December 8

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 8, 1772).


When he became proprietor of Cole’s and Greenland Coffee House in London, Robert Benson launched an advertising campaign in newspapers published in Charleston, South Carolina.  He hoped to entice merchants and others who visited London to socialize and do business at his establishment rather than choose any of the many others in Cornhill near the Royal Exchange.  He first placed advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in July and August 1772.  In December, he continued marketing the “New” and renamed “CAROLINA, GEORGIA, FLORIDA, and PENNSYLVANIA COFFEE-HOUSE.”

As he had previously done, Benson opened his advertisement by introducing himself as “BOB, late Waiter at the CAROLINA COFFEE-HOUSE.”  That established his experience and credentials.  Benson likely hoped that merchants and others who had visited that coffee house might remember “BOB” and the familiarity would convince them to seek out his services at his new location.  Even for those who had not previously interacted with “BOB,” the nickname may have suggested that they would encounter genuine friendliness when they were far from home and chose to visit his coffee house.

Benson provided amenities from home for the comfort and convenience of his patrons.  In particular, he “settled a regular Correspondence” for newspapers from the Carolinas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and other colonies.  Merchants and others could stay informed of events on the other side of the Atlantic and follow the shipping news as they conducted business in London.  Benson asserted that he kept his subscriptions current and received the latest editions “on the Arrival of every Ship” from the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania.  Other services included “Particular Attention … to all Bills, Letters, &c. left at the said Coffee-House.”

Benson did not rely solely on foot traffic near the Royal Exchange and word of mouth to generate business when he became the proprietor of a coffee house in Ball Court.  Instead, he placed advertisements in newspapers on the other side of the Atlantic, hoping that doing so would draw attention to his establishment and distinguish from others in the neighborhood.  Such efforts demonstrated to colonial merchants and other prospective patrons that Benson took seriously his commitment to serving them when they ventured to London.  In contrast, proprietors of other coffee houses did not advertise in American newspapers.  Benson likely hoped that difference would distinguish the Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania Coffee House from others.

August 20

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (August 20, 1772).

“He makes American Punch in Perfection.”

When Robert Benson became the new proprietor of “COLE’S and the GREENLAND COFFEE-HOUSE, in Ball Court, Cornhill,” in London, he placed advertisements in newspapers in South Carolina.  Having formerly worked as a waiter at the Carolina Coffee House, he likely hoped that some merchants who had conducted business there would remember him fondly enough to visit his new establishment when they next traveled to London as well as entrust him to receive “Bills, Letters, and Messages” directed to local associates.  He opened his first advertisement with a headline introducing himself as “BOB, WAITER from the CAROLINA,” but concluded it more formally as his prospective customers’ “obedient humble Servant, ROBERT BENSON.”  In a subsequent advertisement, he dispensed with giving his full name, opting instead to solely use the more familiar “BOB, WAITER from the CAROLINA and PENNSYLVANIA COFFEE-HOUSE, in Birchin Lane.”

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 18, 1772).

Benson made other changes when he published a second advertisement in newspapers in Charleston.  In particular, he declared that “for the Accommodation of American Gentlemen, the South-Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania News-Papers, will be regularly taken in.”  Those newspapers featured a significant amount of news from Europe, especially London, that would have been more quickly and more readily available to visitors to the city, but they also carried digests of news from throughout the colonies, varying amounts of local news, prices current for a variety of commodities in Charleston, Savannah, and Philadelphia, and shipping news from the customs houses in those busy ports.  In addition, readers could glean a fair amount of news (and gossip) from reading the advertisements, including legal notices and advertisements intended to promote commerce and consumption (and notices cutting off credit for disobedient wives who “ran away” from their husbands).  Benson considered supplying American newspapers one of the services for his customers that demonstrated he “will exert his utmost Endeavours to merit their Favours.”  He also declared that he “has fitted up” his establishment “very elegantly.”  In addition to the newspapers, American merchants and other travelers would feel at home at Cole’s and the Greenland Coffee House because Benson “makes American Punch in Perfection.”  Even as colonial merchants took part in London’s cosmopolitan culture, Benson suspected they would welcome a taste of home.  He listed the “American Punch” last in his advertisement, one of several amenities that he hoped would make his coffeehouse an attractive destination.  His competitors relied on reputation and word of mouth to attract customers from Charleston and other towns in the colonies.  Benson, the affable “BOB,” on the other hand, believed that directly marketing his new venture in the colonies would contribute to its success.  He attempted to leverage his reputation while also promoting the amenities that made his coffeehouse a rival to any others in London.