April 8

GUEST CURATOR:  Jonathan Biscelgia

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

Apr 8 - 4:8:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 8, 1768).

“A few Hogsheads of Choice old Rum.”

This advertisement from the New Hampshire Gazette appears straightforward about what Thomas Bell was trying to sell. However, there is more to this advertisement when examining the vernacular more closely, specifically the word “Hogsheads.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines this as “A large cask, esp. for storing liquids; spec.one of a definite capacity, varying according to the commodity held.” This keys into the fact that Thomas Bell sold large quantities of rum. Rum was prevalent in the colonies because the ingredients, particularly molasses, were easy to acquire because of the triangular trade that connected New England to sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

The sale of alcohol in these large quantities gives insight into consumption trends of the larger population. According to Ed Crews, a public historian at Colonial Williamsburg, “Rum was king of the colonies before the Revolutionary War.  …  By 1770, the colonies had more than 140 rum distilleries, making about 4.8 million gallons annually. That was on top of the 3.78 million gallons imported each year. Production was concentrated in the Northeast.” Identifying that production was concentrated in New England and the Middle Atlantic is important because it tells the larger story of slavery in America. The molasses needed for rum was produced in the Caribbean by the work of slaves. Rum could not have been distilled in mainland North America if it had not been for the struggles of enslaved men and women in the Caribbean.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Today the Adverts 250 Project republishes fourteen advertisements that originally appeared in colonial newspapers 250 years ago today: Thomas Bell’s advertisement for “Choice old Rum” that Jonathan examines above and thirteen advertisements concerning enslaved men, women, and children that have been incorporated into the daily digest for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project. The South-Carolina and American General Gazette published all thirteen of the notices offering slaves for sale or warning about runaway slaves.

A cursory glance at these advertisements does not necessarily reveal the connections between Bell’s notice from the New-Hampshire Gazetteand the series from one of Charleston’s three newspapers. Further examination of all of the newspapers published 250 years ago today might initially reaffirm first impressions about enslavement in southern colonies and freedom in New England.  Two other newspapers, the Connecticut Journal and the New-London Gazette, were also published on April 8, 1768.  Like the New-Hampshire Gazette, neither of them happened to include any advertisements concerning slaves.  Considered solely in this context, the distribution of newspaper advertisements suggests a striking regional different between New England and the Lower South.

Yet the contents of newspapers published on a single day do not tell the entire story of colonial American culture and commerce.  Widening the scope a little – to just newspapers published 250 years ago this week – forces us to confront advertisements for slaves from other newspapers printed in New England as well as even more from the Middle Atlantic.  Widening the scope even more – to all newspapers from 1768 – reveals that colonists placed and read advertisements for slaves in the Connecticut Journal, the New-Hampshire Gazette, and the New-London Gazette, even if they appeared in lesser numbers or frequency than in other newspapers.

This broader view of newspapers and advertisements from 1768 illustrates that that the commerce and culture of colonial New England was not devoid of enslavement.  That being said, Jonathan demonstrates that it is not necessary to identify advertisements for slaves to use eighteenth-century advertisements to examine the region’s relationship to slavery.  Instead, advertisements for a popular commodity like rum testify to New England’s participation in networks of exchange that depended on slavery. Making this connection requires looking beyond the commodity advertised for consumption to also see the process of production and commerce that made “Choice old Rum” available to consumers in New England and throughout the colonies.

September 2

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

Sep 2 - 9:2:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 2, 1767).

“EXCEEDING GOOD OLD BARBADOS RUM, by the hogshead, quarter-cask, or small quantity.”

Horton and Moore placed a fairly simple advertisement in the September 2, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette. In it, they announced that they sold a small number of items: rum, sugar, vinegar, and Delftware (a popular blue and white pottery made in the Netherlands and exported to locales throughout the Atlantic world). Compared to the list-style advertisements that crowded the pages of many eighteenth-century newspapers, their notice was relatively short. Yet the simplicity and the length did not mean that Horton and Moore neglected to advance marketing messages in their advertisement. For each item, they offered some sort of commentary intended to entice potential customers to visit Horton and Moore’s wharf to make their purchases.

