April 7

GUEST CURATOR: Bryant Halpin

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

Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (April 7, 1769).
“TOBACCO PIPES.”

In this advertisement John Allman and Company sold tobacco pipes. Also in this advertisement they looked for people to employ in the pipe factory. Their business depended on a crop from the southern colonies: tobacco. For some of the southern colonies, especially Virginia, the tobacco business had been the economic lifeblood for much of the colonial period. With all this tobacco exported from the southern colonies, consumers also needed pipes to smoke the tobacco. According to Ivor Noël Hume, the manufacturers of those tobacco pipes made them out of a lot of materials, such as silver, brass, pewter, iron, and even lead. But the material they preferred to use most of the time was clay. Tobacco pipe makers used clay all the way until the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, clay pipes were easily breakable and usually broke almost as fast as they were made. Consumers continued to use them because they were much cheaper to make than silver, brass, and iron pipes.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

When John Allman and Company advertised “TOBACCO PIPES made here, equal in Goodness to any imported,” in the April 7, 1769, edition of Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette, they joined a larger movement dedicated to promoting domestic manufactures in the colonies. In the late 1760s colonists decried a trade imbalance with Britain that sent too much of their specie across the Atlantic and made it increasingly difficult to conduct business. That prompted many to call for producing more goods locally rather than depending on imports. In the wake of the Stamp Act, colonists boycotted goods from Britain. Combined with other acts of resistance, such as petitions from colonial assemblies and public demonstrations, those boycotts convinced Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act. Just a couple of years later, however, Parliament instituted the Townshend Acts. Colonists objected to paying duties on glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea. They once again resorted to boycotts and promoting domestic manufactures. This time far more colonists made calls for producing goods locally, both in editorials and advertisements.

Allman and Company did not need to invoke the Townshend Acts for readers to understand their intent in this advertisement. Their rhetoric made it clear that they tapped into continuing discourses about commerce, politics, production, and consumption. Allman and Company invited the patronage of “the Well wishers to our own Manufactories.” Even as they pursued their own livelihood, they depicted producing tobacco pipes as a public service, arguing that prospective customers should offer their “Encouragement” to both the Allman and Company and the welfare of “this Country.” To do their part, Allman and Company was determined “to carry on the above Business in an extensive Manner” in order to produce sufficient tobacco pipes to meet demand without any local consumers having to purchase imported alternatives. Prospective customers did not need to worry about price or quality; Allman and Company’s tobacco pipes were “cheap” and “equal in Goodness to any imported.” In addition, their production further supported the local economy. As Bryant notes, the partners aimed to hire more workers “in the Pipe Manufactory.” Given the competitive price and quality, how could conscientious colonists not choose to make a political statement by purchasing Allman and Company’s tobacco pipes over any others?

March 30

GUEST CURATOR: Sean Duda

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

Massachusetts Gazette (March 30, 1769).

“WINE To be Sold by ROSANNA MOORE.”

Rosanna Moore advertised wine imported from other places around the Atlantic world, including Madeira, an island that lies about 450 miles off the western coast of Morocco. Wine, like many other goods, was a common import into the colonies. However, when colonists first came to Virgnia, they tried to make wine. According to Charles M. Holloway, “it was tobacco that made a market, but in the beginning wine looked more likely.” This was one of the contributing factors to the colony not doing well when it was first founded; the colonists could not trust the water source.” Holloway states that “settlers [were] often reduced to drinking from the wide muddy tidal stream, and … sometimes paid for the gamble with their lives.” Because of this, colonists relied on imported wines and they tried to make cider to replace wine. Eventually, the vineyards were actually profitable, but that would not be for a long time. Holloway gives a figure from 1768, a year before Moore’s advertisement: “Virginians exported to Britain a little more than thirteen tons of wine while importing 396,580 gallons of rum from overseas, and another 78,264 from other North American colonies.”

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

On many occasions Rosanna Moore would have been the only female entrepreneur advertising goods and services in Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette, but that was not the case in the March 30, 1769, edition. Three other women also inserted advertisements in that issue. Elizabeth Clark, Elizabeth Greenleaf, and Anna Johnson each listed the “Assortment of Garden Seeds” they imported from London and offered for sale at their shops in Boston. Their notices appeared in a single column, one after another, forming a block of advertisements placed by women, making their presence in the public prints difficult to overlook.

Throughout the late winter and early spring of 1769, female seed sellers advertised in most of the newspapers published in Boston. It was an annual ritual that contributed to a rhythm of advertising. Just as advertisements for almanacs tapered off, a sign that the new year had come and gone, advertisements for garden seeds, the vast majority placed by women, began filling the pages of Boston’s newspapers. During the last week of March 1769, female seed sellers placed advertisements in all of the city’s newspapers except the Boston Chronicle. (Established within the past couple of years, the Chronicle had not cultivated the same volume of advertising as its competitors. All sorts of advertisers, including seed sellers, apparently preferred to pursue their marketing efforts in other publications.) Advertisements from Elizabeth Clark, Bethiah Oliver, Susanna Renken, and Elizabeth Greenleaf filled the entire final column on the last page of the Boston Evening-Post. Advertisements from Susanna Renken, Rebeckah Walker, Lydia Dyar, and Abigail Davidson appeared one after another in the Boston-Gazette, while Elizabeth Clark’s advertisement ran elsewhere on the same page. In Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette (published on the same broadsheet as the Boston Post-Boy), Sarah Winsor, Susanna Renken, Anna Johnson, and Elizabeth Greenleaf occupied almost an entire column with their advertisements for imported seeds.

