What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
Benjamin Williams, a brewer, touted his skill and experience when he placed an advertisement in the March 2, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. He invited both “Gentlemen in Town” and “Captains of Vessels” to purchase beer at his “Store-Cellar, upon HUNTER’S-QUAY.” To convince them to choose his beer over others, Williams informed the public that through “great Experience and Application, in Brewing, Managing, and Bottling NEW-YORK BEER” he “brought it to that Perfection, which, with Pleasure, he can boast superior to any Attempt of the Kind in this, or in any other Colony on the Continent of North-America.” That was a bold claim! Today, brewers continue to promote the quality of their products and, in many instances, the years of experience and tradition associated with their breweries. When they do so, they echo marketing strategies already deployed by brewers during the era of the American Revolution.
Williams encouraged local consumption of his “NEW-YORK BEER,” informing “Gentlemen in Town” that they could acquire it for ten shillings for a dozen bottles. If they returned the bottles, consumers enjoyed a discount of three shillings. The brewer also sought customers among “Captains of Vessels” headed to ports in other places, including the Caribbean. He assured them that “Repeated Trials have prov’d” that his beer “will stand the West Indies” rather than go bad during transport. Here again, Williams’s “great Experience and Application” played a role in marketing his product to prospective customers. He also promoted another product, “Fine Cyder, of a peculiar Quality and Flavour,” for consumers interested in beverages beyond beer. In the 1770s, he diversified his line of products in much the same way that many breweries have recently done by offering ciders and, especially, seltzers and other flavor-infused malt beverages. Both Williams and his modern counterparts hoped that familiarity with the quality and reputation of one beverage would lead to purchasing others from the same brewer.