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