J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

“Joanna Hebbard, hath for some time past Eloped from me”

As the new Adverts 250 blog featured last month, on 17 Jan 1766 the New-London Gazette published this advertisement:

Amenia, in Dutches County, in the Province of New-York, December 4th, 1765.

WHEREAS my Wife Joanna Hebbard, hath for some time past Eloped from me, and gone into some Parts of the Colony of Connecticut; These are therefore to warn and forbid all Persons whatsoever trusting, trading or dealing with the said Joanna; hereby declaring that I will never pay any such Debt contracted by her.

Those sorts of advertisements were not uncommon in colonial newspapers. In fact, there were common enough for them to follow a formula, so only a few are really interesting in themselves.

In this case, the placement and timing of the ad are more notable than the content. Amenia was a sparsely populated area of New York, not yet an incorporated town. It butted up against the border of northwestern Connecticut. Its name, meaning “pleasant looking,” had been coined just a few years earlier by Dr. Thomas Young, who would later apply his branding talent to the state of Vermont.

Amenia was eighty miles from New London. That’s probably why about a month passed between the date of Hebbard’s announcement and when it appeared in print. (The 3 and 10 January issues of the New-London Gazette are not in the Readex database and therefore probably lost; as we’ll see tomorrow, this notice must have appeared in one or both of them.)

Hartford and New Haven were both closer to Amenia, and both had newspapers. So the fact that Robert Hebbard advertised in New London suggests that he knew his wife was living not just in “some Parts of the Colony of Connecticut” but in that region.

Another notable detail about this advertisement is that it attracted a response.

TOMORROW: Sometimes I ask, Can this marriage be saved? But this one is over.

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