July 24

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

Providence Gazette (July 24, 1773).


For quite some time in 1773, William Hawxhurst “In NEW-YORK” advertised widely, seeking customers for the “Best ANCHORS, Made of Sterling Iron,” among mariners in several colonies.  Consider the notice that appeared in the Providence Gazette on Saturday, July 24.  During the previous week, the same advertisement ran in the Newport Mercury on Monday, July 19, the Connecticut Courant (published in Hartford) on Tuesday, July 20, and the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy and the New-London Gazette on Friday, July 23.  Curiously, Hawxhurst did not place notices in any of the newspapers published in New York.  Perhaps he relied on personal connections and the visibility of the anchors “in a Yard between [Burling’s] Slip and Byvank’s Store, on the Dock,” to market them to prospective customers in that busy port.  The publications he did choose for his advertisements represented every newspaper in Connecticut and every newspaper in Rhode Island, suggesting that he carefully crafted a regional marketing campaign.

In addition to the anchors, Hawxhurst advertised other goods.  Several years earlier, he “erected a Finer and great hammer, for refining the Sterling pig iron, into bar” in New York.  He continued to produce and sell “the best Sterling-refined Iron, warranted good” and “Pig-Iron of the Sterling new Mine, cast in Cinder, warranted good” as well as “Scythe [Iron]” and “Keen’s best Bloomery Iron.”  Hawxhurst also made clear that he was willing to barter, accepting several commodities, including “pickled Cod Fish, Mackarel, Liver-Oil, and New-England Tobacco,” in exchange for anchors and iron.  That list of commodities certainly reflected what mariners operating from ports in Connecticut and Rhode Island could offer as payment.  While he had the attention of readers of several newspapers, Hawxhurst also announced that he sought to hire a “Person well qualified to manufacture Steel from Pig Iron, in the German Way.”  Like many advertisements that appeared in early American newspapers, this one served multiple objectives that defied classification for a single purpose.  It ranged widely in terms of both distribution and the results that the advertiser wished to achieve.

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.

September 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 14, 1770).

Cash given for POT-ASH … at which Place is sold various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS.”

James McMasters did not have a single purpose for the advertisement he placed in the September 14, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Instead, he sought to accomplish multiple goals.  His advertisement commenced and concluded with short messages calling on readers to supply commodities that McMasters was interested in acquiring.  “Cash given for POT-ASH” read the headline.  A nota bene also promised “The highest Price for good FLAX SEED” at McMasters’s store.  Nestled between the headline calling for potash and the nota bene seeking flax seed, the middle portion of the advertisement offered goods for sale.  McMasters declared that he sold “various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS” at his store on Wallingford’s Wharf.  He was especially interested in dealing with retailers who would buy in bulk, promising prices “at so low a Rate as may induce Shopkeepers and Country Traders to purchase.”  McMasters anticipated that others would distribute those goods to consumers in Portsmouth and throughout the colony.

Advertisements with multiple purposes frequently appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette and other eighteenth-century newspapers.  Sometimes the various goals were more closely aligned than others.  Advertisers on occasion, for instance, inserted real estate notices that described buildings, land, and other amenities in great detail before concluding with a brief nota bene about consumer goods for sale or services offered.  In McMasters’s case, the entire advertisement focused on buying and selling.  By alternating between the two, his advertisement conjured images of items moving in and out of his store.  This gave the impression that the store was a busy site for commercial transactions while simultaneously testifying to McMasters’s skills as an entrepreneur who balanced the acquisition of commodities and sales of consumer goods.  McMasters could have placed more than one advertisement, each with its own purpose, but combining them together into one notice better represented the scope of his business interests and commercial savvy.

February 7

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

Feb 7 - 2:7:1770 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 7, 1770).

“He continues to follow the Business of an INSURANCE-BROKER.”

Like many colonists who placed newspaper advertisements, John Benfield did not confine his notice in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette to a single purpose. Instead, he divided it into two portions, advancing separate business enterprises. Benfield opened with a recitation standard in advertisements for consumer goods. He gave his location and promised low prices before listing the various goods, mostly spirits and grocery items, for sale at his store. In the second portion of the advertisement, complete with a manicule to attract the attention of readers, he described a service, insurance, he provided to merchants who owned ships that passed through the busy port of Charleston. While these very different endeavors may have merited separate advertisements, that Benfield choose to combine them in a single notice testifies to the close reading of newspapers, even the advertisements, undertaken in eighteenth-century America. Benfield did not devise a separate advertisement about insurance with a distinct headline because he expected prospective clients would take note of both portions of the combined advertisement.

That did not prevent him from making a case for why merchants and others in the market to purchase insurance should allow him to provide that service. He declared that he “continues to follow the Business of an INSURANCE-BROKER,” establishing that he had experience in that capacity. Furthermore, he made an appeal to price, just as he had done for the goods available at his shop. Benfield declared that “Vessels, which are known in this Province to be staunch and good, with their Cargoes, may be insured here on as low Terms as they are in England.” He offered the convenience of purchasing insurance locally rather than having to communicate over long distances with brokers on the other side of the Atlantic. At a time when many colonists encouraged the production and consumption of “domestic manufactures” as a means a means of reducing dependence on goods imported from England, Benfield offered an alternative for a product offered in the service sector. He did not explicitly make this argument, but he may have expected prospective clients to draw their own conclusions considering the rhetoric about nonimportation and domestic production throughout the colonies in the wake of the Townshend Acts. Certainly some readers would have made the connection without prompting from Benfield, especially after carefully perusing the other contents of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.