October 3

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

Oct 3 - 10:3:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (October 3, 1769).

“A Likely Negro LAD.”

Nathan Frazier’s advertisement for “a very good assortment of Fall and Winter GOODS” ran once again in the October 3, 1769, edition of the Essex Gazette. The shopkeeper promoted those goods by proclaiming “a single article of which has not been imported since last year.” In other words, his merchandise arrived in the colonies prior to the nonimportation agreement going into effect. He had not violated the agreement; prospective customers who supported the American cause could purchase from him with clear conscience. A new advertisement appeared immediately above it: “To be SOLD, A Likely Negro LAD, about eighteen or nineteen Years of Age, works well at the Cooper’s Trade, and understands working in the Field or Garden.” This produced a striking juxtaposition for readers, moving from an advertisement that contributed to the perpetuation of slavery to one that implicitly asserted the rights of Anglo-American colonists and defended their liberty against encroachments by Parliament. In the era of the imperial crisis that culminated with the American Revolution, colonists unevenly applied demands for liberty.

That these advertisements appeared in a newspaper published in Salem, Massachusetts, underscores that slavery was practiced throughout British mainland North America rather than limited to southern colonies. The proportion of the population comprised of enslaved men, women, and children was certainly smaller in New England than in the Chesapeake and the Lower South, but enslaved people were present, enmeshed in daily life, commerce, and print culture in the region. Fewer colonists in New England enslaved Africans and African Americans, but even those who did not themselves own slaves still participated in networks of commerce and consumption that depended on the labor of men, women, and children held in bondage. Consider another advertisement that ran in the same issue of the Essex Gazette. Richard Derby, Jr., hawked “Choice Jamaica SUGAR, RUM, ALSPICE, GINGER, and COFFEE.” Colonists in New England consumed products cultivated by enslaved laborers in the Caribbean and imported to mainland North America. They were part of transatlantic networks of production and exchange that included the slave trade as an integral component. The economies of their colonies and their personal consumption habits were deeply entangled with slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

The progression of advertisements in the October 3 edition of the Essex Gazette – from “Choice Jamaica SUGAR” to “A Likely Negro LAD” to “Fall and Winter GOODS” imported the previous year – tells a complicated story of the quest for liberty and the perpetuation of enslavement in the era of the American Revolution. Any narrative that focuses exclusively on the patriotism exhibited by Nathan Frazier in his efforts to support the nonimportation acts tells only part of the story so readily visible in the advertisements that appeared immediately before Frazier’s notice.

February 26

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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

Boston Evening-Post (February 20, 1769).

“Two Tierces of SUGAR of the first Quality.”

Sugar was a sought-after consumer good, closely associated with tea in the eighteenth century. Drinking tea with sugar was popular in colonial America, especially since the rituals resembled the lifestyle of Britons on the other side of the Atlantic. Everyone loved tea with sugar, but it is essential to look at where all the sugar came from.

The production of sugarcane, mostly by slaves in the Caribbean, increased throughout the eighteenth century. During this time, there was a shift from tobacco to sugar, according to B.W. Higman. In “The Sugar Revolution,” Higman states, “The six central elements of the sugar revolution are commonly regarded as a swift shift from diversified agriculture to sugar monoculture, from production on small farms to large plantations, from free to slave labour, from sparse to dense settlement, from white to black populations, and from low to high value per caput output.”[1] As part of the “sugar revolution,” the exportation of sugar from the Caribbean to mainland North America allowed colonists to live a life resembling the mother country. Slaves, the hands behind production, played a significant part in the expansion of colonial consumer culture. With high demand for sugar, slaves put in long hours on plantations to meet the needs of mass production. Enslaved labor boosted production to large-scale enterprises. It is safe to say slavery was a driving force in the success of the sugar industry. It is interesting how colonists set high demands for a good, such as sugar, to enhance their identity as British while allowing enslaved workers to be the means behind it. It shows how slavery was part of consumer culture even for colonists kept their hands clean by not owning slaves.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Joseph Russell advertised the “SUGAR of the first Quality” that prompted Chloe to consider the connections between slavery and consumer culture in eighteenth-century America. Russell, however, was neither a shopkeeper nor a merchant. Instead, he was an auctioneer who regularly advertised the various goods coming up for bids at his “Auction Room, in Queen-street.” In addition to the sugar slated to be sold “by PUBLIC VENDUE” (or auction), he also advertised “a variety of English GOODS.” Russell was not alone in his efforts to steer consumers to auctions rather than patronizing the many shops in Boston. Immediately above his advertisement, another notice, this one placed by John Gerrish, informed readers of an upcoming auction of “A fresh Assortment of GOODS” at “the Public Vendue-Office, North End.” Beyond Boston, other auctioneers also published newspaper advertisements to promote their establishments. Four of them – “Abeel & Neil’s VENDUE,” “M‘DAVITT’s Vendue House,” “MOORE & LYNSEN’s AUCTION-ROOM,” and “Nich. W. Stuyvesant, & Co’s. Vendue-House” – inserted notices in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury on the same day that Russell’s advertisement ran in the Boston Evening-Post.

