November 13

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

Connecticut Journal (November 13, 1772).

“Will alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”

Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, Edward Hart, a “WIG-MAKER,” described himself as “Lately from London” when he introduced himself to prospective customers in a newspaper advertisement.  Realizing that readers were unfamiliar with him and his work, he sought to use his origins to suggest a certain level of skill and, especially, knowledge of current fashions in the cosmopolitan center of the empire to convince clients in Wallingford and nearby towns to give him a chance.  In an advertisement in the November 13, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal, he declared that he made “Lady’s Hair Rolls … in the best Manner.”  He also boasted that his customers would “be served with all Sorts of Wigs, made in the present Taste.”

Hart did not confine his marketing efforts to those appeals.  He also offered free repair services for a year, pledging that he would “alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”  Knowing that he could not yet depend on his reputation to sell his wigs, Hart likely hoped that providing that warranty would persuade prospective customers that they had nothing to lose when they purchased his wares.  If they discovered any defects, the wigmaker pledged to correct them without charge.  Customer service extended beyond the initial purchase, aiding Hart in cultivating a clientele in a new location.

At a glance, Hart’s advertisement may look like little more than a dense block of text to modern readers, but it was not a mere announcement that he made and sold wigs.  Instead, he advanced several appeals intended to entice consumers to acquire their wigs from him rather than other sources.  He promoted his origins in London, the quality of his work, and his knowledge of the latest trends.  In case that was not enough, he also provided a warranty to reassure customers still hesitant after his other marketing appeals.  Rather than inserting an announcement in the newspaper, Hart devised a strategy for attracting customers to his new shop.

October 2

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 2, 1772).

“His customers may depend on having their ware packed in the best manner.”

Ebenezer Bridgham sold “Crockery Ware” and other goods at his “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House” on King Street in Boston in the early 1770s.  In an advertisement in the October 2, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he declared that he imported his merchandise “directly from the Pot-Houses in Staffordshire and Liverpool” rather than purchasing from English merchants.  Fewer links in the supply chain meant fewer markups for his inventory.  Bridgham passed along the savings to his customers, making bold claims about his prices.  He trumpeted that he sold his wares “as low as they can be bought in London,” adding that he was “determined not to be UNDERSOLD by any person in America.”

Bridgham made that assertion in the midst of his attempts to create a regional market for the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House.”  In a sense, every newspaper advertiser engaged a regional market since newspapers circulated far beyond the cities where they were published, usually serving entire colonies before the American Revolution.  Bridgham, however, intentionally placed advertisements in newspapers throughout New England.  In addition to Portsmouth’s New-Hampshire Gazette, he also advertised in Salem’s Essex Gazette, the Providence Gazette, Hartford’s Connecticut Courant, and the New-London Gazette.  Bridgham aimed to provide shopkeepers throughout the region with an assortment of merchandise for their own shops.  He expected that his “resolution” not to be “UNDERSOLD by any person in America” resonated with “his former good customers” who he hoped would “continue to favour him with their custom.”  In turn, invoking former customers signaled to new customers that Bridgham merited their orders since he already established and successfully served a clientele.

As evidence of his attention to the needs of his customers, he emphasized more than low prices for an incredible array of choiuces among the “full & complete assortment of Delph, Flint and Glass Ware” at the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House.”  In a nota bene, Bridgham announced that he “lately procur’d packers from England” so “his customers may depend on having their ware packed in the best manner.”  They did not need to worry about receiving broken goods shipped to their towns throughout New England.  Bridgham believed that this ancillary service aided his efforts to serve a regional market, one that extended beyond Boston and beyond Massachusetts.

August 27

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

New-York Journal (August 27, 1772).

“May have them clean’d again immediately without expence.”

