Interview with Guest Curator Mary Aldrich

Mary Aldrich has completed her second and final week as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project.  As we say farewell to her, let’s take a few moments to find out more about her  behind-the-scenes contributions to this project.

Adverts 250:  This was your second week as guest curator. How did it compare to the first time? Did you make any changes to your research or writing process based on what you learned the first time?

Mary Aldrich:  This time around as guest curator, I had a good process worked out from the previous week, which made the entire project easier. Looking for advertisements was slightly more difficult this time because I wanted to try to find a theme that loosely tied all, or most, of them together. Fortunately, I was able to find a few advertisements that mentioned their location. Their location happened to be politically important, which was a bonus. It made me realize the how layered many of the advertisements from this period are. I did try to research some of the more obscure aspects of the advertisements in order to gain a better understanding of the content of the advertisement that I could add into my commentary if need be. By doing this extra research I was able to gain a broader understanding of what was important to people of the 1760s and why.

Adverts 250:  What is the most important or most interesting thing that you learned about early American history throughout the process of working on this project?

Mary Aldrich:  This project has made me realize the importance of everyday items and how they may be used by future generations in order to piece together what life was like during the period the items are from. Life in early America consisted of many aspects that at first glance may not be immediately identifiable. Looking through advertisements a second week has given me new insights into different aspects of early American life that I had not noticed in the first week of working on this project. Rather than learning about early American life from a textbook, I feel as if I have connected to a past in a different way that is more meaningful. While looking for advertisements one cannot help but read some of the other content in the newspapers and regular people had bits of their story in the newspapers. This connected me to the past in a way that no textbook or an account about a historical person or event could.

Adverts 250:  What is the most important thing you learned about “doing history” as a result of working on this project?

Mary Aldrich:  Through this project, I learned that it is important to not just learn history but to actually “do history.” It is not enough to personally gain knowledge about history, history needs to be shared and any knowledge obtained through working with different historical objects needs to be shared with as many people as possible. “Doing history” involves a community and on the Adverts 250 Project, the community keeps growing. I also learned that creating a community takes time and patience. By obtaining different perspectives, the conversation can often move in a different, yet equally productive, direction. It is important to write and research not just for your audience but also for yourself. When I am interested in a subject, I tend to allow my enthusiasm to color the way I write and those reading it often notice that. This also makes researching and writing feel more fulfilling because you know those reading the finished product will, hopefully, relate to your enthusiasm and get excited about it themselves.

Adverts 250:  What is your favorite advertisement from your two weeks as guest curator? Why?

Mary Aldrich:  I really enjoyed researching the advertisement from the New Hampshire Gazette published on March 28, 1766 featuring goods from Barnabas Clark. Researching the Liberty Bridge mentioned in the advertisement and the Liberty Pole that was mentioned was very interesting. I mentioned that I visit Portsmouth almost every year and I have seen the Liberty Pole but I never connected it to the American Revolution or the Stamp Act protests. I never evn realized that there were protests in Portsmouth. I felt connected to this particular advertisement more than any of the others because I was familiar with an aspect of the advertisement. While I had a general idea about things that were mentioned in other advertisements, for this one I had actually passed the Liberty Pole and I have the opportunity to go back and view it in a new light. With the other advertisements, I do not have that same opportunity or prior knowledge.

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Thank you, Mary.  You made some significant contributions to this project during your time as guest curator.  Mary will be graduating from Assumption College with a degree in History in just over a month.  Best wishes and good luck!

April 2

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Apr 2 - 3:31:1766 New-York Mercury
New-York Mercury (March 31, 1766).

 

“To COVER, … The fine BAY HORSE, called OLD ENGLAND.”

This advertisement is for the stud services of a “fine BAY HORSE, called OLD ENGLAND” with a lineage traced back to the great Godolphin Arabian and Flying Childers. Even as early as 1766 the Godolphin Arabian was considered a horse central to the modern thoroughbred breed, having gained prestige in the 1730s. To have Old England mentioned as being the descendent of the Godolphin Arabian and Flying Childers, an undefeated horse of the 1720s, would have immediately tipped off potential horse breeders that Old England was from very good stock. I am sure many, if not all, of the other horses mentioned were notable in their own right as well. This was attested to by the fact that the advertiser listed the prizes that many of the horses in Old England’s pedigree won for their owners.

