July 12

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

New-York Journal (July 9, 1772).


Readers of the New-York Journal encountered an advertisement for “DOCTOR HILL’s GENUINE AMERICAN BALSAM” in the June 9, 1772, edition.  Michael Hoffman informed them that he received a “fresh Supply” of the “truly excellent medicine” responsible for “great numbers of cures” of all sorts of maladies.  In another advertisement, however, readers learned of an alternative to the patent medicines hawked by so many apothecaries, merchants, and shopkeepers.  That notice announced that a “NEW and CONVENIENT BATH” had been “LATELY ERECTED, And now opened” in nearby Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

The advertisement described what visitors could expect to experience if they visited the bath.  They had access to a “Room properly constructed to undress and dress in, with a Stair-Case leading into the Bathing Room, where Persons of wither Sex may bathe in Salt-Water, in the Salt-Water, in the greatest Privacy.”  In addition, “a Door is so placed in the Bath” that “those that choose to swim off into deeper Water … can conveniently go out and return.”  The notice suggested that visitors also take advantage of a “Mineral Water, similar to the German Spaw” about two miles from the bath, declaring that “its proper Distance procuring moderate Exercise after bathing, has proved in many Instances very assistant to the Medicinal Quality of the Waters.”  Furthermore, “bathing in Sea Water” enhanced the efficacy of the mineral waters at the spa.  In case that description did not entice prospective visitors, the advertisement also reported that “several Physicians of Ability” examined the “Qualities of this Spaw” and “frequently recommended” partaking in the experience.  A nota bene indicated that visitors from New York and other places could procure “Genteel Lodgings” from any of “several private Families” in Perth Amboy.”

A nascent tourism industry emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century, sometimes connected to the medicinal benefits of visiting baths and spas.  In the decade before the American Revolution, the proprietors of “JACKSON’S Mineral-Well in Boston,”  the “Bath and House” at Chalybeat Springs in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and the “BATH” near the “Mineral Water, similar to the German Spaw” in Perth Amboy all placed newspapers advertisements to encourage colonizers to visit their facilities and partake in the amenities they provided.

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