September 11

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

Sep 11 - 9:11:1767 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (September 11, 1767).

“Choice MADEIRA, TENERIFE, and FAYAL WINES.”

Some newspaper advertisements presented consumers with lengthy lists of manufactured goods imported from England, but others promoted foods and beverages that originated in places outside Britain’s global empire. In the September 11, 1767, edition of the New-London Gazette, for instance, Winthrop and Roswell Saltonstall announced that they sold “Choice … WINES” imported from islands in the eastern Atlantic. Madeira and Fayal wines came from Portuguese outposts. Madeira, a fortified wine, derived its name from the main island in the Madeira archipelago. Fayal (an English variation of Faial) wines came from one of the islands in the central group of the Azores, an archipelago consisting of nine islands. Tenerife wines came from the largest of the seven Canary Islands, conquered and colonized by Spain. In consuming wines from Madeira, Tenerife, and Fayal, colonists participated in vibrant networks of exchange that crisscrossed the Atlantic. Such networks often crossed imperial boundaries, even as nation-states attempted to enforce mercantilist policies.

Given that the Saltonstalls advertised these wines in the public prints, they most likely had imported them legally. Yet a variety of commodities – sugar, molasses, rum, foodstuffs, and wine – found their way to colonial markets via smuggling. “The case of wine is a good example,” according to David Hancock. “Not just in war but also in peace, the varieties and amounts of wine available in British America were greater than those allowed by law and recorded at the customs house.”[1] As the Saltonstalls’ advertisement suggests, colonists could identify many types of wine and made associations with their places of origin. Just as they were accustomed to extensive choices when it came to textiles and housewares, they expected wine merchants to present an assortment so they could make their own selections. Without going into elaborate detail, the Saltonstalls listed three different wines to signal the diversity of their stock to prospective customers.

[1] David Hancock, “Rethinking The Economy of British America,” in The Economy of Early America: Historical Perspectives and New Directions, ed. Cathy Matson (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 81.

August 18

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

Aug 18 - 8:18:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 18, 1767).

“They will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.”

Samuel Peronneau advertised “A large parcel of genuine Made[i]ra Wines” in the supplement that accompanied the August 18, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. On the same page, William Hulme promoted the “MADEIRA, VIDONIA and LISBON WINES, BRANDY and GIN” he sold, along with “RUMS, from Jamaica, Barbados, and the Northward.” Elsewhere in the issue, several shopkeepers advertised other alcoholic beverages. James McCall included “bottled beer, cyder, ale, and perry” among a list of dozens of imported items in stock at his shop. Samuel Grove carried “best Taunton ale, [and] cyder,” while Greenland and Jones sold “best Bristol bottled beer, [and] Philadelphia ditto in whole and half barrels.” Other merchants and shopkeepers regularly advertised beers, wines, and liquors in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers printed in Charleston in the late 1760s. Residents of Charleston had many options when it came to acquiring alcohol.

Amid this sea of choices, Peronneau attempted to distinguish his offerings from those presented by his competitors. He confidently stated that his wines were “Of the best London, York, and Jamaica qualities” and boldly pledged that they “will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.” Some competitors made passing comments about the quality of their beverages, but Peronneau elaborated on why potential customers could trust his assurances in that regard. He did not sell whatever happened to be shipped to him by faraway associates. Instead, he contracted “a gentleman on the spot” to examine “every pipe.” In each instance, that gentleman “spared no pains in the choice of them.” In effect, Peronneau had a quality control agent overseeing the merchandise that entered his warehouse. Ultimately, that “gentleman” worked on behalf of Peronneau’s clients, his efforts mutually benefitting the retailer and the customers rather than the suppliers.

Whether they sold wine or other imported goods, most advertisers did not provide much information about the processes through which they acquired their inventory. Peronneau, however, had a system that distinguished his wines from others on the market. This allowed him to include specific details that further developed his appeal to quality, one of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements. Rather than make vague and general statements about the quality of his merchandise, Peronneau offered potential customers specific details explaining why they should believe that he did indeed stock wine “equal, if not superior in quality” to any others they could purchase locally.

March 27

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

“Genuine Medeira, Tenerif, and Fayal Wines, per Pipe or lesser Quantity.”

Mar 27 - 3:27:1767 Connecticut Gazette
New-London Gazette (March 27, 1767)

Winthrop and Roswell Saltonstall’s advertisement for imported wines and other commodities stood out in the March 27, 1767, issue of the New-London Gazette. It was one of only three advertisements promoting consumer goods and services. One of them advertised ferry service – “A Passage-Boat” – that Ebenezer Webb operated between Long Island and New London. The other, placed by the printer, announced the publication of “An excellent Treatise, entituled Heaven upon Earth.” Very few other paid notices appeared in that issue.

