March 26

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

“Cyder Brandy TO BE SOLD at Mrs. LeFebure’s Shop.”

Mar 26 - 3:26:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 26, 1767).

Yesterday Ceara Morse examined an advertisement for a dozen types of spirits produced in Savannah by Henry Snow, “Distiller from London.” Today’s advertisement featured only one kind of alcohol, “Cyder Brandy,” sold at Mrs. LeFebure’s shop on King Street in Boston. The wording makes it difficult to determine whether LeFebure produced the cider brandy herself or merely sold spirits distilled by an associate.

Even if she did not run an operation as extensive as Henry Snow’s or possess his level of experience and expertise, it likely would have been within LeFebure’s ability to distill cider brandy. After all, two recipes appeared in a cookbook for “ALL Good Housewives,” John Nott’s Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary: Or, the Accomplished Housewife’s Companion,  published in London in 1723. The recipes have been reproduced below. Although the recipes indicate that they required some specialized equipment (including a “Copper Body and Head” and a “refrigerator Worm”), they do not suggest that LeFebure or other “housewives” needed access to a “large Distill-House,” such as the one offered for sale or rent in the advertisement immediately below the notice that LeFebure sold “Cyder Brandy.”

While distilling may have been a predominantly masculine occupation in eighteenth-century America, today’s advertisement and Nott’s cookbook suggest that women participated as well, even if on a smaller scale than their male counterparts. Unlike Snow, LeFebure did not derive her entire livelihood from selling (and perhaps making) spirits but instead diversified her inventory. The cider brandy she sold appeared alongside various “Grocery Wares,” including coffee, tea, and sugar. Perhaps this contributed to making it more acceptable for her to peddle alcohol.

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From The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary: Or, the Accomplished Housewife’s Companion

  1. To make Royal Cider.

LET your Cider be fine, and past its Fermentations, but not very stale; and put to it a Pint and a half of Brandy, or Sprits drawn off of Cider, to each Gallon of Cider; and add a Quart of Cider Sweets to every four Gallons more or less, according to the Tartness or Harshness of the Cider; the Spirits and Sweets must first be mixed together, and then mix’d with an equal quantity of Cider; then put them into the Cask of Cider; and stir all together well with a Stick at the Bung-hole for a quarter of an Hour, then stop up the Bung-hole close, and roll the Cask about ten or twelve time to mix them well together. Set it by for three or four Months, then bottle it up, or you may drink it.

  1. To make Cider Brandy, or Spirits.

TAKE Eager, very hard or sowr Cider, (for that yields by much the more Spirits) twelve Gallons; distill it as other Spirits are distill’d, in a Copper Body and Head, and a refrigeratory Worm running thro’ a Cask of cold Water, under whose Beak as Receiver is placed. From which, with a gentle Fire draw off two Gallons of Cider Brandy, or Spirits, for the use mentioned in the last Receipt. You may distil on as long as any Spirits will run, for other uses.

March 19

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 19 - 3:19:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 19, 1767).

“To be sold by WILLIAM JACKSON, at his Shop at the Brazen Head.”

This advertisement made me curious about William Jackson and the Brazen Head since I am from a town close to Boston. These curiosities led me to the Massachusetts Historical Society’s article on William Jackson.

Jackson was born in 1731. Mary Jackson, his widowed mother kept the Brazen Head Tavern next to the Town House (which is now known as the Old State House) in Boston. In 1758, William went into business with his mother, starting a “variety store” selling an assortment of goods in the same location,.

William Jackson was a Loyalist who adamantly supported the king throughout the imperial crisis and the Revolution. The Massachusetts Historical Society notes that in a Boston newspaper Jackson was named along with others for being “those who audaciously continue to counteract the united Sentiments of the Body of Merchants throughout NORTH AMERICA, by importing British goods contrary to the agreement.” He was such a loyalist to the king, that when the British abandoned Boston in March of 1776, he tried to leave as well, only to be caught and imprisoned for a year. In the end, William Jackson returned to England, where he resided until his death in 1810.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

At a glance, William Jackson’s advertisement does not appear to explicitly reveal much about women’s roles in the eighteenth-century marketplace, either as consumers or producers/sellers. However, Ceara and I did not need to do much research to discover that William Jackson’s story cannot be told without acknowledging women’s participation in commerce and consumer culture. As Ceara has already outlined, one of Jackson’s first forays into the world of business involved a partnership with his mother, already an experienced businesswoman who operated a tavern. Although widows may have been more likely to operate businesses than their married sisters, in the century before the Revolution wives stepped forward to act as what Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has described as “deputy husbands” who attended to matters of business in the temporary absence of their husbands. Many eighteenth-century advertisements make reference to wives or other female relations who worked in shops owned by their husbands, but historians have demonstrated that even if women’s contributions were not acknowledged in the marketing materials that they were indeed present and assisting in the operation of the family business.

