What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Baking Business which was carried on by his late Father, is continued by him.”
An advertisement that ran in the September 25, 1769, edition of Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette served two purposes. It opened with a standard estate notice: “All Persons having Demands on, or that are Indebted to the Estate of William Torry, late of Boston, Baker, deceas’d, are desired to bring in their Accounts to Bethiah Torry, Administratrix to said Estate, in order for Settlement.” That was the extent of most estate notices that appeared in colonial newspapers. This advertisement, however, included a second section that revealed the continuation of the family business and new responsibilities for one member of the Torrey family following the patriarch’s death.
William’s son, Ebenezer, advised “his Friends and others” that he now operated “the Baking Business which was carried on by his late Father” at the same location on Water Street. William provided all the services expected of bakers, qualified to do so because “he served his Apprenticeship with his Father” before working for “a number of Years” in the business. Ebenezer did not merely step in to take William’s place; he had learned the trade from William. At the end of the advertisement, William shifted the audience for his appeal, addressing “his Fathers Friends” directly. Having inherited the family business, he hoped to inherit his father’s clientele as well. His advertisement implicitly played on sympathy, but more explicitly made the case that customers who formerly patronized his father’s shop could depend on a continuation without significant change or disruption. He leveraged existing relationships as he encouraged customer loyalty to a family business that passed from one generation to the next rather than to any particular baker who ran the business.
Those existing relationships were not necessarily limited to those between his father and his father’s clients. Immediately before announcing that Ebenezer now ran the business, the estate notice portion of the advertisement listed Bethiah, most likely William’s widow, as the executor. Former customers unfamiliar with Ebenezer may have forged relationships with his mother that motivated them to continue purchasing their bread “at the same Place in Water-Street.” The Torrey family incorporated a familiar mechanism for managing an estate into their efforts to promote a business that survived the death of its founder.