What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Stage-Coach, Number One.”
John Stavers faced competition for clients … and he did not appreciate it. In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Stavers operated a stagecoach between Portsmouth and Boston. For a time, he enjoyed a monopoly on the route, but he tried to convince the public that did not necessarily amount to an unfair advantage. Instead, Stavers contended, he provided an important service to the community “at a very great Expence” to himself when no one else did. In an advertisement in the July 19, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he asked prospective customers to take into account the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” he experienced “when no other Person would undertake” the route. He did so in service not only to his passengers but also to deliver “the Mails of Letters and News Papers.”
Stavers depicted that as a heroic effort. His stagecoach had already “surmounted every Obstruction, and through Heat and Cold, Rain and Snow Storm, push’d forward, at Times when every other Conveyance fail’d.” Regardless of any kind of difficulty, his operation previously ran like clockwork … and would continue to do so. The stagecoach set off from Stavers’s tavern in Portsmouth on Tuesday morning and departed Boston for the return trip on Friday mornings. Stavers hired a “careful Driver” and kept the carriage and horses “in such Order, that Nothing bit some unforeseen Accident, shall at any Time give Hindrance, or by any Means retard the Journey.” Through experience, Stavers was prepared for any obstacle.
Accordingly, he felt “intitled to” the patronage of travelers now that he faced an upstart who challenged him for business. Stavers requested that the public “now give his Coach the Preference” rather than hire a competitor “whose Drivers, big with Importance, new and flaming Coaches, expect mighty Things.” Stavers made clear that he did not believe the competition could live up to its promises, especially in the face of “the first Snow Storm” when the seasons changed. Moreover, he felt annoyed that his rival plied the same route and schedule. Stavers feigned best wishes for the competition, but simultaneously declared his enterprise “Stage-Coach, Number One,” seeking to establish a ranking to influence prospective clients. Simultaneously, he asked those prospective clients to take his past successes and sacrifices into consideration when choosing which stagecoach service to hire for trips between Portsmouth and Boston.