Apr 2 Godolphin Arabian by George Stubbs
Godolphin Arabian (George Stubbs, 1724-1806).

It is interesting that the advertiser signs the advertisement as “the Public’s Most Obedient Servant.” For the most part the majority of people used horses for work and would not be interested in a horse bred for racing. His audience would likely have been the people who had extra income to breed and racehorses. It is good to know as well that John Leary was “A Lover of the Turf.” That projected a sense of camaraderie among the potential horse breeders who wanted Old England to cover their mares.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Notices about horses “to cover” constituted their own genre of newspapers advertisements in the eighteenth century. They appeared frequently in the public prints, and they were easily spotted because they tended to include a woodcut of a horse. Usually these woodcuts would have been among the very few images that accompanied advertisements.

For instance, this issue of the New-York Mercury included approximately fifty advertisements. Only three had an image: Old England and another advertisement for a horse “to cover” as well as a notice that the Minerva would soon be sailing for Bristol. The first two featured different woodcuts of horses and the final one a woodcut of a ship.

Apr 2 - Hero 3:31:1766 New-York Mercury
New-York Mercury (March 31, 1766).

As I have explained previously, such woodcuts belonged to the printer, who kept on hand a small collection of ships, houses, runaways (men and women; slaves, servants, and wives), and horses that could be used interchangeably in any advertisement about vessels arriving or departing, real estate to buy or lease, runaways, and horse breeding, respectively. That horses were included on this list suggests how common advertisements promoting their availability “to cover” mares were in eighteenth-century newspapers. In addition, several broadsides (what we would call posters today) for horses “to cover” also survive from the eighteenth century.

The woodcut in Old England’s advertisement does not do justice to the beauty of that horse, but it did help to distinguish that notice from the others that appeared on the same page.

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.

March 31

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Mar 31 - 3:31:1766 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (March 31, 1766).

“Augustus Deley, … CONTINUES to carry on the Business of manufacturing TOBACCO.”

I find it interesting that this advertisement starts by stating that the advertiser “CONTINUES to carry on the Business of manufacturing TOBACCO, in all its Branches.” This makes me wonder if something happened to cast doubt in the minds of his customers about whether they would be able to continue purchasing their tobacco from him or not. This advertisement has the air of someone reassuring his customers that he was indeed still in business.

The fact that Deley mentioned that he needed sufficient notice from those wishing to purchase large quantities of tobacco makes me think that he was not a minor tobacconist. To have customers purchase large amounts of tobacco must have occurred often enough for him to specifically ask those who wished to purchase those amounts to let him know beforehand. It must have been inconvenient for him to have a customer come in and take most of his supply because afterward he would have to potentially turn other customers away while he waited for a new shipment.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Augustus Deley certainly wanted residents of Hartford and its hinterland to know that he continued to sell tobacco, that he was still in business, but his advertisement also alluded to a notice that he posted in the Connecticut Courant nearly three months earlier. Perhaps Deley had recently moved to Hartford and was settling in. After all, his earlier advertisement announced that he was a “Tobaconist (from New-York),” but he dropped that description in his updated advertisement. He may have become an increasingly familiar face in Hartford, but he likely wanted to let potential customers not yet aware of his shop or uncertain of its success that he did indeed “CONTINUE to carry on the Business of manufacturing TOBACCO.”

Among the various updates to his advertisement, Deley listed a location: “At the Sign of the Black Boy, Near the North Meeting-House in Hartford.” It was no coincidence that a tobacconist set up shop “At the Sign of the Black Boy.” After all, slaves provided the labor involved in cultivating tobacco in the Chesapeake colonies. Just as many trade cards or tobacco wrappers from the era featured images of enslaved men and women at work on plantations or interacting happily with white masters and overseers, Deley selected a shop sign that reduced a “Black Boy” to the colonial equivalent of a mascot or a brand to market his product.

March 30

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Mar 30 - 3:27:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 27, 1766).

TO BE SOLD, By Adam Collson, Under the TREE of LIBERTY.”

