What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“He further proposes to engage his Performance for One Year.”
In the summer of 1771, Thomas Morgan announced to “the Publick” that he “has opened a Shop” in Annapolis, “WHERE he intends to carry on the Business of Watch and Clock-making, in all its various Branches.” In an advertisement that ran in the Maryland Gazette for five weeks, he assured “Gentlemen that will please to favour him with their Custom” that they would receive attentive and efficient service when they visited his shop. Most artisans, as well as many other purveyors of goods and services, made similar promises about customer service in their newspaper advertisements.
In addition to making clocks and watches, Morgan also cleaned and repaired them. To entice prospective patrons to give him a chance to demonstrate his skill, he proclaimed that he performed those services “in the best Manner.” Furthermore, he offered a guarantee, a marketing strategy commonly adopted by watch- and clockmakers. John Simnet, a watchmaker who set up shop in New Hampshire, in the late 1760s and migrated to New York in the early 1770s, declared in one of his advertisements that “Such Watches as have been repaired by me, if become foul, or require Alteration, may be clean’d, &c. gratis.” Similarly, Morgan asserted that he would “engage his Performance for One Year, provided the Owner don’t abuse the same.” Patrons who experienced difficulty could return their timepieces to his shop for additional repairs and cleaning free of charge, though Morgan assessed whether the problems originated with any sort of misuse on the part of owners.
While such guarantees protected the interests of clients, they also testified to the confidence watch- and clockmakers had in their abilities. Artisans like Morgan and Simnet would not have offered guarantees if they anticipated that they would have to expend significant time and resources in fulfilling them. Guarantees also communicated to customers that even though Morgan and Simnet would address any problems that arose, they strove to do the job right the first time.