What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“NATHANIEL BABB, Taylor, … informs his Customers and others, That he has removed from the Shop where he formerly Work’t to a new Shop.”
Who hasn’t heard a particular hackneyed phrase — “Location! Location! Location! — when contemplating buying a home or, especially, opening a business. Nathaniel Babb understood that location was important: he could not remain in business if former and potential customers did not know where to find him. His advertisement offers few appeals to consumers (though he does indicate he was “ready with Fidelity and Dispatch”) in favor of instead making sure that they knew where to find him after his move to a new location.
Many shopkeepers and artisans used elaborate shop signs, such as the one seen below, to identify their places of business in eighteenth-century America (and England as well), but not everyone did so. In an era before standardized street numbers, Babb offers convoluted directions: his shop was “lately erected near the Corner of Clement Jackson’s, in the Street leading to the Canoe Bridge.” Even if Babb had a sign to hang at his new shop, he still needed to direct customers to the general vicinity.
The druggist who issued this trade card included an image of his shop sign, an early form of branding that helped customers remember and locate his business.