June 20

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

Jun 20 - 6:20:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (June 20, 1767).

“For further Particulars inquire of EDWARD SPALDING, in Providence.”

Edward Spalding (sometimes Spauldin in other advertisements) had two purposes when he took an advertisement in the Providence Gazette in the spring of 1767. First, he wished to sell a farm in Coventry. As long as he was purchasing space in the newspaper, he also opted to promote his business. He reminded readers that he “still carries on the Business of cleaning and repairing CLOCKS and WATCHES” at his shop across the street from the printing office. In the past, Spalding advertised fairly regularly. He was one of the first advertisers to insert commercial notices in the Providence Gazette when it resumed publication the previous year. He must have considered it a good return on his investment since he decided to include commercial marketing at the end of his notice concerning real estate.

Spalding’s hybrid advertisement presents a conundrum for conducting any sort of quantitative study of advertising in eighteenth-century America. Newspapers of the era did not have classifieds. They did not organize advertisements in any particular order or by categories that suggested the general purpose of the notices. Sometimes, as seen here, individual advertisements had multiple purposes. Spalding and the printers of the Providence Gazette did not classify this advertisement. How should historians do so? It would not be appropriate to categorize it solely as a real estate notice or solely as marketing consumer goods and services. More appropriately, it should count as both, but that sort of double counting does not address another issue. Together or separately, both halves of Spalding’s advertisement were relatively short compared to many others for both real estate and consumer goods and services inserted in eighteenth-century newspapers. This suggests that tabulating column inches devoted to advertisements (or portions of advertisements) might produce more accurate data for assessing the proliferation of advertising in relation to news and other content as well as comparing the quantity of advertising space utilized for various purposes. This, however, would be extremely labor intensive. It also requires access to the original newspapers rather than digital surrogates. Working with digitized sources allows for examining other sorts of questions concerning advertising in early America.

Earlier in my career I was much more enthusiastic about incorporating quantitative analysis into my study of advertisements for consumer goods and services in eighteenth-century America. Over time, however, I have determined that identifying general trends rather than hard numbers provides a sufficiently accurate portrait of the expansion of advertising in the era that the colonies became a nation.

November 27

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Sears

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

nov-27-11271766-new-york-journal-supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (November 27, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD, A plantation in the bounds of Middletown.”

This notice in the Supplement to the New-York Journal advertised a large plot of land that belonged to Obadiah Bowne.

His wife, the executrix for his estate, tried to appeal to certain types of buyers, aiming for someone with some wealth, either “a farmer or a gentleman.” What I wanted to know from this advertisement was more about the type of house offered for sale. From the description of the house it seems that Anna Bowne described a Georgian style home. She wrote that the house was two floors with three rooms on a floor, had two fireplaces on each of the first and second floors, and the first floor was “handsomely finished.” According Historic New England’s Architectural Style Guide, Georgian style houses were popular in the colonies from 1700 to 1780. The article also states that the upper classes in the colonies displayed their adoption of “European taste and station by maintaining codes of dress, speech, and behavior. This status was also aptly displayed by the orderly symmetry of Georgian architecture.”

The style of the house in the advertisement suggests that interest in a higher standard of living was rising in colonial America. Colonists wanted to live more refined lives.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

The trading networks that connected faraway places around the Atlantic world facilitated more than just an exchange of goods. Ideas and cultural practices traveled with people and their possessions. As Nicholas notes, colonists like those who lived in houses like the one offered for sale in today’s advertisement would have looked to Europe for cues about how to dress, which household wares to purchase, and how to comport themselves. They may have lived in a colonial outpost, but many were determined to demonstrate that did not mean they were backwater relations who lacked the taste and gentility of their cousins in England. Through their participation in the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century, colonists outfitted their homes with the vast assortments of European goods listed in so many advertisements regularly featured by the Adverts 250 Project.

In addition to the things that filled these homes, the architecture of the homes themselves also testified to the flow of ideas across the Atlantic. Georgian architecture in the American colonies had its roots in the Italian Renaissance, especially the work of Andrea Palladio. In 1570, Palladio published The Four Books of Architecture, which “emphasized classicism, order, and symmetry regardless of function.” In turn, Palladio influenced English architects, including Christopher Wren, and, eventually, his ideas started appearing in the colonies around 1700. Imported architectural pattern books aided colonists in designing homes during the Georgian period.

