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The Adverts 250 Project


This week's topic combines materials from weeks 3 and 4. Your assignment is to use insights or arguments from any one of the assigned articles to analyze a primary source. For instance, use an insight from David Waldstreicher's article from last week to analyze an actual runaway slave ad from the 18th century.

There are readings attached to it down below.

It should be between 1-2 pages.

For this assignment, you can find primary sources on-line for free at:

a) The Adverts 250 Project:

Description (adapted from the website)

The Adverts 250 Project explores the history of advertising in eighteenth-century America. It features a daily image of an advertisement published in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago that day. Brief commentary accompanies each advertisement.

Daily updates are supplemented with longer posts that analyze individual advertisements in greater detail, highlight other marketing items from the period, or examine issues related to research and accessibility of historical sources.

The Adverts 250 Project also publishes a daily digest of advertisements from the Slavery Adverts 250 Project (Links to an external site.).

*Note: This project is guest curated by university students like yourselves in history courses at Assumption College.

b. Freedom on the Move database of fugitives from North American slavery.

With the advent of newspapers in the American colonies, enslavers posted “runaway ads” to try to locate fugitives. Additionally, jailers posted ads describing people they had apprehended in search of the enslavers who claimed the fugitives as property. (Links to an external site.)

c. The Geography of Slavery in Virginia is a digital collection of advertisements for runaway and captured slaves and servants in 18th- and 19th-century Virginia newspapers. Building on the rich descriptions of individual slaves and servants in the ads, the project offers a personal, geographical and documentary context for the study of slavery in Virginia, from colonial times to the Civil War.

c. Irish Immigrant Letters Home:

From the Historical Society of Pennsylvania website: home (Links to an external site.) Go to the webpage above and scroll down the page and see the links to these letters. They will have transcriptions of the letters for you. Letter: Hannah Curtis to brother John Curtis, November 24, 1845 (Links to an external site.) Letter: William Dunne to his nephew John Curtis, April 25, 1846 (Links to an external site.) Letter: William Dunne to John Curtis, November 16,1846 (Links to an external site.) Letter: Hannah Curtis to John Curtis, April 21, 1847 (Links to an external site.) Letter: William Dunne to John Curtis, April 2, 1851 (Links to an external site.) Letter: John and Jane Curtis to their mother, Bridget Dunne Curtis (Links to an external site.) d) Aspiration, Acculturation, and Impact: Immigration to the United States, 1789- 1930 (Links to an external site.). Harvard University Library.

Documents voluntary immigration to the United States. Many 19th century items. Over 400,000 pages. Over 7800 photographs. Provides contextual (secondary) information. Navigate using the left side menu.

e) Immigration (Links to an external site.). Library of Congress.

Stories about various ethnic groups. Navigate via the left-hand side to choose, and then page by page within the frame. "This feature presentation links educators to primary sources from the Library of Congress' online collections."


I. Select a primary source to analyze. You can use visual sources. Give a citation for where you found it. The following is a text from a runaway slave ad.

Run away in July last, from Nicholas Everson, living in East-New- Jersey, two miles from Perth-Amboy ferry, a mulatto Negroe, named Tom, about 37 years of age, short, well- set, thick lips, flat nose, black curled hair, and can play well upon the fiddle: Had on when he went away, a red-colored watch-coat, without a cape, a brown coloured leather jacket, a hat, blue and white twisted yarn leggins; speaks good English, and Low Dutch, and is a good Shoemaker; his said master has been informed that he intends to cut his watchcoat, to make him Indian stockings, and to cut off his hair, and get a blanket, to pass for an Indian; that he enquired for one John and Thomas Nutus, Indians at Susquehanna, and about the Moravians, and the way there. Whoever secures him in the nearest goal or otherwise, so that his master may have him again, shall have Forty Shillings reward, and reasonable charges, paid by



1 Billy G. Smith and Richard Wojtowicz, eds., Blacks Who Stole Themselves: Advertisements for Runaways in the Pennsylvania Gazette, i728-i790 (Philadelphia, I989), 34.

