March 13

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 13, 1772).

Choice Bohea TEA.”

When Stephen Hardy, a tailor, placed an advertisement in the March 13, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, his name served as the headline.  Such was the case in many advertisements for consumer goods and services in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  The names of the purveyors appeared first or appeared in larger font than the goods and services offered for sale or both.  As a result, colonizers skimming advertisements encountered a litany of names of merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans rather than products.

On occasion, however, headlines for advertisements did identify products.  In that same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, one advertisement promoted “Choice Bohea TEA TO BE SOLD BY DANIEL PEIRCE, junr.”  The body of the advertisement listed other items for sale as well, but the headline, “Choice Bohea TEA,” appeared in the same size font as “Stephen Hardy” elsewhere on the page, making those two headlines the most noticeable content on the page.  Although Peirce’s name ran in all capital letters, the font size did not distinguish it from the rest of the content of his advertisement.  Indeed, the decision to also print “ENGLISH, & WEST INDIA GOODS,” “GROCERIES, NAILS, GLASS,” “PEPPER,” “GINGER,” and “SHOES” in all capital letters of the same size as “DANIEL PEIRCE” made it harder to spot the name of the advertiser.  “Choice Bohea TEA” was the focal point of Peirce’s advertisement, just as “Stephen Hardy” was the focal point of the tailor’s advertisement.

Other advertisements deployed a similar strategy.  Gilliam Butler’s advertisement for “ENGLISH and WEST INDIA GOODS” also used “Choice Bohea TEA” in a larger font as its headline.  Peter Pearse’s advertisement promoted “Shushong, Hyson, Congo, and Bohea TEA,” with “Sushong, Hyson” in a larger font, occupying the first line, and operating as an abbreviated headline.  Neal McIntire’s advertisement had a similar structure: “Tar, Pitch” led a list of commodities for sale, appeared in a larger font on the first line, and displaced the seller’s name as a headline.  In an advertisement for textiles, “Russia Duck” instead of “THOMAS MARTIN” served as the headline.

Why did so many advertisements in that issue deviate from using the name of the advertiser as the headline?  Did purveyors of goods and services who placed notices in the New-Hampshire Gazette adopt different standards for writing copy than advertisers in other towns?  That may have been the case, especially if they consulted advertisements that previously ran in the New-Hampshire Gazette when writing their own notices.  The printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, may have also played a role.  On occasion, printers noted that they aided in composing advertisements.  Perhaps Peirce, Butler, Pearse, McIntire, and Martin received advice from the Fowles, encouragement to place their products first and their names later in their advertisements.  Whatever the explanation, the advertising pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette often had a distinctive look in the early 1770s because the headlines name products instead of purveyors.

February 15

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

Providence Gazette (February 15, 1772).

“Choice Bohea Tea, which for Smell and Flavour exceeds almost any ever imported.”

Joseph Russell and William Russell were among the most prominent merchants in Providence in the era of the American Revolution.  The brothers were so successful that in 1772 they built what is now the “earliest extant and most impressive of the cubical, three-story houses that symbolized wealth and social standing in Providence for several generation beginning at the eve of the Revolution,” according to the Providence Preservation Society’s Guide to Providence Architecture.  The building stands at 118 North Main Street (formerly King Street), though its original interiors were removed and installed in several museums a century ago.  In addition, the building “was raised to insert a storefront” in the middle of the nineteenth century, resulting in the original entrance, “taken from the English architectural pattern book Builder’s Compleat Assistant (1750) by Battey Langley,” appearing to adorn the second floor rather than opening onto the street.

The Russells frequently advertised in the Providence Gazette in the 1760s and 1770s.  Perhaps their marketing efforts contributed, at least in part, to their mercantile success.  As they embarked on building their new house in 1772, the brothers advertised a variety of commodities on February 15.  They focused primarily on grocery items in that notice, though in others they promoted a vast array of textile, housewares, hardware, and other goods imported from England.  Among the groceries they offered to consumers, the Russells listed “Nutmegs, Cinnamon, Mace, and Cloves” as well as “Pepper by the Bag” and “Chocolate by the Box.”  They concluded their advertisement with “Choice Bohea Tea.”  Most advertisers did not offer much commentary about that popular commodity, but in this instance the Russells elaborated on what made their tea “Choice” for consumers.  They proclaimed that the “Smell and Flavour exceeds almost any ever imported.”  In conjuring such associations with their tea at the conclusion of their advertisement, the Russells may have incited greater interest in all of the groceries they sold.  Sales of “Choice Bohea Tea” and so many other goods helped finance the house they built in 1772.  The Russells almost certainly enjoyed “Choice Bohea Tea” in the parlor of their new home, partaking in popular social rituals with family and guests.