As fall approached in 1772, watchmaker John Simnet marked the second anniversary of his arrival in New York by distributing a new advertisement in the newspapers published in that city.  Readers should have been familiar with Simnet and his feud with rival watchmaker John Yeoman.  The two exchanged barbs in their newspaper notices over the course of several months.  Before moving to New York, Simnet had similarly participated in a war of words with a competitor, Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith, in the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  In both Portsmouth and New York, Simnet acquired a reputation for acerbic commentary about his competitors.

He took a different approach, however, when marking two years in New York.  His most recent advertisement opened with an imitation of Yeoman’s advertisement intended to denigrate the other watchmaker.  The new advertisement simply declared, “WATCHES COMPLETELY repair’d, in every particular article, at HALF the price charg’d by any other.”  While he made reference to the prices of his competitors in general, Simnet did not deploy any insults aimed directly at Yeoman.  Instead, he focused on his credentials, his prices, and ancillary services intended to cultivate relationships with clients.  As usual, he trumpeted his experience and origins as a “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London.”  He gave a list of prices for cleaning, replacing parts, and mending watches so prospective customers could assess for themselves whether he offered bargains compared to his competitors.  He also noted that since two years passed “since the author advertised here, some of the watches he has repair’d may become dirty.”  Simnet presented a special deal to his first customers who helped him get established in the city, inviting them to have their watches “clean’d again immediately without expence.”  He likely believed that this free service would generate more business.

Despite taking a different tone in this new advertisement, Simnet did not suspend his attacks on Yeoman.  His “ingenious Artificer” advertisement and his new notice both appeared in the August 27 edition of the New-York Journal.  That may have been an oversight, either on the part of Simnet or the compositor, since only the new advertisement found its way into the newspapers the following week.  Even without both advertisements running simultaneously, readers likely remembered Simnet’s cantankerous personality and feud with Yeoman when they encountered the new advertisement that focused solely on promoting Simnet’s positive attributes.

February 23

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

New-York Journal (February 20, 1772).

“Watches regulated, and such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”

For the past three years, the Adverts 250 Project has tracked newspaper advertisements placed by John Simnet, a “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London,” first in the New-Hampshire Gazette during the period that he lived and worked in Portsmouth in 1769 and 1770 and then in newspapers published in New York after he migrated to that city.  Simnet often promoted his years of experience working in London in his advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette, but he also pursued a nasty public feud with one of his competitors.  That may have contributed to his decision to leave Portsmouth in favor of New York.

In a new city, Simnet adopted a much less aggressive approach in his advertising.  He deployed a variety of marketing strategies that did not focus on denigrating other watchmakers, though he did suggest that he possessed greater skill than any of his rivals.  In an advertisement that ran for the first time in the February 20, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he trumpeted that he “had more practice, and general knowledge on new work [the mechanisms in watches] than any yet in this country could have.”  Drawing on his long experience and superior expertise, he provided a service to anyone considering buying, selling, or repairing watches.  Simnet offered to examine watches and inform the owners or prospective buyers of “the first cost, or value of any new, or old watch.”  Once they knew the value of watches “with certainty,” they could make informed decisions about buying, selling, or repairing watches.

To generate business and enhance his reputation, Simnet also declared that he made “such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”  For those jobs that did involve more time and attention, he stated that he “will clean them, fit glasses, springs, inside chains; and perform every particular article in repairing, at half the price, charg’d by any other.”  Perhaps Simnet discovered that bargain prices brought more customers to his shop “At the Dial … beside the Coffee-House Bridge” than cantankerous diatribes that insulted his competitors.  In this advertisement, he focused on his own skill, asserting that customers could depend on his work keeping their watches in good order for quite some time instead of having them become “an annual or continual expence.”  Simnet attempted to leverage his skill and experience “To the Advantage of those who wear WATCHES” as well as his own benefit in earning a livelihood through providing various services.

September 26

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 26, 1771).

“The newest fashionable muffs.”

In the fall of 1771, the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal to promote a “Very large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” which they intended to make into muffs, tippets, and linings for cloaks.  They deployed a variety of marketing strategies to capture the attention of consumers in Philadelphia and its environs.

