What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Genteel Entertainment for Man and Horse.”
As Thomas Allen prepared to open the “London COFFEE-HOUSE” near the courthouse in New London, Connecticut, at the end of April 1770, he placed an advertisement in the New-London Gazette to inform “Gentlemen Travellers, and others.” The new establishment offered “genteel Entertainment for Man and Horse.” For those interested in conducting business at the coffeehouse, Allen promoted the “large and commodious Wharff for Navigation” that adjoined it as well as “Stores, Stables, Yards, &c. for the Reception of Horses and Stock.” The proprietor did not depict the new coffeehouse merely as a place of leisure. Most of the amenities he highlighted contributed to mercantile pursuits.
Allen did not confine his advertising to the New-London Gazette. He also inserted an advertisement in the April 21 edition of the Providence Gazette. Featuring nearly identical copy, it also invited “Gentlemen Travellers, and others” to visit and do business at the new coffeehouse. Allen believed that local custom alone would not support the new establishment. He needed to incite interest and awareness among prospective customers who would be passing through New London. The new coffeehouse and its infrastructure for conducting business had the capacity to convince others to add New London to the itinerary.
Apparently, Allen considered Rhode Island the best place to cultivate customers among “Gentlemen Travellers,” at least initially. In addition to the Providence Gazette, he also placed his advertisement in the April 23 edition of the Newport Mercury. He did not, however, insert a notice in any of the several newspapers published in Boston or New York at the time. The additional expense may have prevented wider advertising, though Allen may have considered his reasonable approach sufficient for disseminating word about his new coffeehouse and its amenities. He likely anticipated that some of his clients would continue their journeys to Boston or New York, spreading news of his establishment to their friends and associates without Allen needing to place additional advertisements.