Such was usually the case when it came to advertising in the New-London Gazette. Of the more than twenty newspapers published in the colonies in 1767, the New-London Gazette and Hartford’s Connecticut Courant carried the least advertising, often half a dozen or fewer total notices. Even the Providence Gazette, which experienced a dearth of advertising in the winter of 1766 and 1767, usually filled a page or more with advertisements repeated from earlier issues, but the printers of the New-London Gazette and the Connecticut Courant did not adopt that strategy. Visually, both newspapers from Connecticut stood in stark contrast to their counterparts published in other colonies. Other eighteenth-century newspapers overflowed with advertising, often to the extent that printers distributed supplements devoted exclusively to paid notices of all sorts.

In general, advertisements for consumer goods and services manifested dual purposes in early America. They did more than merely announce the availability of various wares. Instead, advertisers sought to incite demand among potential customers, fueling a consumer revolution that did not emerge from incipient demand alone. In the process of generating demand, advertisers also engaged in competition with others in the same occupation. At least this is the story the Adverts 250 Project tells almost every day. It is a story that flows naturally from the Pennsylvania Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, from the Boston Post-Boy and the New-York Mercury, each of them filled with advertisements, but not from the New-London Gazette or the Connecticut Courant.

What explains the differences? Was advertising primarily an urban phenomenon in the decade prior to the American Revolution? Do other factors explain the relative scarcity of advertising in some, but not all, newspapers published outside the largest cities? This project grew out of a dissertation that examined advertising in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. Consulting as many newspapers from as many places as possible raises new questions and suggests that previous conclusions merit moderation.

February 27

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-27-2271767-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 27, 1767).

“LONDON, New-York, and other MADEIRA WINE, by the Pipe, Hogshead, Quarter Cask, or Dozen.”

Colonial Americans drank alcoholic beverages all the time and at any time they wanted. According to Ed Crews, colonists commonly had a drink for breakfast, brunch, lunch, pre-dinner snacking, during supper, and right before bed. Colonists enjoyed drinking at social events, work, and, even during studies at colleges. In fact, Crews reports, in 1639 Nathaniel Eaton, the President at Harvard College at the time, “lost his job” when he did not provide enough beer for students and staff. Alcohol was a wonder drink believed to have many beneficial properties ranging from warming the body, making people stronger, aiding the sick, and generally causing people to have a good time.

Today’s notice advertised the sale of a variety of wines and spirits imported from across the Atlantic, including Madeira, Port, Burgundy, Claret, and Brandy, as well as Jamaican Rum from the Caribbean. Colonists had a variety of different drinks they preferred, including mixers called Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle, Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip, and just as many names for being drunk.

Wine, rum, and whiskey were favored drinks among the colonists, with rum being king amongst the common man. Elites imported wine, especially Jefferson who loved French wine and attempted to produce wine in America, a failed endeavor. George Washington, on the other hand, owned and operated a private whiskey distillery on his property at Mt. Vernon.

American colonists consumed a large variety of alcoholic beverages for various occasions and at times throughout the day, with wine, rum, and whiskey being especially favorite drinks.

For more on “Drinking in Colonial America,” see Ed Crews’ article on the Colonial Williamsburg website.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Cunningham and Sands, purveyors of all sorts of alcohol, emphasized quality and service in their advertisement. Whether customers purchased any of a dozen different varieties of wine or instead opted for rum from Jamaica and other locales in the West Indies, all were “warranted to be excellent in Quality.” This was possible because Cunningham and Sands took “the greatest Care” in choosing which wines and rum to import and sell, implying a certain level of expertise on their part. They also took great care in “the Management” of the wines they stocked, suggesting that they were shipped and stored under the best conditions in order to avoid any sort of contamination or turning. Cunningham and Sands implied that they knew wine as well as artisans knew their trades.

In terms of service, the partners offered several options to potential customers interested in obtaining their products. Consumers could visit Cunningham and Sands at one of two locations in Charleston, either “at their Counting-House fronting the Bay, on Mr. Burn’s new Wharf, or at their Store in Union-street.” Realizing that not all readers of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette – and prospective customers – resided in the Charleston or had easy access to either of their two locations, Cunningham and Sands also announced that “All Orders from the Country will be punctually complied with.” In effect, they offered mail order service! They apparently believed this convenience would attract customers. Not only did they include it in their advertisements, they also drew special attention to it by inserting it as a separate nota bene rather than including it in the paragraph of dense text that detailed the other aspects of quality and service they provided. (Whether Cunningham and Sands or the printer decided that the nota bene should be printed in italics is much more difficult to determine. Advertisers generally wrote their own copy and printers generally made decisions about layout, but occasionally advertisers exercised some influence over format.)

Sam notes that Americans consumed a fair amount of alcohol and enjoyed various sorts of wines and spirits. Today’s advertisement reveals some of the options available to them as well as part of the process involved in shopping for these items.

December 14

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

dec-14-12131766-new-york-journal-supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (December 13, 1766).

“TO BE SOLD, by THOMAS DERHAM, … CHOICE Teneriffe Wine.”

