What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“They will make it their unwearied Study to serve the to the utmost of their Abilities.”
When they opened a shop in New York, bookbinders Nutter and Evans turned to the pages of the New-York Chronicle to inform “their Friends and the Public in general” of their enterprise. In most regards, their advertisement did not look much different than other newspaper advertisements placed by artisans in the eighteenth century. They emphasized both quality and price; however, they did not make reference to years of experience that served as a guarantee of their skill. Unable to make that appeal to prospective customers, they embraced they inexperience and sought to turn it into a virtue. The partnership “earnestly solicits for the Public’s Favour, particularly those who are willing to encourage new Beginners.” In exchange for taking a chance by patronizing a shop operated by these novices, Nutter and Evans offered assurances “that they will make it their unwearied Study to serve them to the utmost of their Abilities.” What they lacked in experience they made up for in enthusiasm. Nutter and Evans also understood that they had an opportunity to make good first impressions that would help them establish a reputation. They communicated to prospective customers that they understood the stakes of serving them well.
They also demonstrated that they understood the expectations prospective customers had for them, describing several of the services they provided. Nutter and Evans did “all manner of Book-binding … either in gilt or plain Covers.” They also ruled blank books “(in whatever Form required).” They enhanced these descriptions of their services with many of the appeals commonly made by bookbinders and other artisans. They made a nod to fashion, stating that they did their work “in the neatest and most elegant taste.” They also invoked the popular combination of price and quality, asserting that they practiced their trade “on reasonable Terms, and with great Accuracy.” When it came to ruling blank books, they made promises that they “performed to Satisfaction” for their clients. Even though they were “new Beginners” who knew they had to prove themselves in the marketplace, Nutter and Evans made evident their understanding of what customers expected and pledged to deliver on those expectations if “the Public in general” gave them the chance to do so.