The “TREE of LIBERTY” is a symbol famous to this day for the events that took place under it less than a year before this advertisement. It became a landmark in colonial Boston in the decade before the Revolution. On August 14, 1765, the elm tree near the commons became famous. A gathering of colonists dissatisfied with the Stamp Act hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the newly appointed stamp commissioner of Boston. The rebellious political leaders of the day named it the Liberty Tree and during the era of the American Revolution, many protests and demonstrations began or were conducted under it.

By setting up shop under the “TREE of LIBERTY,” Collson let potential customers know that he supported the actions that had taken place there. If others wanted to support those actions as well, they could buy “Fleece Wool” from him under the “TREE of LIBERTY.” Just buying and selling fleece made a political statement in this situation because of the political symbolism attached to this particular tree.

Visit Mapping Revolutionary Boston to learn more about the “TREE of LIBERTY” and other eighteenth-century landmarks.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Once again, Mary has chosen an advertisement that mobilized politics in the service of marketing consumer goods. Like Monday’s advertisement that indicated Barnabas Clarke’s shop was located “Near Liberty-Bridge,” Adam Collson incorporated recent protests against the Stamp Act into the directions he gave potential customers.

Under the TREE of LIBERTY” offers an explicit political message, but Collson’s wares may have also resonated with colonists angered by the Stamp Act. What would colonists have done with “Fleece Wool” once they purchased it? In order to eventually transform this raw material into textiles (perhaps to substitute for those many colonists refused to import from England), the fleece would have been spun into yarn or thread on a spinning wheel, itself a symbol of industry. The colonists valued their spirit of industriousness as they opposed the oppressive acts of Parliament.

Furthermore, as the imperial crisis developed over the next decade, colonists of various backgrounds found themselves involved in a variety of acts of resistance. Some demonstrated in the streets. Some expressed their political opinions via the choices they made as consumers. Women, barred from formal political participation, took up the American cause by sitting at their spinning wheels and transforming “Fleece Wool” and other raw materials into the thread that was then woven into homespun.

Both yesterday and today Mary selected advertisements that contain layers of meaning not always readily apparent to modern readers but which likely resonated with colonists who were very familiar with the relationship between politics and consumption in the age of the Stamp Act.

March 29

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Mar 29 - 3:28:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 28, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD by John Sparhawk, AT KITTERY POINT, Good HEMP-SEED.”

Hemp was a valuable commodity in eighteenth century America because it was used to make the ropes that were on every ship in this period. According to Ben Swenson at Colonial Williamsburg, all of the colonies grew hemp because of its ability to grow virtually anywhere. By the eighteenth century, the colonies of Virginia and Maryland grew the most hemp, but for farmers in New Hampshire it was still a valuable crop.

Farmers were profit driven and the best way to grow hemp to get nice long fibers to be used for ropes was to plant them close together. This limited the amount of female flowers the plants were able to produce, which is location of the greatest concentration of THC. (Colonists did know about the hallucinogenic properties of hemp.) Besides rope, hemp was used to make cloth for clothes and sacks, paper, and bed ticking, which kept the feathers or straw of the mattress from poking through. The cloth made from hemp grown in the colonies was especially valued when the colonists began to boycott goods from England. The growing and processing of hemp was already so well established that colonists were easily able to either grow more hemp or set aside a larger amount for the production of homespun.

The processing of hemp was difficult; after it was cut and rotted the waste had to be removed from the desired long fibers. The hemp needed to be rotted because it would loosen the fibers from the woody interior and the bark. The process of breaking the hemp separated the fibers from much of the waste. Afterward it needed to be beaten and scraped, then combed to remove the rest of the waste from the strands. Only then was the hemp suitable to be processed into its final product.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

At first glance today’s advertisement appears rather bland, but Mary’s analysis demonstrates why it is an appropriate sequel to yesterday’s featured advertisement for Barnabas Clarke’s shop “Near Liberty-Bridge” in Portsmouth. The two appeared on the same page of the New-Hampshire Gazette, Sparhawk’s about two-thirds of the way down the second column and Clarke’s filling the top half of the third and final column.

Clarke explicitly invoked many colonists’ sentiments about their relationship to Parliament when he listed the location of his shop, which would have called to mind the protests against the Stamp Act that occurred quite recently, less than three months earlier. Sparhawk, on the other hand, did not make reference to such difficulties, but, given the ubiquity of hemp in the colonial world, most colonists would have been aware that it was a resource for creating homespun. Sparhawk’s advertisement played off what colonists knew about nonconsumption and nonimportation even as it encouraged consumption of an alternate product. As the article from Colonial Williamsburg cited above explains, in the coming years newspapers increasingly encouraged growing and using hemp as a means of resistance as the imperial crisis intensified.

