August 11

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 11, 1772).

“White and coloured NEGRO CLOTH.”

The partnership of Ancrums and Chiffelle took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advise “their Friends” that they stocked “White and coloured NEGRO CLOTH, Together with a Variety of other GOODS, fromLONDON and BRISTOL” in the summer of 1772.  They placed an advertisement in the August 11 edition, as did Atkins and Weston.  They informed readers that they imported “NEGRO CLOTH, DUFFIL, BLANKETS, and SAIL CLOTH” from Bristol.  Atkins and Weston assured “their Friends and Customers” that they set low prices.  Elsewhere in the same issue, Thomas Eveleigh advertised “A FEW BALES of NEGRO CLOTH, and some good LONDON PORTER, just imported, and to be sold reasonably.”

Those advertisements accompanied seven others that offered enslaved men, women, and children for sale, one seeking “TWO or Three NEGRO BOYS, as Apprentices to the Wheel-Wright’s Business,” five announcing rewards for the capture and return of enslaved people who liberated themselves by running away from their enslavers, and a lengthy notice describing eighteen Black men and women “Brought to the WORK-HOUSE” and imprisoned there on suspicion of attempting to liberate themselves.  The printer did not arrange advertisements according to purpose or category, so readers encountered notices about enslaved people interspersed with advertisements promoting consumer goods and services, real estate notices, legal notices, and other kinds of advertisements.

Ancrums and Chiffelle and their competitors who hawked “NEGRO CLOTH” may or may not have participated in the slave trade directly, yet they certainly aimed to profit from maintaining that institution.  In their advertisements, those merchants made supplying enslavers with an inexpensive textile to clothe the men, women, and children held in bondage central to their operations at the stores and warehouses they operated in Charleston.  Furthermore, they demonstrated that commerce enmeshed in the transatlantic slave trade extended beyond any sort of streamlined triangular trade that connected Africa, England, and colonies on the other side of the Atlantic.  Even as ships departing from London, Bristol, and other English ports carried goods to Africa to purchase captives held in outposts along the coast, other ships from those ports delivered finished goods, including “NEGRO CLOTH,” directly to South Carolina and other colonies.  Many merchants, including Ancrums and Chiffelle, sought opportunities to profit from selling supplies to enslavers, embracing the transatlantic slave trade in their business models even if they did not transport or sell Black men, women, and children themselves.

August 3

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

Aug 3 - 8:3:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 3, 1768).


The shipping news in the August 3, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette reported that five ships had “ENTERED OUTWARD” from the customs house at Savannah in the previous week, including the “Snow Pitt, [captained by] John Copithorn” bound for London. That was not, however, the only mention of the Pitt in that issue of Georgia’s only newspaper. As Copithorn and his crew prepared for their departure, local merchants sold the recently imported goods transported from Bristol aboard the Pitt. They also wrote copy for advertisements and submitted their notices to James Johnston’s printing office on Broughton Street.

The partnership of Inglis and Hall, prominent merchants and slave traders, stocked a variety of goods delivered to the colony by Copithorn and the Pitt. Their inventory included an assortment of textiles as well as “Ironmongery, of all kinds; … Saddlery; … Glass Ware of most kinds; … With many other Articles.” As tall as it was wide, their substantial advertisement occupied a fair amount of space on the page, especially compared to many of the other paid notices comprised of only two to five lines.

Read and Mossman placed one of those other advertisements. In it, they announced: “JUST IMPORTED by the subscribers, in the Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol, A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH.” In comparison to such brevity, Inglis and Hall listed twenty different textiles as well as “suitable Trimmings” to adorn them according to the latest fashions. Current tastes did not matter nearly as much, if at all, when outfitting slaves for domestic labor or work in the fields. The “WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” sold by Read and Mossman would have been osnaburg or a similarly rough fabric, one valued more for its durability than its comfort or attractiveness.

The “Snow Pitt, John Copithorn, from Bristol” delivered a variety of goods to the Georgia marketplace. Some merited more marketing efforts than others. Inglis and Hall’s extensive list of textiles and other goods conjured images of vast consumer choices for those who would purchase and use the items themselves. On the other hand, Read and Mossman realized that “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF WHITE AND BLUE NEGROE CLOTH” required no additional marketing, especially since those who would be wearing garments made of the cloth would not make the choice when it came to purchasing it. Although both partnerships focused primarily on fabrics imported on the same ship, Inglis and Hall advertised consumer goods while Read and Mossman advertised commodities.