Historic New England provides a list of several characteristics of Georgian homes. The exterior features include:

  • Symmetry, centered façade entry with windows aligned horizontally and vertically
  • One or two-story box, two rooms deep
  • Raised foundation
  • Paneled front doors, capped with a decorative crown (entablature); often supported by decorative pilasters; and with a rectangular transom above
  • Double-hung sash window with small lights (nine or twelve panes) separated by thick wooden muntins
  • Center chimneys are found in examples before 1750; later examples have paired chimneys
  • Wood-frame with shingle or clapboard walls

Interior features include:

  • Central hall plan
  • High ceilings (10-11 feet) smoothly plastered, painted and decorated with molded or carved ornament (high style)
  • Elaborate mantelpieces, paneling, stairways and arched openings copied from pattern books (high-style)

While it is impossible to know if the house from Anna Bowne’s advertisement possessed all of these features, it appears that several were present. The “large entry” could indicate a central hall plan. That “the whole house is shingled with cedar” aligns with “shingle or clapboard walls” from Historic New England’s list. The “good stone cellar under the whole house” indicates a raised foundation. Bowne noted that “the lower story is handsomely finished,” which also corresponds with Georgian style. She did not state how elaborately the lower floor had been finished, but the fact that the second floor had not received similar treatment suggests that the house had been completed to a middling, rather than high, style. Even as colonists used consumer goods and architecture to assert their status and identity, they also had to operate within their budgets.

November 26

GUEST CURATOR: Patrick Keane

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

nov-26-11261766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 26, 1766).

“To be sold at publick vendue … PART of a TOWN LOT … WILLIAM EWEN, Vendue-master.”

I found this advertisement interesting because of William Ewen, the “Vendue-master,” which means that auctioned the house and lot. Before he became an auctioneer he had done other significant things in Georgia. He was probably born in England, but moved to Georgia as an indentured servant around the age of fourteen. The Board of Trustees of the colony purchased his indenture and had him work in the store the chief magistrate ran. After his indentured ended, he was awarded land and wanted to try out farming. He failed at farming, causing him to lose his land. Afterwards he worked with settlers in Georgia called Malcontents, who were against the trustees. He became the voice and leader of the Malcontents, paving the way for a successful future.

William Ewen became a “commissioner for the town of Ebenezer, superintendent for Savannah, and later vendue master, or auctioneer for the colony” of Georgia. Last but not least, one of his most significant achievements was being a patriotic leader during the American Revolution. “[N]ews of the Stamp Act (1765) reached the colony and ignited a revolutionary movement, with Ewen at the forefront.” Ewen later served as the first president of the Georgia Council of Safety. It’s really interesting to know that a name from a small advertisement leads to a person who had a major impact on his colony.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Yesterday I expressed frustration that an employment advertisement teased modern readers by offering just enough information to reveal some aspects of household management and gender roles in colonial South Carolina yet not enough information to answer some of the questions it raised. The advertiser had not even signed the notice, inserting “Apply to the Printer” instead, eliminating other means of investigating the particular circumstances of the family who sought a young woman to work as housekeeper, wait on young ladies, and oversee slaves.

Today’s advertisement, on the other hand, carried the signature of “WILLIAM EWEN, Vendue-master.” In his research, Patrick discovered that the local auctioneer was actually a prominent local official who, within the next ten years, would be at the forefront of the Georgia’s patriots at the beginning of the American Revolution.

As the project manager for the Adverts 250 Project during the time that my students serve as guest curators I do not choose which aspects of the advertisements they will research. I discuss possibilities with them. I point them to sources that might be helpful, especially when they identify a particular interest. In many cases, however, I do not find out how they have approached an advertisement until they submit the first draft of their entry for it.