December 11

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

Boston Evening-Post (December 9, 1771).

“[I]f the Teas should not please those that have not yet made trial, they will be received back and the Money returned.”

Archibald Cunningham took to the pages of the Boston Evening-Post to advertise a variety of groceries and housewares in December 1771.  His inventory included sugar, rice, nutmegs, and an assortment of spices as well as “Blue and white China Cups and Saucers” and “Delph & Glass Ware” in several colors.  Cunningham listed each of these items, some with short descriptions, but devoted an entire paragraph to promoting tea.

He informed prospective customers that he carried “Bohea Tea very good” and “excellent Souchong and Hyson Tea.”  According to Cunningham, his tea “has been approved of by good Judges to be of a superior Quality in Flavor and Color to that commonly imported.”  He did not name those “good Judges,” but he also did not expect consumers to accept such testimonials without question.  Instead, Cunningham promised satisfaction by offering a money back guarantee.  [I]f the Teas should not please those that have not yet made trial,” the shopkeeper declared, “they will be received back and the Money returned.”  That likely attracted the attention of some readers as they encountered advertisements placed by several shopkeepers who included tea among their merchandise.

On occasion, purveyors of goods and services experimented with money back guarantees in the eighteenth century, but not so often that such offers regularly appeared in advertisements.  Cunningham provided his customers with an additional benefit that distinguished how he marketed tea from others who advertised the same varieties.  Lewis Deblois and George Deblois listed “Bohea Tea per Chest or Dozen” in their advertisement, giving customer options when it came to quantity.  John Adams and Company commented on the quality of their “Best Hyson and Bohea Tea,” but did not encourage customers to take it home, try it, and then return it for a refund if it did not meet with satisfaction.

In offering a money back guarantee, Cunningham further testified to the quality of his tea.  He would not have made such an offer unless he was confident consumers would rarely invoke the option of returning what they purchased.  The guarantee provided security at the same time that it reassured prospective customers about the quality “in Flavor and Color” of Cunningham’s “Bohea Tea very good” and “excellent Souchong and Hyson Tea.”

May 30

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

South-Carolina Gazette (May 30, 1771).

“A Complete Assortment of GOODS (TEA excepted).”

John Edwards and Company moved quickly to place an advertisement for new merchandise in the South-Carolina Gazette.  According to the shipping news in the May 30, 1771, edition, the Heart-of-Oak arrived in port on May 27.  That gave Edwards and Company sufficient time to submit a brief advertisement to the printing office.  Their notice specified that they had “just imported” a variety of items “in the ship HEART-OF-OAK, Captain HENRY GUNN, from LONDON.”  The partners did not provide a list of their “Complete Assortment of GOODS” as a means of demonstrating the many choices available to consumers.  Perhaps they did not have enough time to unpack the merchandise before the weekly edition of the South-Carolina Gazette went to press so instead opted to entice prospective customers with promises of new inventory that just arrived in port.  Webb and Doughty took a similar approach in their advertisement on the same page as both the shipping news and Edwards and Company’s notice.

Rather than elaborating on their “Complete Assortment of GOODS,” Edwards and Company instead specified a particular item not part of their new inventory.  “TEA excepted,” they proclaimed.  They did not need to provide more detail for colonial consumers to understand their point.  Parliament had repealed most of the duties on imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts, but the tax on tea remained.  Colonists protested the duties through a variety of means, including nonimportation agreements, but most relented and resumed trade with Britain when they achieved most of their goals.  Some continued to advocate for keeping the boycotts in place until Parliament repealed all of the offensive duties, but most merchants, shopkeepers, and consumers did not share that view.  Edwards and Company sought to have it both ways, importing and selling a variety of merchandise but underscoring that they did not carry the one item still taxed by Parliament.  This allowed them to compete with other merchants and shopkeepers to satisfy most of the needs and desires of prospective customers while still signaling that they refused to go back to business as usual without acknowledging the political significance of tea and the duty that remained in place.  Edwards and Company offered an alternative to consumers who wanted to support the American cause, at least to some extent, but also wanted to participate in the marketplace once so many options were available once again.  This strategy likely enhanced Edwards and Company’s reputation among supporters of the American cause (with the exception of the most adamant) while easing the consciences of their customers, even if it did not achieve complete ideological consistency.

