Interview with Guest Curator Trevor Delp

Trevor Delp has completed his second and final week as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project.  As we say farewell to him, let’s take a few moments to find out more about her  behind-the-scenes contributions to this project.

Adverts 250: This was your second week as guest curator.  How did it compare to the first time?  Did you make any changes to your research or writing process based on what you learned the first time?

Trevor Delp: In my second week as guest curator I adjusted both my writing style and my research process. To start, I focused on giving my advertisements more of a traditional research build up and then a connection or theme of historical significance. This is something that I found took a significant amount of time, but it gave my analysis more depth and made them more interesting to read. I found that giving my analysis a deeper historical background also gave me more to talk about. The deeper my research went, the more I was able to draw connections to both colonial and modern time, giving my writing more ideas to develop. This also pushed me to grow as a writer and develop my research techniques, using databases, efficiently reading long texts, and developing reliable sources. It also forced me to work on my source development and introducing sources into my writing in new and different ways.

Adverts 250: What is the most important or most interesting thing that you learned about early American history throughout the process of working on this project?

Trevor Delp: The most important thing that I learned working on this project is how diverse and how long history is. While going through years, decades, and even centuries of history I was forced to realize how fast things developed, even in colonial times. I find it is very easy for me to fall into the mindset of generalizing years into almost days or weeks and decades into years. Working in just 1766 forced me to break down just that year that I was researching and find how things developed to be how they are. This is something that I really enjoyed once I slowed down, because it again gave me more to incorporate into my writing. Furthermore, finding different interpretations of the history through the elites, the working citizens, slaves, and the British really developed my understanding of American history.

Adverts 250: What is the most important thing you learned about doing history” as a result of working on this project?

Trevor Delp: While working on this project the most important thing I learned about “doing history” is the structure my writing. I tried to write in a way that was both easy to read and showed development to a common thesis. My first week working on the project I came to a realization that I had not done a lot of short analytical writing; up until this project, a majority of my writing had been essay structured. This forced me to learn how to write in a concise way that did not eliminate important details but was informative. I also had to learn how to structure my writing in a more organized way. I had to spend much more time editing the structure of my writing to make sure that sentences were organized chronologically and logically developing into a common theme or thesis. This also taught me to be more specific with my word choice. I had to adjust to using words that carried more meaning than other more common words. These three things have benefited all of my writing and helped me to develop a more specific writing style that is unique and I am proud of.

Adverts 250: What is your favorite advertisement from your two weeks as guest curator?  Why?

Trevor Delp: My favorite topic throughout my second week as guest curator would have to be my final advertisement for “Benjamin Faneuil, Junr.” shop in Boston. Having grown up in Massachusetts and visited Boston many times, Faneuil Hall has always been something I am familiar with. When I first started my research into the Faneuil family name I was not confident that it would directly connect. After after researching the family history and identifying similar locations I was convinced that the author of the advertisement, Benjamin Faneuil Jr., was in fact the brother of Peter Faneuil who donated Faneuil Hall. This advertisement gave me insight into something I had always known about but never know the true history of.


Thank you, Trevor.  You’ve made some great contributions to the project during your time as guest curator, diving into the advertisements and examining their context in depth.  You’ve also don a wonderful job identifying public history sites that provide even more information about the events and historical processes you’ve discussed.

Trevor recently gave a public presentation about his work as a guest curator at Assumption College’s 22nd annual Undergraduate Symposium.

April 23


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

Apr 23 - 4:21:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (April 21, 1766).

By Benjamin Faneuil, Junr. At his Store in Butler’s Row

Today’s advertisement caught my eye because of the author’s name, “Benjamin Faneuil Junr.” As a Massachusetts native, Faneuil Hall is a place I have always loved to visit and explore. According to Faneuil Hall’s website, Faneuil Hall was first a “home to merchants, fishermen, and meat and produce sellers, and provided a platform for the country’s most famous orators.” Furthermore, it tells how Samuel Adams organized the citizens of Boston to seek independence from Britain and “George Washington toasted the nation there on its first birthday.” Faneuil Hall is a cornerstone of American culture and history. As excited as I was, I could not jump to the conclusion that this Benjamin Faneuil, Jr. was a relation to the prominent Boston Faneuil family name until further researching it.