That being the case, I did not know that Patrick intended to do a biographical sketch of William Ewen until he submitted a draft. I was not previously familiar with Ewen, but I considered his story interesting and important. (This happens when I work with newspapers from cities and towns that are less familiar to me than Philadelphia, the focus of much of my earlier research. I am grateful, for instance, whenever J.L. Bell, who knows eighteenth-century Boston as if he lived there himself, provides additional information of the people who appeared in advertisements from that city.) I suggested to Patrick that he eliminate some other material and expand his treatment of Ewen.

I appreciate Patrick’s approach to the advertisement. Given the nature of my research, I tend to focus on the appeals in advertisements more than the biographies of the people. Like every other student who has worked on this project, Patrick has applied his own creativity and curiosity to ask other sorts of questions. Having my students work as guest curators on the Adverts 250 Project is intended to be a learning experience for them. I’m fortunate that they also make it a learning experience for me.

November 19

GUEST CURATOR: Mary Williams

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

nov-19-11191766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 19, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD, A SMALL ISLAND or NECK of LAND … belonging to the estate of Col. Kenneth Bailie, deceased.”

This advertisement published in the Georgia Gazette is a description of Colonel Kenneth Baillie’s home and lands. After the death of the colonel, three executors and one executrix published this advertisement for the sale of his estate.

I already knew that executor is the term for someone who carries out instructions for a will. What I didn’t know, however, was that in colonial times women executors had their own term, which was “executrixes.” The executrix named in this advertisement, according to genealogists, was the Colonel’s wife, Elizabeth Baillie. In general, executors and executrixes were named in the will of the deceased, and they were often given specific items or property in the will. We can assume that some or all of the executors received some part of the Colonel’s estate, and they decided to sell the estate rather than keeping it.

This advertisement reveals a lot about the Colonel Bailie. First of all, we know something about his status and military service because he was addressed as a colonel. We also know how many acres of land he owned, which tells us a bit more about his status in colonial Georgia. He owned many acres for cattle, hogs, and sheep, as well as lots of space for gardening.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

On rare occasions I allow guest curators to depart from the established methodology for the Adverts 250 Project. In general, the project features an advertisement only once. Today’s advertisement, however, was featured relatively recently. Two advertisements for consumer goods and services that have not yet been included in the Adverts 250 Project were printed in the same issue of the Georgia Gazette. Why not instruct Mary to choose one of those instead?

I approved today’s advertisement for second appearance because I wanted an opportunity to explore some of the opportunities and constraints of the project. First, I’ll acknowledge two aspects of Mary’s analysis that I especially appreciated. Women placed disproportionately few advertisements as shopkeepers and other sorts of purveyors of goods and services during the eighteenth century. They appeared with a bit more regularity in various legal notices, such as this advertisement placed by Colonel Kenneth Baillie’s executrix and executors. Mary used this notice to demonstrate one of the roles that many women assumed at some point in their lives during the colonial era. In addition, Mary incorporated a type of source only infrequently consulted for entries on the Adverts 250 Project: genealogical records. Professional historians do not always adequately recognize the efforts of family historians and amateur genealogists in reconstructing relationships that help all of us to better understand the past.

In selecting this advertisement to make a second appearance, Mary has also recovered an element of eighteenth-century advertising that sometimes gets overlooked as a result of insisting that any particular advertisement may only be featured once. That obscures the fact that a great many advertisements ran for weeks or even months at a time, often with no updates or revisions. Today’s advertisement may look familiar to those who visit the Adverts 250 Project regularly; it would have certainly looked familiar to readers of the Georgia Gazette who saw only a limited number of advertisements in the once-weekly four-page issues of that newspaper. The Adverts 250 Project moves from newspaper to newspaper, city to city, every day. Colonists, however, would have had access to far fewer newspapers and far fewer advertisements. Those that lived in cities with multiple newspapers with robust advertising, such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, would have encountered a fairly broad array of advertisements, but readers in other places would not have seen the same range of advertisements that the Adverts 250 Project features.

Mary’s examination of this advertisement accomplished one other significant objective. She and former guest curator Ceara Morse demonstrated to their peers that there is no single “correct” interpretation or analysis of an advertisement. They each consulted different sources and learned different lessons about colonial America. At the same time, they both addressed common themes about property and status in eighteenth-century America.

