November 11

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

Nov 11 - 11:11:1767 Pennsylvania Chronicle Extraordinary
Pennsylvania Chronicle Extraordinary (November 11, 1767).

“She is a new Vessel, has excellent Accommodations for Passengers.”

The various commodities marketed in eighteenth-century newspapers testify to the networks of exchange that crisscrossed the Atlantic, but the advertisements also reveal the movement of people. Almost every advertisement in the November 11, 1767, extraordinary issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, for instance, featured some element of mobility.

Six advertisements offered passage from Philadelphia to faraway places, including Cape Fear, North Carolina; Grenada; Barbados; Londonderry; and London. Half simply stated that readers could arrange either “Freight or Passage,” but the others promoted their “excellent Accommodations for Passengers” to attract travelers. Due to the size of the port city, newspapers published in Philadelphia regularly carried such advertisements, but similar advertisements also appeared frequently in newspapers from smaller cities and towns.

Some colonists used advertisements to announce their arrival. For instance, one “YOUNG MAN … lately arrived from England” placed an employment notice in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, informing his new neighbors that he “would be glad to serve any Gentleman as Clerk.” The anonymous ‘YOUNG MAN” requested that anyone interested in hiring him “Inquire of the PRINTER.” He also indicated his willingness to extend his journey when he expressed interest in positions available “either in Town or Country.”

Three additional advertisements documented recent departures of indentured servants who absconded from their masters. One reported that Abraham Weaver, am English linen weaver who ran away from Amos Garrett in Swan Creek in Maryland, had been seen with a widow who might attempt to pass as his wife. Garrett suspected that “they may make for Philadelphia or the eastern-shore of Maryland.” John Odenheimer of Philadelphia indicated that his servant, a German named Eberhard Hirschman, had been “seen in Lancaster, at the Sign of the Highlander” the previous week. These runaways attempted to put considerable distance between themselves and their masters.

Newspaper advertisements like these depicted a flurry of movement of people, not just commodities, throughout the Atlantic world and beyond in the eighteenth century. Those who purchased passage on ships traveled for various reasons, commercial and personal. Some, like the “YOUNG MAN … lately arrived from England,” embraced mobility as a means of encountering new opportunities, but others, including many indentured servants, found that their experiences in new places did not live up to their expectations. They made new departures, frustrating masters who had bought their services for a period of years. American colonists lived in an extremely mobile society. Advertisements for consumer goods and services often insinuated social mobility, but other paid notices revealed significant geographic mobility as well.

August 16

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

Aug 16 - 8:15:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 16, 1766).

“His Stay is intended to be very short.”

George Strange offered “A fresh Assortment of English GOODs” for sale “At a Store on Mr. Allcock’s Wharfe near Spring Hill in Portsmouth.” At first glance, Strange used formulaic language common in many advertisements placed by shopkeepers in the eighteenth-century. However, describing the location as “a Store” rather than “his Store” departed from the usual convention. From the perspective of regular readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, nothing else would have looked out of the ordinary throughout the remainder of the advertisement (a fairly standard list of wares “Just imported from England) until the final sentence. “His stay is intended to be very short,” Strange warned.

It appears that George Strange did not reside in Portsmouth, unlike other shopkeepers who advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette. He would not have had his own shop already familiar to locals but instead probably rented a store on the wharf for a brief time. What was Strange’s story? Why did he set up shop in Portsmouth only temporarily? Had he traveled directly from England? Or had he been to other port cities before Portsmouth? Where was he headed next? He offered to “barter Goods for white Pine BOARDS that are fit for the English Markets.” Was a port in Great Britain his next destination? Or would he visit other American ports and attempt to sell any goods not purchased in Portsmouth? This advertisement raises as many questions about commercial culture in a colonial port as it answers.

If George Strange was indeed a stranger in Portsmouth, placing an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette may have been even more imperative for conducting his business than advertising was for local shopkeepers already known to the city’s residents. He needed to attract new customers to his location as quickly and efficiently as possible. His advertisement, more extensive than any other for consumer goods in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, certainly would have made his presence known to readers and potential customers.