What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Who has for sale, all sorts of garden seeds and flower roots.”
Colonists placed advertisements in newspapers for a variety of reasons. Some marketed consumer goods and services. Many published legal notices. Others made announcements and shared news. In the July 26, 1769, edition of the Georgia Gazette, for instance, John Martin and James Martin advertised rum, wine, and sugar available at their store on Habersham’s Wharf in Savannah. Morgan and Roche also addressed consumers, informing them that they pursued “the TAYLOR BUSINESS in all its branches.” Among the legal notices, the executors of John Luptan’s estate announced that they would conclude settling accounts and “pay out what remains … to the heirs” on January 1. Another from the Commissioners of his Majesty’s Customs warned about the consequences of smuggling and doctored ship manifests that did not make “true reports of their cargoes.” James Wilson declared that his wife, Jane, “eloped” from him and since she placed herself beyond the authority of his household he would not pay “any debts of her contracting.” Among advertisements that also delivered news, the Trustees for the Presbyterian Meeeting House advised those who pledged to make contributions that “one fifth of the subscription money is immediately wanted” and requested payment. Another stated that “SIX NEGROES … three men, two women, and one girl” escaped from Thomas Young and might be headed towards some of the Sea Islands.
Each of those advertisers had a specific purpose in mind when placing their notices in the public prints, but other advertisers used the space they purchased to pursue more than one goal. Robert Hunter, for example, asserted that recently “several trespasses” occurred at Good Hope and Spring Gardens. To prevent further disturbances and theft, Hunter advised the public that intruders could expect to encounter “guns, dogs, or other snares.” Only after delivering this warning did Hunter briefly promote “all sorts of garden seeds and flower roots” that he offered for sale, a secondary purpose for his advertisement. A similar advertisement ran in the Georgia Gazette a year earlier, that one also lamenting trespassers and theft at Spring Gardens and signed by Robert Winter. It also concluded with a brief note that “Said Winter has all sorts of garden seeds to dispose of.” (Perhaps either “Robert Hunter” or “Robert Winter” was a misprint in one of the advertisements.) In both instances, the advertiser seized an opportunity to encourage sales of seeds, drawing attention to that enterprise after first rehearsing an interesting story about trespassers and threats of “guns, dogs, or other snares.” Stories of intruders and theft implicitly testified to the value of the plants at Good Hope and Spring Gardens, making the seeds all the more attractive to prospective buyers. Hunter leveraged unfortunate events in his efforts to encourage sales.