November 7

GUEST CURATOR: Carolyn Crawford

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

“To Be Sold at Public Vendue … One Quarter part of a Saw-Mill.”

In this advertisement, Benjamin Estes and Henry Estes, two landowners, promoted the sale of “ONE Hundred Acres of good farm LAND” and “Forty-five Acres of good Land” at a “Public Vendue,” otherwise known as an auction. Both of the landowners stated that their land would be sold to the highest bidder at the inn owned by Gideon Warren, in the town of Berwick. Benjamin Estes was the owner of the hundred acres, which included a house, a barn and “Twenty Ton of HAY.” On the other hand, Henry Estes was selling forty-five acres that included a house, a barn, large bundles of hay, and perhaps, most importantly, a sawmill, an important piece of technology.

Over time, technology has dramatically changed. According to the historians at the Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill, “the first water-powered sawmills in New England were built near Berwick, Maine, in the 1630s.” For the next two centuries or so these sawmills used “a wooden waterwheel with a crank connected by the ‘pitman’ arm to a wooden sash (frame) in which was mounted a straight saw blade.” According to Barnes Riznik, “This so-called pitman arm was propelled by an iron crank fixed into the end of the waterwheel shaft.”

During the colonial period, water was used as a source transportation and power. These sawmills “needed to have a dam and millpond to impound water for dry periods and to regulate flow; a millrace to carry water to the wheel itself; a sluice with a gate called a penstock to put the water onto the wheel; and a tailrace to carry off the spent water.” It wasn’t until the 1830s that the sawmills transitioned to circular saws which improved the size and sharpness of the blades. By doing so, the blades were able to produce a larger amount of equal pieces at a rapid rate. Overall, the sawmill technology was beneficial because it allowed for expansion and production to continue and grow.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Although the Adverts 250 Project focuses primarily on advertisements for consumer goods and services, each guest curator may select one advertisement that explores some other aspect of life in colonial America. Real estate advertisements seem to be among the most popular. Carolyn has chosen one today, just a few days after Ceara Morse examined a real estate advertisement from the Georgia Gazette. The tracts of land offered for sale in the two advertisements were located about as distant from each other as was possible within the thirteen colonies that became the United States. Despite their differences, advertisers from Berwick, Maine, and Sunbury, Georgia, crafted advertisements that underscored the profits that buyers could earn from the land offered for sale. The dwellings seemed secondary to the resources and ability to earn a livelihood associated with each piece of land.

Benjamin Estes offered “good Farm LAND” that produced significant amounts of hay that could generate revenue for the new owner. Likewise, Henry Estes indicated that his “good Land” yielded nearly as much hay, even though his tract was slightly less than half the size. The hay, however, was not the only resource Henry Estes planned to auction. He also advertised “One Quarter part of a Saw-Mill.” In other words, Estes sold a share of a sawmill; the purchaser would become the new partner alongside one or more other owners. This presented a different sort of opportunity than farming, but one that Henry Estes considered attractive.

The graphic design elements of the advertisement suggest that the seller believed the sawmill merited as much attention as the farmland. Four lines of the advertisement were set in larger type, one announcing the “Public Vendue,” two listing the acreage of the land, and one devoted to the sawmill. Each of these underscored resources associated with the property for sale and the ability to convert those resources into financial security.

 

 

November 5

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

nov-5-1151766-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 5, 1766).

“A SMALL ISLAND or NECK of LAND in the RIVER MIDWAY … known by the name of Baillie’s Island.”

This notice in the Georgia Gazette advertises an island being sold by “the estate of Col. Kenneth Baillie, deceased.” This island, “containing 600 acres,” already had “a good dwelling-house and other convenient out-houses” and good land for growing crops. Land sales of this sort would have been interesting to men like Jonathan Bryan.

