September 8

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

Connecticut Courant (September 8, 1772).

“Invite all Captains of Vessels (especially from Connecticut) and Sailors.”

After moving from Stamford, Connecticut, to New York, Foster Lewis kept residents of his former home apprised of his new endeavors.  On September 8, 1772, he inserted an advertisement in the Connecticut Courant to inform readers in Hartford and other towns that he “has opened a public house near Burling-Slip, known by the name of the New England Tavern.”  He promised prospective patrons that if “they give him their Custom … they may depend upon being handsomely used.”  In other words, Lewis made hospitality a priority at the New England Tavern.  He also noted that he “provides good Stabling for Horses” for patrons who arrived in New York by land rather than by sea.

Given the tavern’s location near the waterfront in New York, Lewis addressed his advertisement to mariners, both “Captains of Vessels (especially from Connecticut) and Sailors.”  He hoped to cultivate a sense of community among customers with connections to Connecticut as well as give them an additional reason to choose his tavern over others.  In highlighting his own origins in the neighboring colony, Lewis likely intended to suggest that he exerted even greater effort in making mariners and travelers from New England, especially Connecticut, feel welcome and comfortable in his establishment.  After all, the name of the public house, the New England Tavern, testified to the character of its proprietor and patrons.

Although Lewis no longer lived and worked in Connecticut, he sought to capitalize on identifying with that colony in the advertisement he placed in the Connecticut Courant.  Rather than being treated as strangers and run-of-the-mill customers, patrons who hailed from Connecticut could expect enthusiastic service grounded in their shared connections to that colony.  Lewis apparently suspected that this marketing strategy would resonate with colonizers in Connecticut, making the effort to place his notice in a newspaper published there rather than opting for any of the newspapers published in New York.  Some readers and prospective patrons may even have known Lewis, prompting them to expect a friendly and familiar face if they visited the New England Tavern.

August 25

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

Connecticut Courant (August 25, 1772).

“WINES.”

William Ellery stocked a variety of wares, but emphasized “WINES” in his advertisement in the August 25, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant.  Many purveyors of goods and services used their names as the sole or primary headline in their newspaper advertisements, but Ellery opted to open his advertisement with a segment of his merchandise that he thought would attract attention.  The headline, “WINES,” appeared in a large font, followed by a list of “CHOICE Old Madeira, Claret, Teneriff and Mountain, Malaga WINES.”  Only after that preview did Ellery give his name and location as a secondary headline before providing a more extensive account of beer, spirits, and groceries.  In contrast, an advertisement in the next column featured a more familiar headline, “Imported from LONDON, and to be sold by Stephen Mears, Opposite the North Meeting House in Hartford,” with “Stephen Mears” centered and in a larger font.

Ellery used graphic design to his advantage elsewhere in his advertisement as well.  The “N.B.” that marked the nota bene that followed his list of merchandise appeared in an even larger font than “WINES,” as did the “M” in “MR. ELLERY.”  Even if readers skimmed over “Bristol Beer, and Dorchester Ale, by the Cask, or Dozen Bottles” and “Coffee by the Bag or single Pound,” the large letters guided them to a message from the merchant.  He expressed “his Thanks to those People who have heretofore favour’d him with their Custom” and invited them to continue to “favour him with their Custom.”  Ellery deployed two of the most popular marketing appeals of the period, choice and price, proclaiming that he “his Shop is fuller sorted than ever, as he has just received a large Supply of the above Articles, and flatters himself he cans sell so low as to give intire satisfaction” to his customers.  In contrast, other advertisers tended to position such notes below the headline and above the list of goods.  Once again, Ellery adopted a format that distinguished his advertisement from others.

Ellery’s notice consisted entirely of text, as did all of the advertisements in most issues of the Connecticut Courant.  That did not mean, however, that every advertisement looked the same.  Some advertisers did rely on standard formats, but others sought to engage readers by presenting familiar messages in less familiar formats.  The design of Ellery’s advertisement challenged prospective customers to look more closely at his merchandise and the assertions he made about low prices and extensive choices.

August 4

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

Connecticut Courant (August 4, 1772).

“The following BOOKS, imported directly from LONDON, are to be sold.”

