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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Friday, May 12, 2023

Adverts 250, New and Improved!

Several years ago Carl Robert Keyes, professor at Assumption University, launched a couple of web-based history projects called Adverts 250 and Slave Adverts 250.

(Or, in Twitter terms, #Adverts250 and @SlaveAdverts250.)

Adverts 250 is a blog on which each date features an advertisement from one of colonial America’s newspapers published 250 years before, along with commentary by Keyes or his students. As an example, this recent 9 May entry featured Thomas Walley promoting a wide range of goods in the Boston News-Letter.

On that blog, and on a dedicated Twitter feed, the Slave Adverts 250 project reprints every advertisement mentioning slavery from exactly 250 years before. Here is the collection from 10 May 1773; that was a Monday, when a lot of Boston’s newspapers came out.

Keyes just announced on Twitter that he’d used some of his recent sabbatical time to upgrade the Adverts 250 website. Now the top of the page offers drop-down menus for finding advertisements on particular days. (WordPress’s archive function got one no closer than the month.) Other options at the top lead to featured early American printers, to the guest curators’ posts, and to special topics. 

Those additions make the Adverts 250 website even more useful and worth exploring. Reading newspapers is one of the best ways to put oneself into a particular place and time, and advertising brings you right into daily life.

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