August 25

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Massachusetts Spy (August 22, 1771).

“BREWSTER’s BEST ground and made CHOCOLATE.”

Name recognition and brand loyalty have become important aspects of modern marketing campaigns, but those strategies have roots that go back centuries.  Consider John Farmer’s advertisement for chocolate in the August 22, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Spy.  Although he made and sold chocolate at his shop on Fish Street in Boston, Farmer promoted his product as “BREWSTER’s BEST ground and made CHOCOLATE.”

Farmer made Brewster the centerpiece of his advertisement.  Rather than have his own name serve as the headline, as John Cushing did in his advertisement for sugar and William Scott did in his advertisement for Irish linens on the same page, Farmer instead deployed Brewster’s name on its own, in capitals and centered on the first line.  Readers quickly perusing the Massachusetts Spy would have much more easily spotted Brewster’s name than Farmer’s name.  In addition, Farmer described himself as the “successor to the late John Brewster,” signaling to his former customers that they could acquire chocolate of the same quality from him.

He also offered assurances about quality.  Just as customers came to expect the “BEST ground and made CHOCOLATE” from Brewster, they could depend on Farmer meeting the same standards.  He made a promise to that effect, stating that his product was “warranted good and fre[e] from any mixture.”  Farmer may have also expected that others could leverage the quality associated with Brewster’s chocolate.  He sold it “Wholesale or Retail.”  Shopkeepers who purchased it wholesale may have similarly informed their customers that they carried the familiar Brewster’s chocolate made by Brewster’s successor.

When it came to buying chocolate, residents of Boston had many options.  To incite demand for his product, Farmer depended on name recognition and encouraged brand loyalty among consumers in his efforts to convince them to shop “at the sign of the Chocolate-Cakes” rather than anywhere else.

August 24

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (August 24, 1771).

“Just imported by Joseph and William Russell.”

In the early 1770s, each edition of the Providence Gazette concluded with a colophon in which John Carter, the printer, solicited paid notices.  “ADVERTISEMENTS of a moderate Length (accompanied with the Pay),” the colophon advised, “are inserted in this Paper three Weeks for Four Shillings.”  That fee covered setting type the first time an advertisement ran and the space it occupied in three consecutive issues.  Advertisers could also pay additional fees for their notices to make additional appearances.

Joseph Russell and William Russell, two of the city’s most prominent merchants, did not need the invitation in the colophon to prompt them to submit advertisements to Carter’s printing office.  They regularly placed notices promoting a variety of commodities and consumer goods.  Indeed, they advertised so frequently that sometimes they published new advertisements before older ones finished their runs.  That was the case in the August 24, 1771 edition of the Providence Gazette.  That issue featured two advertisements placed by the Russells, a new one on the third page and another that already appeared multiple times on the fourth page.  That made them the only purveyors of goods with more than one advertisement in that issue, not the first time the merchants found themselves in that position.

Did advertising work?  The Russells believed that it did.  Otherwise, they would not have paid to publish advertisement after advertisement in the Providence Gazette.  They also seem to have made some effort to draw attention to their advertisements by varying the formats rather than assuming that prospective customers would read them just because they appeared in the public prints.  Deploying a particularly unusual format, their names, which served as a headline of sorts, appeared halfway through the advertisement on the third page of the August 24 edition.  That distinguished their advertisement from others in the same issue.  In their advertisements on the fourth page, the merchants divided their inventory into two columns instead of a single paragraph of dense text, making it easier for readers to peruse the contents.  The Russells likely thought (or learned from experience) that advertising worked when designed with some creativity and variation.

August 23

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-London Gazette (August 23, 1771).

“THIS Country manufactured Felt Hats.”

As the end of August approached in 1771, Abiezer Smith placed an advertisement in the New-London Gazette to promote hats he made and sold at his shop in Norwich, Connecticut.  He assured prospective customers that he parted with his hats “as cheap as can be bought in the Colony” for items of similar quality.  In addition, he promised that his hats were “made in the best Manner.”  He also suggested that colonists should acquire “this Country manufactured Felt Hats,” a phrase that appeared twice in his notice, rather than the imported alternatives that many shopkeepers kept in stock.

Indeed, Smith devoted nearly half of his advertisement to encouraging retailers and consumers to support local artisans rather than choosing hats made in England.  “If Persons would but duly and properly consider the difference there really is between this County manufactured Felt Hats and those Imported from Great-Britain,” he declared, “they would doubtless conclude that they are much cheaper for the Customer than those that are Imported.”  Yet this was not merely a matter of cost.  He continued by asserting that “certainly there is in this Colony a sufficiency of Hatters to supply it’s Inhabitants with Hats.”   Smith spoke on behalf of all hatters in Connecticut.  Rather than consider other hatters in the colony to be competitors, he made common cause with them in cultivating a market for hats produced locally.  That market depended not only on the selections ultimately made by consumers but also the choices that merchants and shopkeepers made when it came to acquiring and distributing inventory.

