What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Griffith is now well settled in Business.”
Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith frequently advertised his services as clock- and watchmaker in the New-Hampshire Gazette in the late 1760s and early 1770s. For eighteen months in 1769 and 1770, he placed many of his notices in response to advertisements inserted by John Simnet, a rival who migrated to Portsmouth after gaining decades of experience as a clock- and watchmaker in London. Simnet repeatedly denigrated colonial clock- and watchmakers in general and Griffith in particular, claiming that those who did not receive their training in England did more harm than good when they attempted to fix broken clocks and watches. For his part, Griffith sometimes refused to take the bait, but on other occasions published pointed responses to the Simnet, accusing him of being an itinerant just as likely to steal watches as repair them. Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette observed their feud for months. When Simnet departed for New York, Griffith continued advertising, but returned to positive messages.
Such was the case in an advertisement that ran in the August 9, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette (though the notice was most likely misdated July 8). Griffith announced “CLOCK and WATCHES, clean’d & repair’d as usual in the neatest compleatest and cheapest manner.” Like other artisans, he emphasized quality, skill, and price. He also made a nod toward customer service, stating that “his Customers and others may depend on being well used, with Punctuality.” Griffith also mentioned that he was “now well settled in Business,” testifying to his experience without having to draw comparisons to a competitor with decades of experience who formerly mocked him in the public prints. A year after Simnet removed to New York, many readers likely still remembered the war of words between the watchmakers that regularly played out in the newspaper. Griffith likely experienced some relief at no longer being at the receiving end of Simnet’s harangues. No longer debating whether he needed to respond to Simnet or how vociferously, Griffith ran advertisements that promoted his business without launching attacks on his competitors. That may have suited him just fine, but readers lost out on one source of entertainment that formerly appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette.