Slave For Sale, 1783

To Be Sold
A likely NEGRO MAN
About twenty-two years old, has had the small
pox and measles.  Any family intending to
settle in Nova Scotia, could not meet with one to an-
swer their purpose better, with a warranted title.
Enquire at No. 210, Queen Street

(This ad was 6.8cm by 2.9cm, as printed in the original newspaper.)

Slave for sale, July 1783
Source: The Royal Gazette, New York, 19 July 1783
Scanned directly from the original newspaper (not from microfilm).

James Rivington was born about 1724 in London, England, and died in New York City in July 1802.

Rivington's Royal Gazette was printed in New York City during the Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence.  New York was occupied continuously by the British throughout the Revolutionary War — until November 1783 when the British army left New York forever.  New York was the last city in the United States that was occupied by British forces after the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty in September 1783 that ended the war.

On 12 April 1773, Rivington launched his New-York Gazetteer, a weekly newspaper published in New York.  This controversial newspaper ended on 23 November 1775, when a party of armed men from Connecticut entered the city on horseback, raided his office, destroyed his press and melted down his type.

Rivington went to England, obtained a new press and type, and resumed publication on 18 October 1777, calling the paper Rivington's New-York Royal Gazette, published twice each week.

The Royal Gazette issue of July 19, 1783 – the issue containing the advertisement copied above – was printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper 60.0cm × 46.0cm (a "broadsheet") folded once to make four pages.

After the departure of the British army from New York on 22 November 1783, Rivington changed the name of his newspaper to Rivington's New-York Gazette and Universal Advertiser, but circulation declined rapidly and the last issue appeared on 31 December 1783.

Reference: The New York Press and Its Editors
Book 12, Chapter 21, The History of New York State published 1927

James Rivington's
New York Newspapers

Rivington's New-York Gazetteer, or The Connecticut, New-Jersey, Hudson's-River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser
22 April 1773 - 9 December 1773

Rivington's New-York Gazetteer, or, The Connecticut, Hudson's River, New-Jersey, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser
16 December 1773 - 23 November 1775

      Note the subtle name change,
      from Gazetteer (above) to Gazette (below).

Rivington's New-York Gazette, or, The Connecticut, Hudson's River, New-Jersey, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser
4 - 11 October 1777
(published on Saturday each week)

Rivington's New York Loyal Gazette
18 October 1777 - 6 December 1777
(published on Saturday each week)

The Royal Gazette
13 December 1777 - 19 November 1783

Rivington's New-York Gazette and Universal Advertiser,
22 November 1783 - 31 December 1783

Rivington's Royal Gazette, New York, 19 July 1783
The Royal Gazette, New York, 19 July 1783
Scanned directly from the original newspaper (not from microfilm).

The 27th letter of the Alphabet

In the above slave-for-sale ad, there appear to be several spelling mistakes:

fmall pox     meafles     fettle     anfwer     purpofe
small pox    measles    settle    answer    purpose

These look like the typesetter repeatedly confused the letter 'f' for 's',
but they are not mistakes.

They are examples of an old-style spelling that was a well-known usage
in the 1700s when these ads were set in type, but which disappeared
completely in the mid-1800s.

In modern times, our alphabet has 26 letters, and most people are unaware
that there ever were more than the familiar 26.

In the 1600s and 1700s and early 1800s,
the English alphabet contained 27 letters.

The standard English alphabet used in those days in Nova Scotia and
throughout English-speaking North America, and in Great Britain and
throughout the British Empire, had a letter that has now disappeared
from the alphabet.  This "extra" letter, correctly used at the time,
is what makes the spelling of these two words look odd now.

Similar spellings appear in the other ads:

praife     feventy     forefail     preffed     fhorteft
praise    seventy    foresail    pressed    shortest

[Note:  The letter f has been used here to represent the 27th letter, which is not available
in modern fonts and cannot be accurately reproduced in this commentary.  The modern
letter f resembles, but is not identical to, the 27th letter.]

The 1783 spellings used the letter called the long-s.  Up till the
mid-1800s, the long-s was used for s at the beginning and in the
middle of words.  In Roman type the long-s looks like an f with
the cross-stroke on the left only, and in italic type it looks like a
stretched round s.
archaic extra letter long-s

If a word ended in a single s, the short form was used.  If a word
ended in double s, a long form followed by a short form was used.
If the word had a double s in the middle, one used either two long
forms or a long form followed by a short one.

The following is an example from the statutes of Nova Scotia,
printed in Halifax in 1758. In this text, compare the 'f' in 'Defender'
with the 'long-s' in 'Fir∫t' (First) and in '∫aid' (said). Note that the
two letters are similar in shape, but in the 'long-s' the right side
of the crossbar is omitted.
[Note:  Modern fonts do not include either form of the long-s.  The symbol ∫ has been used
here to represent the long-s, this being as close as I can get to the correct symbol.
Some browsers may not recognise this symbol; these will print a question mark in its place.]
First page of the Nova Scotia Statutes of 1758
"...being the First General Assembly
convened in the said province."
First page of the Nova Scotia Statutes of 1758
The Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia 1758-1983: A Biographical Directory
edited and revised by Shirley Burnham Elliott, ISBN 088871050X
published 1984 by the Province of Nova Scotia

The long-s began to disappear from printed documents in the 1790s,
and printed examples are rare after about 1820.  The long-s continued
to appear in handwritten documents for some years after it disappeared
completely from printed documents, no doubt because people who
had learned to write that way continued the usage as long as they lived.

The Straight Dope on the Long S

Why did 18th-century writers use F inftead of S?
Who finally put an end to this abfurd practice?

The use of 'f' in the place of 's' in early English writing

Why does 's' look like 'f' in old books?

When you look for the first time at a book or newspaper that was
printed in the 1700s, you see strange looking lower case 's' letters.
They look like 'f'. However, if you look closely, you can see that they
don't have a complete cross-stroke as in 'f'. They evolved from the
way 's' was written in Old English, with a long descending stroke.

How to Read 18th Century British-American Writing
...The lower case s was written in elongated form at the beginning
of a word, in the middle of a word, and when written twice, as in pass.
The elongated s can be mistaken for an f, and ss can look
something like a p...

Go To:   Index to other online Nova Scotia History

Go To:   History of Automobiles in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Electric Companies in Nova Scotia

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First uploaded to Internet:   2005 February 17
Latest content revision:   2005 April 06