September 5

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

Sep 5 - 9:5:1768 Newport Gazette
Newport Mercury (September 5, 1768).

“He will clean a Clock and keep it in good Repair three Years for One Dollar.”

When Robert Proud turned to the Newport Gazette to advertise that he “cleans Clocks and Watches” late in the summer of 1768, he determined that he needed to do more than promote the low prices he charged for his services. After proclaiming that he performed his work “as cheap as any One in America,” he listed his prices and laid a service plan for prospective customers. That plan included an initial cleaning as well as keeping clocks and watches “in good Repair” for a specified period. For clocks set his rate at “three Years for One Dollar” and for watches at “Half a Dollar [for] for One Year.” Most clock- and watchmakers, like other artisans, did not publish their fees in their advertisements. Proud backed up his assertion about his low prices by putting them on display for prospective customers to assess as they made a decision about whether to visit his shop. Some of his competitors occasionally offered to undertake additional repairs if customers were not satisfied with their initial efforts, but they usually limited such guarantees to a single year. By comparison, Proud’s service plan – three years for clocks – was quite generous.

That was enough to distinguish Proud from others who cleaned and repaired clocks and watches, yet he further elaborated on the service prospective customers could expect to receive in his efforts to attract their patronage. He efficiently completed his work, completing most jobs in a single day. For items dropped off in the morning, Proud either had them ready that evening or “next Day at farthest.” Prospective customers could expect the work done in a timely manner rather than consigning their clocks and watches to linger in Proud’s workshop. Furthermore, they did not need to interact with him directly in order to receive quality service, an appeal that Proud made especially for “any Person in the Country [who] will favour him with their Work.” Anyone who chose to have their clocks and watches delivered to his workshop rather than visiting in person and interacting directly with Proud could still “depend on being as well used as if present.”

Proud concluded his advertisement with a very different sort of appeal: he noted that he had fallen on hard times. “The Business is now so small,” he lamented, “that without some Increase, he cannot a get a comfortable Subsistence for his Family.” The situation was so dire that even though he had served the Newport community for twenty years that “from Necessity, [he] must, in a short Time, leave this his native Place, to seek his Bread elsewhere.” Proud pivoted from laying out his innovative service plan to attempting to provoke sympathy from readers. It must have been difficult to acknowledge his financial insecurity in the public prints, but by pairing that disclosure with his detailed service plan Proud suggested that he did not make false promises. Instead, prospective customers could depend on him following through on efficiently repairing their clocks and watches and returning them in a timely manner. His livelihood and the “Subsistence for his Family” was at stake if he did not deliver on the services and service plan he described in his advertisement.

June 18

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

Jun 18 - 6:18:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (June 18, 1768).

“Lessening the unnecessary Importation of such Articles as may be fabricated among ourselves.”

Edward Spalding (sometimes Spauldin), a clockmaker, placed advertisements in the Providence Gazette fairly frequently in the late 1760s. In fact, he ran a notice for four weeks in August 1766 when the newspaper resumed publication after the repeal of the Stamp Act and the printer resolved other concerns related to the business. He had also inserted a notice in one of the few “extraordinary” issues that appeared while the Stamp Act was still in effect.

Although Spalding sometimes recycled material from one advertisement to the next, at other times he submitted completely new copy that addressed current political and commercial issues, attempting to leverage them to the benefit of his business. In June 1768, for instance, he linked the clocks and watches made and sold in his shop with efforts to achieve greater self-sufficiency throughout the colonies as a means of resisting the Townshend Act and other abuses by Parliament. To that end, he opened his advertisement by announcing two recent additions to his workshop. First, he had “just supplied himself with a compleat Sett of Tools.” He also “engaged a Master Workman” to contribute both skill and labor. As a result, Spalding advised potential customers that he was particularly prepared “to carry on his Business in a very extensive Manner.”

Artisans often invoked that standardized phrase when making appeals about their skill and the quality of the items produced in their workshop, but Spalding did not conclude his pitch to potential patrons there. Instead, he mobilized that common appeal by explaining to prospective customers that since he produced clocks and watches of such high quality – in part thanks to the new tools and “Master Workman” – that they did not need to purchase alternatives made in Britain only because they assumed imported clocks and watches were superior in construction. Spalding took on the expenses of new tools and a new workman in his shop “to contribute his Mite towards lessening the unnecessary Importation of such Articles as may be fabricated among ourselves.” That appeal certainly resonated with ongoing conversation about domestic production that appeared elsewhere in colonial newspapers in 1768.

Ultimately, Spalding placed the responsibility on consumers: “To this Undertaking he flatters himself the Public will afford all die Encouragement.” It did not matter if leaders advocated in favor of “local manufactures” and artisans heeded the call if colonists did not choose to purchase those products. Spalding wished to earn a living; the imperial crisis presented a new opportunity for convincing customers that they had not a choice but instead an obligation to support his business.

May 16

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

May 16 - 5:16:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (May 16, 1768).

