What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.”
As summer turned to fall in 1770, Jacob Valk took to the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to advertise his services as a bookkeeper. He informed readers that he “keeps an Office where Merchants and Tradesmen may have their Books regulated by the Month.” He assisted with balancing and closing accounts as well as opening accounts “properly for those commencing any Kind of Business.” Valk oversaw books kept for various purposes: “Partnerships Accounts, and Accounts of Ships, Planters, or Executors.” In each case, clients could depend on having their ledgers “properly scrutinized, and accurately adjusted.” They could also expect confidentiality. Valk promised “Secrecy and Dispatch.”
Valk made a special appeal to prospective clients “apprehensive of a Failure or Litigation at Law.” By hiring his services, they could avoid Embarrassment in their Affairs.” Although he did not offer any guarantees, he suggested that anyone anxious about their bookkeeping abilities could gain a sense of security by relying on his guidance and oversight. It was “more than probable,” he asserted, that his clients would “meet with a happy Prevention” of undesirable outcomes, but only if they acted in a timely manner. Valk encouraged prospective clients to consult with him early rather than wait until it was too late for him to help.
Valk presented a combination of invitation and warning in his advertisement. By responding to his notice, “Merchants and Tradesmen” lessened the chances that they would find themselves in the position of having to respond to another sort of notice that frequently appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers, those that called on colonists to settle accounts or face legal action. In the same issue that carried Valk’s advertisement, Andrew Taylor placed just such a notice directed at “all Persons indebted to me.” Those who owed Taylor money were on the verge of experiencing “Embarrassment in their Affairs” if they did not settle accounts quickly. Valk offered an alternative to clients who hired his bookkeeping services.