Bryan bought a lot of land in both Georgia and South Carolina during the eighteenth century. Alan Gallay notes that Bryan’s “possessions [lands he purchased or that were granted to him] placed him at the very top of the small group of men who ruled Georgia during the quarter century before the American Revolution.”[1] Bryan was able to capitalize on both undeveloped and developed lands, which would have made the island in this advertisement very appealing. To make the most of the land he had, Bryan created plantations and bought African slaves to perform the labor. By 1763, he owned 125 slaves in Georgia.[2] Owning land was an important step for colonists like Jonathan Bryan to become prosperous and powerful.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Colonel Kenneth Baillie’s executrix and executors painted quite a picture of the bounty available on Baillie’s Island. Whoever purchased this land would possess a variety of resources and could produce a variety of commodities to send to market, including corn, indigo, rice, barrel staves, lumber, and all sorts of livestock. All of these goods, the advertisement promised, could be easily transported because there were “four good landing places to said island, one of which the largest vessel that comes to Sunbury may lie and load it.” Furthermore, Baillie’s Island was close to Sunbury, “it not being more than five miles by water to that town, and seven by land.” The island’s proximity to Sunbury and the trade that took place there was a selling point.

Sunbury, founded in 1758, likely sounds unfamiliar to modern readers, but for a few decades in the middle of the eighteenth century it rivaled Savannah as a port city. Readers of the Georgia Gazette would have known that it was a seaport on the Medway River, south of Savannah. Today, however, Sunbury has disappeared. Some call it “one of Georgia’s most famous ‘dead’ or lost towns.” William Bartram, the prominent naturalist from Pennsylvania, visited Sunbury while en route to Florida shortly before the American Revolution. “There are about one hundred houses in the town neatly built of wood frame having pleasant Piasas around them,” Bartram wrote. “The inhabitants are genteel and wealthy, either Merchants or Planters from the Country who resort here in the Summer and Autumn, to partake of the Salubrious Sea Breeze, Bathing & sporting on the Sea Islands.”

Sunbury was a vibrant town and emerging center of commerce in the 1760s and 1770s, but it never recovered after the disruptions of the American Revolution.

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[1] Alan Gallay, “Jonathan Bryan’s Plantation Empire: Land, Politics, and the Formation of a Ruling Class in Colonial Georgia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser. 45, no. 2 (April 1988): 253.

[2] Gallay, “Jonathan Bryan’s Plantation Empire,” 275.

October 11

GUEST CURATOR: Jordan Russo

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

oct-11-10101766-new-london-gazette
New-London Gazette (October 10, 1766).

“A valuable FARM, containing about 130 Acres of choice good Land.”

The majority of people in colonial America lived on farms. This advertisement could have been directed at someone who was new to Connecticut and needed somewhere to start a new life. Settling in the New World offered most colonists the chance to own land for the first time so this advertisement might have attracted colonists that came to New England for that reason. The buyer would not have to start from scratch since the farm already had “a Large double House well finished two good Barns, a good Well, and every Convenience for a pleasant Place.”

Colonists needed to make profits off their farms so a main selling point in this advertisement was that the farm had “a good Orchard, that will make 100 Barrells of Cyder.” The buyer knew that his land would already be making a profit. T.H. Breen states, “Consumer demand was the driving engine of economic change” in the eighteenth century.[1] Purchasing this farm would have allowed a colonist to take part in consumer culture by selling the surplus of products from the farm.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Although the Adverts 250 Project focuses primarily on the marketing of consumer goods and services in eighteenth-century America, newspapers included advertisements that colonists placed for many other purposes. The guest curators often find such advertisements as interesting as those that attempted to persuade readers to become consumers. In addition, those advertisements provide a means of exploring other aspects of the colonial American experience, which is the overarching purpose of the class in which the guest curators are enrolled. Accordingly, I allow each guest curator to select one advertisement that deviates from the usual methodology.

Such entries certainly enhance the Adverts 250 Project by acknowledging and incorporating the other types and purposes of eighteenth-century advertisements. That being said, the guest curators sometimes draw interesting connections between consumer culture and an advertisement that did not explicitly market consumer goods and services. As part of her examination of an advertisement for “A valuable Farm,” Jordan has done so by linking the profits from surplus production on the farm (especially the revenue generated from “100 Barrells of Cyder” coming out of the “good Orchard”) to opportunities to participate in the marketplace as consumers in addition to producers. Potential buyers would have also seen advertisements for goods and services in the New-London Gazette, invitations to be part of a transatlantic network of exchange that accelerated throughout the eighteenth century as the number and variety of possessions in households significantly increased. I appreciate the cause-and-effect relationship that Jordan suggests would have linked the two sorts of advertisements: colonists hoping to be active consumers first needed a means of earning the money (or at least demonstrating that they had the resources to barter or merited credit) necessary to make purchases.

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[1] T.H. Breen, “An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776,” Journal of British Studies 25, no. 4 (October 1986): 476.

July 11

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

Jul 11 - 7:11:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (July 11, 1766).

To be SOLD, or RENTED, with to without NEGROES, A NEW SAW MILL.”

This advertisement seeking someone to buy or rent “A NEW SAW MILL” on the Chowan River listed a variety of amenities, including the option of “NEGROES” being included in the deal. This differs significantly from commercial and industrial real estate advertisements today. Indeed, before even mentioning any of the other amenities associated with the property, Cullen Pollok announced that the sawmill could be sold or rented “with or without NEGROES.” The enslaved workers were treated like any other part of the infrastructure of the mill.

That slaves could be included in the purchase of this sawmill reveals something about how it operated. While the slaves certainly contributed their labor, the mill’s owner also benefited from the knowledge that slaves brought to the enterprise. Operating a sawmill required specific skills and a routine designed for efficiency. Experience was important as well. A new owner or overseer could certainly train slaves to take on these responsibilities over time, but the advertisement provided the option of a skilled workforce already intact. Reading this advertisement from a twenty-first-century perspective might privilege the labor provided by the enslaved workers, but eighteenth-century readers would have also factored in other advantages – skill and expertise – that those workers provided. Their familiarity with this particular mill would have been invaluable.

Even if a buyer or renter did not wish to set the slaves to work in the sawmill, they were available to work “a small plantation cleared on the river side,” just one of the many amenities listed with the house with “one brick chimney, and a very fine orchard.”

This advertisement seeking someone to buy or rent “A NEW SAW MILL” on the Chowan River listed a variety of amenities, including the option of “NEGROES” being included in the deal. This differs significantly from commercial and industrial real estate advertisements today. Indeed, before even mentioning any of the other amenities associated with the property, Cullen Pollok announced that the sawmill could be sold or rented “with or without NEGROES.” The enslaved workers were treated like any other part of the infrastructure of the mill.

That slaves could be included in the purchase of this sawmill reveals something about how it operated. While the slaves certainly contributed their labor, the mill’s owner also benefited from the knowledge that slaves brought to the enterprise. Operating a sawmill required specific skills and a routine designed for efficiency. Experience was important as well. A new owner or overseer could certainly train slaves to take on these responsibilities over time, but the advertisement provided the option of a skilled workforce already intact. Reading this advertisement from a twenty-first-century perspective might privilege the labor provided by the enslaved workers, but eighteenth-century readers would have also factored in other advantages – skill and expertise – that those workers provided. Their familiarity with this particular mill would have been invaluable.

Even if a buyer or renter did not wish to set the slaves to work in the sawmill, they were available to work “a small plantation cleared on the river side,” just one of the many amenities listed with the house with “one brick chimney, and a very fine orchard.”

April 8

GUEST CURATOR:  Maia Campbell

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

Apr 8 - 4:7:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (April 7, 1766).

“A FARM in Bristol, containing about 140 Acres of good Land.”

I find interesting the way in which the American colonies and European countries sometimes diverged economically in the eighteenth century. In my Western Civilization course, we have discussed the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. In Great Britain, where the revolution started, James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny in 1764, revolutionizing the speed at which cotton could be spun. In that same decade Richard Arkwright introduced his water frame, which harnessed waterpower, resulting in water-powered factories that could produce mass amounts of textiles. People began to flock to the cities and abandon their farmlands. As farming became more technological and less profitable, jobs in the cities, especially in factories, opened up.

