What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“That genteel and well frequented TAVERN.”
When Henry Gray became the proprietor of a tavern “formerly kept by the late BENJAMIN BACKHOUSE” in Charleston, he turned to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to inform the community that the establishment was under new management. The “well frequented” tavern already had a substantial clientele. It also enjoyed a fair level of familiarity among the population since Gray did not consider it necessary to specify the tavern’s location. He invited the “Friends and Acquaintance of Mr. Backhouse” to continue their patronage, but also extended a welcome to his own friends and other potential customers.
Backhouse’s tavern had been “well frequented” in part because of its “genteel” amenities and gracious service. The new proprietor promised customers that they would continue to “meet with civil treatment” as they enjoyed “good Liquor and good Cheer.” Gray intended to serve “the best of every Thing the Province can afford,” making it clear that he expected “good Order and Decorum” from patrons. Gray positioned his tavern as a destination for the better sorts rather than the sort of raucous watering hole that their social inferiors might frequent.
He also attempted to manage expectations, especially among customers familiar with the tavern from the days that Backhouse ran it. “It cannot be expected the House will be furnished in that elegant Manner Part of it formerly was,” Gray explained. Apparently he had acquired or leased the building from Backhouse’s estate, but not the furnishings. In order to avoid disappointment, he warned patrons in advance that not everything about the interior would be as it had been. He prepared customers to appreciate the features that had continued from the days Backhouse operated the “genteel and well frequented TAVERN” rather than focus on the one element that changed. With that bit of generosity extended by patrons to their new host, Gray pledged “to give Satisfaction as far as in my Power.”