June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (June 12, 1770).

“A large convenient House … finely situated on the main Street.”

Location!  Location!  Location!  Francis Symonds highlighted the location of the “front Part of a large convenient House” that he offered for sale or rent in the June 12, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette.  He noted that the property was “finely situated on the main Street in Danvers, within about a Quarter of a Mile of the Rev. Mr. Holt’s Meeting-House.”  Symonds also reported an array of goods and services available in close proximity to the house, inserting a census that was not a standard feature of eighteenth-century real estate notices.  Within a quarter mile, buyers or renters would be “accommodated with a very capable Schoolmistress, a Victualler, a Baker, 2 Merchants, 4 Shopkeepers, 2 Doctors, 1 Surgeon, 3 Carpenters, 2 Masons, 3 Blacksmiths, 3 Potters, 2 Tanners, 2 Curriers, 1 Saw-Mill, 1 Weaver, 2 Tailors, 1 Barber, 1 Chaisemaker, 2 Saddlers, 2 Joiners, 1 Glazier, and 8 Cordwainers.”  In addition, they had access to “a good Grist-Mill within half a Mile.”  Although not nearly as bustling as nearby Boston, the town of Danvers was “so growing, that most of the said Tradesmen have lately set up their Businesses.”  Symonds suggested that buyers or renters would reside in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

While that made daily life more comfortable, it also contributed to the prospects of earning a livelihood in the area, especially for anyone interested in the “Shop on the lower Floor” of the house.  In addition to prospective customers who lived nearby, Symonds declared, “It is thought about three Quarters of the Marketing that goes into the two great Towns of Salem and Marblehead passes by said House.”  Furthermore, the house was “situated within a Mile and an half of Salem Court-House” as well as “near the Bell Inn.”  Anyone who intended to operate a business in the shop would not lack for foot traffic.  Prospective customers passed by on their way to market, court, and a popular tavern.

Unlike others who advertised real estate, Symonds offered only a brief description of the house and land.  He focused primarily on the location and the businesses located nearby, his extensive account of the area conjuring images of a lively neighborhood where residents could readily access services and entrepreneurs could easily engage customers.  Considering that many of the local “Tradesmen have lately set up their Businesses,” he may have considered this necessary to attract buyers or renters unaware of the recent growth in the town of Danvers.

March 17

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

Mar 17 - 3:17:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 17, 1770).

“Dwelling-House (improved last by Messieurs Jackson and Updike).”

Location!  Location!!  Location!!!  An advertisement in the March 17, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette offered a “House, Lot, and Dwelling-House thereon” for sale.  That real estate notice focused primarily on location and amenities lending themselves to commerce as the means of marketing the lot and buildings.  Currently “in the Occupation of Mr. James Green,” the premises, described as “the best Situation for Trade of any in the Place,” were on “the main Street” of Providence, “opposite Messieurs Joseph and William Russell’s Shop” at the Sign of the Golden Eagle.  With some renovation, the “lower front Part” of the could be “wholly made into a Shop” of generous proportions.  That same advertisement offered another “commodious Shop and Store” for sale “at a small Distance from said Dwelling-House.”  Green had “built and improved” the shop and adjoining warehouse, ultimately constructing “the most convenient Shop for a large Trader of any in the Town.”

The advertisement did not offer further description of the houses and shops offered for sale.  Although the “commodious Shop and Store” may have been the best option for “a large Trader” in 1770, the Russells had their own ideas for erecting a dwelling that testified to their stature among the city’s mercantile elite.  In 1772, Joseph Russell and William Russell built what the Providence Preservation Society now describes as the “earliest extant and most impressive of the cubical, three-story houses that symbolized wealth and social standing for several generations beginning at the eve of the American Revolution.”  The principal entrance, a segmented-arch portico with Corinthian pilasters, came from an English architectural pattern book, the Builder’s Compleat Assistant published in London in 1750.  Nearly two centuries after it was constructed, the Joseph and William Russell House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, but only after its interiors had been removed in the 1920s and installed in museums in Brooklyn, Denver, and Milwaukee.

January 30

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

Jan 30 - 1:30:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 30, 1770).

“Valuable PLANTATION … THIRTY VALUABLE NEGROES.”

John Rose and Alexander Rose, administrators of the estate “of the deceased Dr. WILLIAM ROSE,” turned to the newspapers published in Charleston, South Carolina, to announce the sale of the late doctor’s “valuable PLANTATION” as well as “About THIRTY VALUABLE NEGROES,” livestock, furniture, and tools. The Roses included visual images in their advertisements to help draw the attention of prospective buyers. Indeed, they included two woodcuts, one depicting a house and another an enslaved man, in their advertisement in the January 30, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. If they included a visual image at all, most advertisements featured only one, even in similar advertisements that offered both real estate and enslaved men, women, and children for sale.

The inclusion of two woodcuts seems not to have been a choice made by the compositor working independently at the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. The following day an advertisement with identical copy ran in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. It also included two woodcuts, one of a house and fields and another of several enslaved people. It was not a coincidence that the two advertisements each had more than one visual image. A notice with the same copy also ran in the February 1, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. It also had two woodcuts, one depicting a house and the other several enslaved people, both adults and children. The typography (fonts, fonts size, capitalization, italics) varied among the advertisements, but the copy was consistent, as was the inclusion of two visual images that set these advertisements apart from others. It seems clear that the Roses instructed each printing office that their notice must include both. Although the compositors made most of the decisions about the format of these advertisements, the Roses did exert some influence over the graphic design. They were certainly not the first or only advertisers to adopt this strategy for drawing attention to their notices, but they did experiment with an uncommon approach to visual images when they submitted the copy and specified that their advertisements must include two woodcuts rather than one or none.

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.