Lost and Found

Arts & Literature

January 3, 2014
by Todd Andrlik Also by this Author


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You may think that newspapers are only good for news, but advertising is a critical part of their content. Not only does advertising bring in substantial revenue for the publisher, it’s the reason why many people purchase the paper – think about those coupons, classifieds and supplements. For historians, advertising is also an essential part of newspapers. We can’t take advantage of money-saving offers, but we sure can learn a lot about the material culture. The things that were advertised tell us a lot about what people valued. Ads show us more than how people spent their hard-earned money, or wished they could. Some ads show us what people already owned by describing things that were lost, that were considered valuable enough to advertise in order to reclaim. Between May 1775 and August 1776, lost and found advertisements from New England newspapers also allow us to re-live the chaos of war during the Siege of Boston. Click each image below to enlarge.

New-England Chronicle (Cambridge, MA)
May 12, 1775



New-England Chronicle (Cambridge, MA)
June 8, 1775


New-England Chronicle (Cambridge, MA)
June 29, 1775


New-England Chronicle (Cambridge, MA)
February 1, 1776



New-England Chronicle (Cambridge, MA)
February 22, 1776


New-England Chronicle (Cambridge, MA)
March 6, 1776



Providence Gazette
March 23, 1776



New-England Chronicle (Cambridge, MA)
March 27, 1776


New-England Chronicle (Boston)
May 2, 1776


Connecticut Journal (New Haven)
June 5, 1776


New-England Chronicle (Boston)
August 29, 1776



  • The 1 Feb 1776 ad from Samuel Hobart, paymaster for New Hampshire, was part of a big dispute between him and Col. John Stark, who turned a blind eye to the New Hampshire troops that had seized the pay they thought was owed to them at the end of the year. Stark eventually wrote a sort of apology.

  • A long-term project of mine is the study of New England clothing and fabrics through the ads in period news-papers. There are scores and scores of runaway notices that describe the clothing for each year in addition to product ads by merchants. I do wish they had mentioned prices more often. One reason this is a long-term effort is that I often find myself reading other entries besides the ads. Terrible for the project but terrific for the learning experience.

  • Thanks, Todd, this was fun! I enjoyed the detail of what the authors of the lost and found advertisements thought was important. My favorite is the Battle of Lexington and Concord militiaman who lost his French “firelock.” Also, with such information, one has some evidence of where his unit was located at one time. I love the images of the original advertisements! Much more fun that Word text.

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