June 27

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

Jun 27 - 6:27:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 27, 1766).

“Eloped from me Frances Doyne of Pembrook, my Wife Jerusha Doyne.”

Frances Doyne was an anxious and disgruntled patriarch.

Advertisements for runaway wives were a common feature in eighteenth-century newspapers. Any given issue of a newspaper was likely to carry such an advertisement. On occasion some four-page issues included two or more advertisements for runaway wives. Depending on the town where the newspaper was published, advertisements for runaway wives might appear as often as announcements about other runaways, including slaves, indentured servants, and apprentices.  The Adverts 250 Project has previously featured other advertisements for runaway wives, including Robert Hebbard and a response on behalf of his wife Joanna (and further consideration by historian J.L. Bell) and the competing claims of Cornelius M’Carty and Jonathan Remington concerning Lydia M’Carty.

Readers of eighteenth-century newspaper were familiar with the conventions of the runaway wife advertisement. They tended to follow a formula and often used boilerplate language, making them virtually interchangeable except for the names of the husbands and wives. In most instances a husband reported that his wife had departed from their home (often using the phrase “eloped from me” in contrast to “eloped with me” – a very different meaning of eloping than its most common usage today). The husband further warned merchants and shopkeepers not to extend any credit to the disobedient wife because he would not cover any debts for his recalcitrant spouse.

Many scholars have used advertisements for runaway wives to explore the domestic relationships and marital relationships in the eighteenth century. Several have used them as evidence of women making use of informal or extralegal means of expressing agency and pursuing their own best interests in a society that formally excluded them from full participation in the public realm. For a wife reduced by colonial laws to the status of feme covert, running away from an abusive or unpleasant husband was a means of resistance.

Frances Doyne offered an interesting variation at the conclusion of his advertisement warning against his wife, Jerusha. In a nota bene he stated, “If she returns, she will be kindly received upon reasonable Terms.” Most husbands who placed these sorts of advertisements did not address the possibility of the wife returning; most likely assumed that it was the duty of the woman to return and assume her proper place in the household. After all, a runaway wife already undermined her husband’s authority and reputation as a man capable of properly ordering his household. Why seem to be negotiating or pleading with her to return. Doyne, however, presented that as a possibility. While the rest of the advertisement was for all readers, the nota bene was directed at Jerusha Doyne specifically. It very well could have been, however, that Frances and Jerusha had very different notions of what it mean to be “kindly received upon reasonable Terms.”

May 28

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

May 28 - 5:28:1766 Georgia Gazette 4th page
Georgia Gazette (May 28, 1766).
May 28 - 5:28:1766 Georgia Gazette 1st page
Georgia Gazette (May 28, 1766).

Domestic strife from the M’Carty household found its way into the advertisements that appeared in the Georgia Gazette. Advertisements for runaway wives, warning shopkeepers and others not to extend credit because abandoned and disgruntled husbands refused to pay any charges on their behalf, were quite common in eighteenth-century America. Most were of a similar length as today’s advertisement by Cornelius M’Carty about his wife Lydia.

Responses to such advertisements appeared much less regularly, though they were not unknown. For instance, see an advertisement by Robert Hebbard published in the New-London Gazette in January and a response refuting Hebbard from the next issue. (Intrigued by this exchange, J.L. Bell conducted additional research on the messy marriage of Joanna and Robert Hebbard.) Similarly, Jonathan Remington published an advertisement that explained, at least in part, why Cornelius M’Carty claimed that he “suffered too much” at the hands of Lydia.

It seems that Remington (as well as his wife and children) had been a boarder in the M’Carty household for eighteen months. Cornelius was present for some of that time but apparently away during a portion of it. It sounds as though Cornelius suspected that Remington had an affair with his wife, but the boarder declared that “he has never had, directly or indirectly, any indecent freedom or criminal conversation” with Lydia. He published his advertisement to dispel gossip, having heard “a report … greatly prejudicial to the character and conduct” of Lydia.

Remington defended Lydia’s reputation, but in the process he also defended his own, taking the extraordinary step of appearing before two justices of the peace to swear to the veracity of hic claim’s about Lydia’s character. Remington, a tailor, likely feared the social and economic repercussions of the rift between Cornelius and Lydia M’Carty. This advertisement thus served more than one end by proclaiming publicly that neither Lydia M’Carty nor Jonathan Remington had engaged in any unsavory activities in the absence of Cornelius M’Carty.

