What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“As he is a young beginner, he hopes by close application to his business to give entire satisfaction.”
John Richards, a blacksmith, could tackle any sort of job customers brought to him: “Ship, Plantation, and Gun Work, and all Work necessary to be done about a House.” He pledged that he would complete any task “in the best manner, on the most reasonable terms, and with the quickest dispatch.” In so doing, he reiterated many of the appeals commonly made by other artisans in their advertisements: quality, price, and efficiency.
Many artisans also emphasized their years of experience, suggesting that quality and efficiency in particular derived from years pursuing their trade. Richards was not in a position to make such a claim, so he took a different tack. Describing himself as “a young beginner,” he promised to devote “close application to his business.” He acknowledged that he had not yet worked in the forge for years, but he turned that into a virtue. He had not yet established a reputation for the quality of his work among the resident of Savannah, but that meant that he would only try harder by carefully attending to his business. Realizing that sincere effort alone would not produce products customers approved, he guaranteed “entire satisfaction to all who may be pleased to favour him with their custom.” Richards encouraged potential customers to take a chance on “a young beginner” through his assurances that he would labor to conscientiously fulfill their orders until they were pleased with his work.
In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin identified thirteen virtues that he cultivated in order to become a successful artisan and, more generally, a better person. Franklin listed Industry as his sixth virtue: “Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” Franklin’s autobiography had not yet been published at the time Richards composed his advertisement, but the young blacksmith did not need a luminary to point out the value of industriousness. Richard already understood its importance and expected that potential customers who read his advertisement understood it as well.