October 1

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

Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy (October 1, 1773).

“WATCHES are restored to their pristine vigour, and warranted to perform well, free of expence for one year.”

Thomas Hilldrup, “WATCH MAKER from LONDON,” apparently considered his advertising campaign effective.  On October 1, 1773, his notice with the dateline, “Hartford, July 20, 1773,” once again appeared in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy and the New-London Gazette.  Four days later, the same notice ran once again in the Connecticut Courant, the only newspaper printed in Hartford at the time.  When Hilldrup first arrived in Hartford in 1772 he commenced advertising in the Connecticut Courant, but it did not take long for him to surmise that he might benefit from advertising more widely.  He soon placed notices in the other two newspapers published in the colony.  Other watchmakers inserted their own advertisements in hopes of maintaining their share of local markets, but none of them advertised in multiple newspapers.  Hilldrup’s competitors also discontinued their advertisements after a few insertions, while the newcomer’s notices became a consistent feature in the three newspapers.

Hilldrup likely thought he made a wise investment by marketing his services in all three newspapers.  After all, those publications circulated widely throughout the colony.  Even if residents of New Haven or New London were unlikely to send their watches to Hilldrup at “the sign of the Dial” in Hartford, the watchmaker may have believed that prospective customers in other towns served by the Connecticut Journal and the New-London Gazette would find it as convenient to hire his services as those of his competitors … but only if Hilldrup made the effort to inform the public of his “constant diligence” in restoring watches “to their pristine vigour.”  In addition, his repeated advertisements in the three newspapers highlighted the guarantee he extended to clients, a promise that watches he fixed were “warranted to perform well, free of any expence for one year.”  In placing advertisements so widely and so often, Hilldrup reasoned that he could entice prospective clients beyond Hartford to give him a chance to serve them when they needed “Repeating, Horizontal and plain WATCHES” cleaned and repaired.

Leave a Reply