November 23

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (November 23, 1770).

“Any Gentleman Practitioner may be served … by Letter as well as if present.”

Joseph Tilton advertised a “compleat and general Assortment of the best Drugs and Medicines” in the November 23, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Now available at his shop in Exeter, these nostrums had recently been imported from London.  Tilton listed a variety of popular patent medicines, including Stoughton’s Elixir, Lockyer’s Pills, and Walker’s Jesuit Drops, as well as grocery items often incorporated into homemade remedies.  For instance, he stocked cloves, mace, nutmeg, and ginger.  He supplemented these wares with medical equipment, including lancets and “Surgeons Needles,” and other merchandise, not unlike modern retail pharmacies that carry over-the-counter medications, home health care supplies, and food and convenience items.  For some of his merchandise, Tilton offered bargains, stating that he sold them “cheaper than can be bought in this Government.”  In other words, consumers would not find better deals anywhere in the colony.

To expand his clientele, Tilton did not require customers to visit his shop in Exeter.  In a nota bene, he advised that “Any Gentleman Practitioner, may be served with Dispatch, and their Medicines well secured, by Letter as well as if present.”  Tilton provided mail order service to physicians who desired it, an accommodation apparently worth the effort if it enticed them to choose him to supply their medicines and equipment.  He promised that such orders would not languish in his shop; instead, he would fill them and send them as quickly as possible.  Visiting Tilton’s shop in person would not achieve faster service, nor would it result in better packaging for transporting medicines.  Prospective customers did not need to worry that they would not be able to oversee how the bottles, boxes, and packets were bundled.  Tilton pledged they would be “well secured” and arrive intact.

Tilton incorporated convenience into his business model.  He advertised an array of merchandise, from patent medicines to medical supplies to groceries, for consumers to acquire at one location.  He also provided mail order service as an alternative to shopping in person.  Eighteenth-century advertisements have sometimes been depicted as mere lists of goods, little more than announcements.  Many, however, contained marketing efforts intended to convince consumers to make purchases and choose the advertiser over competitors.

November 16

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (November 16, 1770).

“A most celebrated Discourse on the Death of the Rev. and renown’d GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  Newspapers in Boston carried the first reports the following day.  Over the course of the next several weeks, news radiated out.  Printers in other towns reprinted articles from Boston’s newspapers and added their own coverage of reactions in their local communities.  Amateur poets penned tributes to the deceased minister and submitted them to newspapers.  Like news reports, those poems were reprinted from one publication to another.  Although news and poems related to Whitefield’s death originally moved from New England to other places in the colonies, eventually the culture of reprinting caused newspapers in New England to carry short articles about local reaction to Whitefield’s death in New York and Philadelphia.

Nearly seven weeks had elapsed since the minister’s death when the New-Hampshire Gazette reprinted an article and poem about Whitefield from the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  It filled half a page, a significant amount of space in a newspaper comprised of only four pages.  In the same issue, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, inserted an advertisement for a sermon preached by Jonathan Parsons, a “most celebrated Discourse on the Death of the Rev. and renown’d GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”  The lengthy advertisement extended half a column.  Between the item reprinted from the New-York Gazette and the advertisement for the sermon, content associated with the minister’s death accounted for two of the twelve columns in the November 16, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.

Parson’s sermon was not the first item memorializing Whitefield offered for sale to the public.  Nearly as soon as newspapers began running articles about the minister’s death, they also suggested that funeral sermons would soon be going to press.  Booksellers found renewed interest in hawking books by Whitefield, capitalizing on current events.  Printers marketed a variety of broadsides with poems, accounts of the funeral, and visual images of Whitefield lying in repose.  The advertisement for this newest commemorative item included a lengthy remembrance from Parsons, reflecting on the first time he met Whitefield and extolling the minister’s work over the past three decades.  The Fowles likely sought to incite greater interest in the pamphlet by whetting the appetites of prospective buyers with that excerpt.

