July 31

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

Jul 31 - 7:31:1767 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (July 31, 1767).

“Intending to carry on my former Business …”

Charles Jeffery had been away from New London for a while, having left “to settle sundry Accounts of long standing,” but, “having almost compleated the same,” he was back and ready to resume the business he had allowed to lapse during his absence. To make sure that “all good old Customers” knew of his return, he placed an advertisement in the New-London Gazette.

Jeffery reminded readers of the various branches of the business he formerly pursued: “Butchery,—Baking Loaf and Ship Bread,—Butter Bisket, Tallow-Chandling;—Also brewing SHIP BEER, &c. &c. &c.” He did not elaborate on the goods he offered for sale, neglecting to make any of the common appeals to price or quality. He did, however, make a nod toward the sort of customer service that readers could expect; they could “depend on being used in the neatest and best manner, by their humble Servant.” He aimed this promise directly at “all good old Customers.”

Despite the hiatus in his business, Jeffery anticipated that readers of the New-London Gazette were sufficiently familiar with him and the commodities he sold that he did not need to do much by way of attempting to convince them to resume trading with him. In that regard, his advertisement resorted more to announcing his enterprise instead of marketing it. He did not even seem particularly interested in attracting new customers but rather desired to revive relationships with former associates, those “good old Customers” who made purchases from him in the past.

Jeffery may have felt little need to engage in much marketing, perhaps assuming that he had already achieved prominence and a positive reputation among residents of New London and its hinterland. In addition, he likely faced less competition than his counterparts in larger port cities, like Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. Had he temporarily suspended business in any of those locales, he may very well have posted a rather different sort of advertisement when he sought to return to the marketplace.

September 7

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

Sep 7 - 9:7:1766 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 7, 1766).

“The Business of BUTCHERING … is carried on, by BENAJAH LEWIS, and Company.”

Benajah Lewis and Company’s advertisement for “their Slaughter House … in the Main-Street PROVIDENCE” reminds us how much the spatial geography of cities has changed since the colonial era. Livestock would have been a fairly common sight in many areas of busy port cities, though cattle and hogs are absent from the urban landscape today. A slaughterhouse would have emitted both loud noises and unpleasant smells, but those have been replaced with loud noises and unpleasant smells of completely other sorts in the wake of urban development, expansion, and industrialization. Today, Armando and Sons Meat Market, Central Meat Market, Joe’s Meat Market, and Plainfield Meat Market each provide specialized butcher services and an enticing array of products to residents of Providence, but none of their websites indicate that live animals are slaughtered on site. That work seems to take place elsewhere (and may even be mandated by health codes and other regulations), distancing most carnivorous consumers from the ultimate source of their meals, much more so than colonists and the animals they ate.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that two days ago I identified continuity between a newspaper advertisement published in 1766 and current “going out of business” promotions, but today’s advertisement included something that I sincerely doubt would be seen today. Lewis and Company ended their advertisement with a nota bene informing potential customers that “Said Lewis, keeps a good Stable, well provided, for Horses.” Given modern American sensibilities, it seems unlikely that any butchers would mention horses, even just the stabling of horses, in an advertisement promoting the meat sold at their shops or slaughterhouses. To do so would cast suspicion on the quality and the origins of the products they sell.