Booksellers Smith and Coit had a true full-page advertisement in the August 4, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant.  They came close in the previous issue, but the compositor squeezed another advertisement into the space that otherwise would have been the right margin.  When readers perused the August 4 issue, they encountered only Smith and Coit’s advertisement on the final page.  Not even a colophon stating that Ebenezer Watson printed the Connecticut Courant in Hartford appeared at the bottom of the page.

Smith and Coit likely distributed this advertisement via other methods.  They may have placed an order for handbills or broadsides.  They certainly did so a year later when they disseminated a broadside promoting “a universal assortment of drugs, medicines, painter’s colours, and grocery articles; together with the following books” on sale “at their store east of the Court-House in Hartford.”  According the notes in the American Antiquarian Society’s catalog, this broadside was “Primarily booksellers’ catalog” and the “complete text of the broadside appeared in the July 6, 1773, issue of the Connecticut Courant, printed by Ebenezer Watson.”  It did not run in the standard issue of the July 6 edition, but Watson may have distributed a supplement not included in America’s Historical Newspapers.  The broadside did do double duty as the second page of the July 13 edition.  Considering that Watson collaborated with Smith and Coit in creating a broadside book catalog that also served as a full-page newspaper advertisement in the summer of 1773, they probably did so in 1772 as well.

Smith and Coit had several options for circulating their book catalog.  They may have posted it at their shop or pasted it up around town.  They may have passed it out as a handbill.  They may have given customers a copy when they made purchases, encouraging them to consider buying other titles on a subsequent visit.  They may have treated it as a circular letter, writing a short note, folding the catalog into a smaller size, sealing it, addressing it, and sending it via the post.  They may have sent copies to booksellers in other towns, alerting them to titles they had in stock to sell or exchange for others.  Smith and Coit may have distributed their book catalog in some or all of these ways.  Other advertisers utilized all of them in the second half of the eighteenth century.

July 28

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

Connecticut Courant (July 28, 1772).

“BOOKS, imported directly from LONDON.”

Booksellers Smith and Coit took out a full-page advertisement in the July 28, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant.  Or did they?

A headline that extended four lines ran across the top of the final page, advising readers that “The following BOOKS, imported directly from LONDON, are to be sold cheap for Cash, by SMITH and COIT, At their Store in HARTFORD.”  The booksellers provided a list of authors and titles, arranged in four columns with one item per line.  They further aided prospective customers in navigating the list by organizing it according to genre, providing headings for each category, and alphabetizing the entries under Divinity; Law; Physic, Surgery, &c.; Schoolbooks; History; and Miscellany.  This design allowed Smith and Coit to distribute the advertisement separately as a broadside book catalog, if they placed an order for job printing with Ebenezer Watson, the printer of the Connecticut Courant.

Smith and Coit may have intended to run a full-page advertisement, but another notice also appeared on the final page, that one printed in the right margin on the final page.  To make the advertisement that William Jepson placed in the previous issue fit in the margin, either Watson or a compositor in his printing office rotated the type perpendicular to the other contents of the page and divided the notice into five columns of five or six lines each.  A common strategy for squeezing content into the margins, that saved the time and energy of completely resetting the type.

Jepson’s advertisement could be easily removed.  Indeed, it did not appear on the same page as Smith and Coit’s advertisement in the next edition of the Connecticut Courant.  Instead, the booksellers had the entire page to themselves, a true full-page advertisement.  Did Watson make the adjustment of his own volition?  Or had Smith and Coit complained that Jepson’s notice intruded into their advertisement, its unusual format distracting from the impression they hoped to make with a full-page advertisement?

July 21

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

Connecticut Courant (July 21, 1772).

“☞ once more! ☜”

Many former customers of the “late Company of Gardiner & Jepson” did not respond to William Jepson’s notices in the Connecticut Courant calling on those “indebted by Judgment, Execution, Note, Book Debt, or otherwise” to settle accounts.  That exasperated him.  It also influenced the format of an advertisement that first ran in the July 21, 1772, edition of the newspaper.  He wished to call attention to his efforts to notify debtors of their obligations, proclaiming that he “☞ once more! ☜” addressed them, setting apart that phrase not only in italics but also with a manicule (a typographic mark depicting a hand with its index finger extended in a pointing gesture) on either side to draw even more attention.  He deployed that format a second time when threatening legal action against those who continued to ignore his advertisements, warning that “they must expect Trouble ☞ without Exception or further notice! ☜”  A set of manicules once again enclosed the words in italics, making Jepson’s frustration palpable.

