What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He has now opened a New CAROLINA, GEORGIA, FLORIDA, and PENNSYLVANIA COFFEE-HOUSE.”
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.