The loss of the beloved minister led to widespread mourning, but it also prompted widespread commodification.  Advertisements for Whitefield memorabilia ran in newspapers from New England to South Carolina, though they were most heavily concentrated in newspaper published in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Purchasing commemorative items likely gave colonists opportunities to express their grief and feel connected to the minister and fellow mourners, but the production of those items also represented business opportunities for printers, booksellers, and others who stood to generate revenues from the commodification of Whitefield’s death.

November 2

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (November 2, 1770).

“Faxson will work very cheap for Cash or other good Pay.”

In the early 1770s, Jospeh Bass sold a variety of goods at his shop next door to the printing office in Portsmouth.  He opened an advertisement in the November 2, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette by noting that he offered his wares “CHEAP for CASH,” a common refrain among shopkeepers from New England to Georgia.  Many specified that they desired cash payments because they had already extended generous amounts of credit to their customers.  Indeed, credit helped make possible the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century, but it also often put retailers and other suppliers of goods and services in precarious positions.  In the same issue that Bass advertised his merchandise, Jacob Treadwell promoted a “General ASSORTMENT of GOODS, at the very lowest Price for Cash.”  William Torrey sold loaf sugar and molasses “for Cash only.”

Yet cash and credit were not the only means of buying and selling goods available to colonists.  Many continued to barter.  James McMaster and Company, for instance, placed a notice seeking pot ash and flax seed.  In exchange, they gave “Cash, or English-Goods,” allowing those who did business with them to select from among textiles, housewares, and hardware in stock at their store.  Christopher Faxson, a tailor, also inserted an advertisement in the same edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  He stated that he charged “sixteen Shillings Lawful Money” for “a plain Suit of Cloaths,” but he did not insist on cash like some of the other advertisers.  Instead, he advised prospective customers that he “will work very cheap for Cash or other good Pay.”  Faxson signaled that he would accept a variety of forms of payment, such as shop goods or produce, from clients willing to negotiate on terms.  Most advertisers preferred cash or credit for their transactions with customers, but others continued to present barter as an option, likely making for interesting bookkeeping practices.

October 26

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 26, 1770).

“A Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper.”

In the eighteenth century, newspaper printers often inserted notices into their own publications to call on subscribers, advertisers, and others to pay their bills.  They were not alone in resorting to such measures.  Entrepreneurs of all sorts as well as executors of estates enlisted the aid of the public prints in instructing customers and associates to settle accounts.  Given their access to the press, however, some printers more regularly ran such notices than other colonists.  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, were among the printers who most frequently made the collection of debts in the interests of continuing publication a feature of their newspaper.

The Fowles found it necessary to do so on October 26, 1770, expressing some exasperation.  “THOSE Persons who are still delinquent in discharging their Arrears for this Paper, and for Advertisements,” the printers declared, “and have been repeatedly call’d upon from Time to Time, are desir’d to comply with so reasonable a Request.”  Others who placed such notices usually threatened legal action against those who did not heed their warning.  The Fowles had done so in the past.  On one occasion they also threatened to publish a list of subscribers, advertisers, and others who did not pay their bills, though they did not follow through on that ultimatum.  In this instance, they did not deliver any threats against those in arrears but instead explained the effect that such delinquency would have on their business and, by extension, their ability to serve the community by disseminating news and other information.  The Fowles insisted that they needed to collect on debts owed to them because “a Sum of Money must be immediately raised to pay for Paper, to carry on the Business.”  Without paper, they could not continue to print and distribute the New-Hampshire Gazette.

Although the Fowles regularly inserted notices to encourage subscribers and advertisers to settle accounts, they did not merely adopt the formulaic language that often appeared in such advertisements.  Over the years, they experimented with a variety of messages and tones, sometimes threatening and sometimes cajoling, in their efforts to attract the attention of clients in arrears and convince them to pay their debts.

October 19

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 19, 1770).