Auctions presented additional opportunities for colonists to participate in the consumer revolution. Rather from visit shops or warehouses where they would have to haggle with shopkeepers and merchants in hopes of gaining the lowest prices, they could instead seek bargains at auctions. Auctioneers advertised in hopes of drawing crowds, hoping that would increase bids, but colonists knew that they could acquire goods below market value if bidding lagged. Gerrish’s advertisement indicated that his next auction consisted of “a great Variety of ARTICLES, both New, and Second hand.” For those who could not afford to purchase certain kinds of clothing, housewares, and other merchandise from merchants and shopkeepers, auctions allowed them to acquire secondhand items at reduced prices. Gerrish announced that the “Goods may be viewed before the Sale,” thus allowing prospective bidders to examine used items for wear, defects, and cleanliness in advance rather than forcing them to make decisions on the spot during the auction.

Russell’s auction of “a variety of English GOODS” likely included many items similar to those listed in Thomas Knight’s advertisement on the same page of the Boston Evening-Post. While Knight proclaimed that he was “determined to sell at the very lowest” prices, savvy consumers knew that they might get even better deals at an auction.

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[1] B.W. Higman, “The Sugar Revolution,” Economic History Review 53, no. 2 (May 200): 213

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.

December 1

GUEST CURATOR: Nicholas Sears

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

dec-1-1211766-boston-evening-post
Boston Evening-Post (December 1, 1766).

“A Parcel of choice JAMAICA SUGARS.”

Since this advertisement from the December 1, 1766, edition of the Boston Evening-Post advertised Jamaican sugar I decided to focus on the plantations the English established in the Caribbean. England was in the race to become the most important economic power in Europe. In order to do that England needed colonies, including Jamaica (taken from the Spanish in 1655), to produce of one of the most popular staple crops.

For this goal plantations needed a large labor force. At first the Spanish utilized natives of the area and African slaves. European diseases became a problem for plantation owners as Indian populations dwindled. Later, English planters also found it difficult to persuade indentured servants to work in the harsh environment so by the end of the seventeenth century they focused on primarily using enslaved Africans because they were able to acquire more of them. The demand for African laborers also rose because they too were dying from diseases and the conditions they worked under. According to the British National Archives, between 1702 and 1808 around “840,000 Africans were shipped to Jamaica and a further 100,000 imported into Virginia and Chesapeake.” Overall, around “four million slaves were brought to the Caribbean, and almost all ended up on the sugar plantations.”

The constant demand for sugar in the colonies as well as England itself drove up the need for African slaves in the Caribbean. Since the cost for slaves was low, planters were able to produce more sugar, which in turn drove down the cost. Boston did not have as many slaves as other parts of the colonies, but readers of the Boston Evening-Post who purchased “choice JAMAICA SUGARS” were part of an economy that depended on slavery.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Joseph Russell was a busy auctioneer. He was also a busy advertiser. Nick has selected one of three advertisements Russell placed in the December 1, 1766, issue of the Boston Evening-Post. The printers grouped the three advertisements together at the top of the third and final column on the third page.

dec-1-1211766-consecutive-adverts-boston-evening-post
Boston Evening-Post (December 1, 1766).

