What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Stage-Coach No. I. … SETS out on every Tuesday Morning.”
Thomas Sabin operated “Stage-Coach No. 1” between Boston and Providence. He had a flair for attracting attention to his transportation services, having advertised the previous summer that travelers would ride in “a most curious four wheeled Carriage, called the AETHERIAL VEHICLE.” Yet Sabin realized that generating business required more than just associating snappy names with the carriages that transported his passengers.
In particular, he advertised widely in both cities. His notice appeared week after week in the Providence Gazette, the only newspaper printed in that city in 1767. In addition, he placed advertisements in at least three out of four of the newspapers published in Boston. On August 31, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy carried identical notices, each with an impressive headline for “Stage-Coach No. 1.”
Sabin neglected only one newspaper, the Massachusetts Gazette, the only Boston newspaper distributed on Thursdays rather than Mondays. Here Sabin missed an opportunity to reach as many potential customers as possible by spreading out his advertisements in multiple newspapers. Or did he? Note the schedule for the Boston to Providence journey. His stagecoach departed on Thursdays. Perhaps Sabin did not consider advertising in the Massachusetts Gazette worth the investment since readers obtained their copies just as he left town. It may have made more sense to advertise widely on Mondays, giving potential passengers three days to make arrangements. He observed a similar schedule in Providence, where his advertisements appeared in a newspaper printed on Saturdays and clients had three days to book seats for departure on the following Tuesday.
Some eighteenth-century advertisers made efforts to maximize the number of potential customers exposed to their marketing efforts. In cities with multiple newspapers, they industriously placed the same notice in each of them. Sabin adopted this strategy, but adapted it to fit the particular circumstances of how his business operated.