What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“At his SHOP in PITT-STREET.”
Advertisements for consumer goods and services in the August 3, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included addresses of various sorts. James McMasters sold English good at his store “on Spring Hill.” Stephen Hardy stocked a similar inventory at his shop “in PITT STREET.” Breeches makers James Haslett and Mathew Haslett pursued their trade “in King Street,” while Samuel Foster made boots and shoes at his shop “in Queen-street.” Thomas Achincloss sold textiles and hardware at his shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street.”
With the exception of Spring Hill, each of these landmarks invoked political figures in England. King Street and Queen Street made general reference to the monarchy, but also evoked images of George III and Queen Charlotte. Residents of Portsmouth named Pitt Street for William Pitt the Elder, the prime minister from July 30, 1766, through October 14, 1768. Pitt was a popular figure among American colonists as a result of his leadership during the Seven Years War and his opposition to the Stamp Act. Similarly, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the second Marquess of Rockingham and former prime minister, earned acclaim in America due to his support for constitutional rights for the colonies. He immediately preceded Pitt as prime minister, serving from July 13, 1765, through July 30, 1766. During his brief time in office, he oversaw the repeal of the Stamp Act.
These street names and shop signs testify to the expectations that many colonists had of their relationship to Great Britain throughout much of the imperial crisis that eventually culminated in the American Revolution. Many colonists, most even, did not originally conceive of separating from the British Empire and the many advantages it bestowed upon them. Instead, they sought redress of grievances, hoping to exercise traditional English rights on the other side of the Atlantic. Many simultaneously asserted their allegiance to the monarchy and revered members of Parliament who defended American interests. The location of Achincloss’s shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street” encapsulated the sentiments of those coloniosts.