Part II: Select an excerpt from the readings that pertain to your primary source. Pay particular attention to the importance of consumer culture and material objects in your analysis. Cite the source.

"Clothing was perhaps the most important of the trade goods that proliferated in the colonies, and it proved as crucial a matter for the runaways as for genteel men and women…Advertisements for runaways describe their clothing in great detail: since few people had an extensive wardrobe, describing the clothes was as good as describing the man or woman. All the more reason that slaves and servants took every opportunity to take their own clothes when they absconded, along with those of their masters and mistresses. Sometimes different or finer clothes increased the chances of passing for free or being unrecognized. Hannah, described as 'of an Olive Colour,' ran with mourning attire, 'which she no doubt intends to Dress in, that she may not be known.' 1

Citation: (I am using the Chicago Style)

David Waldstreicher, "Reading the Runaways: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture, and Confidence in Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic," The William and Mary Quarterly: 56:2, ( Apr., 1999), 252-253.

PART III: Provide your own analysis of how the quote and primary source relate to own another and particularly to consumer culture in the history of early America.


Presentment of Civility: English Reading of American Self-Presentation in the Early Years of Colonization

Author(s): Karen Ordahl Kupperman

Source: The William and Mary Quarterly , Jan., 1997, Vol. 54, No. 1, Constructing Race (Jan., 1997), pp. 193-228

Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Stable URL:

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Presentment of Civility: English Reading

of American Self-Presentation in the Early

Years of Colonization

Karen Ordahl Kupperman

R ) ACE in modern times is thought to be indelibly written on the body, visible for all to see. Moderns see races as great divisions of human eings stretching back to prehistory and originating in forces,

supernatural or natural, beyond human control. Only very recently have contemporaries begun to admit the notion that race is socially and culturally constructed rather than immutably predetermined.

This way of thinking about race would have been utterly foreign to English people in the early years of colonization because they did not divide humankind into broad fixed classifications demarcated by visible distinc- tions. They thought in terms of descendants of a single progenitor or of generations that shared characteristics or, sometimes, following humoral theory, of residents of a particular environment. They argued that in most cases visible differences between people were, as they put it, "accidental"- acquired characteristics in modern parlance-resulting from environment or experience. Thus early modern usage cut across the concept of race as modern people customarily use it. They thought in terms of socially and culturally created categories. Like modern people, early moderns expected the body to be emblematic of these categories, and color, posture, and other features were interesting to them because they were accidental rather than inborn.

Early descriptions indicate that English writers who actually spent time in America accepted as self-evident the notion that the Native Americans were from a common stock with themselves and that all differences between the two peoples were accidental. Moreover, they were extremely curious about who these newly revealed folks were, how they had landed in America, and how they fit into the broad categories by which Europeans customarily judged one another. English readers consumed books about the Americans in part because they offered revelation of unknown peoples, and also because

Karen Ordahl Kupperman is professor of history at New York University. She has bene- fited from the comments of members of the Huntington Library Early Modern British History and Early American Seminars on earlier versions of this article, the participants in the seminar Constructing Race: Differentiating Peoples in the Early Modern World, I400-I700, and the Huntington Library's rich scholarly resources and environment. Daniel K. Richter read the arti- cle and helped to tighten the argument.

The William and Mary Quarterly, 3d Series, Vol. LIV, No. i, January I997

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knowledge of the Indians could help them in thinking about England's problems. 1

By the time English venturers began seriously to found colonies in America, their compatriots were keenly aware of the dangers as well as the benefits brought by Europe's opening to the world and by the wealth and sophistication that accompanied it. Ambivalence pervaded the whole project of expanding into world trade and establishing colonies in America. The English feared the effects of such initiatives as much as they were excited by the prospects of the changes they would bring. England's insularity, the sim- plicity and straightforwardness of its people, were the sources of its strength and virtue. These were already being lost, and anyone with eyes to see knew that opening up the land to further foreign influences would only accelerate the degeneration.