“An Elegiac Poem, On the Death of … GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

The Boston Massacre and the death of George Whitefield both occurred in 1770, separated by almost six months. News of both events quickly spread via the colonial press with coverage commencing in Boston’s newspapers and then radiating out to other newspapers in other towns in New England and beyond.  In both instances, simultaneous acts of commemoration and commodification quickly followed.  Paul Revere and Henry Pelham marketed prints depicting the “Bloody Massacre” just weeks after British soldiers fired on a crowd in Boston, killing several people.  The commodification of Whitefield’s death happened more quickly and more extensively.  The Boston Massacre may be better remembered today as a result of the war for independence that it helped to inspire, but in 1770 it was the death of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening that captured far more attention when it came to creating and selling commemorative items.

Within a couple of weeks of Whitefield’s death on September 30, all five newspapers published in Boston printed advertisements for at least one commemorative item that colonists could purchase.  This commodification also found its way into the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, and the New-Hampshire Gazette, published in Portsmouth.  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, provided extensive coverage of Whitefield’s death and public reaction to it, devoting a significant amount of space to it.  Between news articles, verses in memory of the minister, and advertisements for commemorative items, contents about Whitefield accounted for more than ten percent of the column inches in the October 19 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, as they had in each issue since the minister’s death.  The Fowles ran a new article that proclaimed Whitefield’s “PATRIOTISM.”  For a second time, they inserted an advertisement for two broadsides for sale at the printing office.  They devoted an entire column, complete with mourning bands at top and bottom, to two poems reprinted from other newspapers and a new advertisement for yet another broadside.

That advertisement promoted the “Elegiac Poem … By Phillis, a Servant Girl.”  That “Servant Girl” was Phillis Wheatley, the enslaved poet who became one of the most influential poets in eighteenth-century American literature.  This broadside had already been advertised widely in Boston’s newspapers and the Essex Gazette.  In selling it in New Hampshire, the Fowles enlarged the community of commemoration that consumed the same items.  Just as they read the same news items and verses reprinted from newspaper to newspaper, colonists purchased, read, and displayed the same memorabilia from town to town, creating a more unified experience despite the distance that separated them.  The Fowles suggested that Wheatley’s poem “ought to be preserved” – not just purchased – “for two good Reasons.”  The first was “in Remembrance of that great and good man, Mr. Whitefield.”  In addition, customers should acquire a copy “on Account of its being w[ro]te by a Native of Africa, and yet would have done Honor to a Pope or Shakespere.”  The Fowles traded on the novelty of an enslaved poet who “had been but nine Years in this Country from Africa,” hoping that would incite greater demand for this commemorative item.

The Adverts 250 Project has featured advertisements related to the commodification of Whitefield’s death several times in recent weeks.  While many other kinds of advertisements appeared in the colonial press, this repetition is meant to demonstrate how widely printers and others marketed Whitefield memorabilia following his death.  The minister’s passing was a major news story, but one that also lent itself to widespread commemoration through commodification as printers sought to give consumers opportunities to express their grief and feel connected to the departed minister.

October 12

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 12, 1770).

“The Character of … George Whitefield … worthy a place in every House.”

By October 12, 1770, newspapers published in Boston and Salem, Massachusetts; Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Newport and Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, New Haven, and New London, Connecticut; New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania informed readers of the death of minister George Whitefield at Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  Coverage originated in Boston on the day after Whitefield’s death and then radiated outward as other newspapers published their own articles but mostly reprinted items that originally ran in one of the five newspapers printed in Boston.

It did not take long for commemoration to turn to commodification inspired by the influential minister’s death.  Almost immediately, printers notified the grieving public that they intended to publish Whitefield memorabilia.  Whether or not they had heard Whitefield preach while he was still alive, consumers could purchase broadsides that featured his words or documented his life and good works.  Through the marketplace they could acquire a connection to one of the most prominent ministers associated with the religious revivals of the Great Awakening.

Such advertisements continued to supplement news coverage in the October 12, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Between news items, poetry honoring the preacher, and advertisements for memorabilia, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle devoted an entire column to Whitefield, out of only twelve columns over four pages that comprised the entire issue.  The Fowles inserted three items reprinted from the October 8 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  A longer news article, a poem dedicated to Whitefield, and a shorter news article all ran in the order that they appeared in the Boston newspaper.  The Fowles included another poem, that one taken from the October 4 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.