Mar 19 - Jackson Broadside
Anonymous broadside accusing William Jackson of not abiding by nonimportation agreements (Boston:  ca. 1769-1770).  Courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society.

To learn more about William Jackson, Ceara consulted the online collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. In addition to a short biography of the prominent Loyalist shopkeeper, the MHS has made available an image of an anonymous broadside (ca. 1769-1770) warning “SONS and DAUGHTERS of LIBERTY” against purchasing goods from Jackson, “an IMPORTER,” who operated in violation of a non-importation agreement that most merchants and shopkeepers had signed in 1768 in response to the Townshend Acts. Note that the broadside addressed both “SONS” and “DAUGHTERS,” imbuing decisions that both men and women made about consumption with political meaning. Barred from formal mechanisms of political participation – voting and holding office – women engaged in political debates and civic discourse through other means, including the politicization of consumer culture. Nonimportation and nonconsumption agreements, what we would call boycotts today, were effective only if they had widespread approval and adherence. Women’s role in managing their household economy took on political significance as each personal choice whether to buy certain goods made a statement about their views. As acts of consumption increasingly had political valence, neutrality became impossible. During the imperial crisis, women were political actors in the overlapping marketplace of goods and marketplace of ideas.

William Jackson’s advertisement is an especially fine choice to examine during Women’s History Month. It reminds us that much of women’s history has been obscured but not hidden beyond recovery. A willingness to conduct a little more research, to ask new questions, and to approach sources from new perspectives allows us to tell a much more complete story of the American past.

 

March 12

GUEST CURATOR: Daniel McDermott

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

Mar 12 - 3:12:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 12, 1767).

“A few Firkins choice Irish Butter.”

The advertisement featured today seems to be a standard advertisement for merchants. Blanchard and Hancock had an extensive list of goods for sale at their shop. The second item listed (above the two columns of other goods) was imported Irish butter. This advertisement for “A few firkins choice Irish Butter” can tell us a lot about butter and urban populations.

According to Joan Jensen, as farm families looked to maximize their profits in order to participate in the expanding consumer economy, they looked to diversify their production. In the Middle Atlantic, women’s involvement shifted from textile production to butter throughout the eighteenth century. While urban populations were growing, the market for agricultural goods was too. Although domestic demand for butter was high, a majority of farms from the Middle Atlantic made their profits on butter from exporting it to the West Indies. Even at the start of the nineteenth century when export demands were lower, the domestic market kept the farms making butter profitable.[1]

For urban populations, the butter market was different. Health ordinances prohibited cows in some urban areas around 1760; therefore no one in cities, such as Boston, was making their own butter. As the market for Mid-Atlantic butter shifted from the West Indies to the domestic market, imports such as Irish butter would have competed with Pennsylvania butter.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

As we discussed which aspects of today’s advertisement to examine in greater detail, Daniel and I decided that it offered an opportunity to acknowledge the coastal trade in the eighteenth century, a network of exchange sometimes overshadowed by the project’s emphasis on imported textiles, housewares, hardware, and every other “very large Assortment of English & India GOODS” (to use the description from Jolley Allen’s advertisement in the same issue of the Massachusetts Gazette). Daniel astutely notes that by the late 1760s the “few Firkins choice Irish Butter” imported by Blanchard and Hancock likely competed with butter produced by women in Pennsylvania and shipped to American ports (as well as the West Indies).

Historians consult a variety of sources, including letters, bills of lading, and ledgers kept by merchants, to reconstruct the coastal trade in early America, but Daniel and I identified additional evidence on the same page of the Massachusetts Gazette as Blanchard and Hancock’s advertisement. Another notice announced “For NEW-YORK. The Schooner Peggy, William Willson, Master, will sail by the 20th of March Instant, now laying at Long Wharf; and ready for Goods on Freight or Passengers.”