However, in America, such was not the case – yet. Farms and farmland were still highly valuable in the British colonies. Even when the Industrial Revolution reached America, the government would still encourage people to go west and start their own farms. The advertised farm has everything that a farmer could need to produce for the market and provide for his family.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Urban areas in America increasingly grew during the eighteenth century. Existing cities – Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston – expanded, while others – such as Baltimore – emerged as population centers and hubs of commerce in their own right. Still, as Maia explains, the Industrial Revolution did not arrive in North America as quickly as it did in Europe. Factories that employed new technologies discussed popped up in New England by the end of the century, but they were not part of the colonial landscape in the 1760s.

That does not mean that rural areas remained untouched. Note the many ways in which this advertisement demonstrates that colonists shaped the land on which they lived and worked. In addition to the town of Bristol, an “East Road” cut through the landscape. The farm for sale included a “House, Barn, and Cribb, &c.” These buildings certainly modified the landscape. The property had been “Fenced with about 1200 Rods of Stone Wall,” a significant change to the landscape. How much of the land devoted to “Meadow, Pasture, and Tillage” existed in such a state before colonists arrived? How much of it had been cleared by colonists?

Sometimes we assume that major changes to the environment occurred only in recent times, only after the United States fully engaged in the Industrial Revolution. This real estate advertisement, however, lists a variety of ways in which colonists reshaped the landscape to suit their own needs. Those who lived in rural areas did not reside in an undisturbed natural world. Instead, they engaged in a process of simultaneously adapting to the land and adapting the land as they desired.

March 5

GUEST CURATOR:  Trevor Delp

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

Mar 5 - 3:3:1766 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (March 3, 1766).

“A Handsome Brick House.”

Today’s advertisement is different from others that I have analyzed because it offers no specified author. This was something I found interesting because it is unclear who is selling the house and why. Furthermore, at the end of the advertisement it requests that interested buyers “Inquire of the Printers.” This then leads me to question if the printer is the one selling the house?

One modern real estate brokerage reports that realtors did not become popular until the late nineteenth century so it is unlikely that a professional was helping to sell the house. The information surrounding the house provided in the advertisement is very basic and only gives a simplistic description of where the house is located. Also, the advertisement does not provide the price of the house for potential buyers. Overall, this advertisement seems a little out of place to me. I wonder if the advertisement was rushed or if the author did not have the financial means to support something larger.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Trevor suggests that this advertisement raises more questions than it answers, especially for modern readers accustomed to a very different real estate industry and its marketing methods. Because it does not meet our expectations of what belongs in an advertisement offering a house for sale, today’s advertisement demonstrates how much advertising for real estate has changed over the past 250 years. Even the brief history of realtors Trevor consulted came from a website advertising a modern real estate company! How awesome is that?

Even for the 1760s, however, this advertisement was rather bare bones. Others from the period provided much more detail. Many advertisements to sell or rent houses also included woodcuts. On the whole, eighteenth-century real estate advertisements were more likely to feature an image than advertisements for consumer goods and services. Printers had a several types of stock woodcuts (including houses, ships, and runaway slaves) that could be inserted when appropriate. (On the other hand, shopkeepers and artisans, if they wanted a visual image as part of their advertisement, were responsible for commissioning it themselves.) Although these woodcuts did not provide an image of the actual house for sale, they did help to draw the eye to real estate advertisements, proving a form of organization on pages that largely were not organized or “classified,” as we think of today’s print advertising.

While this advertisement lacks many of the bells and whistles we expect today (it’s certainly not a refrigerator magnet with a calendar of all the New England Patriots games my realtor sends me every year), it does offer some appeals that seem familiar. Readers learned that the house was “Handsome” and included a garden and “Many Accommodations, fit for a Gentleman.” As Trevor notes, the price was not listed, but the advertiser did mention financing: “Only one fourth Part is required to be paid down.” I suspect that mentioning that the house was “near the North Latin School” was offered merely to suggest the location, unlike modern real estate websites that promote a home’s school district.

Mar 5 - 3:3:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (March 3, 1766).

I recently discussed some of the reasons that so many advertisements instructed those interested to “Inquire of the Printers,” a part of the process that seems rather unusual to us today. That was such a common way of doing business in the 1760s that the version of this advertisement that ran the same day in the Boston Evening-Post did not even include that final sentence. Even without such instructions, colonial readers would have known that was what they needed to do to get more information.