For instance, the partners informed readers that they sold “the newest fashionable muffs, tippets, and ermine, now worn by the ladies at the courts of Great Britain and France.”  Fromeberger and Siemon attempted to incite demand by educating their prospective clients.  Ladies who feared they were unfamiliar with the latest trends on the other side of the Atlantic as well as those who merely wanted to confirm that they had indeed kept up with the latest styles could visit Fromberger and Siemon’s shop to outfit themselves.

Even as the partners emphasized European tastes, they also promoted “American manufacture.”  In the process, they suggested to “the ladies” that they could play an important role in supporting the commercial and politic interests of the colonies in the wake of recent meddling by Parliament that had resulted in nonimportation agreements in response to the Stamp Act and the duties imposed on certain goods in the Townshend Acts.  All but the duty on tea had been repealed and merchants returned to importing vast arrays of goods, but some American entrepreneurs continued to advocate for “American manufacture.”  Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when supporting those entrepreneurs, at least according to advertisers like Fromberger and Siemon who promised they made muffs and tippets “superior to that which is manufactured in England.”

In addition to those appeals, the partners also offered a free ancillary service to their customers.  “Ladies who purchase any manufactured furs of great value” could wear them in the fall, winter, and spring and then “send them to our manufactory” where they would “be taken care of gratis for the summer season.”  Fromberger and Siemon cultivated relationships with customers that did not end when making a sale but could instead continue for years as they assisted in the care and maintenance of expensive garments.

A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet may have drawn the attention to Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisement, but they did not rely on the visual image alone to market their wares.  Instead, they incorporated several appeals to “the ladies” they hoped would visit their shop, order garments, and make purchases.  They invoked current fashions in England and France, the importance of supporting “American manufacture,” and free services to convince readers to become customers.

June 2

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

Maryland Gazette (May 30, 1771).

“The newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”

In the spring of 1771, Peter Sinnott, a “TAYLOR, from Dublin,” introduced himself to the residents of Annapolis in an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette.  He advised prospective clients, both “Gentlemen” and “Ladies,” that he “carries on his Trade in all its Branches.”  The tailor also pledged that his customers “may depend on having their Cloaths well made.”  Like many other artisans, Sinnott incorporated the combination of quality, skill, and expertise into his newspaper notices.

He also included an appeal to fashion, another common marketing strategy for tailors, milliners, and others who made garments.  Sinnott proclaimed that he produced clothing “in the newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”  In so doing, he demonstrated that he expected anxieties about wearing the latest styles resonated even in smaller ports.  Simultaneously, he attempted to stoke those anxieties.  Annapolis was not nearly as large as Boston, Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but that did not mean that consumers there could not be as cosmopolitan in their appearances as their counterparts in those major urban ports.  Yet that was not the extent of the promise that Sinnott made.  His clients in Annapolis could not only keep pace with fashionable gentlemen and ladies throughout the colonies but also with trendsetters on the other side of the Atlantic.

Sinnott realized that it would take time to establish his reputation and cultivate a clientele for his garments.  In order to earn a living while he did so, he also promoted an ancillary service, declaring that he “scours and cleans Cloaths in a superior Manner than has hitherto been done in this Place.”  Furthermore, he had perfected a method for “taking Spots and Stains out of Scarlet Cloth.”  Each time he interacted with clients who hired him to clean their garments, Sinnott had an opportunity to offer his services as a tailor.  One branch of his business supported the other, possibly resulting in new commissions.

In a short advertisement, Sinnott presented “the PUBLICK” with several reasons to him.  He emphasized his skill and the quality of his garments while reassuring prospective clients that he would outfit them in the latest styles.  He also provided additional services for the benefit of his clients.  As Sinnott’s advertisement demonstrates, eighteenth-century newspaper notices did not merely announce the availability of consumer goods and services.  Instead, advertisers constructed appeals intended to incite demand and convince readers to visit their shops.