Thomas Derham’s advertisement for “CHOICE Teneriffe Wine” occupied a rather unique position on the first page of the Supplement to the New-York Journal, printed two days after that week’s regular issue of December 11. It appeared in the upper right corner, but the entire advertisement had been rotated ninety degrees counterclockwise, such that it was printed perpendicularly to the two columns that comprised the majority of the news and advertising on the page. A narrow column of text – actually four columns, each rotated ninety degrees counterclockwise – appeared on the right side of the page.

dec-14-12131766-full-page-new-york-journal-supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (December 13, 1766).

When I first encountered this striking image when consulting the digitized reproductions of eighteenth-century newspaper made available via Readex, I suspected that I knew how to explain it, having examined something similar in the New-Hampshire Gazette earlier this year. It looked as though the supplement had been printed on a smaller broadsheet than the regular issue, reducing the number of columns, but the industrious printer rotated some of the text to squeeze in as much news and advertising as possible. There was no way to know for certain that this was the case, however, without examining original copies of the supplement and standard issues of the New-York Journal from 1766. Readex does not supply metadata about the measurements of broadsheets and columns, nor do I fault the company for not providing this information since it would be prohibitively expensive to collect and code. This is an instance in which working with digital surrogates hides information about the sources that would have been apparent from just a glance at the original. For the record, unless a ruler appeared in every frame of the microfilm reproduction of the New-York Journal, I would have encountered the same difficulty. The shortcoming is not specific to digitization but rather to any sort of surrogate that removes the researcher from interacting with the text in its material form.

Besides, as much as I appreciate the convenience of working with so many digitized newspapers as I pursue this project, sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse for working with the originals. Upon examining the American Antiquarian Society’s copy of the New-York Journal I learned that my assumption was indeed correct. John Holt used a smaller sheet for the supplement (8 & ½ inches by 14 inches rather than 10 inches by 15 & ½ inches). He maintained the same column width, 2 & 7/8 inches, but did not have sufficient space for a third column, at least not unless he rotated some of the text in order to make it fit on the narrower page. Each of the four columns in the “bonus” column measured 2 & 7/8 inches. All of the text from those miniature, rotated columns appeared in a previous issue of the New-York Journal. Holt did not need to set new type; he simply moved around advertisements that had been set already.

Did readers take special notice of Thomas Derham’s advertisement because of its rather unique placement on the page? Possibly, but whatever additional interest it may have generated cannot reasonably be attributed to any sort of intentional effort to produce an innovative layout to draw attention to advertising. Instead, the printer was practical and pragmatic when putting together the December 13 supplement. Examining the original allows me to make such claims with confidence, while the digital surrogate alone could not resolve my questions or point me in the direct of the best possible interpretation to explain the interesting placement of Derham’s advertisement.

May 22

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

May 22 - 5:22:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 22, 1766).

“MADEIRA, Fyall and Lisbon Wine, by the Quarter Cask, Dozen, or lesser Quantity.”

In the 1760s many advertisements announced that merchants and shopkeepers sold an assortment of goods recently imported from London and other locations throughout England and the British Empire. Cornelia Smith’s advertisement, however, demonstrates that colonists participated in a transatlantic and increasingly global network of exchange that extended beyond the holdings of any single nation-state or empire. An array of foods, raw materials, and finished goods moved around and among extensive empires. Consumers regularly purchased merchandise from exotic and faraway places.

Smith sold wines from three different parts of Portugal’s maritime trading empire. The “Lisbon Wine” came from the capital city on the Iberian peninsula, but “MADEIRA” and “Fyall” wines came from two of the island chains in the eastern Atlantic that Europeans encountered in the fifteenth century as they searched for trade routes that would connect them to marketplaces in Asia.

Portuguese settlers arrived in Madeira in 1418 by accident when they were blown off course by a storm as they were attempting to navigate the western coast of Africa. A year later they returned to the archipelago to officially claim if for the Portuguese crown. Settlement began in the 1420s.

May 22 - Madeira Map
Map showing location of Madeira.

Faial (often spelled “Fyal” or “Fyall” in the eighteenth century) is one of the Azorean islands. Portuguese sailors first arrived in the Azores in 1427, exploring the easternmost islands (São Miguel, Santa Maria, and Terceira) first. They did not arrive in Faial, the westernmost of the central group of islands, until 1451.

May 22 - Azores Map
Map showing location of the Azores.

Most residents in England’s North American colonies were unlikely to ever visit Lisbon, Madeira, or Faial, but they were familiar with the wines that came from those places. At a time that they were working out their relationship to England in the wake of the Stamp Act and frequently promoting the virtues of goods produced in America, they were also citizens of the world who participated in networks of exchange that crisscrossed the Atlantic and beyond.

May 22 - Ortelius Map
Abraham Ortelius, Acores Insulae (Antwerp, 1608).

April 19

GUEST CURATOR:  Trevor Delp

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.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

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.