What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He has the best of clarified Oyl, for Clock and Watches.”
By the time that Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith placed his advertisement in the March 16, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he and fellow clock- and watchmaker John Simnet had been engaged in a public feud for more than a year. They often traded barbs in their advertisements, though they also published notices that focused exclusively on promoting their own skills and service. Their rivalry may have prompted both to advertise more regularly. Griffith certainly did not take to the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette to address “his Customers and others” nearly so frequently before Simnet set up shop in Portsmouth and began his own advertising campaign in early 1769.
For the most part, Griffith ignored Simnet in his March 16 advertisement, though he did proclaim that he provided his services “cheaper than by any other Watchmaker.” He emphasized the supplies he had in his shop, “all sorts of materials for Clocks and Watches,” as well as customer service, promising that “those who Employ him, may depend on being faithfully and punctually served.” He also added a component that did not previously appear in his advertisements. In a separate short paragraph, Griffith stated that “He has the best of clarified Oyl, for Clock and Watches, which prevents their stoping in cold Weather.” For the first time, Griffith marketed a product related to his business, a product that allowed his customers to care for their clocks and watches. That product also generated additional revenue for Griffith by expanding his retail activities.
Griffith may have been selling “clarified Oyl” all along. If that was the case, then it seems that his competition with Simnet in the public prints likely prompted him to incorporate this ancillary product into his marketing efforts. Rather than merely taking swipes at his rival, Griffith devised new means of distinguishing himself and his business in order to entice readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette to become patrons of his shop.