Other colonizers who placed advertisements in the Connecticut Courant included manicules, bit not nearly as extensively or creatively.  Manicules most often appeared at the conclusion of advertisements, where “N.B.” might otherwise appear for a nota bene advising readers to take notice.  For instance, Caleb Bull concluded an advertisement for “Choice Linseed Oyl” with a brief note stating that “☞ Cash will be given by said Bull for Post-ash.”  A manicule that preceded that note directed attention to it.  In another advertisement, enslavers John Northrop and John Sanfard offered a reward for the capture and return of “two Negro Men” who liberated themselves by running away at the end of May.  Northrop and Sanfard provided descriptions of the unnamed fugitives seeking freedom in the body of the advertisement.  In a note at the end, marked by a manicule, they warned that “☞ ‘Tis supposed they have each of them a forged pass.”

Manicules sometimes appeared in advertisements in the Connecticut Courant in the early 1770s.  Most advertisers included them according to a standard fashion, but occasionally some advertisers, like Jepson, deployed manicules in innovative ways when they sought to underscore the message in their notices.  They experimented with the graphic design possibilities available to them.

July 7

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

Connecticut Courant (July 7, 1772).

“The County Goal in this Place was broke up.”

Ebenezer Watson, printer of the Connecticut Courant, typically placed news items on the first pages of his newspaper and advertisements on the final pages.  Not every colonial printer did so.  Some dispersed paid notices throughout their newspapers, even placing advertisements on the first page.  Watson sometimes included advertisements in the final column of the second page, as he did in the July 7, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant, before continuing with additional news items on the third page and devoting the final page to advertisements.  As a general rule, only news items ran on the first page and only paid notice and the “POETS CORNER” appeared on the last page.

That did not mean, however, that readers did not encounter news when they perused the last page.  Among the advertisements for consumer goods and services in the July 7 issue, for instance, one advertisement featured a prominent headline that advised the public to “Take Notice!”  It described three men who recently escaped from the county jail.  Ely Warner, the jailer, offered rewards for the capture and return of Elisha Wadsworth of Hartford, “confined for Debt,” Abraham Curtiss of Suffield, “committed for Debt,” and John Grant, “a transient Person, committed for Burglary.”  Another advertisement had a dramatic headline that alerted readers to a “BURGLARY!”  Benjamin Sedgwick of Canaan reported that his shop “was broke open” and several items stolen on June 26.  He offered a reward for apprehending the thief and the stolen merchandise.  In another advertisement, Lynde Lord alerted the public that “noted Burglarian John Brown, who was under Sentence of Death for House breaking,” escaped from the jail in Litchfield sometime during the night of June 14.  Readers could easily recognize him since previous punishments included cropping his ears and branding.

Several of the advertisements in the Connecticut Courant delivered news, much of it more immediately relevant to residents of central Connecticut than stories reprinted from London, Philadelphia, and Boston.  When they paid to insert notices, advertisers acquired limited responsibilities as editors and journalists who aided in keeping their communities informed about local events.

June 26

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

Connecticut Journal (June 26, 1772).

“The Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York.”

In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown envisioned a stagecoach route that connected New York and Boston.  They placed advertisements seeking investors in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven.  Such an enterprise, they argued, would benefit residents and entrepreneurs in a colony that travelers often bypassed when they chose to sail between New York and Providence and then continue to Boston via stage.  In the summer of 1772, the Browns inserted an advertisement in the New-York Journal to announce a trial run for their service between New York and Boston.

At the same time that they sought passengers from New York and its hinterlands, the Browns placed new notices in the Connecticut Courant and the Connecticut Journal.  For instance, Jonathan advertised that the “Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York” in the June 26, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal.  He stated that “any Gentlemen or Ladies that may want a Conveyance there, or to any Place on the Road, between this Town and that City, may be accommodated in said Coach.”  In an advertisement that appeared in the Connecticut Courant on June 16, Jonathan declared that he “furnished himself with a convenient Coach and suitable horses” to provide service between Hartford and New York.”  In the same issue, Nicholas declared that he “purposes to have a Stage Coach going from this Place to Boston every Fortnight during the Summer.”  The success of the larger venture depended not only on passengers who made the journey between Boston and New York but also on other customers who paid fares to travel shorter distances.  In their efforts to attract those customers, the Browns marketed their service in several newspapers that circulated in Connecticut even as they sought passengers from beyond New England via notices in the New-York Journal.

