What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“EDWARD BROADFIELD has carried on the manufacture of STURGEON for fourteen years, and given a general satisfaction.”
Edward Broadfield told a dramatic tale of commercial rivalry, sabotage, subterfuge, and woe in his advertisement for pickled sturgeon from the June 19, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Journal.
He started by noting his qualifications and the quality of his product. He had “carried on the manufacture of STURGEON for fourteen years.” The pickled sturgeon he produced was as good as any imported from the Baltic, so good that the “honourable society of arts, manufactures and commerce” had presented him an award, including a cash prize, for the “best Sturgeon cured in America.”
The previous year some misfortunes forced Broadfield to take on a partner, who remained unnamed throughout the advertisement. The partner, in turn, attempted to force Broadfield out of his own business. The partner refused to send the necessary supplies to continue the business. Broadfield found himself in such a predicament, unable to pay his debts, that he left town in order to procure the necessary supplies on his own, leaving his wife to oversee his affairs while he was away.
In Broadfield’s absence, the partner sent “a French Indian and his wife, to supplant my wife.” Furthermore, he spread false rumors about Broadfield and attempted to bribe his wife to leave town. She did “quit the place,” but never received the promised payment for doing so.
This was all bad enough, but Broadfield’s reputation was further at stake. His wife left behind several kegs “branded with my brand” which the Indian and his wife then filled with their own pickled sturgeon. They sold and shipped it as though they were in partnership with Broadfield. His advertisement warned unsuspecting consumers about this trickery.
Broadfield announced that he continued business at Kensington, not at Lamberton where he had formerly pursued his craft. In most circumstances, a brand alone testified to the quality of the product in the kegs, but Broadfield needed customers to know that only pickled sturgeon that came from him directly in Kensington actually had his seal of approval. In addition, he listed one additional authorized seller in Philadelphia, “Mr. Jeremiah Baker, near the Crooked Billet, in Water-street.” Broadfield concluded by stressing that his fish was sold “by no other persons.”
Broadfield told quite a story in his advertisement. He attempted to leverage a frustrating, infuriating, and embarrassing series of events to rehabilitate his damaged reputation, warn others against the perfidy of his former partner, and attract customers for his own product. In the process of promoting his own pickled sturgeon, he aired a lot of dirty laundry. Perhaps a combination of sympathy and indignation resonated with customers.