It may not have mattered much to Edwards and Company that they did not publish a lengthy litany of goods that just arrived via the Heart-of-Oak in their advertisement.  Singling out tea as an item they intentionally excluded from their inventory, in an advertisement brief enough to make such a notation very visible, likely garnered far more attention and interest in their business.

November 17

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

Nov 17 - 11:17:1769 Massachusetts Gazette Extraordinary
Massachusetts Gazette Extraordinary (November 17, 1769).

“TEA, that was imported before the Agreement of Non-importation.”

On November 17, 1769, Herman Brimmer inserted an advertisement for “Two or three Chests of BOHEA TEA, that was imported before the Agreement of Non-importation took place” in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter. Without enough space to include the advertisement in the standard four-page issue for that week, Richard Draper, the printer, placed Brimmer’s advertisement on the first page of a two-page extraordinary edition that accompanied the regular issue.

Brimmer made a point to advise prospective customers and the entire community that he sold tea that did not violate the resolutions adopted by “the Merchants and Traders in the Town of Boston” more than a year earlier on August 1, 1768.   It was just as well that he did so for his advertisement appeared immediately to the right of news about the nonimportation pact. Boston’s merchants and traders had recently updated their agreement on October 17, asserting that they “will not import any Kind of Goods or Merchandize from Great-Britain … until the Acts imposing Duties in America for raising a Revenue be totally repealed.” The third of the new resolutions explicitly mentioned tea: “we will not import … or purchase of any who may import from any other Colony in America, any Tea, Paper, Glass, or any other Goods commonly imported from Great Britain, until the Revenue Acts are totally repealed.” To give more teeth to these resolutions, those attending “a Meeting of the Merchants” just ten days earlier “VOTED, That the Names of all Such Persons as may hereafter import any Goods from Great-Britain contrary to the Agreement … be inserted in the News-Papers, and that they be held up to the Public as Persons counteracting the salutary Measures the Merchants are pursuing for the obtaining the Redress of their Grievances.” The merchants who devised the nonimportation agreement meant business!

Brimmer’s advertisement for “BOHEA TEA” did not merely promote a popular product. It was part of a larger public discourse about the meanings of goods, in this case not just the cultural meanings associated with drinking tea but also the political meanings of purchasing tea during a time of crisis. Other advertisers in the late 1760s underscored that they did not violate the nonimportation agreements, but their advertisements in colonial newspapers rarely appeared immediately next to copies of those agreements. That made neither advertisers nor readers any less cognizant of the fact that news items and advertisements operated in conversation with each other. Elsewhere in the same issue, William Greenleaf assured readers that he imported his merchandise “before the Non-importation Agreement took Place” and Henry Bass called on colonists to purchase grindstone manufactured in the colonies. They participated in the same conversation about using commerce as a means of resistance to the Townshend Acts and, in doing so, preserving “Liberties and Privileges” for themselves and posterity. That the nonimportation resolutions and Brimmer’s advertisement ran next to each other provides stark visual evidence of that conversation that took place in advertisements throughout the newspaper.

March 14

GUEST CURATOR: Luke DiCicco

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

Essex Gazette (March 14, 1769).

“CHOICE green Coffee … also blue and white China Cups and Saucers.”

This advertisement features a series of goods sold by William Vans. His merchandise included green coffee, ground ginger, rum, indigo, and china cups and saucers, all imported from faraway places around the globe. I focused on two of these goods that were extremely popular among the colonists and played an important role in colonial life.

Coffee and tea were both introduced in Europe in the early seventeenth century and became increasingly popular in the colonies in the eighteenth century. When coffee and tea became common drinks, colonists desired something other than normal cups to drink them. According to Beth Carver Wees at the Metropolitan Museum, the colonists decided to buy ceramic and silver vessels. Vans sold imported “blue and white China Cups and Saucers” along with his coffee and tea. In addition, this created business for silversmiths and was viewed as a sign as someone’s wealth if they owned a lot of accessories for drinking coffee and tea. Some of these included covered sugar bowls, cream pots, teakettles, and hot-water urns. People often bought them for the intricate design or for the shiny complexion. The establishment of coffee shops helped colonists pass along information and news, making it a lot easier to gather support when the colonies rebelled against Britain.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

William Vans was not the only purveyor of “blue and white China Cups and Saucers” to advertise in the March 14, 1769, edition of the Essex Gazette. Among the vast inventory of goods in stock at his shop, Francis Grant listed “an Assortment of China, Glass, Stone and Delph Ware.” Susanna Renken concluded her advertisement for a “fresh Assortment of Garden Seeds” that named dozens of varieties with a brief note about “a Box of China Ware to sell” at her shop in Boston. Of the nine paid notices that appeared in that issue, one concerned real estate, one outlined legal proceedings to settle an estate, and the remaining seven promoted goods to consumers or commodities to traders. A substantial proportion of advertisers named china among their wares. Colonial retailers both served a market that demanded “China Ware” and sought to incite greater demand for such products.

