March 9

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

Mar 9 - 3:9:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (March 9, 1768).

“Credit will be given till next crop for the land.”

After acquiring a wharf and storehouse in the summer of 1766, William Moore turned to the Georgia Gazette to advertise the goods that passed through his “factorage business.” His notices usually included several commodities imported from the Caribbean, including sugar, molasses, and “Jamaica, Barbados, and Antiqua Rum,” but he also acquired and sold grocery items, maritime supplies, and other goods from both the mainland and Europe. He did not specify any particular method of payment in his advertisement in the March 9, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, only mentioning that “The above articles … will be disposed of on very reasonable terms.” By implication, Moore expected to be paid in cash, especially considering the terms he set for the sale of a “TRACT of LAND … about seven miles from town.” However, the structure of the advertisement suggested that there might be room for negotiation.

Moore’s advertisement had three parts. The first announced the land for sale, noting that the parcel consisted of 350 acres “of which about 100 acres are cleared and under good fence.” The second part listed the goods “to be sold by the subscriber, at his wharf” in Savannah. Moore had revised an advertisement he previously inserted in the Georgia Gazette, one devoted exclusively to the commodities available “AT HIS WHARF.” In it, he had specified that he sold these items “on very reasonable terms for cash.” Like many other merchants and shopkeepers, Moore had become wary of extending credit to customers. The third part of his new advertisement consisted of a single line, a nota bene that advised prospective buyers that “Credit will be given till next crop for the land.” Here it seemed as though Moore made a distinction between the terms he was willing to extend to someone who purchased the land and the terms for buying his commodities. He did not explicitly mention paying in cash for those goods, but he also did not make a point of offering the same credit that he was willing to consider for the land.

The structure of the advertisement presented mixed messages, perhaps by design. Why did Moore choose to append a nota bene about credit for the land purchase? Why had he not mentioned this option in the first part of the advertisement, the portion that described the land? It seemed artificial to separate the description of the land and the terms for payment. Perhaps Moore positioned the information about accepting credit for the land immediately after describing the commodities he sold at his wharf as a means of underscoring that he expected to be paid in cash for the latter. On the other hand, even if he preferred cash he may have opted not to mention it explicitly and positioned his comment about credit strategically as a means of inviting those who believed they were in a good position to secure credit to broach the subject. Through the structure of his advertisement, Moore implied the possibility of credit without extending a blanket invitation to every prospective customer who read the Georgia Gazette.

December 23

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

Dec 23 - 12:23:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 23, 1767).

“The WHARF and STORES belonging to Capt. Francis Arwen.”

In late December 1767, Van Rensselaer and Peat turned to the Georgia Gazette to advertise “Good West-India and Northward Rum [and] Muscovado Sugar and Pigtail Tobacco; with sundry other Dry Goods,” but that was not the primary purpose of their advertisement. Instead, they promoted a new venture they had just commenced, “having taken the WHARF and STORES belonging to Capt. Francis Arwen.” They offered their services to planters and merchants in Savannah and its hinterland.

Van Rensselaer ad Peat petitioned planters to send rice and other commodities to them for storage before being loaded on ships for transport to other markets for sale. They promised that they had “regular weights and measures” that allowed them to “do justice” in determining the value and volume of goods they received. This benefited planters when it came to charging them for storage and loading commodities onto vessels docked at the wharf, but it also worked in favor of merchants who purchased those commodities. Van Rensselaer and Peat proclaimed that they kept “true and accurate accounts.” Their fair dealing meant that neither planters nor merchants needed to worry that they were being cheated in transactions conducted at Van Rensselaer and Peat’s wharf and stores.

The partners also addressed two other aspects of the services they provided. Savannah competed with the older and larger port at Charleston. Planters might have been tempted to send their rice and other commodities there instead of shipping them via Savannah, anticipating that access to more storehouses meant lower prices. For their part, Van Rensselaer and Peat asserted that they “charg[ed] no more than the Carolina prices” in order to keep their services competitive with those offered by their competitors in the neighboring colony. They also made themselves available to work with planters and merchants at their convenience: “Constant attendance will be given.” This also suggested that watchful eyes safeguarded any commodities deposited for storage, preventing theft.

Many advertisements in colonial newspapers offered goods and services to consumers, but others facilitated the production and distribution of commodities locally and throughout the Atlantic world. The rice and other commodities exported via Van Rensselaer and Peat’s storehouses and wharf were part of large networks of exchange that made possible the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century.

July 16

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

Jul 16 - 7:16:1766 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 16, 1766).

“He will be ready to execute any commands in the branch of factorage business.”

William Moore facilitated the buying and selling of goods in colonial America. As a participant in the “factorage business” he played an integral part in the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century by coordinating transportation, delivery, and dissemination of goods via the wharf and storehouses he operated in Savannah. That terminology – consumer revolution – often places primary emphasis on the people who bought and used goods, incorporating them into their everyday lives, but it sometimes overlooks or does not place sufficient emphasis on others who participated in a transatlantic (and even global) historical process. The study of consumer culture does not always sufficiently recognize that the exchanges that put a variety of goods (textiles, hardware, housewares, books, foodstuffs, to name a few major categories frequently advertised) into the possession of colonists was balanced on the other side by retailers, producers, and suppliers. Even the recognition that consumers interacted with merchants or shopkeepers does not necessarily acknowledge other intermediaries who played a part in moving goods from their place of initial production to their place of ultimate consumption.

William Moore may not have sold directly to end-user consumers. Based on this advertisement, it appears that he operated as a wholesaler, dealing in bulk when he sold imported goods like rum, sugar, coffee, and fish. In addition, an important part of his enterprise consisted of providing a place for merchants to land their goods and store them until they could be distributed to shopkeepers and others who would sell them to consumers. Moore assisted in connecting merchants (or their representatives) and retailers, “charging low commissions for any thing committed to his charge.” In the process, he also facilitated the movement of locally produced goods out of the colony, storing “country produce” until it could be loaded on a ship for export. Understanding that time was money, he also promised that any merchants or captains of vessels who chose his wharf would “have good attendance and quick dispatch.” In other words, goods would unloaded and loaded quickly so ships could move on to their next port and continue trading.