The first announced an auction to be held “TO-MORROW,” December 2. Given how soon that auction was slated to take place, “TO-MORROW” appeared in a larger font than anything else in any of Russell’s advertisements. Only one other advertisement on the same and the facing page included font that large: shopkeeper Richard Salter’s name in his advertisement for imported goods. As a result, Russell’s advertisement likely caught readers’ eyes and demanded their attention. The large font gave his impending auction the sense of urgency required to attract prospective bidders in the final hours before the vendue began. The advertisement named a series of goods nearly identical to those listed in Russell’s advertisement that appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette three days earlier (featured earlier this week). It repeated ancillary material verbatim, including a nota bene announcing that “Goods are daily selling off at private Sale at the above Auction-Room, VERY CHEAP.”

Russell’s second advertisement promoted the auction of “choice JAMAICA SUGARS” to take place “On THURSDAY next 4th of December,” the advertisement that Nick selected to examine today. Russell’s final advertisement previewed an auction scheduled to take place a week after that, “On THURSDAY the 11th Instant.” At that time, Russell planned to sell different sorts of merchandise than what appeared in either of the other two advertisements: “A great Variety of genteel House Furniture” and “Glass and China Ware.”

In these advertisements Russell used time to his advantage in three different ways. In the first, he created a sense of urgency. The auction was imminent. Readers needed to make plans to attend or risk being shut out of the deals. However, those unable to make it to that auction could still shop at their leisure, as the nota bene about goods “daily selling off at private Sale” made clear. In the latter two advertisements, he advised the public of upcoming auctions with sufficient time to generate interest. Potential buyers had plenty of time to envision bidding on “Mahogany Tables, Looking Glasses,” and other furnishings, perhaps imagining the deals they might get at auction. Depending on their personalities, readers would have reacted to each use of time in different ways. Some would have been more susceptible to the excitement of an impending auction. Others would have responded better to planning for a vendue more than a week away or shopping at their convenience in “the Auction Room in Queen-Street.” Russell creatively deployed all three strategies to attract as many potential consumers as possible.

November 21

GUEST CURATOR: Patrick Keane

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

nov-21-11211766-new-hampshire-gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 21, 1766).

“Single and double refin’d Sugar.”

This advertisement, while very small, was also extremely important because it sold arguably one of the biggest products of colonial times. Sugar was one of the most important and bestselling staple crops in the world. Sugar importation was part of a trade network that brought together people from three continents: Europe, Africa, and the Americas (including the Caribbean islands). Slavery played a major part as, over time, millions of slaves on the Caribbean islands worked on sugar plantations.

During colonial times sugar was produced for all sorts of consumers, including people in the North American colonies. According to the William L. Clements Library’s online exhibit about sugar, “Between the middle of the seventeenth century and the middle of the nineteenth century, sugar was transformed from a luxury to a widely consumed commodity in Great Britain and the United States.” With this production also came high mortality rates for slaves who worked on the plantations. In addition, a lot more slaves produced sugar than other staple crops.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

In addition to sugar, the advertisement Patrick chose for today also marketed “Molasses, very reasonable.” It comes as no surprise that the proprietor of “the SUGAR HOUSE” in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, also sold molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process. Like sugar, molasses was produced on sugar plantations in the Caribbean and then exported as part of the trading networks that crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean. Massive quantities of molasses were transported to New England, including Portsmouth, during the eighteenth century.

Why did colonists purchase so much molasses? They used it to produce rum by fermenting the molasses with yeast and water and then distilling the mixture in copper pot stills. During the eighteenth century New England became a major center for the production of rum. In the process, the New England colonies became enmeshed in what is often called the triangular trade. Merchants shipped sugar and molasses produced on plantations in the Caribbean to New England. Distillers purchased molasses and converted it into rum, which merchants then carried to Africa to trade for captive Africans. Those Africans were then transported to the Caribbean, where they labored as slaves on sugar plantations, as Patrick explains above.

