What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Sold (by appointment of Mr. Hemet) … at William Scott’s Irish Linnen Store … in New England.”
Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette learned that Jacob Hemet, “DENTIST to her Majesty, and the Princess Amelia,” compounded an “Essence of Pearl, and Pearl Dentrifice,” a paste or powder for cleaning teeth, “which he has found to be so greatly superior not only in elegance, but also in efficacy, to any thing hitherto made use of for complaints of the Teeth and Gums” when they perused the September 20, 1771, edition. That information appeared in an advertisement that provided additional details about how Hemet’s products contributed to both health and beauty.
At a glance, it may have appeared that Hemet placed the advertisement. His name served as the headline, a common practice among purveyors of goods and services when they placed notices in eighteenth-century newspapers. A short paragraph at the end of the advertisement, however, revealed that Hemet designated local agents to hawk his products on his behalf. Interested parties could purchase Hemet’s Essence of Pearl and Pearl Dentrifice “wholesale and retail” from “W. Bayley, in Cockspur street, near the bottom of the Hay market, London” as well as “at William Scott’s Irish Linnen Store, near the Draw Bridge, Boston, in New England.” Hemet may have written the copy for the advertisement and transmitted it to Bayley and Scott, but he probably did not arrange for running the advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette.
Instead, he likely left those details to Scott following his “appointment” as an agent in the colonies. Scott placed the advertisement in the Boston-Gazette on September 16. Taking advantage of his exclusive access to Hemet’s products, he aimed to expand the market by advertising in nearby New Hampshire as well. Yet the advertisement did not suggest a local or regional market but instead encouraged consumers to think of themselves as participating in a transatlantic market that connected them to the heart of the empire. Scott made available to them products that residents of London presumably purchased, products that Hemet supplied to members of the royal family. Prospective customers skeptical of the efficacy of Hemet’s Essence of Pearl and Pearl Dentrifice may have been more willing to take a chance on products supposedly distributed to consumers in London, grateful that the dentist opted to select an agent in the colonies who could provide them with the same products used by Hemet’s most elite clients.