Immediately following those items, they ran an advertisement for two commemorative broadsides.  One featured “A Hymn composed by the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD, and intended to be sung over his Corps.”  Printers in Boston and Salem had already advertised a similar piece of memorabilia.  The Fowles also advertised an item that had not yet been marketed in the public prints, a broadside about “The Character of the late worthy, pious, learned and Reverend George Whitefield.”  The Fowles stressed that this memorial was “properly put in mourning,” meaning that thick black borders enclosed the text and separated the columns.  It also featured an image of Whitefield’s coffin with “the Names of the Bearers, placed on each side of it.”  (Examine the Library of Congress’s copy of this broadside.)  In an effort to incite demand and increase sales, the Fowles proclaimed that this broadside in memory of Whitefield was “worthy a place in every House.”  Consumers could demonstrate their rectitude and continue to be instructed by the minister and his good example after his death.

Like other printers who produced and marketed similar broadsides, the Fowles participated in the commodification of Whitefield’s death.  Such a significant event presented an opportunity to increase revenues in their printing office by publishing and selling commemorative items.

October 5

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 5, 1770)

“[illegible due to ink bleeding through from other side of sheet]”

Like many other eighteenth century newspapers, the masthead for the New-Hampshire Gazette proclaimed that it “CONTAIN[ED] the Freshest ADVICES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.”  In other words, it carried current news from the colonies and abroad.  Those “ADVICES,” however, were not confined to the news articles and editorials; advertisements also delivered news to readers, sometimes about commerce and consumption, sometimes about politics, and sometimes about current events.  Advertisements relayed an array of valuable information to readers, supplementing contents that appeared elsewhere in the newspapers.

Advertisements sometimes provided additional information about articles that ran in the same issue, but in the case of some advertisements in the October 5, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette the news bled through, literally, in a very different way.  George Whitefield, one of the most influential ministers associated with the religious revivals known as the Great Awakening, died on September 30.  The October 5 edition, the first published following Whitefield’s death, included a lengthy notice on the third page.  As was the custom in eighteenth-century newspapers, thick black borders denoting mourning enclosed the news, honoring Whitefield and attracting the attention of readers.

So thick were those borders and so firm the impression of the hand-operated printing press that ink bled through from the news item on the third page to the advertisements on the fourth page.  Among them, Neal McIntyre’s advertisement for tobacco from Virginia featured a faint unintended border.  The first lines of a notice that “the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of this Province is now Prorogued” were partially obscured by ink from the other side of the page.  Even when readers moved past the most significant news article of the October 5 issue, word of Whitefield’s death continued to reverberate in other items as the result of the printing technologies of the time.  In any newspaper, news and advertising were not delivered separately from each other.  In this particular instance, news left a very visible mark on several advertisements.

September 28

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 205 years ago today?

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 28, 1770).

This Paper compleats the 14th Year since its first Publication.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, made the usual updates to the masthead for the September 28, 1770, edition.  It included the full title, The New-Hampshire Gazette, and Historical Chronicle, and advised readers that it “CONTAIN[ED] the Freshest ADVICES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.”  A woodcut depicting a lion and unicorn, symbols of the United Kingdom, appeared in the center, along with the initials G.R. for George Rex, the king.  Despite tensions with Parliament due to the Townshend Acts and other abuses, colonists continued to identify as members of the British Empire loyal to George III.  Like most other newspapers printed in the colonies, the volume and issue number also adorned the masthead.  The September 28 edition was part of “VOL. XIV.”  The Fowles listed the issue as “NUM. 728” and, unlike most other printers, explained that number indicated how many “Weeks since this Paper was first Publish’d.”  They added one additional item to the masthead to mark a milestone in the history of the newspaper’s publication.  “This PAPER compleats the fourteenth Year of” the New-Hampshire Gazette, that notation informed readers.