Compared to the slave societies of the Chesapeake, Lower South, and Caribbean, colonists in New England owned relatively few slaves in the eighteenth century. That did not mean, however, that their economy and ability to participate in the expanding consumer culture of the era did not depend in large part on slavery. They relied on the transatlantic slave trade and the labor of enslaved Africans as integral parts of their networks of exchange. In other words, colonists in New England were complicit in perpetuating slavery even if they did not own slaves themselves. That was a consequence of their economic decisions.

On a final note, compare the roles of sugar and molasses in today’s advertisement. The sugar was intended for sale to consumers who were end users. The molasses, on the other hand, was not necessarily intended for the consumption of local customers. Instead, it was part of the production process for creating another commodity, rum, that upon its sale allowed colonists to participate more fully in consumer culture. Rum revenues made it possible to purchase imported English goods listed in so many other advertisements in colonial newspapers.

April 18

GUEST CURATOR:  Trevor Delp

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

Apr 18 - 4:18:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 18, 1766).

“A few Barrels of good BROWN SUGAR.”

Richard Champney advertised “A few Barrels of South-Carolina PITCH, and a few Barrels of good BROWN SUGAR.” Soon after Columbus encountered the New World, Europeans realized the potential for sugar cane production. In the following years many European countries worked to colonize and establish sugar plantations throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.

This advertisement spurred me to look into who Richard Champney was. I found a letter written to George Washington from a Richard Champney. The letter does not confirm that it is the same Richard Champney as posted the advertisement, but it was addressed from Portsmouth and addressed sugar colonies in South America. Within the letter Champney expresses that the “Petitioners have for a number of years past been very considerably concerned and interested in the Trade to the Colony of Essequebo and Demarara on the Coast of Guiana in the West Indies formerly under the Government of the States of Holland.” This is interesting because the colony referenced in the letter was notorious for being a major producer of sugar cane throughout the eightheenth century. Champney’s advertisement combined with his letter to George Washington lead me to wonder if he was working to become a more prominent distributor of sugar in New Hampshire and beyond.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Rather than situating today’s advertisement in the 1760s, Trevor takes a longer view of commerce in the early modern Atlantic world. In so doing, he addresses a misconception about motivations for exploration and colonization that I often discover during the first weeks of my courses on colonial America and the Atlantic world: namely, that America was settled (exclusively) for religious freedom. While religion was a primary motivation for many colonists, popular narratives all too often overlook the role that trade and commerce played in exploration and colonization.

Many scholars argue that Europeans first ventured into the Atlantic in search of sugar. They had previously obtained sugar via long distance trade with Asia, a trade with a hub in the Middle East. This made sugar expensive, so enterprising Europeans wanted to eliminate the middlemen. They wanted direct access to supplies of sugar themselves, and finding a water route to Asia seemed like one of the best means of gaining that access. Europeans did not, however, immediately venture across the Atlantic in search of sugar. Instead, they explored the African coast (setting up trading posts to obtain other goods) and sailed to island chains in the eastern Atlantic (including the Cape Verde Islands, the Canary Islands, and Madeira), where they established plantations to cultivate sugar (which, in turn, initiated the involuntary migration of unfree laborers). By the time Columbus voyaged to the New World, Europeans had gained a lot of experience looking for commercial opportunities and establishing colonies and plantations with the intention of increasing their access to sugar. Setting up such more plantations in the Americas and the Caribbean was an extension of activities already underway for decades.

Richard Champney advertised sugar to colonists who settled New Hampshire, in part, because of the importance of sugar as a commodity over the previous three centuries. An everyday staple in the modern world, it was a commodity that inspired exploration and settlement in the early modern period.

March 7

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

Mar 7 - 3:7:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (March 7, 1766).

“BARBADOS whitest LOAF SUGAR.”  “A NEGRO BOY.”

Today I have chosen two advertisements whose proximity on the page resonated with me. When I scanned this issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette to make my selection, particular portions of each advertisement seemed to jump off the page:

  • “BARBADOS whitest LOAF SUGAR”
  • “A NEGRO BOY”

Two separate advertisements, but each inextricably bound with the other.