To start, I looked into the history of the Faneuil name, starting with Peter Faneuil, the merchant who donated Faneuil Hall. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, Peter’s father, Benjamin, and two uncles emigrated from France. One of the uncles, Andrew Faneuil, made a name for himself as one of New England’s wealthiest men through trading and Boston real estate investments. Benjamin Faneuil fathered two sons, Peter and Benjamin Jr., and three daughters. Peter worked tirelessly as a trader between Europe and the West Indies, acquiring a lot of money and eventually donating Faneuil Hall. There is little history on Benjamin Jr., except that he married against his uncle Andrew’s wishes, making Peter “heir to most of his fortune.” This means that although Benjamin Jr. did not have the same financial notability that his brother had, he may have had the help of his brother as a merchant. I hypothesize that this would greatly benefit Benjamin Jr.’s business as a store owner and give him recognition among other colonists.

Apr 23 - Fanueil Hall on Map
Location of Butler’s Row in relation to Faneuil Hall in modern Boston.

After researching the Faneuil family name I wanted to find the location of Benjamin Jr.’s store to further my understanding of who he was. In the advertisement it reports that Benjamin Jr.’s store was located on Butlers Row. After using Google Maps to find the current location of Butler’s Row, I found that is it bordering Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

After researching both the Faneuil family name and Butler’s Row, I believe that the author of today’s advertisement was indeed Peter Faneuil’s brother. This advertisement gave me the opportunity to dig deeper into the history of Faneuil Hall and, more specifically, the rich history of the Faneuil family.



This advertisement, like so many others, suggests that eighteenth-century consumers spoke a very different language than we do today. Some of this is a matter of non-standardized spelling: “Fyal Wines” most likely refers to wine from Faial, one of the islands in the Azores. Other words and phrases have passed out of everyday usage: “Russia and Ravens Duck, Ticklinburg, Oznabrigs.” What were these?!

Each was a kind of fabric. Today I’d like to examine “Ravens Duck.” The term duck most likely comes from the Dutch word doek, meaning cloth. Considering that Holland was a major supplier of sailcloth in the early modern era, it makes sense that “duck” came to mean a heavy fabric among English speakers. According to Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles, sailcloth imported to the colonies was often trademarked for identification: “The light flax sail fabrics imported mostly from England and Scotland bore the trademark stencil of a raven [commonly referred to as ravens duck at the time] while the heavier weights bore the trademark picturing a duck.”[1]

To learn more about this textile, check out “The Great Age of Duck” from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.


[1] Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles (New York: 1967), 99.

April 22


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

Apr 22 - 4:22:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (April 21, 1766)

“SpermaCeti Candles of the best Manufacture, warranted pure.”

In today’s advertisement spermaceti candles were being sold. Spermaceti candles are candles made out of headmatter from sperm whales. Massachusetts history is rich with whaling culture. According to the Nantucket Historical Association, “Candles were considered a specialized element of the whale-oil trade and were priced as a luxury item.” Spermaceti candles burned brighter and also were odorless. This made them a very attractive commodity and far more expensive than the traditional tallow candles.

In the early eighteenth century colonists first started coming across pods of sperm whales, but it was not until the 1750s that spermaceti oil refining started taking place. According to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, sperm whales were difficult to hunt because they have the ability to dive upwards of three thousand feet, deeper than any other marine animal, and hold their breath for up to ninety minutes. This made hunting them with the rudimentary seafaring technology of the eighteenth century both impressive and lucrative, an endeavor that also came with great danger. These candles were pivotal to life before electricity.

Although the major boom of whaling in New England would not come until the nineteenth century, I still found it interesting that Boston newspapers were advertising spermaceti candles in the 1760s. Patty Jo Rice of the Nantucket Historical Association says, “By 1763 there were as many as twelve manufacturers in the colonies and accusations of pricing violations was commonplace.” This points to development of the whaling market that was not completely documented at the time and that can be hard trace. Today’s advertisement helps to demonstrate that whaling and whale products were becoming increasingly popular in colonial America.