The Messy Marriage of Joanna and Robert Hebbard Further Considered

A few weeks ago I featured two advertisements that revealed some of the domestic squabbles in the Hebbard household, first a runaway wife notice from Robert Hebbard warning others against “trusting, trading or dealing with” his wife, Joanna, and the other, published a week later, a rejoinder from Aaron Cleaveland testifying to Joanna’s character and excoriating her husband.  Certainly these advertisements did not tell the Hebbards’ entire story.

Jan 17 - 1:17:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766).

J.L. Bell has investigated the lives and times of Robert and Joanna Hebbard in greater detail over the course of the past three days at Boston 1775.  I promised to keep my eyes open for further advertisements from or about the Hebbards, but I have not yet turned up any.  Bell, however, has used a variety of other sources to flesh out the lives and relationships of members of the Hebbard and Cleaveland families.  Follow these links to learn more about Joanna Hebbard and her travails in eighteenth-century America.

Part 1.  “Joanna Hebbard, hath for some time past Eloped from Me

Part 2.  “To make a just return to his injurious Advertisement

Part 3.  “Joanna Cleveland’s ‘Leap in the Dark’

Jan 24 - 1:24:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 24, 1766).

January 24

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

Jan 24 - 1:24:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 24, 1766)

“It appears that his Advertisement was the invidious product of Malice, and not of Prudence.”

A week ago I featured an advertisement for a runaway wife.  Robert Hebbard cautioned against “trusting, trading or dealing with” his wife, Joanna.  I noted that the advertisement was a little of the ordinary for this project.  My intention is to explore advertising used to market consumer goods and services.  Still, I included an advertisement for a runaway wife because earlier in the week I had featured another runaway, an indentured servant who had been captured (who was indeed a commodity for the term of his indenture), as well as an advertisement announcing the impending sale of an enslaved woman (another person who was also a commodity, though most likely permanently in this case).  Like those two, the advertisement for the runaway Joanna featured a person on the margins being further marginalized in an advertisement bought and paid for by somebody who regularly exercised greater power and authority in colonial society and commercial interactions.

Jan 17 - 1:17:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766)

Runaway wives appeared frequently in the advertising pages of colonial newspapers.  I encountered at least one other while selecting advertisements for the past week.  On occasion, such advertisements spark a response, as we see here.  The response is much more extensive than the original advertisement, which could perhaps be explained in part by Joanna, as a woman, being at a disadvantage in any sort of public dispute with Robert, the head of household and, according to the laws of coverture, her master in many ways.  Sometimes runaway wives published answers to their husband’s notices themselves, but I do not believe that it is inconsequential that Joanna Hebbard deferred to a man to defend her in print.  It may have been one thing to exercise such agency in departing from her husband, but quite another to engage him directly in a very public dispute.  Aaron Cleaveland makes quite clear that Joanna “now resides in this Town, in good Credit” (which may refer to her character or her ability to engage in commercial exchanges) “and has never contracted the least Debt on his Account” (which certainly refers to the marketplace and Joanna’s capacity for behaving responsibly).  Despite Robert Hebbard’s efforts, it doesn’t seem that he was able to obstruct his wife’s ability to make the necessary purchases to support herself independently.

I offer this advertisement for those who were intrigued by Robert Hebbard’s notice last week, as an update and continuation of the story.  Will this be the last we hear from the Hebbards?  I’m not certain.  Starting next Sunday one of my students will begin guest curating.  I am leaving the selection of advertisements up to her, but I will be looking through subsequent issues of the New-London Gazette so I can provide further updates if the Hebbards or any of their acquaintances did indeed turn to the public prints to hash out their family affairs.

January 17

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

Jan 17 - 1:17:1766 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (January 17, 1766)

“My Wife Joanna Hebbard, hath for some time past Eloped from me.”

This advertisement does not present a commodity to be traded in the marketplace.  Unlike slaves and indentured servants, Robert Hebbard could not buy or sell his wife.  That did not necessarily make Joanna Hebbard’s position much less precarious than that of runaway indentured servant Daniel O’Mullen or the “Likely strong NEGRO GIRL” featured in recent days.  Under the laws of coverture, a woman’s legal rights and obligations — indeed, her identity as well — were subsumed under her husband upon marriage.  Joanna Hebbard, like so many other women in colonial America, was expected to abide by the will of the family patriarch, the head of household, in order to maintain good order within the family and, by extension, stable government within the colony.  Robert Hebbard’s advertisement does not reveal what sorts of domestic relations caused his wife to depart, but advertisements for runaway wives indicate that not all women were willing to be confined by the laws of coverture.  Sometimes “eloping” from their husbands became their only option.