Friday, April 23, 2010

Between the Lines

My job for the past six or so months, between designing signs/menus/print-ads/billboards/etc. has been to go through PDFs of an 18th century New Hampshire Gazette: I choose the best issue from each year, retype the entire issue, and re-assemble the stories and ads into a fascimile edition which is then printed en masse and sold to the general public.

When the task was first set before me, I felt like I'd be wading through it like a delinquent student through summer school, and tackled the workload with about the same level of enthusiasm: Yet, somewhere along the way, I became a fangirl of William Pitt, First Earl of Chatham; an consumer searching the merchant's ads for "silk damasks," "Barcelona handkerchiefs," and - of course - "West India Rum;" I'm ashamed to say I even recognize a name or two every time the proprietor's clerk or treasurer of a township posts the list of fellows whose 'rights of land will be exposed to sale' if they don't pay up (hey! public accountability... what an idea!) --- some of those guys are always late; There were three Ebenezer Dexters living in Shrewsbury in 1771.

It is, of course, fascinating to read about major historical events taking place at the time: The war between the Turks and the Russians, the Boston Tea Party, Battle of Lexington and Concord, and the death of Louis XV have all passed by in the issues I have worked on, but what captivates me most is the living, breathing stories of anything-but-mundane everyday life at the time. There is no "Lifestyle" section in these newspapers, matters of living and dying are all wrapped up together. One column carries news from London of law made and wars waged, the next mentions the disturbing spontaneous combustion of a distinguished noblewoman, and yet another is a clever poem posted by an author with an even more clever - and applicable - Latin pen-name.

I'll cease my gushing now, and just let a few of my favorite snippets speak for themselves:
( So as to avoid confusion, 18th C. "s"s look like "f"s ...unless they're at the end of the word or capitalized. Good luck!)

William Pitt on the injustice of British troops in Boston


I guess this would be the equivalent of celebrity gossip?


I read this one out loud to whoever would stop by my desk for two minutes at a time.
It's a total gem.


A true Christian. You don't see many of these around.

And finally.
The Conundrum.
This advertisement appeared the issue after a tar-and-feathering was reported. Notice the prominence of "Feathers"?
Having studied several years of issues, I hadn't yet seen this particular product advertised so prominently.
Was Jacob Sheafe:
(A). Just coincidentally advertising a product?
(B) Issuing a silent warning to any Tories who might cross his path?
(C) Just a man very aware of the times? Supply and demand, after all.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

1 comment:

  1. What are FEATHERS without tar? Just pillow stuffing I dare say.