The shipping news also illustrated the vibrant coastal trade. The Customs House reported that four ships had “Entred In” during the previous week, identifying them by their captains: “Paine from Virginia; Tower from North Carolina; Ingraham from Heneago; Downes from Monte Christi.” None made a transatlantic voyage directly to Boston; two arrived from other colonies in North America and two from the West Indies. Similarly, the Customs House recorded that four ships and their masters had recently “Cleared Out,” including “Smith for New York; Stone for Philadelphia; Spence for North Carolina; Jones for West-Indies.” Three were headed to other coastal areas and one to the West Indies. Finally, the Customs House listed six vessels “Outward Bound” in the coming weeks: “Willson for New York; Smith for Philadelphia; Gray for Maryland; Harris for West-Indies; Pale and Sheppard for Newfoundland; Omand for Leith.” This represented a greater diversity of destinations, with ships and cargo headed to ports north and south along the Atlantic coast, the West Indies, and Great Britain.

Eighteenth-century readers and consumers would not have considered Blanchard and Hancock’s “few Firkins choice Irish Butter” in isolation. Instead, they would have placed that commodity within extensive networks of trade that not only crisscrossed the Atlantic but oftentimes incorporated shorter voyages between colonies along the North American coast.

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[1] For more on the production and sale of American butter in the late eighteenth-century, see Joan Jensen, Loosening the Bonds: Mid-Atlantic Farm Women, 1750-1850 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), especially the chapter on “The Economics of the Butter Trade,” 79-91.

February 26

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-26-2261767-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (February 26, 1767).

“TO BE SOLD A standing Top-Chaise … and a very neat Sulkey.”

The advertisement featured today offered two types of carriages, “A standing Top-Chaise” and “a very neat Sulkey.” As the colonies expanded and populations grew, carriages became an important means of travel within cities and between colonies. Colonists made, bought, and used a variety of carriages, also commonly referred to as chairs, chaises, chariots, gigs, whiskeys, and sulkies.

According to Mary R.M. Goodwin, a chaise, which was interchangeable with the term chair, was a “light open carriage for one or two persons, often having a top or calash; those with four wheelers resembling a phaeton, those with two the curricle; also loosely used for pleasure carts and light carriages generally.” Goodwin consulted William Felton’s Treatise on Carriages, published in London in 1796, to describe sulkies. Sulkies were single seated “small, light four-wheeled vehicle, ‘built exactly in the form of a Post-chaise, Chariot, or Demi-Landau.’” Although some accounts referred to them as two-wheelers, the defining feature of the sulkey was its single person carrying capacity, basically making it a private and personal means of transportation. (For more information about the different kinds of carriages Goodwin mentions, see “Wheeled Carriages in Eighteenth-Century Virginia.”)

Carriages were either privately owned by the wealthy who could afford to purchase either locally built or imported carriages. By the 1760s, sometimes they were operated by local companies that charged for transportation.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

As Sam indicates, affluent colonists imported carriages of all sorts from England, but by the 1760s coachmakers set up shops and advertised their wares in the largest American cities, sometimes noting that they consulted imported pattern books in order to produce carriages of the same style and quality as those available in London and other English cities. For instance, just a few days after today’s featured advertisement appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette, Hawes and Company, “Coach-makers,” inserted a lengthy notice about their services in the Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette.

Today’s advertisement does not indicate the place of production for any of the conveyances it offered, but it does reveal a significant aspect of the marketplace in the revolutionary era. Just as many colonists acquired secondhand clothing and other goods, a market for used carriages emerged. The previous summer Adino Paddock, who followed “the Coach and Chaise-making Business” at a shop in Boston, advertised that he “always [had] a Number of second-hand Chaises to dispose of, very cheap.” Similarly, Hawes and Company’s advertisement noted that in addition to new carriages they also sold “on the most reasonable Terms, TWO second hand POST-CHAISES, a FAMILY COACH, and several CHAIRS.” Consumers who could not afford new carriages could discover a bargain when considering used ones instead.

