August 7

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

Aug 7 - 8:7:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (August 7, 1766).

“HAVING lately seen and advertisement … which not only aims at discrediting certain Anchors …”

William Hawxhurst of New York placed an extensive advertisement in response to the charges Daniel Offley made about the anchors sold in Philadelphia in an equally extensive advertisement that appeared in an earlier issue of the Pennsylvania Journal.

Hawxhurst reiterated some of the claims Offley made and then set about dismantling them via a point-by-point rebuttal. He did so not only to defend his own reputation and the quality of the product he sold, but also as “a piece of justice I owe to the public.” Potential customers, Hawxhurst asserted, would benefit once he set the record straight; they deserved to be as well-informed as possible by the producers and suppliers of the goods they contemplated purchasing.

Hawxhurst addressed the process of making anchors, especially forging the necessary iron, in some detail, perhaps exceeding the technical knowledge of most readers of the Pennsylvania Journal (but maybe not that of those most likely to purchase anchors). On the other hand, he then mobilized appeals that any reader would understand.

Rather than choose between “assertions” made by either advertiser, Hawxhurst preferred “to appeal to experience, as a more satisfactory voucher to the public.” To that he end, he proclaimed, “Certain it is, that my iron has gained a high reputation for its purity, both in England and America.” Furthermore, the smith who made Hawxhurst’s iron into anchors had been at the trade longer than Offley. Experience mattered. In addition, Hawxhurst’s ironworks had “furnished anchors for sale at Boston, New-Hampshire, Bermuda, South-Carolina, Virginia, and Jamaica” in addition to New York. Furthermore, he had received no complaints but instead had “heard much of their goodness and superior excellency.” Finally, Hawxhurst had always offered the same sorts of guarantees that Offley promoted, so customers would not gain any advantage by purchasing from them.

Offley had publicly stated that he would refuse to repair any anchors purchased from competitors. Hawxhurst made it clear what he thought of that ploy: “I give the public assurance, that in case of any such accident, my friend in Philadelphia, has orders upon the return of the anchors so failing, or such part of it as remains, to supply another in its stead; so that Mr. Offley may not only be saved the trouble of amending them, but deprived of the pleasure of refusing it.”

Hawxhurst stated that he had “no design to injure” Offley, but found it necessary to “remove the objections and difficulties, which [Offley] has thrown out, with more art, perhaps, than truth.” Both his reputation and his business were at stake, warranting a response that filled approximately two-thirds of a column. Most eighteenth-century advertisers promoted their own products without mentioning competitors, but occasionally some advanced their own businesses by disparaging others.

BONUS: Daniel Offley published a response of a similar length. In the August 7, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Journal, Offley’s advertisement appeared on the first page and Hawxhurst’s on the final page.

Aug 7 - 8:7:1766 Offley Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (August 7, 1766).

May 8

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

May 8 - Wharton 5:8:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 8, 1766).
May 8 - 5:8:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 8, 1766).

“ANCHORS manufactured in America.”

“I have for some time carried on the business here.”

Daniel Offley and Charles Wharton were competitors when it came to selling anchors in Philadelphia. Both of these advertisements appeared in the May 8, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Journal, but the dates affixed to each suggest the course of conversations that took place, certainly in the public prints but possibly face-to-face with potential customers as well. Wharton’s advertisement had been running since late March, but Offley’s appeared for the first time in the May 8 issue. (Guest curator Maia Campbell previously featured the same advertisement from Wharton, which also appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette.)

Wharton incorporated two powerful appeals into his short advertisement. He pledged to sell anchors “at a half penny per lb. cheaper than any other person can or will sell at in this city.” Considering that anchors weighed hundreds or even thousands of pounds, this presented significant savings. Wharton also announced that he his anchors were “manufactured in America.” Like a good number of other merchants, retailers, and artisans in the mid 1760s, he embarked on the first “Buy American” campaign in response to the Stamp Act. (Keep in mind that in March, when the advertisement first appeared, the colonists were not yet aware that the Stamp Act had been repealed – just two days before the date on the advertisement.)