Smith limited his arguments in favor of domestic manufactures to price, quality, and supporting the livelihoods of colonists rather than hatters on the other side of the Atlantic.  He did not make explicitly political arguments against Parliament or Great Britain, but within the past decade colonial consumers witnessed (and many supported) nonimportation agreements enacted by merchants in response to the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts.  While those nonimportation agreements had expired at the time Smith placed his advertisement in the New-London Gazette, both merchants and consumers would have been familiar with that context for favoring “this Country manufactured Felt Hats” as well.  Smith allowed potential customers to draw their own conclusions about the politics of purchasing his hats, likely well aware that his advertisement echoed others that much more explicitly linked domestic manufactures and the imperial crisis in the recent past.

Slavery Advertisements Published August 23, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Connecticut Journal (August 23, 1771).

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New-London Gazette (August 23, 1771).

August 22

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 22, 1771).

“As low a Price, as … can be purchased for at any Shop in th[i]s Town.”

In the summer of 1771, Richard Jennys sold a “Variety of English, Scotch and India Goods” at his shop across the street from the “Old Brick Meeting-House, in Cornhill” in Boston.  His inventory included “a Parcel of beautiful and newest Fashion Apron Gauzes, Gauze Handkerchiefs and Aprons” as well as “a few Pieces of handsome Lutestring and Mantua Silks.”  Like many purveyors of goods who advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and other colonial newspapers, Jennys made an appeal to price in his effort to incite demand and convince prospective customers to visit his shop.  He described his prices for the lutestring and silk as “very cheap.”

Yet Jennys did more than merely promise low prices.  In a nota bene that concluded his advertisement, he offered a price match guarantee to consumers.  “His Customers,” the shopkeeper declared, “may depend on having any Article at as low a Price, as the same can be purchased for at any Shop in th[i]s Town.”  Jennys certainly had plenty of competitors in Boston, a bustling port and one of the largest cities in the colonies, but that did not prevent him from vowing that he would not be undersold.  In such a crowded marketplace, he attempted to distinguish his shop from the many others that carried similar goods “IMPORTED from LONDON.”  Although he made a point of noting his low prices for certain textiles, his price match guarantee suggested that the bargains did not end there.  Instead, comparison shoppers could get a deal on every single item that Jennys had in stock.  Jennys leveraged every other advertisement that promised “the very lowest Rate” or “a very low Price” by alerting customers that he would offer the same deals.  Some retailers have made this practice a cornerstone of their marketing strategy in the twenty-first century, but they certainly did not invent the price match guarantee.  Entrepreneurs like Jennys deployed it centuries earlier.

Slavery Advertisements Published August 22, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Maryland Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Maryland Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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New-York Journal (August 22, 1771).

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New-York Journal (August 22, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (August 22, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (August 22, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (August 22, 1771).

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Pennsylvania Journal (August 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (August 22, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (August 22, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (August 22, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (August 22, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (August 22, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (August 22, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (August 22, 1771).

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Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (August 22, 1771).

August 21

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 19, 1771).

“He hath to sell also, his Royal Balsam, which is made of American produce.”

Two advertisements for patent medicines appeared among the notices in the August 21, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  In an extensive advertisement that filled an entire column and overflowed into another, William Young promoted “Dr. HILL’S AMERICAN BALSAM.”  Further down that second column, George Weed hawked his own “Royal Balsam” as well as several other nostrums that he compounded to cure “the bloody flux,” coughs, and other maladies.  Weed’s advertisement was much shorter, but the apothecary indicated that he had the capacity to publish a notice just as lengthy as the one inserted by Young.  “He hath by him,” Weed proclaimed, “a considerable number of certificates of extraordinary cures by [his medicines], which he designs to publish in a short time.”  In other words, Weed claimed to have testimonials from actual patients to disseminate among the public.

While Weed supplied a variety of powders, syrups, and tinctures, Young devoted his entire advertisement to the American Balsam.  This remedy bore that name because a physician in London produced it from “American plants, sent to England by that ingenious gentleman Mr. William Young, of Pennsylvania, Botanist to their Majesties the King and Queen of Great-Britain.”  That botanist was the son of the advertiser, whom Hill “appointed the only capital vender of [his medicine] in all America” out of gratitude “to the young gentleman.”  Hill did allow that Young could appoint “whom he pleases under him” to sell the American Balsam.  The elder Young had an exclusive franchise, but appointed local agents in Philadelphia, Germantown, Lancaster, and Wilmington.

