What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“For Neatness and Elegance … they are able to excel any of the Business ever arrived in Annapolis.”
When John Finlater and Company set up shop in Annapolis in the spring of 1773, they placed an advertisement that ran for six weeks in the Maryland Gazette. Newcomers to the town, the wheelwrights explained that they were “Late fromEurope” and “propose carrying on the various Branches of the Business.” They crafted “Wheels of all kinds” for a variety of carriages, including “Coaches, Berlins, Post-Chariots, Curricles, Sulkies, and single Horse Chaises.” In addition, they made wheels for “Waggons, Carts, Ploughs, and Harrows,” promising “the neatest Construction” for all their work. As an ancillary service, Finlater and Company also painted and varnished carriages and wheels “in the best Manner.”
Unlike other artisans who extolled their training and experience when they settled in the colonies after migrating across the Atlantic, Finlater and Company did not provide details about the work they had undertaken in Europe. They did, however, extend some of the usual promises to prospective clients. “Those who please to honour them with their Commands,” the wheelwrights declared, “may be assured, that a speedy Execution of their Work and Attention to Business will entitle them to their Favours.” In turn, Finalter and Company intended that the quality of their work with their initial customers would help in cultivating a good reputation and “in some Measure recommend them to the Encouragement of the Publick.” In other words, they hoped that satisfied customers would spread the word so others would seek out their services.
The wheelwrights concluded with a bold claim. When it came to “Neatness and Elegance” of the wheels they constructed and the carriages they painted and maintained, Finlater and Company proclaimed that “they are able to excel any of the Business ever arrived in Annapolis.” They were better wheelwrights than any who had previously labored in the town. In making that claim, they challenged prospective customers to test that assertion for themselves. As newcomers without an established reputation, Finlater and Company resorted to other means of attracting attention to their business and distinguishing themselves from the competition.