December 20

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

Dec 20 - 12:20:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 20, 1769).

“Will be sold … at their store in Sunbury.”

In December 1769, the partnership of Kelsall and Spalding placed an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette to inform prospective customers that they stocked “A Large and Compleat ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST INDIA GOODS” recently imported via the Georgia Packet and other vessels. Kelsall and Spalding were not the only merchants and shopkeepers who ran such notices. Samuel Douglass advertised “AN ASSORTMENT OF GOODS.” Reid, Storr, and Reid similarly promoted “A NEAT ASSORTMENT OF GOODS.” Yet Kelsall and Spalding inserted the most extensive advertisement, one designed to showcase the extent of their inventory and demonstrate to consumers the many choices that awaited them “at their store in Sunbury.”

Sunbury! Unlike Douglass and Reid, Storr, and Reid, Kelsall and Spalding did not operate a shop in Savannah. Founded on the Medway River south of Savannah in 1758, Sunbury was an emerging center of commerce in the 1760s and 1770s. That seaport might have eventually rivaled Savannah, but it never recovered from the disruptions of the American Revolution. Today it is remembered as a “lost town” of the colonial era. In the late 1760s, however, it was a bustling community.

That was the narrative that Kelsall and Spalding aimed to bolster in their advertisement. Prospective customers did not need to visit or send to the shops in Savannah to acquire the myriad of consumer goods they desired. Instead, anything they obtain the same merchandise at Kelsall and Spalding’s store in Sunbury. Printed calico fabric? Kelsall and Spalding sold it! Barlow’s best single and doubled bladed penknives? Kelsall and Spalding had them! Tin pudding pans and round sugar boxes? No need to look any further than Kelsall and Spalding’s store in Sunbury! From textiles to housewares to hardware, Kelsall and Spalding did indeed carry “A Large and Compleat ASSORTMENT.”

Kelsall and Spalding’s advertisement was notable for its length, extending more than two-thirds of column in the December 20, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette. The partners may have considered such a complete accounting of their wares imperative in convincing consumers that they offered the same array of merchandise as their counterparts and competitors in Savannah. Readers could hardly peruse Kelsall and Spalding’s advertisement without recognizing the variety of goods on offer.

November 5


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

Georgia Gazette (November 5, 1766).

“A SMALL ISLAND or NECK of LAND in the RIVER MIDWAY … known by the name of Baillie’s Island.”

This notice in the Georgia Gazette advertises an island being sold by “the estate of Col. Kenneth Baillie, deceased.” This island, “containing 600 acres,” already had “a good dwelling-house and other convenient out-houses” and good land for growing crops. Land sales of this sort would have been interesting to men like Jonathan Bryan.

Bryan bought a lot of land in both Georgia and South Carolina during the eighteenth century. Alan Gallay notes that Bryan’s “possessions [lands he purchased or that were granted to him] placed him at the very top of the small group of men who ruled Georgia during the quarter century before the American Revolution.”[1] Bryan was able to capitalize on both undeveloped and developed lands, which would have made the island in this advertisement very appealing. To make the most of the land he had, Bryan created plantations and bought African slaves to perform the labor. By 1763, he owned 125 slaves in Georgia.[2] Owning land was an important step for colonists like Jonathan Bryan to become prosperous and powerful.



Colonel Kenneth Baillie’s executrix and executors painted quite a picture of the bounty available on Baillie’s Island. Whoever purchased this land would possess a variety of resources and could produce a variety of commodities to send to market, including corn, indigo, rice, barrel staves, lumber, and all sorts of livestock. All of these goods, the advertisement promised, could be easily transported because there were “four good landing places to said island, one of which the largest vessel that comes to Sunbury may lie and load it.” Furthermore, Baillie’s Island was close to Sunbury, “it not being more than five miles by water to that town, and seven by land.” The island’s proximity to Sunbury and the trade that took place there was a selling point.

Sunbury, founded in 1758, likely sounds unfamiliar to modern readers, but for a few decades in the middle of the eighteenth century it rivaled Savannah as a port city. Readers of the Georgia Gazette would have known that it was a seaport on the Medway River, south of Savannah. Today, however, Sunbury has disappeared. Some call it “one of Georgia’s most famous ‘dead’ or lost towns.” William Bartram, the prominent naturalist from Pennsylvania, visited Sunbury while en route to Florida shortly before the American Revolution. “There are about one hundred houses in the town neatly built of wood frame having pleasant Piasas around them,” Bartram wrote. “The inhabitants are genteel and wealthy, either Merchants or Planters from the Country who resort here in the Summer and Autumn, to partake of the Salubrious Sea Breeze, Bathing & sporting on the Sea Islands.”

Sunbury was a vibrant town and emerging center of commerce in the 1760s and 1770s, but it never recovered after the disruptions of the American Revolution.


[1] Alan Gallay, “Jonathan Bryan’s Plantation Empire: Land, Politics, and the Formation of a Ruling Class in Colonial Georgia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser. 45, no. 2 (April 1988): 253.

[2] Gallay, “Jonathan Bryan’s Plantation Empire,” 275.