could have been set aside for running a shop, as was the case with Mary Symonds.

As a result, the addresses included in colonial advertisements help us to reconstruct more than just the commercial landscape of early American cities and towns. In many instances they also tell us where a variety of people lived, helping us to better understand who lived in which neighborhoods and what kinds of relationships – social as well as economic – developed there.

March 24

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1766 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (March 24, 1766).

Elizabeth Clark placed this advertisement to sell an assortment of seeds. She got her supplies “per Capt. Freeman” from London. The timing makes perfect sense, because April showers bring May, June, July, and August crops. With it being late March the planting season was right upon colonists in Boston and the rest of Massachusetts.

 

Anyone who frequently visits the Adverts 250 Project might notice that this advertisement seems repetitive. To be honest I had to review my work from my first week as guest curator in February. The historical impact that woman of the past have on women of the present and future interests me greatly so I try to pick advertisements that feature primarily woman if I am able. On February 17, I featured an advertisement from Lydia Dyar, who also sold garden seeds and had gotten them from Captain Freeman. In his additional commentary Prof. Keyes also pointed out an advertisement from yet another woman, Susanna Renken, who both sold seeds and bought them from Captain Freeman. All three of these woman posted similar advertisements, for mostly the same product, and bought their goods from the same man.

Two of them seem to have had shops in the same vicinity: Mill Creek. Susanna Renken states that her shop is “near the Draw Bridge” and Elizabeth Clark advertised that she was located “near the Mill Bridge,” which was located on Mill Creek. This trade card helped further convince me that these two woman shops were near each other because William Breck had a shop “at the Golden Key near the draw-Bridge Boston.”

Mar 25 - William Breck Trade Card
William Breck’s trade card (Paul Revere, engraver, ca. 1768).  This trade card is part of the American Antiquarian Society’s Paul Revere Collection.

Nathaniel Abraham, who also regularly advertised in the Boston newspapers, listed “Sign of the Golden Key, in Ann-street” as his location too.

 

Mar 24 - Nathaniel Abraham - 2:20:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (February 20, 1766).

This map shows that Ann Street intersected Mill Creek.  The drawbridge crossed Mill Creek.  Elizabeth Clark, Susanna Renken, William Breck, and Nathaniel Abraham had shops located near each other.

Mar 24 - Detail of Map
Detail of A Plan of the Town of Boston.
Mar 24 - Map of Boston.jpg
A Plan of the Town of Boston with the Intrenchments &ca. of His Majesty’s Forces in 1775, from the Observations of Lieut. Page of His Majesty’s Corps of Engineers, and from Those of Other Gentlemen (1777?).  Library of Congress.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

I am impressed with the way that Elizabeth mobilizes several different primary sources –newspaper advertisements, trade cards, maps – in a preliminary attempt to reconstruct neighborhoods and marketplaces in Boston in the 1760s. This is work that historians and scholars in related fields have undertaken on a grander scale.

I appreciate that Elizabeth draws attention to an aspect of eighteenth-century advertisements that has not yet received much attention here: when examined systematically the locations listed in the advertisements help us to understand not only the geography of early American towns and cities but also relationships of various sorts.

More than two decades would pass before publication of the Boston Directory, the city’s first directory that listed the occupations and residences of its inhabitants, in 1789. That and subsequent city directories from Boston and other urban centers in early America have been invaluable to historians, but such sources do not exist for earlier periods.

Elizabeth has discovered on her own – and helps to demonstrate – that newspaper advertisements provide more information than just lists of goods or attempts to convince potential customers to make purchases. They include valuable information about where people worked and where they lived, details that fill in some of the blanks for an era before city directories.

January 29

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

Jan 29 - 1:28:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (January 18, 1766)

“At the Sight of the Mathematical Instruments, next Door to the Golden Eagle, in Thames-Street.”

Sometimes the directions for locating a business are just as interesting as the merchandise offered for sale, at least to someone observing from a distance of 250 years.  I’ve commented fairly regularly about various modes of identifying where a business happened to be located, especially when such directions crowded out appeals that could have marketed goods and services to potential customers.  (On the other hand, advertisers couldn’t sell anything if customers couldn’t find them.)  Last week I even made sport of an attorney who provided unnecessarily convoluted and legalistic directions to his office.  Providing adequate directions was a part of doing business in the days before standardized street numbers (an innovation that appeared in many American cities around the final decade of the century).

This advertisement does not make reference to cross streets or counting the number of doors after arriving at an intersection.  It simply states that this shop is located “At the Sight of the Mathematical Instruments, next Door to the Golden Eagle, in Thames-Street.”  Contemporary visual images of streetscapes in colonial American cities are relatively rare, but advertisements like this one help to envision what colonists would have seen as they went about their daily business.

Contemplating “the Sight of the Mathematical Instruments” or “the Golden Eagle” evokes days gone by.  It might even seem quaint, but I’m not certain that the American consumer landscape has changed as significantly as we might like to imagine.  After all, how many people actually know the street address of the fast food restaurant where they grab a quick lunch or the store where they buy everything from bread to toys to clothes?  I’m guessing that most people look for golden arches or a big red target rather than a street number.

Also, note what kinds of merchandise Benjamin King sells and the sign that announces the location of his shop to potential customers.  Clever.

January 11

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

Jan 11 - 1:10:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 10, 1766)

“NATHANIEL BABB, Taylor, … informs his Customers and others, That he has removed from the Shop where he formerly Work’t to a new Shop.”

Who hasn’t heard a particular hackneyed phrase — “Location!  Location!  Location! — when contemplating buying a home or, especially, opening a business.  Nathaniel Babb understood that location was important:  he could not remain in business if former and potential customers did not know where to find him.  His advertisement offers few appeals to consumers (though he does indicate he was “ready with Fidelity and Dispatch”) in favor of instead making sure that they knew where to find him after his move to a new location.

Many shopkeepers and artisans used elaborate shop signs, such as the one seen below, to identify their places of business in eighteenth-century America (and England as well), but not everyone did so.  In an era before standardized street numbers, Babb offers convoluted directions:  his shop was “lately erected near the Corner of Clement Jackson’s, in the Street leading to the Canoe Bridge.”  Even if Babb had a sign to hang at his new shop, he still needed to direct customers to the general vicinity.

Philip Godfrid Kast Trade Card
Philip Godfrid Kast’s trade card engraved by Nathaniel Hurd in Boston in 1774 (American Antiquarian Society).

The druggist who issued this trade card included an image of his shop sign, an early form of branding that helped customers remember and locate his business.