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.