Whereas experienced observers wrote about the American Indians as if the attributes we subsume under the category of race were manipulable and constructed, they and commentators in England constantly expressed con- cern about maintenance of other categorical boundaries. Gender distinctions were crucial; they were determined by nature but required visible and emphatic demarcation. It was a commonplace that in countries such as France, which was considerably farther along in its descent into luxury and sophistication, fashionable dress blurred the sexual division of society. Class and status, equally given by nature, were also vital categories necessary to the maintenance of civility and good order in society. As travelers reported their experiences, their criterion for civility was the degree to which the Indians recognized male-female distinctions and a hereditary hierarchy and maintained these demarcations by outward signs.

English commentators feared their own society was breaking down and that crucial distinctions of social rank and gender were being elided. Elegantly dressed men seemed effeminate, and women, "suting their light feminine skirts with manlike doublets," were too masculine.2 This period saw an unparalleled "rage for novelty and bizarre experimentation in dress," including wearing items of clothing associated with the opposite sex, that defied all attempts to control it.3 As the fundamental distinction between the sexes was elided, the visible demarcation between social ranks was also threatened; the two processes were interrelated because, with expansion, wealth and power were coming into the hands of new people who lacked the lineage and background of the "better sort." If rank was not honored, authority and respect, absolutely necessary to the commonwealth, would also

1 These themes are developed in Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Apprehending Native America (Ithaca, forthcoming).

2 Richard Brathwait, The English Gentlewoman, drawne out to the full Body (London, i63I), constantly returned to the dangers posed by importation of "Phantasticke habits or forraine

fashions," A4, B3v, IO, I4-I5, 23, 25. 3 Aileen Ribeiro, Dress and Morality (New York, i986), chaps. 4-5, quotations on 72-73. I

thank John Styles for calling this source to my attention.

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go. The literature of this period is shot through with concern for the need to maintain categories and their visible signs. Writers on this subject were keenly aware that trade and contact with the world only hastened dangerous blurring as they brought disproportionate riches to some and unique experi- ence to others.4

This ambivalence forms the context in which ideas of the American Indians were formed, and conceptions of the Indians reflected this mental dividedness. Sometimes writers celebrated their compatriots' sophistication and attainments, castigating the Americans as primitive savages. But then again the very same writers turned and praised the Americans' vigor, sim- plicity, and primary virtue, contrasting that virtue with the luxurious degen- eracy of England. Many observers saw in the Indians the lost world of their own past with all its roughness and its strength, and these writers asked their readers to reflect on the losses and gains England had made along the way to wealth and sophistication.5

Thomas Hariot, for example, wrote that the Indians he knew were " verye sober in their eatinge, and drinkinge, and consequentlye verye longe lived because they doe not oppress nature." A few pages later he returned to his praise of Indian moderation and went on, "I would to god wee would followe their exemple. For wee should bee free from many kynes of diseasyes which wee fall into by sumptwous and unseasonable banketts, continuallye devisinge new sawces, and provocation of gluttonnye to satisfie our unsa- tiable appetite."6 The restless, greedy search for new food sensations was symbolic of all that was wrong with English society; the need for "variety of Sauces to procure appetite" showed how jaded it had become.7

Appetite was emblematic of the more serious greed that was destroying English life, and wealth was squandered on "soft unprofitable pleasures."8 On all sides virtue was dissipated. Blurring of categories meant not only that

4 On the contemporary obsession with honor and anxiety over eroding gender distinctions

and cross-dressing see Anthony Fletcher, Gender, Sex and Subordination in England, i5oo-1800 (New Haven, I995), 23-24, 28, I2I, I26-53.

5 On contemporary perceptions of the dangers of wealth and acquisition of new territories to the commonwealth see Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, vol. I: The Renaissance (Cambridge, I978), chap. 6. esp. I49-50, i62-65.

6 Hariot, notes to woodcuts of John White's paintings published by Theodor de Bry, in

David Beers Quinn, ed., The Roanoke Voyages, i584-i590, vol. i (London, I955), 430, 438. On Ben Jonson's use of the masque form to urge restraint in ostentation as well as in eating and drinking in the Stuart court see Martin Butler, "Ben Jonson and the Limits of Courtly Panegyric," in Kevin Sharpe and Peter Lake, eds., Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England (Stanford, I993), 9I-II5.

