What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“The usual genteel accommodation for set CLUBS, and other private companies large or small.”
Samuel Fraunces (or Samuel Francis) was one of the most prominent American tavernkeepers and restaurateurs in the late eighteenth century. He remains famous today, in part because Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street in New York City continues to welcome visitors in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A tavern and restaurant occupy the first floor and the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York operate a museum on the second and third floors.
Fraunces frequently advertised during the era of the American Revolution. In the fall of 1773, for instance, he inserted a notice in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer to promote the “QUEEN’s HEAD TAVERN, Near the Exchange in Broad-street.” The industrious entrepreneur presented a visit to the tavern as an experience that incorporated food, drink, entertainment, service, and atmosphere. He invited “the respectable inhabitants of this city” to dine and socialize in the “large commodious room” that he outfitted for “the reception and entertainment” of his guests. He encouraged them “to regale themselves with fine ALE of this country produce, equal to any imported,” though he also had on hand “draft, or bottled porter from London, of the first quality” as well as an assortment of wines, punch, and spirits. Fraunces wanted his patrons to eat as well as drink, serving “beef stakes, mutton or pork chops, veal stakes or cutlets, fry’d oysters,” and other fare throughout the day and evening.
The tavernkeeper placed a premium on service. In addition to his staff preparing and serving the food “in the neatest manner,” Fraunces undertook “every other necessary requisite to give general satisfaction” to his customers, “particularly, the best attendance, the most respectful behaviour, and a hearty acknowledgment of those favours” from his patrons. Fraunces depicted the Queen’s Head Tavern as an exceptional venue, not only for “one or more persons” who wished to drink and dine together but also for “CLUBS, and other private companies large or small” who wished to hold their gatherings within the “genteel accommodation” he worked so hard to cultivate. As an additional inducement to visit the tavern, Fraunces moved the “elegant WAX-FIGURES” (that he described in newspaper advertisements than ran a year earlier) from Vaux-Hall Garden to the tavern. His staff included “proper attendants to shew” the wax figures at “any hour of the day or evening.” The Queen’s Head Tavern was not just any watering hole. Fraunces exerted great effort in marketing it as a destination.