Testaments to quality were among the most common appeals made in eighteenth-century advertisements. Henry Lloyd mobilized such an appeal more than once in today’s advertisement, first when he described the pork he sold as “choice” and again when he assured potential customers that his “SpermaCeti Candles” were both “of the best Manufacture” and “warranted pure.”

The promise that theses candles were “warranted pure” merits additional investigation. Drawing once again from the Nantucket Historical Association, we know that “headmatter, sperm oil (oil from the blubber of the sperm whale), and whale oil (from all other whales) became separate products in the marketplace with headmatter commanding an average of three times the price of standard whale oil.” When shipping these products to England, whaling merchants sometimes mixed whale oil and headmatter together to avoid the higher duties on headmatter. That being the case, colonial consumers could be justifiably suspicious when purchasing spermaceti candles. If headmatter and whale oil could be combined to lower the duties when exported, why not combine them to raise the price of candles made and sold in the colonies? In an era with far fewer regulations than the modern business environment, Henry Lloyd gave his word that customers who purchased relatively expensive spermaceti candles were not being duped or cheated.

Lloyd was not alone in doing so. “Warranted Pure” was a standard assurance offered to consumers in advertisements for spermaceti candles in the decade before the American Revolution. A Boston manufactory issued a trade card circa 1770 that announced “Sperma-ceti candles warranted pure; are made by Joseph Palmer & Co.” The collections of the John Carter Brown Library include this trade card, circa 1764, from Nicholas Brown and Company in Providence. It also promised that customers could purchase spermaceti candles that were “Warranted Pure.” Note the whale in the center and the whalers in the cartouche at the top.

Apr 22 - Spermaceti Trade Card
Nicholas Brown & Co. trade card for spermaceti candles, ca. 1764 (John Carter Brown Library.)

April 21


Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?

Apr 21 - 4:21:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (April 21, 1766)

“A sprightly, active Negro Woman about 24 Years of Age.”

This advertisement offered an African American woman in her early twenties who could fulfill the duties of “House Business.” Initially this advertisement shocked me, because at the top a sloop (one-masted sailboat) was for sale, yet just beneath that a woman was for sale. The normality of this pairing seems completely unfathomable to me. To read an advertisement for a ship that then immediately jumped to selling a woman seems absurd. To dehumanize someone to the point of equating her to a ship is a hard concept for modern readers to grasp. To most readers of the time, however, this would not have been so disconcerting.

There is a common misconception in the United States that the northern colonies were free of slavery. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society, it was not until 1771 that the “Massachusetts Colonial assembly passes a resolution calling for the end of the importation of African slaves into the colony. Governor Thomas Hutchinson refuses the measure.” During the late eighteenth century in the north there were early attempts to eradicate slavery, but they were not always generally supported. According to an article written by Nicholas Boston and Jennifer Hallam, “By 1804, all Northern states had voted to abolish the institution of slavery within their borders. In most of these states, however, abolition was not immediate.” Boston and Hallam go on to explain that it took until the first half of the nineteenth century for many African Americans in the North to achieve status as free people.

In the late eighteenth century slaves began achieving their freedom in Massachusetts through judicial law. In the case of Quock Walker, Walker sued for his freedom after being beaten by a man claiming to be his master after his then-deceased master had promised him his freedom. In 1781, the court found that Walker was indeed free under the state constitution, making it evident that the Massachusetts court system now viewed slaves equal in the eyes of the law. When this advertisement was posted in 1766, slavery in Massachusetts was just starting to become scrutinized and a judicial debate. In the years following, advertisements like this one would become less and less popular up until the North’s complete abolition of slavery during the nineteenth century.



I agree with Trevor. It is jarring to see a sloop and an enslaved woman offered together in the same advertisement, both of them items for sale from an eighteenth-century perspective. While I believe that Trevor tells the more important story in making and elaborating on that observation, this advertisement also offers an opportunity to examine the manner in which colonists used print and thought about the placement of advertisements in newspapers.