The partners resorted to some of the most common appeals made to consumers throughout the eighteenth century. They emphasized quality, explicitly and implicitly, to promote both rum and sugar. They described the former as “EXCEEDING GOOD” and the latter as “of an extraordinary good quality.” In noting the places of origin – “BARBADOS RUM” and “JAMAICA SUGAR” – they further testified to quality since those locations were widely recognized for producing the finest examples of their respective commodities.

When it mattered, Horton and Moore made an appeal to consumer choice: they carried a ‘COMPLETE ASSORTMENT” of Delftware. This implied a variety of (fashionable) patterns as well as an array of items, from plates and bowls to canisters and sugar dishes to tiles and tureens for household use and decoration. Horton and Moore invited customers to examine all the possibilities, promising that they would not be forced to choose from a tiny selection. A “COMPLETE ASSORTMENT” meant the freedom to express themselves by identifying their favorites and choosing items that distinguished them from their friends and relations.

Horton and Moore also marketed convenience when they offered to sell their commodities in various quantities. Customers could purchase rum “by the hogshead, quarter-cask, or small quantity,” sugar “by the hogshead, barrel, or small quantity,” and vinegar “in any quantity.” Presumably shoppers were also welcome to select as many or as few pieces of Delftware as they desired.

Finally, the partners made an appeal to price, stating they sold all of their merchandise “on the most reasonable terms.” Combined with the other appeals, this made their wares even more attractive to prospective customers.

Horton and Moore’s advertisement demonstrates that commercial notices aimed at consumers did not need to be elaborate or lengthy to incorporate marketing appeals. In the space of half a dozen lines, the merchants deployed messages about quality, choice, convenience, and price as they attempted to incite demand among customers in Savannah and its hinterland.

July 22

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

Jul 22 - 7:22:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 22, 1767).

“SUGAR … RUM … NEGROES … NEGROE SHOES.”

Cowper and Telfairs’ business, at least the aspects promoted in this advertisement, revolved around the enslavement of African men, women, and children. Near the end of July 1767, they announced to readers of the Georgia Gazette that they sold “A FEW NEGROES, consisting of men, women, boys, and girls.” They did not, however, elaborate on the origins of these slaves, whether they had just arrived in the colony directly from Africa or if they had been transshipped through other colonial ports or if they had been born in Georgia. Nor did they add other information that acknowledged the humanity of the men, women, and children they sold. The “NEGROES” were merely commodities to be exchanged, not unlike the goods listed before and after them in the advertisement.

Colonists who had acquired slaves also needed to outfit them. Cowper and Telfairs pursued this market as well, selling “NEGROE SHOES at 36s. per dozen.” The price structure indicates that the partners expected to deal with slaveholders who wished to purchase in volume. The Georgia Gazette and the several newspapers published in Charleston, South Carolina, frequently inserted advertisements for “NEGROE SHOES,” though none provided much detail about the shoes. As the price suggests, they would have been constructed of inferior materials, especially stiff fabrics, and not particularly comfortable. Presumably readers were already so familiar with this commodity that “NEGROE SHOES” usually merited no additional comment. Cowper and Telfairs, however, did offer various sizes. They promised, “Any person who chuses to deliver measure[ment]s may be supplied in proper time for their negroes.”

Finally, Cowper and Telfairs advertised commodities produced with enslaved labor: sugar and rum. Slaves certainly participated directly in the cultivation and processing of sugar. The advertisers did not reveal the origins of the rum they sold. Slaves may have played a significant role in distilling it. At the very least, rum, whether made from molasses or sugarcane juice, was a byproduct of sugar production, a commodity that circulated throughout the Atlantic world in great quantities as a consequence of enslaved labor on sugar plantations.

Cowper and Telfairs advertised several “commodities” – slaves, shoes, sugar, rum – that might seem like a haphazard combination at first glance. However, the system of enslavement that formed the foundation of economic exchange in the early modern Atlantic world linked all of these “commodities” in ways that would have been apparent to eighteenth-century readers and consumers.

April 3

GUEST CURATOR: Megan Watts

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

Apr 3 - 4:3:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 3, 1767).

“West India RUM by the Hogshead or Barrel, … Good Molasses.”

I chose this advertisement because I recognized an important product, “West India Rum.” The economy of the British North American colonies greatly depended on a transatlantic system of export and import. This included several items from around the globe, like fabrics, tea, and rum.