As Luke suggests in his analysis of Vans’s advertisement, this was possible because both retailers and consumers recognized how certain goods complemented others. Rather than specializing solely in spices and beverages, Vans also sold china cups and saucers for drinking his “CHOICE green Coffee” and “Most excellent Bohea Tea.” Grant hawked “Loaf and Brown Sugar” along with his “Assortment of China.” Consumers did not purchase just tea or just china or just sugar. Instead, they acquired these items simultaneously. Many likely also purchased other accessories to incorporate into their coffee and tea drinking rituals from among the “all Sorts of European Goods” peddled by Vans and the “general Assortment of English and West-India GOODS” advertised by Grant. In other advertisements, Renken offered all sorts of textiles, some of which could have been used to make cloths to adorn the tables where customers drank tea or coffee sweetened with sugar and served in china. The consumer revolution of the eighteenth century occurred not only because of a proliferation in the availability of goods but also because the acquisition of one item often required obtaining other items in order to enhance the experience of consuming any of them. Advertisements in early American newspapers provide a map of the consumption habits of many colonial readers.

April 18

GUEST CURATOR:  Anna MacLean

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

Apr 18 - 4:18:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (April 18, 1768).

“TO BE SOLD … BEST HYSON TEA.”

An advertisement in the April 18, 1768, issue of the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy announced “BEST HYSON TEA” in addition to “Mustard, Raisins, Currants, Figs, Chocolate, with other Kinds of Grocery.” I felt compelled to select this advertisement because it sounds absurd to conceptualize a time when America didn’t “run on Dunkin’” coffee (a testament to marketing in modern America). However, by similar means, tea drinkers in colonial America looked forward to the caffeine buzz found in their kettles and teacups.

Hyson tea, characterized by Oliver Pluff & Co. as having a long twisted appearance, was a favorite among American colonists. According to the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, during the first half of the eighteenth-century tea was a costly luxury that only a small percentage of the colonies’ population could afford. By the middle of the century, tea was in high demand throughout the colonies and costs decreased making it an everyday beverage for the vast majority. Over time, the American colonies had evolved into a province of tea drinkers.

Yet drinking tea was far more than a hobby in colonial America but rather an “instrument of sociability,” according to the review of Rodris Roth’s “Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America” on Colonial Quills. An invitation to drink tea was an invitation to a social event, perhaps a small, informal gathering or maybe an elegant dinner party.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

In addition to the “other Kinds of Grocery” that he sold at his shop on Beaver Street in New York, Isaac Noble also advertised “all Kinds of French Liquors” and listed eight varieties.  Since Anna chose to examine one of Noble’s wares that remains popular today (even if it has not retained the cultural currency it enjoyed in eighteenth-century America), I decided to take a closer look at some of these other beverages that colonial Americans drank but that might be less familiar to consumers today.

The Oxford English Dictionarydescribes “Parfaite Amour” as “a sweet liqueur of Dutch origin, flavoured with lemon, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander, and coloured red or purple.”  In addition to the taste, colonists may have been entertained by the color!  Several other items on Noble’s list appear to have been liqueurs as well, including “Anise,” “Essence of Tea,” “Essence of Coffee,” and “Oil of Hazle Nuts.”  While it may be fairly easy to imagine the flavor and composition of each of those “French Liquors,” the “Oil of Venus” presents more of a challenge.  One Household Encyclopedia published in the middle of the nineteenth century includes recipes for both Oil of Jupiter and Oil of Venus.  It describes Oil of Venus as brandy infused with caraway, anise, mace, and orange rinds and mixed with sugar.  Published nearly a century after Noble’s advertisement appeared in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy, that recipe may not have been the same as the “Oil of Venus” colonists drank, but the mixture of spices does appear consistent with methods for distilling the “Parfaite Amour” listed immediately before it.  The nature of the “Free Mason’s Cordial” remains more elusive, but it turns out that the “Usquebaugh” was not as exotic as the name might suggest. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates “usquebaugh” is an Irish and Scottis Gaelic word for whisky.  Like tea, usquebaugh/whisky remains a popular beverage today, even if the average person does not consume either in the same quantities as colonists did in the eighteenth century.

