What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“No CURE No PAY.”
As part of his marketing efforts, Mr. Hamilton, “Surgeon Dentist and Operator for the Teeth, from LONDON,” offered prospective patients a guarantee: “No CURE No PAY.” If his tincture for toothaches did not yield the desired results by relieving the pain in just a few minutes then clients did not have to pay for Hamilton’s services. Colonial consumers were rightfully suspicious of quack doctors and remedies that seemed too good to be true, so Hamilton made a pitch intended to help prospective patients overcome their skepticism and give his tincture a chance, figuring that they did not lose anything if it did not work.
Given Hamilton’s description of his tincture and its effects, leading with the guarantee was probably a smart move. It did sound too good to be true. In addition to curing toothaches without drawing (or pulling) teeth it also “cures all disorders whatever in the mouth or gums.” For instance, after just a few applications the tincture “will fasten the teeth if ever so loose.” Hamilton also proclaimed that his tincture “will perfectly cure the scurvy in the gums” as well as prevent teeth from rotting, preserve “such as are decayed from becoming worse,” and eliminate “disagreeable smells from the breath.” But wait, there’s more! Hamilton’s amazing tincture did mote than relieve maladies of the mouth. When applied elsewhere, it had the power to “entirely remove all kinds of swellings in the cheek or pain in the ear.” It could cure violent headaches as well as “the most violent rheumatic pains in any part of the body.” Hamilton drew in patients with the promise of relieving toothaches. His guarantee covered only that service, but it opened the door for promoting his tincture for other uses. It very well could have included an ingredient that provided temporarily relief for toothaches, giving Hamilton an opportunity to make a hard sell to patients. For just “One Dollar each,” consumers could purchase Hamilton’s “valuable tincture.” If it relieved toothaches, even if only temporarily, then why not acquire a bottle to experiment with other ailments?
Hamilton went all in with this marketing strategy. In July 1769, he inserted identical advertisements trumpeting “No CURE No PAY” in all the newspapers published in New York, the New-York Chronicle, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, and the New-York Journal. Colonists who read more than one newspaper could hardly avoid Hamilton’s advertisements. Increased exposure to his promise of “No CURE No PAY” may have also played a role in convincing some prospective patients to give his tincture a try.