The anonymous seller of “a very neat Sulkey” and a “standing Top-Chaise” may have found that maintaining these carriages was no longer practical or affordable. Alternately, the seller may have been in the process of acquiring a new – perhaps more impressive or fashionable – carriage and hoped to apply the proceeds from the sale of the chaise and sulkey to the purchase. If that was the case, the seller presumably was not dealing with Paddock, who pledged that he “will take old Chaises as Part of Pay for new.” These examples reveal that the marketing and financing of cars in twentieth and early twenty-first century resemble techniques launched by coachmakers in the eighteenth century.

 

February 19

GUEST CURATOR: Shannon Holleran

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

feb-19-2191767-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (February 19, 1767).

At the Corner Shop East End of Faneuil-Hall Market … Lemmons by the Box.”

This advertisement caught my attention because of the location of the marketplace. I live less than an hour south of Boston and have visited Faneuil Hall many times. This landmark is an exciting and unique marketplace, one of the most famous spots in Boston. I found this advertisement especially interesting because Faneuil Hall served as a marketplace and a meeting hall for the colonists 250 years ago and it still serves as a marketplace, selling food and clothes to countless tourists and Bostonians. This historic spot was especially significant to the colonists during the Revolutionary era because it served as a meeting place to discuss important events, such as the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party.

In late 1767, after Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, “the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston” held a meeting at Faneuil Hall, according to the headline for a broadside published for the Boston selectmen and printed by Edes and Gill. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society, this broadside “outlines why the colonists’ dependence on imported goods is a problem and what can be done. A petition is presented, a plan is laid out, it is unanimously endorsed and there is a way to ensure commitment from all those who endorse it, and communication with those who did not attend.” This broadside reveals how significant Faneuil Hall was for colonists in 1767. Not only did it serve as a market, but it also provided a place for patriots to meet to discuss plans for resistance to new acts and commercial regulations from Parliament.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Faneuil Hall was indeed an important gathering spot for colonists to discuss resistance during the years of the imperial crisis, including, as the broadside Shannon consulted outlined, the encouragement of American production of popular imported goods and, in turn, nonimportation of those goods via English ports. Faneuil Hall was also a landmark that merchant Thomas Webb realized potential customers would recognize without needing further directions beyond indicating that he occupied the “Corner Shop South East End.” A quarter of a millennium later, the marketplace still stands, inextricably bound into the history the American Revolution.

Yet revolution was a process. Neither the colonists who placed advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette in February 1767 nor those who met in Faneuil Hall to protest the Townshend Acts later that year were ready to declare independence rather than seek redress of grievances. Thomas Webb’s advertisement for “Lemmons by the Box” and other grocery items appeared to the right of an announcement for a vendue sale of “twice-laid Cordage” slated to take place “at the Royal Exchange Tavern in King-Street.” That notice appeared immediately above two others that listed addresses that testified to colonists’ sense of British identity: “the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in King-Street” and “the British Coffee House in Boston.” Elsewhere in the same issue, John Mein promoted his “MASSACHUSETTS REGISTER With and ALMANACK for 1767,” which he sold “At the LONDON BOOK STORE North Side of KING-STREET, BOSTON.” That volume included valuable reference material, including lists of colonial officeholders, “the sittings of the Superior and Inferior Courts in the four Provinces of New England,” and a “Table of Interest at 6 perCent.” Mein led the advertisement, however, by noting that the Massachusetts Register listed the members of “the Royal Family of Great-Britain.” Several other advertisers, including shopkeeper Jolley Allen, emphasized that they sold goods “Just imported from LONDON.”

In terms of their landmarks and sense of spatial geography within the city of Boston, their print culture, and their consumer culture, colonists continued to think of themselves as Britons in 1767, even as they increasingly began to assert that they were Britons with unique American perspectives and needs within the empire. Eventually Bostonians and others throughout the new nation would rename streets, buildings, and other landmarks. Similarly, printers and authors of almanacs would replace the royal family with the president and other important officials. Yet colonists were not ready to do so in 1767. Revolution was a process, one that was underway but also one that would gain much more momentum over the course of the next decade.

January 8

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

jan-8-181767-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (January 8, 1767).

“Books for Children, very proper for Christmas and New Year’s Gifts.”

