What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“We find them very advantageous … and certainly is preferable to any method ever before invented.”
When Samuel Reynolds invented a machine “for raising Mill-stones, and turning them on their back, fit for dressing or washing in five minutes or less,” he took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette to promote his product. In an advertisement addressed “TO THE MILLERS IN GENERAL” in the January 27, 1773, edition, Reynolds described how millers could safely use his invention with “one hand only” to maneuver millstones for cleaning “without hurting the plaister on burr stones.” He invited millers who wished to order the machine to contact him in Wilmington, Delaware, or any of three millers “at Brandywine mills,” Daniel Byrnes, Joseph Tatnall, and William Starr.
Rather than ask prospective customers to rely solely on the inventor’s own proclamations about his product, Reynolds included a testimonial from Byrnes, Tatnall, and Starr. The experienced millers asserted that Reynolds “made each of [us] one of the said Machines, and we find them very advantageous, as the Mill-stone is taken up by them, with great ease and safety.” In so doing, they reiterated the most important claims made by the inventor. In addition, they declared that using Reynold’s new machine “certainly is preferable to any method ever before invented.” Such an assessment bolstered the pitch made by Reynolds.
The inventor also suggested that he received advance orders or at least interest from other millers, though that may have been a marketing ploy rather than fact. “As there has been a number made for people at a considerable distance, whose names an approbation are difficult to be collected,” he stated, “said Reynolds will be obliged to those that join in sentiment with the above, to favour him with a line for that purpose.” In other words, he invited millers interested in the new machine to join with many others in showing their support by placing orders to acquire their own. The savvy Reynolds sought to incite demand by demonstrating that demand already existed among experienced millers familiar with his product.