GUEST CURATOR: Megan Watts
What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“William Watt, Watch and Clock-maker.”
I chose this advertisement because it addressed a unique occupation: clockmaking. Despite my time guest curating the Adverts 250 Project for two weeks, this advertisement surprised me. I had not seen many advertisements for clocks or clockmakers. However, I learned that timekeeping objects have had a long held place in society. Having impressive timepieces has meant something throughout most of American history. Think of society today. If someone has a Rolex or Movado, it is often thought of as symbol of wealth and sophistication. Similarly, if someone in the seventeenth or eighteenth century had an ornate freestanding clock, it was also seen as a status symbol. When I initially discovered this advertisement, I assumed that only the wealthiest colonists would be able to afford clocks, but Cathryn J. McElroy discusses the range of citizens who owned clocks in one eighteenth-century city, describing them as coming from “a wide range of economic and social status.” Watches and clocks were owned by elite colonists, but also by those from the middling ranks. This made me reconsider which items consistently indicated status in colonial America and which did not.
Cathryn J. McElroy, “Furniture in Philadelphia: The First Fifty Years,” Winterthur Portfolio 13 (1979): 78.