Rum was especially integral to the colonies’ economy, in part because alcohol was favored for consumption. One estimate claims that for every adult male approximately 20 gallons of rum were consumed per year.[1] The high rate of consumption led to demand for more rum. One way to have a surplus was to distill molasses and create more rum. This created a booming industry in the colonies. According to John J. McCusker, “The distilling of rum from molasses created a substantial colonial industry, employing local capital, management skills, and labor. Steadily in demand, rum and molasses represented for the colonial economy almost a currency.”[2] Not only was rum a commodity traded around the world, distilling it was also an opportunity to establish businesses within the colonies and contribute to the local economy.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Unlike modern advertisements that often prominently feature prices as a means of enticing potential customers (and manipulating their perceptions, such as $99.99 rather than $100), eighteenth-century advertisements rarely listed prices for the goods they marketed. Some merchants and shopkeepers deviated from that rule, especially those who sold some of the most popular commodities that retailers and end-use consumers tended to purchase in volume.

For instance, in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette as today’s advertisement placed by Noah Parker, three of his competitors did include prices for some, but not all, of the commodities they listed. Henry Appleton noted prices for “Loaf Sugar” and “BEST London BOHEA TEA, by the Hundred, Dozen, or single Pound,” but did not reveal how much he charged for chocolate, rice, or “All sorts of West India Goods.” Edward Sherburne also the “Best of BOHEA TEA,” barely undercutting Appleton’s price: £4 15s Old Tenor per pound instead of £4 16s OT per pound. Like Parker, George Turner provided prices for only some of his goods (rum, sugar, coffee, and “COTTON-WOOL”).

Richard Champney perhaps came closest to modern marketing methods with his version of “limited time only” prices for coffee, which he sold at “22s. Old Tenor per pound.” However, he did not “promise to sell at that Price long, as the late remarkable Frost in the West Indies, may have the same effect on Coffee, as on Limes; therefore probably that Article may be scarce and dear.” Champney used temporarily low prices and the specter of scarcity to drive customers to his shop.

That four advertisers listed prices in a single issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette was remarkable and extraordinary. It was not uncommon for entire issues to be devoid of specific pricing in advertisements. Most merchants and shopkeepers adopted the approach taken by Noah Parker, relying on the goods themselves to attract customers but not specifying prices in the advertisements. Many made general appeals to price, promising “low costs” or “reasonable rates.” Parker did not go even that far. Instead he invited “those who desire to know the Price to call and see the Articles.” In so doing he echoed an argument sometimes made by other advertisers: specifying a particular price was meaningless in the absence of examining the quality of the merchandise.

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[1] John J. McCusker, “The Rum Trade and the Balance of Payments of the Thirteen Continental Colonies, 1650-1775,” Journal of Economic History 30, no. 1 (March 1970): 247.

[2] McCusker, “Rum Trade,” 247.

 

March 3

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

mar-3-331767-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 3, 1767).

Imported from GRENADA … A Quantity of RUM.”

Anthony Lamotte advertised a shipment of rum and sugar to be sold at his store “next door to Mansell, Corbet & Co.” Lamotte wanted to assure his customers that he continued to supply them with the best Grenada rum, equal to imports from Jamaica. As I explained in an earlier entry, alcoholic beverages were a staple of colonial American life, consumed throughout the day. However, unlike other drinks, rum was a major commodity for the colonies due to its central role in the “Triangular Trade” arrangements between America, Africa, and Europe.

mar-3-classic-triangular-trade
Routes for one version of the triangular trade.

Colonists were part of multiple triangular trades. Each was a series of arrangements where raw resources and manufactured goods were traded throughout the Atlantic. One triangle began with Europe sending textiles, rum, and other manufactured goods to Africa. From there, slaves were sent to the Americas (primarily the Caribbean and southern colonies). Americans then produced and exported sugar, tobacco, and cotton to Europe. Another triangle saw Africa transport slaves to the West Indies. The slaves then worked on plantations where they produced sugar and molasses to be sent to the New England colonies. Colonists in New England then used the sugar and molasses to make rum to ship to Africa. These trade arrangements were self-propagating.

mar-3-triangle-trade-rum
Routes for an alternate version of the triangular trade that emphasized rum production in New England.