Today we usually expect advertisements to have a single purpose or, at the very least, for all the elements to tie together in some cohesive way. In the eighteenth century, however, advertisers bought a certain amount of space – often a “square” or multiple squares – and inserted whatever information they wished to bring to public attention. Sometimes the separate parts of a square were related; other times they were not. Earlier this week, for instance, Trevor examined an advertisement in which a shopkeeper first issued a call that he wanted to purchase “POT-ASH” before launching a lengthier promotion of the goods he sold. In today’s advertisement, the sloop and the enslaved woman were only tenuously linked: they were both “items” for sale by the same auctioneer.

Apr 21 - Entire Advert
Boston Evening-Post (April 21, 1766).

That auctioneer happened to be one of the printers of the Boston Evening-Post. It’s telling that even those who produced the newspaper did not see any need to divide up the announcements of these sales. In general, an assortment of advertisements with varying purposes appeared mixed together and undifferentiated in colonial newspapers. Neither printers nor readers expected any system of classification that placed similar advertisements together on the page.

Trevor was shocked by the advertisement as it appears above. We discussed his reaction during a meeting in my office before he wrote about it. Earlier this week he submitted a draft of today’s entry, which I approved with some minor revisions. It was not until this morning, however, when I examined the entire issue of the Boston Evening-Post in order to gain more context in preparation of writing my own commentary that I discovered that today’s advertisement was actually a portion of a longer advertisement, but the database had divided it in half. (Given the format of the advertisement, it’s understandable why that happened.) The entire advertisement also included a “Public Vendue” for seventy bolts of damaged fabric. For me, this makes the advertisement Trevor chose even more stark: an enslaved woman appeared last in an advertisement for a ship and damaged goods being sold so the insurers could recoup some of their losses.

April 20


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

Apr 20 - 4:17:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (April 17, 1766)

“The Trustees of the Estate of John Butler.”

Today’s advertisement regards a legal notice alerting all colonists that John Butler died and his account was being settled. Colonial Americans struggled to settle estate cases, especially involving those that did not have a prewritten will. In an article discussing “English Law in American Land Research,” Sandra Hargreaves Luebking says, “The colonies lacked the judges, lawyers, law schools, and elaborate court system to implement English property law in all its complexity, but most of the basic concepts crossed the Atlantic and exist in the land records genealogists use.” The system brought to the colonies from Great Britain was very complicated and the average colonist lacked the knowledge to understand.

The advertisement began with a dated notice – April 16, 1766 – that asked “Creditors of said Butler, to meet at the British Coffee-House in Boston, … then and there to transact such Matters and Things relating to said Debtor’s Estate as may be thought necessary.” In the following paragraph it requests that all indebted to John Butler pay the same to Daniel Leonard, an attorney at law, who was handling the estate. It then goes onto threaten that those “who neglect making Payment, may depend on being sued to July Court, without further Notice.” This was something that I found unique to colonial advertisements and almost nonexistent in modern advertisements.

I was curious about how Butler and other debtors paid the money they owed. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, in colonial America coins were the original primary form of currency, although they were not always in circulation. The first use of paper money was in “bills of credit.” These notes were redeemable in coin. One problem with these bills was that they led many colonists into debt that would be hard to repay. A project by Louis Jordan of Notre Dame states, “In 1749 the British government sent Massachusetts Bay Colony two tons of Spanish silver coins and ten tons of British coppers (primarily 1749 dated halfpence) as reimburse for assistance they provided to the Lewisburg expedition on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, during the French and Indian War.” This shows that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was given a chance to start using silver as their main currency again. Furthermore, according to, Alvin Rabushka’s book, Taxation in Colonial America, “Under the 1749 Massachusetts Currency Reform, all debts and contracts from March 31, 1750, onward would be payable only in silver coin, and any court judgments brought for the recovery of debts would be converted into silver coin at the specified exchange rate for the different tenors.”

This leads me to believe that because Butler owned and ran his own shop with multiple forms of currencies with different exchange rates coming and going it would be easy to fall into debt and then struggle to escape it with the new act requiring only silver currency. The problem did not get any better once the colonies declared independence. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, during the Revolutionary War, the new nation issued too much money, causing inflation and by the end of the war the paper money was almost worthless. In the time leading up to the war the fluctuating value of money could explain why John Butler was in such debt. Furthermore, it would explain why he was not only in deb himself, but had customers who were in debt to him and expected to repay what they owe after his death.



