February 27

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

Providence Gazette (February 27, 1773).

“Those that please to favour him with their Custom, may have Yarn dyed at Half an Hour’s Notice.”

Nathaniel Jenks provided multiple services to residents of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and nearby towns.  According to an advertisement he placed in the Providence Gazette in February 1773, he “carries on the Wheelwright’s Business, and makes all Kinds of Carriage Wheels.”  He advised prospective customers that they did not need to worry that they might find better bargains in Providence or anywhere else because he made wheels “as cheap as any other of the Business.”  Jenks did not intend to be undersold by the competition.

In addition to working as a wheelwright, Jenks “carries on the Dying Business.”  Advertisers often placed newspaper notices with multiple purposes.  In this case, Jenks promoted more than one means of earning his livelihood.  As he had with the prices for his wheels, he engaged in superlatives about some aspects of dying textiles.  Jenks proclaimed that he “has an European Blue Dye, which he will warrant to dye as good a Colour as any in America.”  That he pursued his craft in a small town, Jenks informed the public, did not mean that he achieved inferior results.  Prospective customers would be just as satisfied with the color of textiles they sent to him as they would be if they sought the same services in Providence or Boston or New York or any other town or city.

Jenks also emphasized convenience for local customers who visited his shop.  He asserted, “Those that please to favour him with their Custom, may have Yarn dyed at Half an Hour’s Notice.”  Prospective customers with other business to do in Smithfield could drop off their undyed yarn, see to their other tasks, and pick up their newly-dyed blue yarn before returning home.  Jenks intended that the combination of quality and convenience would convince colonizers to avail themselves of his services.  At a glance, his advertisement, like so many others in early American newspapers, may look like dense text with little of interest to modern readers, but eighteenth-century readers, accustomed to closely reading those notices, encountered several marketing pitches designed to capture their attention and distinguish Jenks and his services from his competitors.

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