Mar 29 - Slave Ad 3:28:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 28, 1766).

Given that the advertisements for yesterday and today each had connections to colonists’ understanding of liberty, it is worth noting a third advertisement that appeared on this page of the New-Hampshire Gazette, immediately to the right of Sparkhawk’s advertisement and a bit below Clarke’s. While Clarke peddled his wares “Near Liberty-Bridge” and Sparhawk offered a product that could help colonists reduce commercial ties with an oppressive England, readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette could purchase “A Negro Boy, about Fifteen Years of Age.” Once again, slavery and freedom were intertwined in the advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette.

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 27

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Mar 27 - 3:27:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 27, 1766).

“At Store No. 14 on Long-Wharf.”

In the eighteenth century, Boston was one of the leading port cities in the colonies and Long Wharf was the center of shipping for the city. Before Faneuil Hall became the main marketplace for Boston, it was Long Wharf. The wharf was built of wood and stone over the defensive wall that used to encircle the harbor. Work on this new wharf began in 1710 and when it was finished, Long Wharf was 1,586 feet long and 54 feet wide. There was enough room for fifty ships to dock on the wharf and unload their cargo right into the warehouses on the wharf without the need for smaller intermediary ships. Both warehouses and shops were on the wharf, therefore the public and businesses owners made their way to the wharf for goods and commerce.

John and William Powell were in a great location, not just for the customer traffic but because they had lower transportation costs than other stores. It is likely that they received their shipments directly from the ships that transported their goods. In addition, they may have had a warehouse attached or nearby their shop for close storage of their goods.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

I appreciate the way that Mary used this advertisement to investigate the infrastructure for commerce in Boston during the eighteenth century. However, it caught my eye for a different reason (which has been one of the great pleasures of collaborating on this project with my Public History students: the different questions, perspectives, and interpretations).

John and William Powell sold “Philadelphia Flour” at their store on Long Wharf. Both their merchandise and the format of their advertisement differ from many others that have been featured here. Some advertisements for consumer goods adhered to a formula: a headline announcing that goods had been “just imported” from London or another English or European city in a particular vessel and were being sold by a particular shopkeeper at a particular place, all followed by a list (length varied) of the “assortment of goods” for sale. The format and the language often followed a standardized pattern.

John and William Powell’s advertisement, however, contained none of those aspects. (The three items for sale hardly count as a short list, not when compared to other advertisements of the era.) The “Philadelphia Flour” that they sold had not been imported from across the Atlantic. Instead, it was part of a coastal trade in which the colonies supplied each other with the resources they produced. Pennsylvania, “the best poor man’s country,” and other Middle Atlantic colonies produced grains that they shipped to other colonies in North America as well as to the Caribbean and English ports.

Advertisements from the 1760s often trumpeted imported goods that colonists could purchase as expressions of their identity, but other commercial notices announced the availability of basic necessities, many of them produced in neighboring colonies.

Reflections from Guest Curator Mary Aldrich

GUEST CURATOR: Mary Aldrich

Working for the Adverts 250 Project has made me more appreciative of advertisements. It is interesting to be working with material that today many of us just skim over or are slightly annoyed by. We generally see advertisements as things that get in the way of what we are actually interested in. It has made me wonder what the people reading newspapers in the colonial and Revolutionary periods thought about advertisements. Did they skip over them or were advertisements an integral part of a newspaper which contributed to the reading experience? No matter what they thought about advertisements in their newspaper, here we are 250 years later analyzing them. What will people do with our advertisements 250 years from now? Will they even care about them? Initially when I was introduced to this project, I thought it would be boring: how interesting could 250-year-old advertisements be? I was still operating in the mindset of a twenty-first-century individual dealing with advertisements. As I progressed throughout the project, I began to find many of the advertisements to be really interesting and informative.