The various “Kinds of French Liquors” advertised by Noble may not seem readily identifiable to twenty-first-century consumers, at least not by the names used to describe them in the eighteenth century, but several continue to be sold and consumed today. As a result of advances in marketing practices, some are now better known by specific brand names rather than the general descriptions deployed in the colonial era.

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.

February 24

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

Feb 24 - 2:24:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

“GENUINE MUSTARD of different qualities.”

Although brief, Jacob Polock’s advertisement on the front page of the February 24, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette incorporated several appeals intended to incite demand among prospective customers. Polock promoted only three items – tea, mustard, and kettles – but he associated a specific marketing strategy with each, rather than merely announcing that he offered those goods for sale.

First, Polock highlighted his “EXCELLENT GREEN TEA, at 15s. per lb.” Here Polock succinctly made two appeals, first emphasizing the quality of the tea and then providing a price. Most merchants and shopkeepers did not indicate prices for their merchandise in their newspaper advertisements; Polock, on the other hand, let readers know what they could expect to pay in advance of visiting his shop. Tea was such a popular commodity that most prospective customers likely already had a sense of what constituted a good deal, allowing them to assess whether Polock offered a bargain.

By publishing a price, Polock set the maximum amount he would charge for a pound of tea, but that did not preclude him from giving discounts at the time of sale, especially for customers who bought in volume or purchased other items. Any time Polock lowered the price when interacting directly with customers he cultivated a good impression for having extended a better deal than the prices published in the newspaper.

Polock also sold “GENUINE MUSTARD of different qualities.” Here he offered consumers the ability to make choices. In choosing among the “different qualities” of mustard customers could make selections based on both cost and personal preferences, not unlike modern shoppers picking the type of mustard they most enjoy from a condiments shelf stocked with all kinds of variations.

Finally, Polock carried “IRON TEA KETTLES of Rhode Island manufacture.” In response to deteriorating relations with Britain that resulted from a trade deficit and the imposition of new taxes via the Townshend Act, many colonists resolved to purchase fewer imported goods while simultaneously encouraging domestic manufactures. Merchants and shopkeepers frequently advertised teapots and other accessories imported from England, but Polock instead participated in a rudimentary “Buy American” campaign when he noted that his tea kettles had been produced in the colonies. He challenged consumers to consider the political ramifications associated with the goods they chose to purchase.

Polock’s advertisement might appear rather simple at a glance, but careful consideration reveals that he inserted several appeals intended to resonate with readers and encourage colonists to consume his merchandise.

August 21

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

Aug 21 - 8:21:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 21, 1767).

“Choice London BOHEA TEA, to be sold by Henry Appleton, at £4 10s. Old Tenor by the Dozen.”

Henry Appleton advertised “Choice London BOHEA TEA” in the August 21, 1767, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. His was one of nearly two dozen paid notices that appeared in that issue, its format distinguishing it from the others. Appleton’s advertisement ran in a single line across the bottom of the third page, extending nearly the width of three columns. At a glance, it could have been mistaken for the colophon printed on the other side of the page.

Why did Appleton’s advertisement have such a unique layout? A few other advertisements were nearly as brief, yet they had been set as squares of text within the usual three-column format of the New-Hampshire Gazette. The brevity of Appleton’s notice alone did not justify its unusual layout.

Who made the decision to treat Appleton’s advertisement differently? Perhaps Appleton, wishing to draw special attention to it, made arrangements with Daniel and Robert Fowle, the printers, to deploy an innovative format. Perhaps the Fowles or someone working in their printing office opted to experiment with the appearance of advertising on the page.

Perhaps neither the advertiser nor the printers put that much consideration into Appleton’s notice. If it had been submitted late or somehow overlooked, running it in a single line across the bottom of the page may have been the result of practicality rather than an intentional effort to challenge the conventions of eighteenth-century advertising.

As far as potential customers were concerned, however, the origins likely would have been less important than the effects. Readers scanning the contents of the issue would have encountered Appleton’s advertisement three times instead of passing over it only once. Its unique format demanded at least one close reading to determine what kind of information it contained, whereas advertisements that conformed to the standard layout did not elicit the same curiosity merely from their appearance.

Even in a short advertisement, Henry Appleton incorporated appeals to price and quality, but the format of his advertisement – whether intentionally designed or not – made it much more likely that consumers would spot those appeals and consider purchasing his merchandise.