What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“WILLIAM SMITH, HAS removed his Medicinal Store from Front-street.”
In the fall of 1772, William Smith placed newspaper advertisements to inform the public that he recently moved yet “continues to carry on the Drug Business.” He invited customers to visit his “Medicinal Store” at his new location, the Rising Sun on Second Street in Philadelphia. He pledged that he was “determined always to pay particular attention to the quality of his medicines, and hopes by his care and fidelity to render full satisfaction to Practitioners in Physic, and others, who may please to favour him with their custom.”
In an effort to enlarge his share of the market, Smith placed the same advertisement in multiple newspapers. On Wednesday, September 30, it ran in both the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal. Later in the week, it also appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on Saturday, October 3. The advertisements in the three newspapers featured identical copy, though the compositors made different decisions about format, including font sizes and capitalization.
Smith did not choose to place his advertisement in the city’s remaining English-language newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet, on Monday, October 5, nor did he insert it in the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote for the benefit of German-speaking residents in and near Philadelphia. The printer, had a standing offer in the masthead that “All ADVERTISEMENTS to be inserted in this Paper, or printed single, by HENRY MILLER, Publisher hereof, are by him translated gratis,” but Smith did not avail himself of that service. Perhaps the apothecary felt that advertising in three newspapers was sufficient. Perhaps he spent as much as he considered prudent on marketing so opted to forego the other two newspapers.
Whatever the reason, Smith aimed for a greater level of market saturation than advertising in just one publication allowed. That may have been especially important to him considering that he ran his shop from a new location. He did not want customers to experience any frustration upon visiting his former location and then decide to visit competitors who continued to do business in familiar locations. After all, Robert Bass and Townsend Speakman, both prolific advertisers, continued operating their own apothecary shops on Market Street. Smith did not wish to lose customers to either of them, making his advertisements in three newspapers a sound investment.