The merchandise offered by these female seed sellers differed from the “OLD Sterling MADEIRA … and other WINES” hawked by Moore. Renken, who noted in some of her advertisements that she had “a Box of China Ware to sell,” was the only one of those female seed sellers who regularly advertised other sorts of wares throughout the rest of the year. Although female shopkeepers comprised a significant minority of shopkeepers in port cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, they did not advertise in proportion to their numbers. Female seed sellers appear to have been the exception. Perhaps the occupation became so feminized as to outweigh any concerns about trumpeting their presence in the marketplace as suppliers rather than consumers. Even as competitors, Clark, Davidson, Dyar, Greenleaf, Johnson, Oliver, Renken, and Walker participated in a common venture when they advertised seeds in Boston’s newspapers. Rosanna Moore, the lone female entrepreneur advertising anything other than seeds in late March 1769, remained an outlier.

January 22

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

Massachusetts Gazette (January 19, 1769).

“At his House next Door to the Sign of the Three Kings in Cornhill.”

When Benjamin Adams placed an advertisement in Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette to announce that “he intends to open a Public Vendue” or auction at his house, he included a landmark to help readers find the location. They could find his house “next Door to the Sign of the Three Kings in Cornhill.” That sign was one of many that helped colonial Bostonians find businesses and navigate the streets of the urban port. Similar shop signs were a familiar sight in other colonial towns and cities.

Today students in my introductory early American history class at Assumption College begin a project that seeks to identify all the shop signs listed in newspapers printed in Boston in 1769 and, eventually, locate them in relation to others on a map from the period. Although this will be an incomplete roster of the shop signs in the city 250 years ago, it will help to create a sense of an important visual aspect of a bustling urban port on the eve of the American Revolution.

We begin the project with a history lab. Instead of a lecture or discussion about assigned readings, today we will devote our time in class to a workshop that introduces students to Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers database. Once students have learned how to use that resource, they will work in teams to download digital copies of newspapers printed in Boston in 1769. Each team will be responsible for one newspaper. After they have acquired their newspapers, students will read through the advertisements (and, hopefully, pause to investigate some of the other content) as they search for shop signs. Each team will draw up a roster of shop signs they encounter. Later in the semester, we will plot the signs on a map from the period. I have enrolled in an introductory Geographic Information Systems class in hopes of producing a digital map based on this work.

This is very much an experiment. It may work extremely well, but it has the potential to be quite challenging, especially if we do not encounter a critical mass of shop signs in advertisements from 1769. Even if that is the case, students will enhance their research skills and information literacy. They will also learn an important lesson that historians are often confined by the sources available to us. This project is as much about the process of doing history as it is learning about the past.

January 1

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

Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (December 29, 1768).
“Choice Fresh Lemmons.”

Readers of the December 29, 1768, edition of Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette encountered two advertisements placed by John Crosby. One appeared at the bottom of the center column on the first page, the other at the top of the center column on the final page. In both, Crosby directed prospective customers to his shop “at the Sign of the Basket of Lemmons” in the South End of Boston. Placing two advertisements in a single issue was an innovative strategy. It became common practice by the end of the eighteenth century, but by then daily newspapers provided much more space for advertising than the weeklies published prior to the American Revolution. Advertisers who attempted to saturate the marketplace instead opted to insert the same advertisement in multiple newspapers rather than a series of advertisements in a single issue.

Crosby adopted that more familiar strategy as well. On December 26, the Boston-Gazette and Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette carried advertisements that announced “JOHN CROSBY, Lemmon Trader, at the Sign of the Basket of Lemmons” sold “CHOICE good and fresh Lisbon LEMMONS” that were as large and as a good as any sold in Boston. The same advertisement appeared in the January 2, 1769, edition of the Boston Chronicle. The typography of the advertisements varied according to the discretion of the compositors in each printing office, but the advertising copy was consistent across all three newspapers. Crosby presented himself, his shop sign, and his merchandise to readers of multiple newspapers, increasing the likelihood that prospective customers would see his advertisement and reinforcing his marketing messages for those who happened to read more than one of Boston’s newspapers.

