January 8

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

Connecticut Journal (January 8, 1773).

“Whose motive is to settle here if health permit[s], and the business answers.”

When Thomas Hilldrup arrived in Hartford in the fall of 1772, he commenced an advertising campaign to advise prospective customers that he repaired watches “in a perfect and durable manner, at an easy expence.”  Throughout late September and into October, November, and December, he consistently ran his advertisement in the Connecticut Courant, alerting readers that he planned “to settle here if health permit[s], and the business answers.”  That being the case, he invited the public “to make a trial of his abilities.”  In addition to repairing watches, Hilldrup also sold watches and accessories and provided ancillary services, including consultations with “those who are about to buy, sell or exchange.”

Hilldrup continued placing his advertisement in the Connecticut Courant in the new year.  He also decided to expand his advertising campaign to another newspaper, the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy.  Doing so extended the reach of his advertising and gave him access to a new market.  Why did the watchmaker decide to advertise in another publication?  Did he believe that the notice in the Connecticut Courant had been sufficiently successful to merit advertising in a newspaper in another town?  Among colonizers who perused multiple newspapers as they circulated far and wide in Connecticut and beyond, that certainly likely enhanced Hilldrup’s visibility and name recognition.  That he continued to invest in advertisements in the Connecticut Courant also suggests that he considered the outcomes so far worth the expense.

On the other hand, those advertisements may not have been as successful as Hilldrup hoped.  Perhaps placing the same notice in the Connecticut Journal and attempting to capture a portion of an adjacent market was an attempt to generate enough business to make remaining in Hartford a viable option.  Whatever his reasons for choosing to run his advertisement in an additional newspaper in January 1773, Hilldrup eventually determined that he cultivated a large enough clientele to remain in Hartford.  He continued advertising watches and repairs in newspapers published in that town for nearly two decades.  In the coming months, the Adverts 250 Project will examine some of his subsequent newspaper notices.

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