The Fowles noted this milestone elsewhere in the issue as well.  Those “Freshest ADVICES” included advertisements that delivered news and other information, among them notices from the printers.  The Fowles gave their advertisement a privileged place, positioning first among the advertisements and immediately following the shipping news from the customs house.  “As this Paper compleats the 14th Year since its first Publication,” the Fowles addressed readers, “it is desir’d, that those who are in Arrears, would pay off immediately, that it may be determin’d, whether it will be worth while to send any more to those who are so very delinquent.”  The Fowles simultaneously celebrated their accomplishment and an important milestone in the history of their newspaper while also warning subscribers who had not paid their bills to remedy the situation or they would not receive additional issues on credit.  The end of one year and the start of another was a good opportunity for the Fowles to settle accounts and make sure all was in order.

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 28, 1770).

September 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 14, 1770).

Cash given for POT-ASH … at which Place is sold various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS.”

James McMasters did not have a single purpose for the advertisement he placed in the September 14, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Instead, he sought to accomplish multiple goals.  His advertisement commenced and concluded with short messages calling on readers to supply commodities that McMasters was interested in acquiring.  “Cash given for POT-ASH” read the headline.  A nota bene also promised “The highest Price for good FLAX SEED” at McMasters’s store.  Nestled between the headline calling for potash and the nota bene seeking flax seed, the middle portion of the advertisement offered goods for sale.  McMasters declared that he sold “various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS” at his store on Wallingford’s Wharf.  He was especially interested in dealing with retailers who would buy in bulk, promising prices “at so low a Rate as may induce Shopkeepers and Country Traders to purchase.”  McMasters anticipated that others would distribute those goods to consumers in Portsmouth and throughout the colony.

Advertisements with multiple purposes frequently appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette and other eighteenth-century newspapers.  Sometimes the various goals were more closely aligned than others.  Advertisers on occasion, for instance, inserted real estate notices that described buildings, land, and other amenities in great detail before concluding with a brief nota bene about consumer goods for sale or services offered.  In McMasters’s case, the entire advertisement focused on buying and selling.  By alternating between the two, his advertisement conjured images of items moving in and out of his store.  This gave the impression that the store was a busy site for commercial transactions while simultaneously testifying to McMasters’s skills as an entrepreneur who balanced the acquisition of commodities and sales of consumer goods.  McMasters could have placed more than one advertisement, each with its own purpose, but combining them together into one notice better represented the scope of his business interests and commercial savvy.

September 7

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

Sep 7 - 9:7:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 7, 1770).


Over the past few days the Adverts 250 Project has examined the manner in which purveyors of goods and services in the colonies incorporated their origins into their advertisements as part of their marketing campaigns.  We began with James Yeoman, a clock- and watchmaker “FROM LONDON,” who sought to convince readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that his skills eclipsed those of competitors who had not trained or worked in the largest city in the empire.  Next we looked at George Lafong, a “French HAIR-DRESSER,” who informed the ladies and gentlemen of Williamsburg, Virginia, that he styled hair “in the cheapest manner, & TOUT A LA MODE” (all in fashion).  Injecting a few words of French into his advertisement in William Rind’s Virginia Gazette underscored the gentility and cachet associated with hiring a hairdresser from France.

Today we consider the advertisement that Lucy Fessenden inserted into the September 7, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  She introduced herself as a mantuamaker “FROM BOSTON,” asserting that she pursued her craft “in the newest and most genteel Mode.”  While Yeoman and Lafong’s advertisements testified to migration across the Atlantic, Fessenden’s notice indicated migration within the colonies.  In both instances, advertisers sought to use their origins to their advantage.  Artisans as well as tailors, milliners, and others in the garments trade, including mantuamakers like Fessenden, frequently noted that they formerly lived and worked in some of the largest port cities when they relocated to smaller towns and advertised their services.  Perceptions of skill and associations with gentility seemed to operate on a sliding scale.  Residents of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia looked to London and other places on the far side of the Atlantic as models.  Residents of smaller towns did as well, but they also recognized the major ports in the colonies as locations that merited notice.  Unable to make a direct connection to London, Fessenden instead leveraged her time in Boston to suggest her familiarity with “the newest and most genteel Mode” and her ability to deliver on it “with Fidelity and Dispatch.”