Wharton, a wealthy merchant from a prominent family, sold anchors, but Offley, a smith, “MADE and SOLD” anchors as a significant part of his livelihood. His advertisement suggests that he found it difficult to compete with the well-connected Wharton (though he never named his competitor), but he offered extensive explanations and justifications in order to convince potential customers to purchase his anchors even though they cost more.

Offley stated that he did not have access to the same resources as the manufacturer of anchors “sent to this place” from elsewhere in the colonies. If he could get “shanks, made out of the loop directly from the pig-iron at the forges” he could afford to sell his anchors at the lower price. However, Offley asserted that he made anchors of a higher quality, emphasizing “the care I always take to have them made well.” He also stated that he had “for some time carried on the business here” and practiced it “to the greatest perfection that it has been brought to here.” In addition, he promised that “one of my anchors of four hundred weight, will hold as much as one of the others of five hundred.” In other words, he sold a superior product that made it unnecessary to buy heavier anchors, thus more than covering the half penny per pound discount offered by his competitor.

In addition, Offley repaired anchors, a service not offered by Wharton. He doubled down on his skills as an artisan when he threatened that he would not “mend nor repair any of those that is advertised American made.” Offley warned that if potential customers bought their anchors from Wharton that he had no intention of making repairs at some later time. Instead, he would turn them away.

Wharton advanced a “Buy American” appeal that likely resonated with many readers, but Offley thought about production and commerce on an even more local scale. He had established himself as a smith in Philadelphia, as had others. He did not appreciate a merchant like Wharton infringing on business that he felt should go to local artisans, no matter if Wharton sold products “manufactured in America.” Offley pleaded that “if this branch of manufactory be taken away from this place, it may be a long time before it may be regained.” This would be a loss for “the number of hands that may be employed in it.” In addition, Offley was interested in “keeping the cash in our own province, circulating amongst the laborious part of mankind.”

That final sentence suggests that status played a role in these competing advertisements. Wharton and Offley both saw value in products “manufactured in America,” but the merchant and the artisan ultimately had different goals. Offley suggested that Wharton sought merely to line his own pockets, but purchasing anchors made locally by “the laborious part of mankind” would serve the greater good.

April 3

GUEST CURATOR:  Maia Campbell

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

Apr 3 - 4:3:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 3, 1766).

“ANCHORS, Manufactured in AMERICA, … cheaper than any other Person can, or will, sell.”

Competition among vendors is certainly not exclusive to our time period, as this advertisement demonstrates. Charles Wharton used two main tactics to grasp the attention of his audience and potential customers, which would have been composed of mainly merchants and sailors. The marketing logic that he used appealed to American pride by mentioning that his anchors were made on home soil (which was especially important considering colonists’ feelings about British products and the Stamp Act), and it also speaks to frugality by proudly proclaiming that his prices are lower than anyone else’s.

The middle section of Wharton’s advertisement is rather assertive. Not only does he say no other person “can” match his prices, but he also writes that no other person “will” match his prices. I suppose, however, that modern advertisers do the same thing. In advocating for a product, advertisers have to be to some extent bold and brutal, willing to convince the public that their product is better at any cost.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

As Maia suggests, competition among vendors could be intense in the colonial era, especially in the larger port cities with growing populations and multiple newspapers disseminating messages aimed at consumers. Today’s advertisement came from the Pennsylvania Gazette, arguably the most successful, most significant, and most famous newspaper printed in America in the eighteenth century. It gained prominence under the direction of Benjamin Franklin (though in April 1766 it was operated by David Hall, his junior partner who took over the printing business many years earlier when Franklin retired to pursue other endeavors), making it the newspaper most recognized by general audiences in addition to scholars of early America, print culture, and journalism.

The Pennsylvania Gazette was so successful that it regularly distributed issues comprised of six pages in 1766. All of the other newspapers consulted for the Adverts 250 Project published only four pages per issue, though some occasionally printed a supplement or extraordinary halfsheet. The first and final pages were printed on one side of a broadsheet, the second and third pages on the other side, and then it was folded in half to create a four-page issue.

The Pennsylvania Gazette did the same, but included an additional halfsheet inserted in the issue. Although this gave the Pennsylvania Gazette half again as much space for content, in general most of that extra space was not devoted to news. Instead, it allowed for greater numbers of advertisements. The first four pages included approximately the same balance of news and advertising as in other newspapers, but the halfsheet was often filled exclusively with advertising, as was the case in the issue that included today’s advertisement. That commercial notice appeared on the first page, among several other advertisements, underscoring Maia’s argument: “competition among vendors is certainly not exclusive to our time period.”