Yet neither of Crosby’s two advertisements in Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette was the one that ran in the other newspapers. The shorter one, similar in length, hawked oranges and potatoes. The lengthier one, complete with a headline that proclaimed “Choice Fresh Lemmons,” listed a variety of other merchandise available at Crosby’s shop. In addition to lemons, limes, and oranges, he also sold “stone Necklaces,” “small tooth fine Tortoiseshell Combs,” and “labell’d Decanters with the Word MADEIRA on them.” Crosby may not have considered it necessary to insert the same advertisement that ran in the other newspapers. Although this lengthier advertisement lacked the appeals to quality, it did specify the same prices. It also presented a greater array of choices to consumers, an alternate means of attracting customers. Instead of following an established practice of placing the same advertisement in every newspaper, Crosby experimented with running one advertisement in several newspapers while simultaneously inserting more than one advertisement in yet another newspaper. He did not rely on a single method for enhancing his visibility in the colonial marketplace.

December 11

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

Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (December 8, 1768).
New-England FLOUR MUSTARD … superior in Strength and Flavor to any IMPORTED.”

Although he carried some imported goods at his store on Dock Square in Boston, Thomas Walley emphasized locally produced goods in his advertisement in the December 8, 1768, edition of Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette. Indeed, even the headline in a larger font than most of the rest of his advertisement proclaimed that many of his wares had local origins: “New-England Flour of Mustard.” Ever since learning of the Townshend Act and new duties placed on certain imported goods, colonists in Boston and throughout Massachusetts had vowed to limit their purchases of English goods as a means of protest. This coincided with concerns about an imbalance of trade that favored Britain over the colonies, prompting interest in encouraging “domestic manufactures” whenever possible as alternatives to imported goods. Some advertisers explicitly promoted the politics of consumption, but others made such arguments implicitly, realizing that declarations that their wares had been produced in the colonies would resonate with prospective customers already primed to recognize the political meanings of their decisions as consumers.

Still, advertisers like Walley made it clear that customers did not have to sacrifice quality for their principles. For most of the “domestic manufactures” in his advertisement, he included some sort of explanation concerning its quality. The “much-admired New-England FLOUR MUSTARD,” for instance, had been “found by repeated Trials of the best Judges to be superior in Strength and Flavor to any IMPORTED.” Walley did not provide further details about these “best Judges,” but he did offer assurances that this product was not unknown or new to the market. Customers could purchase it with confidence that others had already enjoyed and endorsed it. When it came to “PIGTAIL TOBACCO” and “Choice SNUFF,” Walley indicated that his inventory “manufactured in Boston” met the same standards as a well-known brand. The tobacco was “equal to Kippin’s” and the snuff “equal to Kippen’s best.” Similarly, Walley sold “STARCH, manufactured in Boston” that was “the best Sort” and “equal to [imports from] Poland,” known for their quality. Readers may have greeted such proclamations with skepticism, but such assurances may have helped to convince prospective customers to give these products a chance. Walley did not allow the political ramifications of consumer choices to stand alone in marketing his wares. Instead, he paired politics and quality to enhance the appeal of several “domestic manufactures” he made available to consumers in Boston.

September 8

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

Sep 8 - 9:8:1768 Massachusetts Gazette Draper
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (September 8, 1768).
“WHEREAS many Persons are so unfortunate as to lose their fore Teeth … they may have them replaced with false Ones … by PAUL REVERE.”

Although Paul Revere is primarily remembered as an engraver and silversmith who actively supported the Patriot cause throughout the era of the American Revolution, newspaper advertisements from the period demonstrate that he also tried his hand at dentistry. As summer turned to fall in 1768, Revere placed advertisements in both the Boston Evening-Post and Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette to encourage prospective clients to hire him if they needed false teeth made or adjusted.

Like many others who marketed consumer goods and services in the public prints, Revere stoked anxieties as a means of convincing readers to avail themselves of his services. He proclaimed that “many Persons are so unfortunate as to lose their fore Teeth … to their Detriment, not only in looks, but speaking both in Public and Private.” Revere raised the insecurities that prospective clients likely already felt, but then presented a solution. Colonists who had lost their front teeth “may have them replaced with false Ones, that looks as well as the Natural, and answers the End of Speaking to all intents.” He assured prospective clients that they would no longer need to worry about their appearance or speech once they sought his assistance.

Revere also attempted to generate business from among the clientele of John Baker, an itinerant “Surgeon-Dentist” who had provided his services in Boston before moving along to Newport and New York and other cities. Baker was well known to the residents of Boston and its environs. In an advertisement in the New-York Journal he claimed to have provided his services to “upwards of two thousand persons in the town of Boston.” Even if that was an inflated estimate, it still indicated that Baker had served a significant number of clients there. Revere confirmed that was the case when he used a portion of his advertisement to address those clients. He claimed that he had “learnt the Method of fixing” false teeth that had come loose from Baker during the surgeon-dentist’s time in Boston.

Thanks to the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Revere is most famous for his “midnight ride” on the eve of the battles at Lexington and Concord. He also encouraged resistance to the British through his engravings, including “The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street, Boston.” In addition, Revere is remembered as an artisan who crafted fashionable silver teapots, buckles, and other items. This advertisement shows another facet of Revere’s attempts to earn his livelihood in Boston in the late colonial period, dabbling in dentistry as an extension of practicing his trade as a silversmith.