February 22

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

Providence Gazette (February 22, 1772).

“He has acquired such an Art in building Chimnies, that he will warrant all he sall hereafter build to carry Smoke in the best Manner.”

Artisans of all sorts often promoted their years of experience when they placed advertisements in American newspapers in the eighteenth century.  Such was the case for Amos Horton, a bricklayer in Providence.  In an advertisement that first ran in the February 15, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette, Horton invoked his “long Experience in the Bricklayer’s Business.”  That “long Experience” prompted him to incorporate an additional marketing strategy into his notice.  Horton offered a guarantee.

The bricklayer proclaimed that he “has acquired such an Art in building Chimnies, that he will warrant all he shall hereafter build to carry Smoke in the best Manner.”  The guarantee, however, came with conditions.  Horton specified that “if any one Chimney in any Stack he shall build after the 15th of February, 1772, fails in carrying Smoke after the best Manner, that then he will deduct out of his Charge for building such Stack, the Value of building such particular Chimney.”  What constituted “carrying Smoke after the best Manner” remained a matter of interpretation, but offering a guarantee of any sort may have helped Horton garner attention.  It likely made prospective clients favorably inclined toward his work before hiring him while also providing reassurances that the bricklayer would address concerns if his chimneys did not meet with their satisfaction.

Furthermore, Horton put his reputation on the line.  After making such a proclamation, published in the public prints on several occasions, he was obligated to honor it.  Not doing so had the potential to damage his reputation and prevent additional clients from hiring him than if he never issued any sort of guarantee at all.  Word-of-mouth critiques of the bricklayer and his chimneys had the potential to outweigh any promises he made in notices that ran in the Providence Gazette.  Adhering to the promise he published in his advertisement became part of his record of customer service.

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