April 12

GUEST CURATOR:  Sean Sullivan

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

Apr 12 - 4:12:1768 Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote
“An apprentice is needed for this well and fin occupation. Those interested should inquire of the publisher of this paper.” Wochenlichte Philadelphische Staatsbote (April 12, 1768).

“Es Verlangt Jemand Einen Lehrburschen.”

In contemporary America where all those of European descent are typically simply labeled under the moniker of ‘white,’ we can forget that the diversity of European cultures present during the colonial period was often a defining aspect of people’s lives. Settlers from different places in Europe brought their own traditions, aesthetics, Christian denominations, and, most importantly, languages to the colonies they considered a new world. In Pennsylvania, Germans left an indelible mark on colonial culture. Such was the scope of German immigration to the British colonies that newspapers such as the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote sprung up to cater to the large German-speaking population.

The advertisement shown above asked for an apprentice, likely one for the paper itself. The very act of putting out such an advertisement indicates that there was a large enough German-speaking population (of youths in particular, as apprentices would themselves be in their teenage years) that an advertisement in this newspaper would be worth the cost and would likely ensure a response. This advertisement also implies that business was good enough between the newspaper and job printing that the printer needed more assistance, a likely case given the sheer magnitude of the number of Germans in Pennsylvania in this period.

For more information, see “German Settlement in Pennsylvania:  An Overview” from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Today Sean introduces the first advertisement from a German-language newspaper featured on the Adverts 250 Project, noting that a substantial population of German migrants to Pennsylvania established their its own newspapers and participated in shaping colonial culture and commerce.  The Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbotewas not the only German-language newspaper that served that community in 1768.  The Germantowner Zeitungalso disseminated news and advertising to colonists who spoke German rather than English.

Yet those titles represent only a fraction of the more than two dozen German-language newspapers published in Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century.  See the list below, compiled from Clarence Brigham’s monumental History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, for a complete census of known German-language newspapers founded prior to 1800.  Nine were founded prior to the American Revolution, another four during the years of the war, and the remaining thirteen after independence had been achieved. The Harrisburger Morgenröthe Zeitung continued publication well into the nineteenth century, demonstrating that German migrants and their descendants continued to maintain their own language and some aspects of their culture even as they participated in creating a distinctive American identity in the era of the early republic.  This series of newspapers testifies to the presence of German migrants in colonial America.  German settlers in Pennsylvania were among the many ethnic groups other than the English that made a home in England’s North American colonies.

  • Philadelphische Zeitung, 1732
  • [Germantown] Hoch-Deutsch Pensylvanische Geschicht-Schreiber, 1739-1746
  • [Germantown] Pensylvanische Berichte, 1746-1762
  • Philadelphier Teutsche Fama, 1749-1751
  • Lancastersche Zeitung, 1752-1753
  • [Philadelphia] Hoch Teutsche und Englische Zeitung, 1751-1752
  • Germantowner Zeitung, 1762-1777
  • [Philadelphia] Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote, 1762-1779
  • [Germantown] Wahre und Wahrscheinliche, 1766
  • [Philadelphia] Pennsylvanische Staats-Courier, 1777-1778
  • [Lancaster] Pennsylvanische Zeitungs-Blat, 1778
  • Philadelphisches Staatsregister, 1779-1781
  • [Philadelphia] Gemeinnützige Philadelphische Correspondenz, 1781-1790
  • Germantauner Zeitung, 1785-1799
  • [Lancaster] Neue Unpartheyische Lancaster Zeitung, 1787-1797
  • [Reading] Neue Unpartheyische Readinger Zeitung, 1789-1802
  • [Philadelphia] General-Postbothe, 1790
  • [Chestnut Hill] Chesnuthiller Wochenschrift, 1790-1796
  • [Philadelphia] Neue Philadelphische Correspondenz, 1790-1812
  • [Easton] Neuer Unpartheyischer Eastoner Bothe, 1793-1805
  • [York] Unpartheyische York Gazette, 1796-1804
  • [Philadelphia] Pensylvaniche Correspondenz, 1797-1800
  • [Lancaster] Deutsche Porcupein, 1798-1799
  • Lancaster Wochenblatt, 1799
  • [York] Volks-Bericher, 1799-1803
  • Harrisburger Morgenröthe Zeitung, 1799-1820+

April 11

GUEST CURATOR:  Sean Sullivan

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

Apr 11 - 4:11:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (April 11, 1768).

