What a luxury, mine—yesterday and the day before, all day, both days—working at the Charleston Library Society, magnifying glass in hand, verifying my transcriptions of The Humourist essays against the original South Carolina Gazette for 1753-1754. Yesterday may not have been a double rainbow day, but it doesn’t get any better than working with fragile, brittle newspapers that are nearly three hundred years old in an effort to solve the mystery of who wrote these incredible Colonial American essays.
In my December 17 post, I shared with you snippets from the Gazette that gave you glimpses into employment, books that had arrived, and travel plans of a young lady going to Virginia.
Today, I thought that I would expand the picture by sharing with you passing looks at imports, exports, and a visitation to a free school. “What’s this?” you ask. “Accreditation in Colonial America?” Yes, indeed!
Without fail, every week the Gazette published merchants’ advertisements listing commodities that had arrived by ship from abroad. Here’s a typical advertisement from November 26, 1753:
Just imported in the Nancy, Capt.White from London and to be sold by the subscribers, at their store on the Bay at the most reasonable rates, a choice assortment of printed callicoes, chints, English cottons and linnens, Scotch, German and Irish oznabrigs, yard wide 7 8th, and 3 4th Irish linnen, Irish sheeting, fine gulix, nuns and tandem hollands, cambrick and lawns of all sorts, check and all sorts of Manchester goods, hair and silk shags, velvets of different colours, sattin and brocaded silk shoes, men, womens and children leather shoes, womens worsted damask, callimanco and everlasting shoes, stockings of all sorts, gloves of all sorts, gold and silver lace, womens head lace, quilted petticoats, scarlet cloaks, newest fashion’d capuchines, sattin hats and silk bonnets, Hyson green and behea tea, single and double refin’d sugar, super fine broad cloths and whitneys, duffils and fine bankets, mattrasses, bed tick, worsted stuff of all sorts, pickles of all sorts, Florence Oil, a large assortment of china ware, cutlary and iron ware of all sorts, brass ware of all sorts, India silks, English sattins and damasks, mens ready made cloaths, carpets and painted floor cloths, saddles and all sorts of sadlery ware, stationary and tin ware, hair and rice sieves, pewter of all sorts, fowling pieces and horse pistols, fine prints and maps, with many other articles proper for the season.
Stuart & Reid.
N.B. Choice Florence Wine at Twelve Pounds per half chest.
The Gazette published similar advertisements for commodities being exported. I share a list below from the December 17, 1753, Gazette, not only for general interest but also because of relevance to several forthcoming Humourist essays:
Exported from Charles-Towne
Since Nov. 1, 1753. Of the Country Produce.
Rice, 6,099 Barrels.
342 half ditto.
Pitch, 273 Barrels.
Tar, 74 Barrels.
Turpentine, 216 Barrels.
Deer-Skins, 50 Hhds.
Indico, 2,151 lb.
Leather, 359 Sides.
Corn, 14,528 Bushels.
Pease, 3,158 Bushels.
Beef, 29 Barrels.
Scantling, 5,423 Bushels.
Of the Rice, 2,052 half Barrels, have been shipp’d to the Southward of Cape-Finisterre.
And, yes, accreditation was around even in Colonial America. Here’s proof, as found in the December 17, 1753, Gazette:
At a Visitation of the Free-School Charles-Towne, Dec. 12, 1753. As many of the honorable school-commissioners as attended, ordered the following advertisement to be published in the next Gazette, viz.
That after examination of the several classes, they declared themselves fully satisfied with the improvement of the scholars of the said school, and with the diligence and fidelity of the masters of the same. And more over, that it is their opinion that whoever shall be pleased to send their children to the said school for education, may depend to having all due care taken of them with respect to the several branches of learning taught therein. Certified by
A. Garden, Vice President
I started today’s post by mentioning the fragile condition of The South Carolina Gazette. At the same time, they are in remarkable condition considering the newspaper’s age. Indeed, how remarkable it is that they survive at all!
Thus, I end today’s post with a tribute to libraries and to librarians! (Special thanks to Rob Salvo, Assistant Librarian, Charleston Library Society, for his gracious assistance!)
In her poem “Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967,” Rita Dove (Poet Laureate of the United States, 1993-1995, and Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 2004-2006), pays tribute to her hometown library and to librarians. She reads the poem in the video below, filmed at the White House on May 11, 2011, as part of President Barack Obama’s “Poetry Evening.” I love the ending of the poem, especially the lines
I can eat an elephant
If I take small bites.
In like manner, I can solve this “literary whodunit”—I can discover The Humourist’s identify—if I take small bites, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Enjoy Rita Dove’s reading of “Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967”: