Superior people

Advertising is the lingua franca of the modern age. Everyone has something to sell or something they want to buy, and advertising is what brings sellers and buyers together. Guaranteeing the quality of the merchandise is a routine advertising technique. Take the venerable Charleston, South Carolina, wholesalers Austin, Laurens, & Appleby. They had a boatload of highly valuable merchandise ready for a competitive consumer market. Assuaging prospective customers’ concerns about any hidden defects in their inventory was important. "To be sold on board the ship Bance Island, on Tuesday the 6th of May next, at Ashley Ferry; a choice cargo of about 150 fine healthy negroes, just arrived from the Windward & Rice Coast," reads the firm’s eighteenth-century ad. "The utmost care has already been taken, and shall be continued, to keep them free from the least danger of being infected with the small pox, no boat having been on board, and all other communication with people from Charles-Town prevented."

Selling human flesh is an ancient practice, and one that seems to find a new manifestation in every age. It’s not impossible to imagine an Austin, Laurens & Appleby-like advertisement appearing somewhere on the Web, or perhaps in a student newspaper at a prestigious university.

The New York Times recently reported that the following ad-illustrated with drawings of a baby carriage and a stork delivery-has...

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