Estate and probate notices were a common type of advertisement that appeared in colonial newspapers, often (depending on the newspaper) as frequently as advertisements for consumer goods and services. This sort of notice, complete with its stern language threatening further legal action, may seem unfamiliar to Trevor and other modern readers, but such notices were largely unremarkable alongside other advertisements in the colonial era.

Trevor has identified some of the reasons why it was easy for colonists to fall into debt. Certainly the lack of hard currency played a significant role. It also led to networks of credit: within cities and villages, throughout the colonies, and across the Atlantic. The consumer revolution of the eighteenth century occurred, in part, because merchants extended credit to retailers and, in turn, retailers extended credit to consumers. Appeals to price became a standard part of eighteenth-century advertisements, but they were often accompanied by specifications that retailers offered credit to tempt potential customers into making purchases (or sometimes explicitly stated that low prices could be had in exchange for cash, perhaps to avoid some of the problems raised in today’s advertisement).

The Economic History Association offers an overview of “Credit in the Colonial American Economy.”

April 19


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

Apr 19 - 4:18:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 18, 1766).

“Who has good white WINE by the Quarter Cask.”

The history of alcohol in colonial America is a long story of appreciation and sometimes conflict. Today I’m focusing on colonists’ appreciation of wine and other forms of alcohol.

According to Colonial Williamsburg, in 1770 “the colonies already had more than 140 rum distilleries, making about 4.8 million gallons annually.” Colonists’ dependence on alcohol was not necessarily due to alcoholism but due to poor water conditions. A dependence on beer and cider grew in Britain because crowded cities often did not have enough clean drinking water for all citizens, so they would resort to drinking beer and ciders. According to Melissa Swindell, “Alcohol-based drinks typically wouldn’t spread disease, and they had a much longer ‘shelf-life’ than non-alcoholic beverages.” This, combined with limited knowledge on the health effects of alcohol, made it the perfect hydration substitute to water.

The importance on alcohol consumption in colonial America also coincided with a lack of consistent clean drinking water. Colonial Williamsburg also reports that in 1768 “Virginians exported to Britain a little more than thirteen tons of wine while importing 396,580 gallons of rum from overseas, and another 78,264 from other North American colonies.” For every ton there are 264.48 gallons, so this means that while exporting thirteen tons (3,438.24 gallons) of wine the colonies were still importing far more rum than they were exporting wine.

Founders like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were not shy to indulge in alcohol consumption. According to Colonial Williamsburg once again, John Adams started his day with a glass of hard cider and Thomas Jefferson “imported fine libations from France.”

All of this suggests there was not the current stigma that alcohol was sinful or a moral failing. Cutter’s advertisement was not out of place, nor taboo, because it referenced alcohol, but merely a normal part of daily life.



When Trevor “chose” this advertisement, I wasn’t certain what he might do with it, although I assumed he might choose one of the three commodities listed and offer a closer look at its role in colonial life and commerce. That was indeed the strategy he chose, demonstrating how a short reference to “good white WINE by the Quarter Cask” led him to learn about not only alcohol but also about public health conditions in Britain and America in the eighteenth century.

I say that Trevor “chose” (intentionally in quotation marks) this advertisement because he really had no choice at all. Regular visitors will remember that our methodology states that all featured advertisements must come from the most recently published newspaper exactly 250 years ago and advertisements cannot be featured more than once. Given those parameters, today’s advertisement had to come from the New-Hampshire Gazette. Compared to larger publications from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, only a handful of advertisements appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette. All of the other advertisements for consumer goods and services in this issue have already been featured previously, either by Trevor or, because advertisements often ran for several weeks, by previous guest curators. As a result, Trevor “chose” this advertisement. His work with it demonstrates that an advertisement need not be long or elaborate to help us learn about life in colonial America.

I appreciate that these circumstances presented another opportunity to reflect on the differences among colonial newspapers printed in the 1760s. To one extent or another, all of them included advertising (and even relied on advertising revenue to keep publishing), but the larger urban ports had newspapers overflowing with advertisements for consumer goods and services while such advertisements were not as prominent a feature in newspapers in smaller towns.

