What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Fresh from one of the best Druggists in London.”
Like many other apothecaries in colonial America, Amos Throop of Providence resorted to newspaper advertising to promote his wares and attract clients. In an advertisement in the December 8, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette, he informed the public that he carried “A GENERAL Assortment of DRUGS and MEDICINES” recently imported from London. Those included popular patent medicines, such as “Tarlington’s Balsam of Life, Hill’s Balsam of Honey, Anderson’s Lockyer’s and Hopper’s Pills, Stoughton’s Elixir, [and] Bateman’s Drops.” Throop expected that these remedies were so familiar to prospective clients that he did not to describe the symptoms each eliminated.
Throop sought clients of various sorts, both “Families in Town or Country” and “Practitioners” like Ephraim Otis, whose own advertisement stated that he “offers himself in the Capacity of Physician and Surgeon, in every Branch (particularly Osteology and Bone setting).” The apothecary also found himself in competition with William Bowen. In his advertisement, Bowen declared that he “continues to practice Physic, Surgery and Midwifry” as well as sell “a neat Assortment of Drugs and Medicines, at as cheap a Rate as can be bought in this Town.” Throop also pledged that his customers “may depend on having everything good and cheap,” but he further enhanced his appeal to distinguish it from Bowen’s promise of low prices. He explained that he acquired his medicines “twice a year … fresh from one of the best Druggists in London.” His clients did not have to worry that nostrums they purchased at his shop had been sitting on the shelves or in the storeroom so long as to diminish their effectiveness. Furthermore, Throop explained that he had received a shipment “in the Snow Tristam, Captain Shand, from London.” Readers familiar with vessels that arrived and departed could judge for themselves how recently Throop had updated his inventory.
Bowen and Throop both advertised “DRUGS and MEDICINES” in the Providence Gazette. While Bowen relied primarily on low prices to market his merchandise, Throop offered more extensive appeals to prospective clients. He underscored quality by asserting connections to a respected colleague in London, outlined his schedule for replenishing his inventory, noted which vessel recently delivered new items, provided credit to practitioners “who will open a Trade with him,” sold ancillary products, and made his wares available at bargain prices.