“BOHEA TEA in large Chests, HYSON TEA in small Chests or Cannisters.”

Tea was an established part of life in the colonial America, consumed both in metropolitan centers along the coast as well as further inland, nearly ubiquitous across the British colonies. This advertisement from the Pennsylvania Chronicle mentioned two varieties, Bohea and Hyson. Bohea was a more expensive black tea while hyson was a cheaper and more common green variant. However, savvy merchants likely would not have hindered themselves with selling one variety and thus limiting their potential clientele. By importing both varieties of tea, Christopher and Charles Marshall appealed to the widest market available, increasing both potential profits and their presence in the sphere of public business. Such an action would be in the best interests of any aspiring entrepreneur, as the tea market in colonial America was massive not only economically but, as Rodris Roth argues, as a part of the wider culture. Colonial customs were highly reflective of trends prominent in Europe, and the consumption of tea was among the most significant of these trends. By the middle of the eighteenth century, tea had become the social lubricant of choice. Anyone in the mercantile realm who could find a steady market for tea would therefore be almost guaranteed a lucrative business.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Tea was indeed a major commodity consumed throughout the British colonies in the eighteenth century.  Many assume that tea was a luxury in colonial America, but that interpretation reflects its position when it was first introduced to consumers rather than the position it eventually held in the marketplace and in the social lives of colonists.  As Rodris Roth reports, “During the first half of the eighteenth century the limited amount of tea, available at prohibitively high prices, restricted its use to a proportionately small segment of the population.  About mid-century, however, tea was beginning to be drunk by more and more people, as supplies increased and costs decreased, due in part to the propaganda and merchandising efforts of the East India Company.[1]  The expanding market for tea placed it at the center of the consumer revolution that took place throughout the British Atlantic world in the eighteenth century.

Indeed, tea might be considered emblematic of colonists participating in the consumer revolution since consuming it required acquiring a variety of other goods, some of them for its preparation and some considered necessary for the social rituals associated with consuming the beverage. Shopkeepers advertised and colonists purchased elaborate tea sets that included cups, saucers, teapots, sugar bowls, containers for cream or milk, waste bowls, tongs, strainers, canisters for storing tea, spoons, and other items.  Yet the equipage did not end there.  Depending on their means, colonists also bought tea tables and chairs as well as trays and tablecloths.  Whether made of metal or imported porcelain, the popular styles for tea sets changed over the years, just as the fashions for garments shifted. Merchants and shopkeepers noted such changes in their advertisements, spurring potential customers to make additional purchases and further fueling the consumer revolution.  Yet consuming tea contributed to importing other goods, especially sugar.  No matter how genteel the setting for socializing while sipping tea, colonists were enmeshed in networks of exchange that depended on the involuntary labor of enslaved men and women who worked on sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

Today’s advertisement for tea may appear rather simple at first glance, yet upon closer examination it tells a much larger story about the consumption and culture in eighteenth-century America.  For even more information, see Rodris Roth’s “Tea-Drinking in Eighteenth-Century America:  Its Etiquette and Equipage,” available in its entirety via Project Gutenberg.

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[1]Rodris Roth, “Tea Drinking in Eighteenth-Century America:  Its Etiquette and Equipage,” in Material Life in America, 1600-1860, ed. Robert Blair St. George (Boston:  Northeastern University Press, 1988), 442.

Welcome, Guest Curator Sean Sullivan

Sean Sullivan is a senior at Assumption College, double majoring in History and Theology with a minor in German Studies. Many of his studies focus on human sexuality and its intersection with religion, most especially Christianity. In addition to earning a place on the Dean’s List every semester, he is president of the college’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national History Honor Society. In 2017, he participated in Assumption College’s 23rd annual Undergraduate Symposium, presenting on the eccentric Austrian psychologist, sexologist, and energy theorist Wilhelm Reich. Beyond academics, he enjoys writing as well as role-playing games of both the tabletop and digital variety.

Welcome, Sean Sullivan!