April 18


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.



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.

April 17


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

Apr 17 - 4:17:1766 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (April 17, 1766).

“Cash and a good Price given for POT-ASH.”

When I first came across this advertisement there were several things that intrigued me. The first thing that caught my eye was “POT-ASH.” Potash is the common term for the nutrient form of the element potassium, which today is commonly used as a fertilizer. However, according to William I. Roberts III, in colonial America potash was essential for the production of “crown or flint glass, soft soap, various drugs and dyes, and saltpetre.” The opening line of the advertisement also caught my interest because he is offering to buy potash not selling it. The rest of the advertisement then goes on to offer a multitude of goods from window glass to flour and iron. This interested me because one of the first items for sale in Dennie’s shop is indigo. During the colonial period indigo was a major export from the colonies to England. Dennie’s advertisement exemplifies the growing demand for potash and other products from the colonies throughout the late eighteenth century.



Why did William Dennie want potash? Did he plan to use it himself in a business he operated? Or was he seeking to resell it and make a profit?

Trevor provided a link to an article that describes potash as “the principal industrial chemical of the eighteenth century” and indicates that it “was practically the only alkali used in the textile industries for bleaching linens, scouring woolens, and printing calicoes.” Printing patterns on textiles was not a common industry in early America (though some manufacturers did experiment sporadically by the end of the eighteenth century), but fullers – like the silk-dyer and scowerer from an advertisement featured last week – certainly bleached linens and scoured woolens. Perhaps Dennie intended to sell potash – along with “choice Indigo” to colonial fullers. As Trevor points out, his advertisement did include a variety of materials produced in the colonies (“Kippin’s Snuff” and “Philadelphia Flour,” for instance) that were transported from one region to another to be sold.

Perhaps Dennie had other plans. Maybe he issued a call for potash so he could export it to England. Again, from the linked article about American potash manufacture before the American Revolution, “[s]ince potash was obtained from wood ashes, the American colonies would appear to have been an obvious source of a product that was becoming increasingly vital to Great Britain as her industries grew and diversified.” Until a decade before the Revolution – about the time this advertisement was published – England depended on Germany and the Baltic to supply its potash. Dennie may have been on the cusp of this transition, helping to usher in the colonies as an increasingly important supplier of potash to England.

The advertisement does not make clear exactly why William Dennie issued a call for potash, but that he offered “Cash and a good Price” does indicate that demand existed for this product. Most colonial advertisements for goods and services attempted to incite demand. This one demonstrates existing demand for a particular product.

Reflections from Guest Curator Trevor Delp


During my time guest curating on the Adverts 250 Project I learned a tremendous amount about the value of culture in relation to history. At first this seemed like common sense to me, but as I worked through many different advertisements I realized that they gave me a personal look into everyday life and the values found in the colonies. Today there are so many different forms of advertisements that many go overlooked, but this project gave me a new perspective. I found that although things may seem insignificant now, in the future that may all change.

Prior to working on the Adverts 250 Project I had very little understanding of the process of professional history. As a history major I had written many research essays and analytical essays, but never had I worked on something that would be published for the public eye. This gave a new sense of importance to my work, and one that really motivated me.

My work on the Adverts250 project was at times stressful but ultimately very rewarding. I was very nervous that I was underprepared for a project of this magnitude. I was able to fight through the tougher moments and in return was able to truly enjoy the work I was doing. When I began as guest curator I did not know where to begin. At first, I struggled to find insight into some of the more basic advertisements but over time my way of thinking evolved. I was able to look past the basic sentences and find meaning in the actual words used. This was a huge step for me while not only working on my project but also as an historian. I learned to ask intuitive questions of the advertisements that enhanced my understanding of the time. I have always been interested in history and the value of it, but I never saw the meaning of it. I was just interested in things of the past, not what they told of the past. The Adverts 250 Project changed all of that for me and since completing the project I can only describe the experience as invaluable.

