January 14

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Jan 14 - 1:14:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (January 14, 1768).

“He hath a medallion in clay … as a specimen of his abilities.”

In addition to marketing a “Neat assortment” of ceramics and hardware, Joseph Stansbury also used his advertisement in the January 14, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette to “acquaint the public, he is well versed in designing and executing any kind of ornaments in stucco, for cielings or walls of rooms, basto relievo’s, &c.” He offered his services as an artisan to colonists interested in sprucing up the interior architecture of their homes according to the prevailing styles and tastes.

Stansbury did not expect prospective clients merely to take him at his word that he was “well versed in designing and executing” those decorative elements. Instead, he presented an opportunity for them to examine a sample of his work and determine for themselves whether he possessed the level of skill he claimed. Interested parties could visit his shop on Market Street where “he hath a medallion in clay, of the present King of Poland, executed here from his coronation medal … which he will shew to the curious, as a specimen of his abilities.” This sample likely had some cachet among genteel colonists. According to Richard Butterwick, in 1764 the Polish king’s coronation medal had been “struck in England by Thomas Pingo, who had earlier struck the medal for George III’s coronation.”[1] As early as 1765 descriptions of the medal, supplemented by engraved images, circulated in magazines published in England and Ireland, which may have been Stansbury’s source for his clay specimen.[2]

Stansbury did not consider newspaper advertising alone sufficient to entice potential clients to commission his services. Advertisements acted as an opening salvo that informed colonists of the services he offered, but the specimen he displayed may have been the more powerful marketing tool. No matter how elaborate the description of his work he might publish, words could not compare to the opportunity to examine, by sight and by touch, a sample that demonstrated his abilities.

Jan 14 - Engraving
Detail of engraving of coronation medal for Stansilaw II from Gentleman’s and London Magazine (March 1765).

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[1] Richard Butterwick, Poland’s Last King and English Culture: Stanislaw August Poniatowski, 1732-1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 221.

[2] Gentleman’s and London Magazine; or Monthly Chronologer (Dublin: John Exshaw, March 1765), 156 and leaf between 156 and 157.

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