Research Reports / Rapports de recherche - New Brunswick Newspaper Study of Imports, 1800-1860

Research Reports / Rapports de recherche

New Brunswick Newspaper Study of Imports, 1800-1860

Tina Rolande Roy

1 During the summers of 1982 and 1983 the National Museum of Man in cooperation with the New Brunswick Museum sponsored a major survey of newspapers for data relating to the material history of the province. The study recorded information from New Brunswick newspapers pertaining to goods arriving at Saint John during the period 1800-60. The project was modelled on the computer-based format for newspaper advertisements developed by the Newfoundland Museum. (See V. Dickenson and V. Kolonel, "Computer-Based Archival Research Project: A Preliminary Report," Material History Bulletin 10 [Spring 1980]: 31-61). The information provided by advertisements in New Brunswick newspapers was transcribed according to categories outlined on a data sheet for later computer entry and easy access by researchers. The project employed students interested in historical research and museology and was funded by the federal government's Career-Oriented Summer Employment Programme.

2 Rules and procedures were determined during the first summer to ensure that all data sheets would be compatible. No services were entered unless such a service was included within an advertisement mentioning imported goods. If the researcher was able to assume that an advertised product was an import (by having seen the product previously listed as such, by having reason to suspect the product was an import because of its name [for example, Cuban sugar, or because the advertiser was known to the researcher as an importer] then this advertised product was recorded even if the advertisement itself did not specifically say that the item was an import.

3 The order of classification for an import advertisement (including ships for sale) was determined to be as follows: prime term, adjectives, quantity, price (specific prices only, not general remarks such as "low price" or "for sale cheap"). The description of a commodity was always transcribed in the format of general to specific. For example, "one hundred pounds of large lemons" was transposed to the data sheet as "lemons, large, one hundred pounds." The order in which the adjectives were recorded did not really matter. If "yellow" had been added to the foregoing description, the phrase would have been recorded as either "lemons, large, yellow, one hundred pounds," or "lemons, yellow, large, one hundred pounds." General remarks, such as "for sale at reduced prices," the name of the ship's captain, or descriptions of what commodities were carried by what ships, were recorded in the "remarks" field on the data sheet for clarification and accuracy.

4 Commodities were also recorded in a data file known as the Any Files similar to that compiled by the Newfoundland project. Any new terms were looked up in the Oxford English Dictionary and nineteenth-century lexicons to ensure that these words would be defined in their nineteenth-century sense. The advertisements were recorded exactly as they appeared including any oddities in spelling or punctuation. No attempt was made to use twentieth-century place names or to transcribe written or Roman numerals to Arabic.

5 Newspapers were provided by the New Brunswick Museum Archives and included the following: New Brunswick Courier; Saint John Gazette and General Advertiser; Royal Gazette; City Gazette and General Advertiser. Most papers were read for the period 1800-28. The New Brunswick Courier was also read for 1828-30, 1833-34, 1839, 1842, 1860-61. Each paper had issues missing and these gaps were carefully noted.

6 During the course of the project entertaining words and phrases were recorded on a Bizarre Words List, for example, bastard sugar, gold beaters skin, invisible cloths, a corrected edition of Dilworth's Spelling Books, spiders, second-hand surgical instruments, one bale of curled hair, live leeches, beer engines, morphine lozenges, ground paint brushes, badger hair blenders, hair grainers, flesh brushes and tongues crapers. Other words and phrases which have not yet been defined (or which may be spelling or typographical errors) were placed on an Unknown Words List that includes canendiet, chambers, emminetts, eukier genion, frentignac, herkings, morsens, netis, palmereems, palmyrenes, quillinet, renverteens, sating, and iriroil.

7 A third summer will be necessary to complete the project. Currently researchers can conduct manual searches of the documentation. It is hoped that eventually the data will be available in a machine-readable form. Those interested in obtaining further information about the project should contact the History Department of the New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, or the History Division of the National Museum of Man, Ottawa.

Tina Rolande Roy