John Mein made a fairly unique appeal to potential customers when he advertised “A Large Assortment of entertaining and instructive Books for Children, very proper for Christmas and New Year’s Gifts.” The bookseller tied consumerism to the holidays in a way that few other advertisers did in late 1766 and early 1767, which differs significantly from marketing practices in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Very few advertisers acknowledged Christmas as a holiday, much less used it to promote purchases from their shops. Recognition of the new year manifested itself in advertising mostly through calls for those who previously bought on credit to settle accounts. Indeed, only a handful of advertisers linked the holidays to making purchases and giving gifts.

As with many other aspects of marketing, members of the book trade seemed to be at the forefront of this innovation. Throughout all of the advertisements placed in newspapers during December 1766 and early January 1767, booksellers alone encouraged customers to think of their wares as gifts for others. In an advertisement in the January 8, 1767, issue of the New-York Journal bookseller Garrat Noel listed “A very large Parcel of Mr. Newberry’s beautiful gilt Picture Books, for the Entertainment of his old Friends the pretty Masters and Misses of New-York, at Christmas and New-York.” The appropriately named Noel was a veteran of promoting holiday gifts, having noted in his advertisements a year earlier that it was “his annual Custom … to offer to the Public, the following List of Books, as proper for Christmas Presents and New-Year’s Gifts.”

John Mein further advanced this innovation, anticipating marketing strategies of the late nineteenth century and beyond. He announced that potential customers could pick up free “Printed Catalogues” listing the books he considered especially suited to be given as gifts. Retailers of all sorts eventually resorted to catalogs, especially Christmas catalogs, to drive sales during a season increasingly associated with consumerism.

In the 1760s, however, the media – both printers and advertisers – took little notice of the Christmas season. On the same day that Mein’s advertisement appeared in Boston and Noel’s in New York, the first page of the Virginia Gazette featured “An ODE upon CHRISTMAS” on the front page. It was dated December 4, 1766, but the printers did not consider it pressing enough to make room for it in their newspaper until five weeks later. The Christmas holiday did not dominate December in the 1760s to the extent it does in modern America.

January 1

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

jan-1-111767-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (January 1, 1767.)

“The VERY LOW Price at which he sells will not afford a lengthy Advertisement.”

Joshua Blanchard did not have much patience for the sort of list advertisement that frequently appeared in colonial American newspapers. Retailers commonly made appeals to consumer choice, inserting lengthy lists of merchandise to underscore the extent of the choices they offered prospective customers. Accordingly, such advertisements took up significant space in many newspapers. Blanchard’s advertisement, for instance, appeared to the left of an advertisement placed by competitor Frederick William Geyer, an advertisement that extended most of the column and listed more than one-hundred items. Samuel Eliot inserted a similar advertisement on the previous page. Both retailers used extensive lists of goods to entice potential customers into their shops.

Blanchard took a different approach. Although he stated that he carried “a large and general Assortment of Goods,” he specified very few of them. Instead, in a separate paragraph, headed by a manicule, he proclaimed that “The VERY LOW Price at which he sells will not afford a lengthy Advertisement enumerating every Particular, even to Pins and Needles.” Blanchard considered the advertisements published by his competitors preposterous. He mocked their marketing strategies, but also cleverly dismissed extensive lists of merchandise by claiming that more modest advertising allowed him to offer lower prices to his customers. Eliot and Geyer promised “the very lowest Rates” and “the very lowest Advance,” but Blanchard called those claims into question when he suggested that listing their entire inventory, down to the smallest “Pins and Needles,” incurred significant advertising costs to be passed along to consumers.

Lest potential customers suspect that Blanchard did not provide a list of his merchandise because he could not offer the same array of choices as his competitors, he stressed that “his Friends and the Publick may be assured, that his Assortment consists perhaps of as many Articles, that are as good Goods, and will be sold as cheap for CASH, as at any Shop or Store in TOWN.” He folded together appeals to choice, quality, and price in his argument that a longer advertisement did not necessarily mean more merchandise on hand.

Joshua Blanchard made a virtue out of his shorter, more modest advertisement when he implied that his competitors could not compete with his prices because they purchased significant amounts of advertising space in the local newspapers. He needed to publish an advertisement to make this claim, an advertisement designed to shape the attitudes and actions of potential customers even as it critiqued other marketing practices.