What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Elizabeth Coleman … Continues the Brewing-Business.”
Women who advertised that they provided goods and services usually fell into one of several occupational groups. Female shopkeepers promoted a variety of imported goods, especially textiles and accessories for making clothing. Milliners and seamstresses advertised the hats and garments they made for clients. Schoolmistresses invited prospective students and their parents to lessons that included reading, writing, and sewing.
On occasion, however, women who pursued other occupations ran advertisements in the public prints. Elizabeth Coleman, for instance, informed the public that she “Continues the Brewing-Business” in a notice that ran in the March 23, 1772, edition of the Boston-Gazette. She pledged to “serve with Dispatch, the best of double and single Malt and Spruce Beer in as large or small quantities as is wanted.” No order was too large or too small for Coleman! Furthermore, she set prices “at as reasonable Rate as good Beer can be afforded.”
Although Coleman operated a “Brewing-Business,” she may have been the proprietor and employer rather a brewer herself. She indicated that she “now employed a Person brought up to the Business.” Perhaps that employee’s knowledge, skill, and experience supplemented her own, expanding the number of brewers affiliated with Coleman’s business. Perhaps as a woman in a predominantly male occupation she sought to downplay her own contributions as brewer in favor by giving credit to an employee “brought up to the Business,” believing that strategy would attract more customers.
Whatever the extent of Coleman’s active participation as a brewer, she was an entrepreneur who ran her own business and sought visibility for it in the public prints. In addition to selling beers produced by her “Brewing-Business,” she also marketed “the best of Philadelphia and Baltimore Beer” imported from other colonial ports. Her customers could choose from among a selection of beers to suit their tastes and budgets. They could even enjoy their beverages, perhaps with some food, at Coleman’s establishment. She declared that she “keeps good Entertainment for Man and Horses.” In addition to retailing beer, she ran a tavern with access to a stable as part of her larger operation. That made her as industrious an entrepreneur as any of the male merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans who also placed advertisements in the Boston-Gazette.