February 28

GUEST CURATOR:  Trevor Delp

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

Feb 28 - 2:28:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (February 28, 1766).

“Pork by the Barrell. – BUTTER by the Firkin. … English Sail CANVIS – One ANCHOR.”

This advertisement offers insight into the economy of New Hampshire during the late 1700s. Although many of the goods listed were common during this time period, the diversity and quantity of the goods is what I found interesting. Many of the goods were preserved foods being sold in large quantities, suggesting they were expected to last long durations of time. In the New Hampshire area during this time, the port of Portsmouth was thriving, leading me believe these goods were being marketed towards sailors.

Furthermore, after the advertisements for different foods there are two advertisements, one for English sail canvases and another for an anchor. These final two products further support the idea that this advertisement is being marketed towards sailors. When comparing the two different groups of goods being sold they seem out place, but when taking into account the variety of goods and the time period, it is suggestive that the advertisement was meant primarily for supplying ships and the sailors on them.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

The New-Hampshire Gazette was printed by Daniel Fowle, the newspaper’s founder (1756), and his nephew, Robert Fowle (admitted to a share in the management in 1764), in Portsmouth. As Trevor notes, this was a maritime community. Advertisers wished to attract a variety of customers, including sailors, captains of vessels, and merchants and quartermasters responsible for outfitting ships headed to sea. In this advertisement, John Wheitfield highlighted goods that would have been of particular interest to seafarers.

That being said, I suspect that he intended to address multiple audiences with this advertisement. While the goods he specifically enumerated would have been of interest to sailors, he first mentioned “A Variety of English Goods” that he did not describe in detail. Perhaps he could not afford or did not wish to purchase the space for a lengthier advertisement to list some of those wares. Perhaps he hoped to draw in customers curious about what that “Variety” might include and intentionally avoided listing specific goods. Whatever his reasoning, his advertisement suggests that his store did not cater to one clientele exclusively. He highlighted merchandise for crews of sailing vessels, but also indicated that he stocked assorted other wares for other members of the Portsmouth community.

February 2

GUEST CURATOR:  Maia Campbell

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Feb 2 - 1:31:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (January 31, 1766)

“A few Hogsheads of good MOLASSES and Jamaican SUGAR.  Also a few ANCHORS.”

What interested me about this advertisement was the trade connection with Jamaica. Jamaica was, at the time, a colony of the empire of Great Britain, and yet it does not seem that the North American colonies want to break trade with Jamaica, and understandably so. Goods from Jamaica were valued because of the inability to grow them in most of the colonies. Sugar was an especially popular import. People used sugar for cooking, baking, and for sweetening their tea. Sugar was an integral part of the colonists’ way of life.

I was also intrigued that the advertiser sold anchors along with the two sweet goods. It seemed out of place in the advertisement. Yet there was a place for anchors in colonial society. Merchants and fisherman, depending on the state of their anchors, would need to replace them. Furthermore, those new to seafaring would need to purchase anchors for their vessels.

Again, it is interesting that this colonial vendor chose to sell in two different categories, and yet they were profitable categories.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Maia has selected an advertisement that testifies to the networks of exchange and commerce that crisscrossed the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. In noting that Jamaica was a British colony at the time (captured by the English from Spain more than a century earlier in 1655 and formally ceded to the British in 1670), she demonstrates an understanding of an extensive and integrated British empire that takes some students by surprise when they first enroll in early American history courses. The history of the colonial era and the founding of the nation cannot be told by exclusively focusing on the thirteen colonies on mainland North America and their interactions with England. Instead, as this advertisement indicates, colonial Americans consumed goods produced in other British colonies. But these were more than just commercial interactions; in the process of trading with each other they also shared news, ideas, and culture.

Historians continue to debate what/where/who constituted early America. Today’s advertisement argues for a Vast Early America and encourages a broad conception – and that’s before even taking into account who labored to produce “Jamaican SUGAR” for colonists’ consumption. The history of slavery and its connections to consumption lie just under the surface of this commercial notice.