November 23

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

Nov 23 - 11:23:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 23, 1768).

“The stalls and stallages of the publick market of the town of Savannah.”

An advertisement in the November 23, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette bore the signature of “HUGH ROSS, C.M.” It was in his capacity as Clerk of the Market that he placed a notice addressing the operations of the stalls at Ellis Square, just a couple of blocks from the docks along the Savannah River. He gave “publick notice” to those who “have refused and neglected to pay their respective fees, rents, and arrears, due for the stalls and stallages” that they could expect legal action if they did not pay “before the first day of December next.” He also warned “sundry persons” who “for some time past have made a practice of lumbering” the Publick Wharf to removed their “staves, scantling, boards, shingles, &c.” to remove that lumber. Its accumulation had become a hindrance to “free and open recourse” to the market for the residents of Savannah.

According to Harold Davis, “the royal government created and regulated a public market” in the 1750s. Ross served as Clerk of the Market throughout most of its existence. That role included enforcing fair weights and measures in addition to collecting the fees owed by vendors who occupied the stalls. Davis notes that even though the “market theoretically was a place where all kinds of goods or provisions might be sold … in practice Georgians looked to it principally for vegetables, fruits, meats, poultry, and fish.” For residents of Savannah, it was “the most dependable place to buy fresh produce.”[1] The law allowed for anyone to buy or sell at the market, with the exception of free blacks and slaves. However, court records indicate that black vendors sometimes violated both that law and slave codes that made similar prohibitions.

The market became a significant landmark in Savannah. In its early years, a bell rang for five minutes at sunrise every day except Sunday to announce that the market was open for business. In 1764, the interval extended to fifteen minutes. Davis describes the market at Ellis Square as “sixty feet square with four little houses for truck at each corner. Stalls stretched from corner house to corner house.” One passage on each side allowed for entry into the enclosed square. A belfry at the center housed the bell. Ross’s notice would have conjured images of shopping at the market for readers of the Georgia Gazette, sights and sounds and perhaps even recollections of tastes and smells associated with the business conducted there.

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[1] Harold E. Davis, The Fledgling Province: Social and Culture Life in Colonial Georgia, 1733-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1976), 69-70.