7 Thomas Morton, New English Canaan (i637), in Peter Force, comp., Tracts and Other

Papers, Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in North America . . , vol. 2 (Gloucester, Mass., i963; orig. pub. i838), 39.

8 Richard Hakluyt, "To the Right Honourable Sir Robert Cecil Knight" (I599), dedication to vol. 2, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (I599-i600), in E.G.R. Taylor, ed., The Original Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts, vol. 2 (London, I935), 457.

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the lower orders refused to honor authority but also that the rich, who should have been the better sort, failed to live up to the responsibilities of their position. Formerly, communities had taken care of their own, and peo- ple had worked for the common good; openhanded hospitality had been the hallmark of the great. Now, the sharpest at cutting corners came out on top, and anyone who cared for integrity or the welfare of others was counted a fool. In a series of sermons and books commissioned to support renewed effort after the initial setbacks in Virginia, ministers thundered on the theme that English selfishness was destroying the values that had made the country strong. William Crashaw compared those who put their own comfort before contributing to the great work of conversion in Virginia to "Sowes" wallow- ing in their own pleasure.9

Even so, however imperfectly its members performed their roles, a status structure existed in England, and those involved in colonization on both sides of the Atlantic saw it as absolutely crucial. People at the bottom of the social scale, even in England, were considered cultureless and uninteresting. Michael Drayton assumed that the Indians would all be like the "meaner sort" of English people. In "To Master George Sandys, Treasurer for the English Colony in Virginia" (i622), he listed the news he and his fellow writers who stayed home hoped to receive from Sandys in Virginia. He went on to write:

But you may save your labour if you please, / To write me ought of your Savages. / As savage slaves be in great Britaine here, / As any one that you can shew me there.10

Drayton demonstrated in the most direct way his assumption that savagery is a constructed category, dependent on social status as much as ethnicity.

Writers who actually went to America proved Drayton wrong-not about the English poor but about the Indians-because they were in no doubt that the latter lived in highly organized societies and recognized key categorical boundaries. The more direct experience a traveler had, the more complex became the description and its lessons. For practical as well as intel- lectual reasons the reports tended to focus on the elites and how they main- tained order and distinction. Such writings held the Indians up as a mirror in which English readers could examine their own society.

Study of the Indians as a formerly isolated branch of the human family offered a way to answer questions that were uppermost in many minds at home: were gender and status distinctions primary, timeless, and inherent? did these categories, as commentators on English life asserted, represent the natural order of things? An affirmative answer would help to settle debates

9 Crashaw, A Sermon Preached in London before the right honourable the Lord Lawarre … (London, i6io), Cv-C2, D2.

10 Drayton, The Works of Michael Drayton, ed. J. William Hebel (Oxford, I932), 3:206-08.

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about social control in England and support those who favored rigidly enforced markers. Lessons could be drawn from Indian lifeways to reestab- lish order and virtue as the basis of life.

A positive report would mean that a relationship of mutual benefit and understanding could be achieved quickly and easily in America. If the Indians recognized the same distinctions and observed the same codes of conduct as the English, the gap could be bridged easily and peacefully. Reflecting all the time the doubleness of vision they brought to their task, writers assured their audiences that the American natives would benefit from exposure to the sophistication and learning the English would bring them, especially knowledge of the Bible; only intermittently did observers confront the corrupting influences they saw with dismay in their own world.

Even in this early period, however, thoughtful observers were forced to recognize that the newcomers' impact on the Indians' virtue was at best mixed. Moreover, some were horrified to realize that fashionable men and women at home, far from rejecting the Americans as cultureless savages, were actually consuming Indian cultures in their search for the new and the exotic. The colonial reporters' own writing, rather than shaming their com- patriots into a more virtuous simplicity, doubled back and fed the flames of sophistication and luxury.

When early modern English observers examined the American natives, they employed a traditional template for categorizing others. Most eyewit- nesses included a description of the Indians' appearance in their accounts of America, and these almost always followed this pattern. The writers usually began with stature and moved on to color of hair, skin, and eyes. The other elements of

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