What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“CLOCK and WATCH-MAKER, at the DIAL in WILMINGTON.”
Two clock- and watchmakers advertised in the August 16, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, but they likely did not consider each other competitors. John Wood promoted a “PARCEL of neat Philadelphia made WATCHES” available at his shop “at the Corner of Front and Chestnut-streets” in Philadelphia. Thomas Crow advised prospective customers that he made “gold and silver Watches” as well as “musical, Chamber, and plain Clocks.” He also noted he had “removed his Shop to Market-street, opposite to William Marshall’s Tavern,” but he did not mean the Market Street in Philadelphia that would have put him in close proximity to Wood’s shop. Instead, his advertisement identified Crow as a “CLOCK and WATCH-MAKER, at the DIAL in WILMINGTON,” Delaware, thirty miles down the Delaware River. The two advertisers addressed different markets in their efforts to attract consumers.
Although Wood expected the majority of his customers to come from Philadelphia and its environs and Crow expected most of his customers to come from Wilmington and the surrounding area, they participated in a single media market. Wilmington did not have its own newspaper in 1770. Indeed, no printers published newspapers in Delaware during the colonial period. Only after the American Revolution, in 1785, did Jacob Killen commence publication of the Delaware Gazette, the state’s first newspaper, in Wilmington. In 1770, the Pennsylvania Gazette served as a regional newspaper for readers and advertisers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and portions of Maryland and New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal did as well, though the Gazette had been in print for much longer and had larger circulation numbers.
Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans placed most of the advertisements for consumer goods and services that appeared in the newspapers published in Philadelphia, but not all of them. Advertisers from Wilmington, Delaware; Burlington, New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and other towns in the region also treated those publications as their local newspapers. When Thomas Crow inserted his advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, he expected that prospective customers in and near his town would see it and respond.