While these trade networks are important to understanding economic relationships — and the importance of rum — they do not account for all trade in the eighteenth century. Many other vessels transported goods that did not neatly fit this pattern, such as the one that carried rum from Grenada to South Carolina.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Anthony Lamotte regularly placed advertisements in Charleston’s newspapers. Whether relatively brief or more extensive, his notices advanced a common theme when it came to marketing the rum he imported from Grenada. The phrase “superior in quality to what is usually imported from the other Windward Islands” appeared in both his short advertisement from the October 20, 1766, issue of the South Carolina Gazette and today’s advertisement from the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal published four months later.

Lamotte likely realized that he faced quite a challenge: Jamaican rum was widely considered superior to all others produced in the West Indies. As Sam notes, rum was a popular commodity that colonists enjoyed consuming, but rum from Jamaica was more popular than others. To sell his rum from Grenada, Lamotte needed to change the perception that Jamaican rum was categorically superior to all others.

He initiated his advertising campaign by seeking to establish that rum from Grenada was preferable to rum produced elsewhere in the Windward Islands. Once he advanced that argument in multiple newspapers over the course of several months he raised the stakes by claiming that “GRENADA RUM, of the finest flavor and colour” not only exceeded the quality of rum from nearby islands but should have also been considered “in every respect equal to the best Rum imported from Jamaica.”

Lamotte had “A Quantity of RUM” available for sale, but his advertisement suggested that it might have been a limited quantity that might sell out quickly. He promised “his friends and customers, that in a few months he will be able to supply them constantly” with rum imported from Grenada. Lamotte may have been hoping that by making available a limited supply he could generate word-of-mouth endorsements or, at the very least, make supplies seem temporarily rare and incite anticipation for a time in the future, but not too distant, when he could supply discerning customers with greater quantities.

 

February 27

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-27-2271767-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

“LONDON, New-York, and other MADEIRA WINE, by the Pipe, Hogshead, Quarter Cask, or Dozen.”

Colonial Americans drank alcoholic beverages all the time and at any time they wanted. According to Ed Crews, colonists commonly had a drink for breakfast, brunch, lunch, pre-dinner snacking, during supper, and right before bed. Colonists enjoyed drinking at social events, work, and, even during studies at colleges. In fact, Crews reports, in 1639 Nathaniel Eaton, the President at Harvard College at the time, “lost his job” when he did not provide enough beer for students and staff. Alcohol was a wonder drink believed to have many beneficial properties ranging from warming the body, making people stronger, aiding the sick, and generally causing people to have a good time.

Today’s notice advertised the sale of a variety of wines and spirits imported from across the Atlantic, including Madeira, Port, Burgundy, Claret, and Brandy, as well as Jamaican Rum from the Caribbean. Colonists had a variety of different drinks they preferred, including mixers called Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle, Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip, and just as many names for being drunk.

Wine, rum, and whiskey were favored drinks among the colonists, with rum being king amongst the common man. Elites imported wine, especially Jefferson who loved French wine and attempted to produce wine in America, a failed endeavor. George Washington, on the other hand, owned and operated a private whiskey distillery on his property at Mt. Vernon.

American colonists consumed a large variety of alcoholic beverages for various occasions and at times throughout the day, with wine, rum, and whiskey being especially favorite drinks.

For more on “Drinking in Colonial America,” see Ed Crews’ article on the Colonial Williamsburg website.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Cunningham and Sands, purveyors of all sorts of alcohol, emphasized quality and service in their advertisement. Whether customers purchased any of a dozen different varieties of wine or instead opted for rum from Jamaica and other locales in the West Indies, all were “warranted to be excellent in Quality.” This was possible because Cunningham and Sands took “the greatest Care” in choosing which wines and rum to import and sell, implying a certain level of expertise on their part. They also took great care in “the Management” of the wines they stocked, suggesting that they were shipped and stored under the best conditions in order to avoid any sort of contamination or turning. Cunningham and Sands implied that they knew wine as well as artisans knew their trades.

In terms of service, the partners offered several options to potential customers interested in obtaining their products. Consumers could visit Cunningham and Sands at one of two locations in Charleston, either “at their Counting-House fronting the Bay, on Mr. Burn’s new Wharf, or at their Store in Union-street.” Realizing that not all readers of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette – and prospective customers – resided in the Charleston or had easy access to either of their two locations, Cunningham and Sands also announced that “All Orders from the Country will be punctually complied with.” In effect, they offered mail order service! They apparently believed this convenience would attract customers. Not only did they include it in their advertisements, they also drew special attention to it by inserting it as a separate nota bene rather than including it in the paragraph of dense text that detailed the other aspects of quality and service they provided. (Whether Cunningham and Sands or the printer decided that the nota bene should be printed in italics is much more difficult to determine. Advertisers generally wrote their own copy and printers generally made decisions about layout, but occasionally advertisers exercised some influence over format.)