Weed divided his advertisement into two portions.  In the first half, he proclaimed that the American Balsam, an imported medicine, “is now so well known in Pennsylvania, Maryland, &c. &c. there is no need of any further recommendation” and then described its effective use among patients in great detail anyway.  The second half consisted of a letter from Hill in which the doctor described the afflictions the medicine cured, outlined the history of its creation and refinement, and endorsed Young as his American purveyor.  Weed did not resort to such a preponderance of prose for his Royal Balsam, produced locally, or invest nearly as much in placing his much shorter advertisement, though the “certificates of extraordinary cures” that he suggested he would soon publish likely rivaled Young’s advertisement in length.  Although  they chose different marketing strategies, Weed and Young both apparently considered their methods worth the expense of placing notices in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.

August 20

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Essex Gazette (August 20, 1771).

“Strips of Paper are printed off, containing a List of every Rateable Article.”

Throughout the colonies, printers produced, advertised, and sold “BLANKS” or printed forms that facilitated legal and commercial transactions.  Samuel Hall listed a “general Assortment of Blanks … particularly fitted for the County of Essex” in the August 20, 1771, edition of the Essex Gazette.  Among that assortment, he reported that he had “neatly and accurately” printed “Apprentices Indentures,” “Bills of Lading,” “Powers of Attorney,” “Sheriffs Bail Bonds,” and “Justices Writs, Summonses, Executions and Recognizances.”  The template on each blank aided colonists attending to their affairs in the marketplace and the legal system.

In a separate advertisement, Hall promoted another product intended to assist colonists in meeting their obligations, in this case their obligation to enumerate their property for the purposes of paying taxes.  Hall described this helpful device as “Strips of Paper … containing a List of every Rateable Article” that contributed toward the overall tax assessment.  Like the blanks more familiar to many colonists, these “Strips of Paper” included empty space to fill in with the appropriate details; in this case, “to set down the Number and Value of Articles in the Columns left Blank for the Purpose.”  Such organization then made it that much easier to achieve a final tally.  Hall promoted these “Strips of Paper” in terms of the convenience they bestowed on prospective customers who might otherwise experience greater difficulty with this task.  He intended them “FOR the Easement of People, in preparing Lists of their Polls & Rateable Estates.”  Customers who used them did not need to worry about inadvertently overlooking anything that should be included, Hall suggested, since they could simply proceed down the list.

The printer conveniently placed this advertisement immediately below a notice to the “Inhabitants of the Town of SALEM” that they were “to give in to the Assessors Accounts of their Polls and Rateable Estates, according to the Tenor of an Act passed the last Session of the Great and General Court.”  That notice also threatened penalties for “every Person … refusing or neglecting to give into the Assessors in writing, and on Oath if required, a true Account of his or her Rateable Estate” by September 20.  Hall seized an opportunity to make current events work to his advantage in creating and marketing a product that made the assessment process easier and more convenient for prospective customers.

Slavery Advertisements Published August 20, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Essex Gazette (August 20, 1771).

August 19

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Boston Evening-Post (August 19, 1771).

“Will make as good Allowance to Travelling Traders, &c. as if purchased of the Printer.”

A portion of the commencement exercises at Harvard in 1771 generated such enthusiasm in some quarters and outrage in others that printer Ezekiel Russell decided to publish Andrew Croswell’s “Brief Remarks on the Satyrical Drollery at Cambridge, last COMMENCEMENT DAY; with special Reference to the Character of STEPHEN the PREACHER; which raised such extravagant Mirth.”  (Read the British Museum’s copy.)  For those who attended the event, this publication served as a counterbalance to the “vain laughter, and clapping” that “gave great offence” (at least to Croswell).  For others who had not heard the “Satyrical Drollery” and witnessed “such extravagant Mirth,” the pamphlet gave them an opportunity to learn more about what had transpired, though through the lecturing tone of a critic who had not appreciated the behavior he saw exhibited at the commencement.  For Russell, this represented an opportunity to generate revenues and increase foot traffic in his shop.

Yet Russell’s shop on Marlborough Street in Boston was not the only location where consumers could acquire copies of the pamphlet.  An advertisement in the August 19, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post advised that they “may likewise be had at KNOX’S LONDON BOOK-STORE, in Cornhill.”  Henry Knox, the bookseller who later became a senior general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the new nation’s first Secretary of War, had recently placed his own advertisements in the city’s newspapers.  In addition, residents of Newburyport and the surrounding towns could instead visit B. Emerson, who stocked a limited number of copies.  The following day, and advertisement in the Essex Gazette advised readers in Salem that Samuel Hall also sold the pamphlet.

Russell also envisioned other means of distribution.  In his advertisement, he indicated that Knox “will make as good Allowance to Travelling Traders, &c. as if purchased of the Printer.”  In other words, itinerant peddlers as well as booksellers and shopkeepers received discounts for buying in volume for the purposes of retailing to their own customers.  Knox offered them the same prices they would have otherwise received by purchasing directly from Russell.  The printer and his associates worked together to incite demand by disseminating copies of the pamphlet and offering deals to retailers.  The newspaper advertisement alerted prospective customers to three locations that carried the “Brief Remarks,” but also encouraged them to ask for it from “Travelling Traders” and others who might have also added it to their inventories.