One of the most daunting aspects of the project for me was that my work was going to be presented to a public audience. This was the first time that any of my work as a student would be publicly seen and that was intimidating to me. As I worked more and more on the project it gave me a sense of motivation. For me, it is easy to get caught up in the monotonous routine of writing essays strictly to been seen by professors. I really grew to love this project because it felt as if I had a reason for writing. That perspective was something that I wish I could have been exposed to earlier because it really intensified my appreciation and love for working with historical texts.

To judge the difficulty of this project is tough for me. At times it was incredibly difficult, but at the same time I enjoyed my work so much I did not focus on the difficulty of it. On some advertisements it took me an tremendously long time to figure out what I wanted to say, but I still found the process very intriguing. Additionally, once I found something that interested me within the texts I became completely absorbed in trying to decipher how it related to the late eighteenth century. In other words, the process was challenging for me, but one that I looked forward to.

To conclude, I am excited to have completed my first week as guest curator and have great anticipation for my second week. One of favorite quotes by Albert Einstein goes, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” I hope that those who read my posts were intrigued and ultimately learned something new. As a passionate historian I hope to never stop learning from the worlds before us and the ones to come.



Thank you, Trevor, for an interesting and thoughtful slate of advertisements for the past week.  Many of your selections reminded us of the many ways that advertisements can be read:  on their own, in relationship to other advertisements, and in relationship to broader cultural, political, and economic trends in eighteenth-century America.  Trevor will be returning for a second week as guest curator at the end of the semester.

March 5


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

Mar 5 - 3:3:1766 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (March 3, 1766).

“A Handsome Brick House.”

Today’s advertisement is different from others that I have analyzed because it offers no specified author. This was something I found interesting because it is unclear who is selling the house and why. Furthermore, at the end of the advertisement it requests that interested buyers “Inquire of the Printers.” This then leads me to question if the printer is the one selling the house?

One modern real estate brokerage reports that realtors did not become popular until the late nineteenth century so it is unlikely that a professional was helping to sell the house. The information surrounding the house provided in the advertisement is very basic and only gives a simplistic description of where the house is located. Also, the advertisement does not provide the price of the house for potential buyers. Overall, this advertisement seems a little out of place to me. I wonder if the advertisement was rushed or if the author did not have the financial means to support something larger.



Trevor suggests that this advertisement raises more questions than it answers, especially for modern readers accustomed to a very different real estate industry and its marketing methods. Because it does not meet our expectations of what belongs in an advertisement offering a house for sale, today’s advertisement demonstrates how much advertising for real estate has changed over the past 250 years. Even the brief history of realtors Trevor consulted came from a website advertising a modern real estate company! How awesome is that?

Even for the 1760s, however, this advertisement was rather bare bones. Others from the period provided much more detail. Many advertisements to sell or rent houses also included woodcuts. On the whole, eighteenth-century real estate advertisements were more likely to feature an image than advertisements for consumer goods and services. Printers had a several types of stock woodcuts (including houses, ships, and runaway slaves) that could be inserted when appropriate. (On the other hand, shopkeepers and artisans, if they wanted a visual image as part of their advertisement, were responsible for commissioning it themselves.) Although these woodcuts did not provide an image of the actual house for sale, they did help to draw the eye to real estate advertisements, proving a form of organization on pages that largely were not organized or “classified,” as we think of today’s print advertising.

While this advertisement lacks many of the bells and whistles we expect today (it’s certainly not a refrigerator magnet with a calendar of all the New England Patriots games my realtor sends me every year), it does offer some appeals that seem familiar. Readers learned that the house was “Handsome” and included a garden and “Many Accommodations, fit for a Gentleman.” As Trevor notes, the price was not listed, but the advertiser did mention financing: “Only one fourth Part is required to be paid down.” I suspect that mentioning that the house was “near the North Latin School” was offered merely to suggest the location, unlike modern real estate websites that promote a home’s school district.

Mar 5 - 3:3:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (March 3, 1766).

I recently discussed some of the reasons that so many advertisements instructed those interested to “Inquire of the Printers,” a part of the process that seems rather unusual to us today. That was such a common way of doing business in the 1760s that the version of this advertisement that ran the same day in the Boston Evening-Post did not even include that final sentence. Even without such instructions, colonial readers would have known that was what they needed to do to get more information.