“BURROWS DOWDNEY … MAKES and repairs all Kinds od Clocks and Watches.”

 

When it came to advertising, watch- and clockmaker Burrows Dowdney was industrious, advertising in more than one newspaper published in Philadelphia in the late 1760s. Although he deployed fairly standard language to describe his services, pledging “the utmost care and dispatch” in doing his work “after the neatest and best manner,” he adopted other means of distinguishing his advertisements from those placed by other artisans. In particular, Dowdney embellished his notices with visual images related to his occupation and his wares.

Yesterday the Adverts 250 Project examined one of those advertisements published in the Pennsylvania Gazette. It included a woodcut of an engraved clock dial with hours in Roman numerals and minutes in Arabic numerals as well as other decorative elements. Dowdney placed another advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle the same week that he advertised in the Gazette, repeating the copy almost exactly but with a different and even more impressive woodcut. It depicted an elegant dial with an arched top that denoted the phases of the moon. Readers could also view the day of the month on the dial. These additional elements further testified to the complexity of the clocks Dowdney constructed, proclaiming to prospective customers that they were not intended merely for keeping time. Instead, they were meant for display, to create genteel living spaces, to impress friends and visitors. Although not depicted in the woodcut, readers could expect the ornamentation of the cases to rival the engraved dials.

Commissioning not one but two woodcuts represented a significant investment for Dowdney, but he may have considered it a necessary expense as he commenced his own business “in the Shop lately occupied by Mr. Emanuel Rouse” on Front Street. As a newcomer, he needed to attract a clientele for his shop quickly to avoid failing before even having a chance to get started. Commissioning woodcuts that featured much more detail than most of the images that appeared in colonial newspapers demonstrated his commitment and attention to detail, reassuring prospective customers that he did not merely reiterate the usual marketing pitches but did indeed construct clocks “after the neatest and best manner.” The woodcuts certified the quality and elegance associated with clocks made by Burrows Dowdney.

May 15

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

May 15 - 5:12:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 12, 1768).

“BURROWS DOWDNEY, Clock and Watch Maker, in Front-street.”

Relatively few advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers included visual images. Those that did tended to feature stock images that belonged to the printer and could be inserted interchangeably in advertisements from the appropriate genre, such as woodcuts of horses, houses, slaves, and ships. Woodcuts of houses could be used in any real estate notice. Woodcuts depicting runaway slaves could be used in any notice alerting colonists about fugitives that might be in their midst.

Some advertisers, however, did invest in woodcuts to enliven their advertisements, distinguishing them from others that consisted solely of text or that were decorated with generic images readers were accustomed to seeing in the pages of the public prints. Unlike the stock images, these woodcuts belonged to advertisers rather than printers. Even if the image happened to match the contents of other advertisements, such woodcuts appeared only in connection to those who had commissioned them. For instance, clock- and watchmakers regularly advertised in the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette, yet the woodcut depicting the face of a clock appeared solely in notices placed by Burrows Dowdney. That unique image made his advertisements distinctive and memorable for potential customers, especially since it was sometimes the only image on a page otherwise composed of text (as was the case on the final page of the supplement that accompanied the May 12, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette).

Many of the woodcuts commissioned by advertisers dominated the notices in which they appeared, but that was especially true for Dowdney’s advertisement. The image of the clock dial accounted for approximately half of the space his notice occupied on the page. Readers would have been able to identify his occupation and wares at a glance, even if “CLOCKS” and “WATCHES” had not been listed in all capitals in the copy that appeared to the right of the image. Printing technologies of the period did not particularly facilitate including images in advertisements, yet some advertisers still invested both money and energy in experimenting with woodcuts that would set their advertisements apart from others that flooded the pages of eighteenth-century newspapers.

April 8

GUEST CURATOR: Megan Watts

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

Apr 8 - 4:8:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 8, 1767).

“William Watt, Watch and Clock-maker.”

I chose this advertisement because it addressed a unique occupation: clockmaking. Despite my time guest curating the Adverts 250 Project for two weeks, this advertisement surprised me. I had not seen many advertisements for clocks or clockmakers. However, I learned that timekeeping objects have had a long held place in society. Having impressive timepieces has meant something throughout most of American history. Think of society today. If someone has a Rolex or Movado, it is often thought of as symbol of wealth and sophistication. Similarly, if someone in the seventeenth or eighteenth century had an ornate freestanding clock, it was also seen as a status symbol. When I initially discovered this advertisement, I assumed that only the wealthiest colonists would be able to afford clocks, but Cathryn J. McElroy discusses the range of citizens who owned clocks in one eighteenth-century city, describing them as coming from “a wide range of economic and social status.”[1] Watches and clocks were owned by elite colonists, but also by those from the middling ranks. This made me reconsider which items consistently indicated status in colonial America and which did not.

[1]Cathryn J. McElroy, “Furniture in Philadelphia: The First Fifty Years,” Winterthur Portfolio 13 (1979): 78.