People put advertisements for a wide verity of goods and services as well as other things in newspapers:  advertisements for runaway slaves, people looking for good servants, or even just looking for a person that they may have lost contact with (as was the case in an advertisement I commented on this week). In the process of my search for advertisements to include this week I stumbled across a few where people were airing the state of their relationships or asking for the return of their stolen or lost property. People used the newspaper as their primary source of communication with the general public in a similar way to the verity of platforms we use to communicate with people anywhere in the world in the twenty-first century. This project utilizes two such platforms to communicate with the public, Twitter and blogging. Doing this puts the concept of ‘doing history in public’ directly into practice. Anyone with a connection to the Internet can view it and that is what makes this project wonderful. It also makes doing research correctly and writing with the audience in mind especially important. Even when choosing advertisements, I thought about what other people might like to learn about and what sort of content they would be interested in.

This project enriched my understanding of the products and services that people in the colonial and Revolutionary periods relied upon. Through my research about the products that people used I was able to flesh out my understanding of the period and what their needs may have been on a daily basis. These advertisements packed a lot of information into just a few lines and choosing what to research and write about was, in some cases, the hardest part of this project. Each advertisement has the potential to be dissected in a much more lengthy setting and yet I did not have the space to do so. Overall, this project was interesting and I do hope that all the work that is being done here can be used by others to further or provide more insight in their own projects.

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ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:  Carl Robert Keyes

Thank you, Mary, for a great selection of advertisements during the past week.  I also appreciate your efforts to provide more context for understanding many of the advertisements.  Your research turned up some great sources and valuable links to include here so readers can find out much more about patent medicines, paint, and a variety of other eighteenth-century goods.  Mary will be returning for a second week as guest curator later in the semester.

February 27

GUEST CURATOR:  Mary Aldrich

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

Feb 27 - 2:27:1766 Boston News-Letter
Boston News-Letter (February 27, 1766).

“WHITE Lead, red Lead, Spanish Brown, Verdigrease, Prussian Blue.”

Paint itself was not sold as we have it now; separate parts had to be purchased and were mixed right before they were needed. The entire job needed to be completed as soon as possible because the mixed ingredients would harden if left for the next day.

The white and red lead advertised here were not often used as paint by themselves but as an additive to other paints in order to change and fortify the mix. For someone who had paints and wanted to change slightly the color he or she would add this red or white lead.

According to Robert Foley, “Spanish Brown” on the other hand was one of the cheapest and therefore most common paint in the colonies. In England and the colonies, this paint was derived from grinding up dirt with the presence of iron oxide and adding linseed and turpentine. This inexact science produced a multitude of brownish colors that was determined by other elements present in the dirt and the amount used. This paint was used mainly as the “first coat” and primarily on houses, barns, and outbuildings.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

William Gooch used the Sign of Admiral Vernon to identify his shop on King Street in Boston. Given that he sold paints and painting supplies, I wonder how colorful the Sign of Admiral Vernon might have been. After all, a well-painted sign would have testified to the quality of Gooch’s wares.

Feb 27 - 10:17:1743 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (October 17, 1743).

The sign was certainly a landmark. As early as 1743 Joseph Sherburne stated that his new shop was located “opposite to the Sign of Admiral Vernon.” In 1750, James Gooch & Son (presumably William) listed their location as “at the Sign of Admiral Vernon, at the Lower End of King-Street, Boston” in an advertisement for imported groceries, spices, tea, coffee, and tableware. William Gooch operated his business out of the same shop as his father, but the merchandise changed significantly.

Feb 27 - 12:17:1750 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (December 17, 1750).

The Sign of Admiral Vernon was fitting in a port city like Boston. It was named for Edward Vernon (1684-1757), who served in the Royal Navy for forty-six years. Although famous during his own lifetime, most people today are probably much more familiar with two of his namesakes.

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, was named for Admiral Vernon. Washington’s elder half-brother, Lawrence, had served under Vernon. He named the plantation, which passed to his widow upon his death. It was not until her death that George Washington became proprietor of Mount Vernon, though he had previously lived at and managed the estate.

Grog, another name for rum diluted with water and lemon or lime juice, derives from Admiral Vernon’s nickname. In 1740, Vernon devised a means of keeping water fresher and staving off scurvy aboard Royal Navy vessels. Having earned a reputation for wearing coats made of grogram cloth, he became known as Old Grog and the rum ration, over time, simply became grog.