What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He has got two Sorts of Chairs made by him which are called as neat as any that are made in Boston.”
When Joseph P. Goodwin set up shop in Salem in the summer of 1771, he placed an advertisement in the Essex Gazette“to inform all Gentlemen and others” that he “makes the best Sort of Mahogany Chairs, Couches and easy Chairs, Sofa’s, and any Thing in the Chair-making Business.” To attract customers, especially those not yet familiar with his work, he deployed some of the appeals early American artisans most commonly incorporated into their newspaper advertisements. “All Gentlemen and others that will favour him their Custom,” Goodwin proclaimed, “may depend upon having Work done in the neatest Manner.” Such an assertion had multiple purposes, evoking both the quality of the chairs and other furniture and the skill of the chairmaker. In addition, Goodwin promised good customer service, declaring that he attended to clients “with Fidelity and Dispatch.”
In addition to those standard appeals, Goodwin devoted a nota bene to favorable comparisons between the chairs he produced and those from workshops in Boston. That he made his furniture from mahogany already testified to his understanding of quality and fashion in the eighteenth-century marketplace, but Goodwin embellished his advertisement with additional details. He trumpeted that “Chairs made by him … are called as neat as any that are made in Boston.” He did not, however, indicate who made that assessment, whether it was a pronouncement he made on his own or a recommendation made by former customers or others. The wording suggested that others bestowed that designation on Goodwin’s chairs, but he did not offer further elaboration. He may have considered it unnecessary, believing that his confidence in making such a statement would entice prospective customers to visit his shop to see his chairs and other furniture for themselves. Like many merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans who advertised in the Essex Gazette, Goodwin refused to allow competitors in Boston to overshadow his workshop in Salem. Boston was the bigger port, but that did not necessarily mean better merchandise than readers of the Essex Gazette could find in local stores and workshops.