Considered on its own, the first advertisement seems to hide the connection between a finished product available for purchase in an increasingly vibrant eighteenth-century marketplace and the labor of enslaved Africans on plantations in faraway Barbados – at least to twenty-first-century readers unfamiliar with the networks of production, exchange, and consumption in the early modern Atlantic world. Consumers in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1766, on the other hand, would have certainly been aware of the origins of the sugar they consumed, even if advertisements and conversations politely avoided the topic.

Yet that connection could hardly be ignored here, not when an advertisement for “BARBADOS whitest LOAF SUGAR” was followed immediately by an advertisement for “A NEGRO BOY.” Slavery was not only a labor system practiced far away in other parts of the British Empire. It was not only an invisible (but not really invisible) foundation of commercial networks and consumer culture in the eighteenth century. Slavery was part of colonial culture even in the northernmost colonies in British mainland North America, even in those colonies with relatively few slaves compared to their counterparts in the Chesapeake and the Lower South.

Even for consumers who might have wished to ignore the connections between sugar and slavery, the juxtaposition of these two advertisements would have made that very difficult, if not impossible.

February 2

GUEST CURATOR:  Maia Campbell

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

Feb 2 - 1:31:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 31, 1766)

“A few Hogsheads of good MOLASSES and Jamaican SUGAR.  Also a few ANCHORS.”

What interested me about this advertisement was the trade connection with Jamaica. Jamaica was, at the time, a colony of the empire of Great Britain, and yet it does not seem that the North American colonies want to break trade with Jamaica, and understandably so. Goods from Jamaica were valued because of the inability to grow them in most of the colonies. Sugar was an especially popular import. People used sugar for cooking, baking, and for sweetening their tea. Sugar was an integral part of the colonists’ way of life.

I was also intrigued that the advertiser sold anchors along with the two sweet goods. It seemed out of place in the advertisement. Yet there was a place for anchors in colonial society. Merchants and fisherman, depending on the state of their anchors, would need to replace them. Furthermore, those new to seafaring would need to purchase anchors for their vessels.

Again, it is interesting that this colonial vendor chose to sell in two different categories, and yet they were profitable categories.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Maia has selected an advertisement that testifies to the networks of exchange and commerce that crisscrossed the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. In noting that Jamaica was a British colony at the time (captured by the English from Spain more than a century earlier in 1655 and formally ceded to the British in 1670), she demonstrates an understanding of an extensive and integrated British empire that takes some students by surprise when they first enroll in early American history courses. The history of the colonial era and the founding of the nation cannot be told by exclusively focusing on the thirteen colonies on mainland North America and their interactions with England. Instead, as this advertisement indicates, colonial Americans consumed goods produced in other British colonies. But these were more than just commercial interactions; in the process of trading with each other they also shared news, ideas, and culture.

Historians continue to debate what/where/who constituted early America. Today’s advertisement argues for a Vast Early America and encourages a broad conception – and that’s before even taking into account who labored to produce “Jamaican SUGAR” for colonists’ consumption. The history of slavery and its connections to consumption lie just under the surface of this commercial notice.

January 4

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

Jan 4 - 1:3:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 3, 1766)

“Loaf Sugar to be sold for CASH … by the Loaf.”

Advertisements and other eighteenth-century sources demonstrate that some staple foods that seem very familiar to us today were packaged much differently in the colonial era.  Granulated sugar and cubes were introduced in the late nineteenth century, but prior to that the sugar loaf was the traditional form in which refined sugar was produced and sold.

Sugar LoavesEnjoying this product required investing in other household goods, especially sugar nippers.  Advertisements for sugar often conceal other purchases consumers needed to make, specialized equipment they needed to buy and possess in order to make use of some everyday grocery items.  Some consumers may have purchased utilitarian sugar nippers to meet their basic needs, but others likely moved beyond mere practicality to collect and display accoutrements that adhered to the latest fashions or matched companion pieces in a tea set.

Still Life with Fruit and Sugar Loaf, ca. 1720.jpg
Still Life with Fruit and Sugar Loaf (Unknown Artist, ca. 1720)

As part of my ongoing research, I am interested in all kinds of media used to market goods in the eighteenth century, including labels.  Sugar loafs were wrapped in paper.  If you happen to know of any loaf papers with printed labels, please let me know.

Follow these instructions if you would like to make your own sugar loaf.