Sam notes that Americans consumed a fair amount of alcohol and enjoyed various sorts of wines and spirits. Today’s advertisement reveals some of the options available to them as well as part of the process involved in shopping for these items.

October 21

GUEST CURATOR: Lindsay Hajjar

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

oct-21-10201766-south-carolina-gazette
South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

“RUM … superior in quality to what is usually imported.”

This advertisement is interesting because it closely resembles advertisements we would see today, playing on people’s emotions that this rum was better than what they usually drank. I learned about types of persuasion in my Social Psychology class taught by Professor Maria Parmley. I think the type of persuasion the seller used is peripheral route to persuasion. The advertisement called for consumers to make the decision based on emotion, not facts (like how the rum was made or why it was better quality). Potential customers were told that the rum they were used to drinking was lesser quality than this rum “FROM the Island of Grenada.” This type of precaution tactic is commonly seen in advertisements today; when many people see a commercial with a beautiful model using the product they are more likely to buy it because the product then becomes associated with the model’s beauty. It’s interesting that the way of inciting people to buy one product over another has changed very little in 250 years.

John J. McCusker shows the importance of rum in the colonial American economy.[1] Rum, which was made from sugar that was being produced in the Caribbean colonies, was an important part of the import and export trade. Drinking alcohol, like rum, became an essential part of life for many of the colonists, providing an escape from the pressures of everyday life. Social drinking was something that the colonists have in common with people today. Even though we may not always realize it we have more in common with the people who lived in colonial America than we might assume. Through this advertisement you can see two things that the colonists and people of the twenty-first century had in common, the way consumers can be persuaded to buy goods and how both people today and people then care about the quality of the alcohol they drink.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Lindsay’s analysis of the sophisticated tactics Anthony Lamotte used to market his rum made me wonder how it compared to other advertisements for rum in the same issue of the South Carolina Gazette. Two other notices featured rum prominently.

oct-21-10201766-rum-in-south-carolina-gazette
South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

One brief advertisement announced that William Gibbes(?) had “CHOICE JAMAICA RUM, best MUSCOVADO SUGAR, and COFFEE, to be sold cheap.” This advertisement included two of the most common appeals from eighteenth-century advertising: price (“to be sold cheap”) and quality (“CHOICE”). However, Gibbes did not compare the quality of his Jamaican rum to any other rum, whether from the same island, the Windward Islands, or any other place. (The “3M.” in brackets may have been a printer’s note indicating that the advertisement was to run for three months. Perhaps Gibbes relied on repetition of his advertisement, rather than other means of persuasion, to attract customers.)

oct-21-10201766-rum-2-in-south-carolina-gazette
South Carolina Gazette (October 20, 1766).

Thomas Shirley advertised a hodgepodge of imported commodities, from flour to iron to Windsor chairs. “A few Puncheons of Jamaica Rum” appeared in the middle of Shirley’s list. Like Gibbes (“to be sold cheap”) and Lamotte (“TO BE SOLD, reasonably”), Shirley made an appeal to price (“to be sold reasonably”), but he made no other effort to distinguish the rum he sold. Some modern readers may be tempted to think that listing Jamaica in italics was intended to highlight the origins of his rum for consumers that considered production in some places superior to others. However, listing place names in italics was common practice throughout eighteenth-century advertisements. In addition, printers – not the advertisers themselves – usually made the decisions about typography.

As Lindsay notes, rum was an extremely popular commodity in colonial America. Amid already high demand, advertisers like Anthony Lamotte worked to direct that demand in their favor. To do so, Lamotte used a marketing strategy that emphasized more than just price and quality. He promised potential customers that his rum was “superior in quality” to others, playing on their emotions in the absence of providing evidence to explain why it was a better product.

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[1] John J. McCusker, “The Rum Trade and the Balance of Payments of the Thirteen Continental Colonies, 1650-1775,” Journal of Economic History 30, no. 1 (March 1970): 244-246.