March 26

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 26, 1773).

“Hart and Davis Inform their Friends and Customers; that their Stage for Passengers setts out for Boston every Friday Morning.”

Theodore Davis began offering stagecoach service between Portsmouth and Boston during the final days of 1772 and continued in 1773.  In advertisements that ran in the New-Hampshire Gazette in late December and early January, he advised prospective clients that his stage “will set off, on Mondays, from here, and return on Fridays.”  That provoked a response from John Stavers, who had operated similar service for more than a decade.  He objected to Davis attempted to siphon off customers from his weekly trip to Boston that departed on Tuesdays, stating that he “has always been ready to serve [passengers] on Monday, as well as Tuesdays, if their Business required it.”  He also presented an appeal that he advanced on previous occasions when he faced competition.  Stavers believed that his long experience as “the first Promoter of a Stage Coach in this Province” entitled him to “the Preference” of prospective clients.

Perhaps passengers found Stavers’s argument convincing.  Within a couple of months, Davis took a partner, Benjamin Hart, and revised his schedule.  Less than a year earlier, Hart had been a junior partner in the firm of Stavers and Hart. Now, he received first billing in the new partnership of Hart and Davis.  In addition, the stage departed “from Mr. HART’s House, near the Ferry in Portsmouth; where all Baggage, Bundles, &c. will be received and delivered as directed.”  Davis previously did not offer information about the terminus in Boston, but the new partners promoted the accommodations at the other end of the line, advising that their stage “Puts up at Mrs. Beans, Lower End of King-Street, Boston.”

For the convenience of passengers, the stage “setts out for Boston every Friday Morning,” rather than Monday mornings, thus putting it on a half-week interval with Stavers’s stage.  Some customers may have found that the Tuesday and Friday options suited their needs better than clustering departures at the beginning of the week.  That Hart and Davis adopted a new schedule suggests that they believed sufficient demand existed for two stages to operate simultaneously, provided that they stagger their trips to Boston.  They may have also believed that they could cultivate additional demand through expanding the options available to prospective passengers, thus benefitting both Stavers and themselves.  Such competition had the potential to yield more business for both stagecoach services as their operators participated in improving the transportation infrastructure in New England in the early 1770s.

July 31

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 31, 1772).

“Allowing each passenger a small Bundle in their own Care.”

Advertisements in colonial newspapers aid in reconstructing transportation networks in early America.  A series of advertisements by Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown, for instance, gave details of a new stagecoach route between New York and Boston that they established in the summer of 1772.  They initially declared that they would undertake a “Trial” and if they “find Encouragement, they will perform the Stage once a Week.”  That trial apparently achieved sufficient success for them to continue the venture.  They continued to advertise in the July 30, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal.

By that time, John Stavers and Benjamin Hart had much more experience operating their own stagecoach service between Boston and Portsmouth.  In an advertisement in the August 8, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Stavers stated that he had been in business “for Ten Years past.”  Stavers and Hart placed an advertisement in the July 31, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to “Inform the Public, That their Carriages still continue to ply,” having survived a challenge posed by a newcomer who set up a competing service the previous summer.  Thanks to Stavers and Hart and the Browns, colonizers could travel via stage between Portsmouth and New York, if they desired an alternative to sailing between the two ports.

In addition to providing their schedule, Stavers and Hart used their advertisement to promote various aspects of their service.  They charged “the customary price of Three Dollars,” asserting it was a good bargain and “as low as the Fare for the same Distance in any Stage Coach in America.”  They also advised prospective passengers that they needed to pay “half on engaging a passage, the other half at the last Stage, or on leaving the Carriage.”  They claimed they asked for half in advance “to prevent Disappointment.”  Such a means of securing a reservation worked in favor of both travelers and the stagecoach operators.  Passengers paid for “All Baggage, Bundles, [and] Trunks … according to their Weight and size.”  Stavers and Hart did not allow for any complimentary “checked items,” but they did permit “carryon items.”  Each passenger could board the coach with “a small Bundle in their own Care.”

Stavers and Hart, like other stagecoach operators, sought to make travel appear attractive to prospective customers.  They promised good customer service for passengers, pledging “all Favours acknowledged by their very humble Service.”  In giving their schedule, they promoted the convenience of traveling via their stagecoaches.  They also incorporated other appeals, proclaiming that they offered bargain prices and inviting passengers to board with personal items that did not require additional fees.  Over time, the travel industry refined marketing strategies already in use during the era of the American Revolution.

March 10

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (March 7, 1771).

Advertisements in this Paper are well circulated by this Conveyance and by the Western Rider.”

On March 7, 1771, John Stavers and Benjamin Hart inserted an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter to inform thew public that the “POST-STAGE from and to Portsmouth in New-Hampshire” had a new location in Boston.  Formerly at the Sign of the Admiral Vernon on King Street, the stage now operated from “Mrs. Bean’s at the Sign of the Ship on Launch” on the same street.  It arrived on Wednesdays and departed on Fridays, carrying passengers, packages, and newspapers between the two towns.

Stavers and Hart’s advertisement included two notes that Richard Draper, printer of the Weekly News-Letter, likely added, perhaps after consulting with the stage operators.  Both appeared in italics, distinguishing them from the rest of the contents of the advertisement.  One note called on “Customers to this Paper, on the Eastern Road and at Portsmouth, that are indebted more than one Year … to send the Pay by the Carriers.”  In other words, Draper asked any subscribers who lived along the circuit traversed by Stavers and Hart to submit payment to them for delivery to his printing office in Boston.  The other note proclaimed that “Advertisements in this Paper are well circulated by this Conveyance and by the Western Rider.”  Colonial newspapers depended on revenues generated by advertising.  In this note, Draper sought to assure prospective advertisements that placing their notices in his newspaper would be a good investment because the Weekly News-Letter reached audiences well beyond Boston.  He also encouraged prospective advertisers who lived outside the city, both to the north and the west, to place notices in the Weekly News-Letter in order to reach readers in their own communities.

Draper seems to have piggybacked messages concerning his own business on an advertisement placed by clients who operated a stage between Boston and Portsmouth.  He likely figured that a notice about transporting passengers and packages between the two towns would attract the attention of current subscribers in arrears with their accounts.  He also seized the opportunity to tout the circulation of the newspaper in order to promote it as a vehicle for disseminating advertising.  An advertisement for the “POST-STAGE” ended up doing a lot of work in the interests of the printer.