April 1

GUEST CURATOR: Evan Sutherland

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

Apr 1 - 4:1:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 1, 1767).

“The CLOCK and WATCH MAKING BUSINESS in all its branches.”

Adrian Loyer announced that he “carr[ied] on the CLOCK and WATCH MAKING BUSINESS in all its branches.” However, watchmaking was not as common as making clocks in colonial America, despite some colonists from England with the necessary skills and tools. Many colonists with watchmaking skills usually repaired watches, rather than creating them. Many of the watches used in colonial America were imported from England instead.

Clockmaking was much more common during the eighteenth century. Clocks were typically made of brass for the dial and wood for the case, including oak, walnut, and mahogany. Some clocks were made with expensive satinwood for inlays. Tall-case clocks made during the eighteenth century were typically expensive; their owners were usually wealthy. As a result, tall-case clocks were usually handed down through generations.

Individual clockmakers typically did not produce more than an average of four to five clocks per year. This was most likely due to the expensiveness of the materials required to produce clocks. Large clocks with tall cases required more materials and more time to produce. Despite these drawbacks, some clockmakers still managed to make a decent living.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Adrian Loyer seemed to be expanding the business he operated in Savannah, thanks to the assistance of “some compleat workmen lately from London” that he recruited on a recent trip to Charleston in neighboring South Carolina. As Evan indicates, Loyer was set “to carry on the CLOCK and WATCH MAKING BUSINESS in all its branches” at his shop, but he offered a variety of other services as well. He and his assistants also repaired mathematical instruments and performed metalwork on weapons and other items.

Residents of Savannah were apparently familiar with Loyer’s work and his reputation: he opened his advertisement by acknowledging “his friends and customers.” Former and potential customers, however, did not know much about Loyer’s new assistants and their work beyond the brief description that appeared in the advertisement. Accordingly, Loyer offered assurances to anyone who visited his shop. He pledged that any work contracted and completed in his shop “will be warranted for a twelvemonth.” In other words, Loyer offered a guarantee that lasted for a year.

Loyer did not provide further details about how his guarantee worked. Was it a money back guarantee? Or did he not charge to repair items that failed within the specified period? Or did he offer customers a choice? Edward Spauldin, who “carries on the Business of cleaning and repairing CLOCKS AND WATCHES” in Providence, explained how his guarantee worked in an advertisement published the previous summer. “If any of his Work fails,” Spauldin stated, “he will repair the same gratis.”

Loyer seemed quite conscious that potential patrons might choose his competitors in Savannah or even send their work to workshops in Charleston. That being the case, it seems most likely that he followed Spauldin’s example and made repairs for free. Doing so gave him the opportunity to satisfy customers rather than relinquish them to other clockmakers and smiths. Whatever the mechanisms of the guarantee, Loyer underscored that he took responsibility for any work that left his shop, whether undertaken by himself or by any of the “compleat workmen” he now employed.

February 6

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

feb-6-261767-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 6, 1767).

“ALEXANDER KIRKWOOD, Watch and Clock Maker from London, HAS taken shop.”

A print of An Exact Prospect of CHARLESTOWN, the Metropolis of the Province of SOUTH CAROLINA, “Engrav’d for the London Magazine” in the early 1760s, depicted a bustling colonial port city. It provided a view of the waterfront, including the wharves where vessels took on cargoes of rice, indigo, and other local products after unloading commodities imported from Europe and the West Indies, slaves arriving directly from Africa or transshipped through other ports in the New World, and migrants from Europe looking for new opportunities.

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An Exact Prospect of Charlestown, the Metropolis of the Province of South Carolina (ca. 1762).  Courtesy Library of Congress.

Alexander Kirkwood, a “Watch and Clock Maker from London,” made the journey across the Atlantic at some point, though his advertisement in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette did not indicate how recently he had arrived in the colony. Whenever he made the voyage, he likely chose to settle in Charleston because it was indeed “the Metropolis” of South Carolina (though readers of the London Magazine may have chuckled a bit over that characterization when they viewed the print), the largest settlement in Britain’s North American colonies south of Philadelphia. The “Watch and Clock Maker from London” needed a sufficient customer base to succeed, making a prosperous settlement the size of Charleston an attractive place to set up shop.

Most likely Kirkwood was a relatively new arrival when he placed this advertisement, given that he stated that he “has taken shop” rather than “removed” from one shop to another. Like shopkeeper David Conkie in Boston, who placed his own advertisement earlier the same week, Kirkwood needed to make prospective customers aware of his business. To that end, he placed notices in both the South-Carolina and American General Gazette and the South Carolina Gazette, published by his neighbor, “Mr. Timothy’s printing-office, in Broad-street.” Residents may not have been familiar with Kirkwood’s shop just yet, but they certainly knew where to find the businesses on either side of him, Timothy’s printing office and the “general post-office.” Not only did his advertisements serve to garner attention, Kirkwood’s location certainly yielded a fair amount of visibility for his shop.