June 23

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

Connecticut Courant (June 23, 1772).

Country Traders may depend on having their Ware pack’d in the best Manner.”

In the early 1770s, Ebenezer Bridgham operated the “Staffordshire & Liverpool Ware-House in King-Street, BOSTON,” where he stocked “a very large and compleat Assortment of China, Glass, Delph & Stone WARE.”  The merchant advertised in newspapers published in Boston, but he also sought to cultivate customers far beyond the city.  In the fall of 1771, he inserted advertisement in the Essex Gazette, the Providence Gazette, the Connecticut Courant, and the New-London Gazette.  He likely believed that those advertisements generated business because he once again placed advertisements in the Connecticut Courant in the summer of 1772.

Bridgham informed residents of Hartford and others who read the Connecticut Courant that his inventory of “China, Glass, Delph & Stone WARE” constituted “the greatest Variety to be met with in any Store in America, or perhaps in the whole World.”  If that was the case, then how could he confine himself to serving solely customers in Boston and its hinterlands?!  In addition, he negotiated with the “several manufacturers in Staffordshire and Liverpool” to acquire his inventory “on such Terms” that he could match the prices in London rather than marking up prices after transporting his goods across the Atlantic.  Furthermore, Bridgham vowed that “he will not be undersold by any person in America.”  In a regional advertising campaign, he made a bold claim that applied throughout the colonies, signaling to prospective customers in Connecticut that they did not need to look to merchants beyond New England, especially in nearby New York, for better bargains.

In particular, Bridgham hoped that retailers in small towns would respond to his advertisement.  He concluded with a nota bene advising that “Country Traders may depend on having their Ware pack’d in the best Manner, there being Packers provided from England for that Purpose” at his store.  Bridgham assured shopkeepers and others that their orders would arrive intact, free from damage and ready to sell to their own customers.  Orders from just a few “Country Traders” may have sufficiently offset the costs to justify running an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal.  Colonial newspapers circulated far beyond the cities and towns where they were published, disseminating advertisements as well as news.  Many merchants considered that sufficient to meet their marketing needs, but that was not the case for Bridgham when he decided to become a regional supplier of “China, Glass, Delph & Stone WARE” manufactured in Staffordshire and Liverpool.  Instead, he placed advertisements in newspapers published in several towns in New England in his effort to expand his share of the market.

June 16

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

Connecticut Courant (June 16, 1772).

“He Desires all Persons indebted to him, to make Immediate Payment.”

In a short advertisement in the June 16, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant, John Cable, a “BAKER from GERMANY,” informed the public “that he is (in a short Time) going to New York where he intends to Purchase a considerable Quantity of Flower for the Purpose of supplying his Customers as usual.”  He did not merely intend to incite demand for the bread he would bake upon his return; instead, he also aimed to raise the funds necessary to acquire the supplies he needed to continue operating his business.  Cable declared that since “his undertaking requires CASH, he Desires all Persons indebted to him, to make Immediate Payment.”  Unlike many others who published similar messages, he did not threaten legal action against those who did not heed his request.

Graphic design likely played a significant role in drawing attention to Cable’s advertisement.  A border comprised of decorative type, leafy flourishes, surrounded his notice.  No other advertisement in that issue or any recent issue of the Connecticut Courant had a border.  Only two images appeared in that edition, a crown and seal flanked by a lion and unicorn in the masthead and a much less elaborate woodcut depicting a horse in an advertisement about a strayed or stolen mare.  Compared to newspapers published in larger cities, the Connecticut Courant generally featured fewer images and fewer experiments with graphic design, though Caleb Bull’s advertisement for “New, New, New GOODS!” that ran once again demonstrated an interest in innovative marketing strategies.  Given Hartford’s proximity to Boston, Cable may have spotted Jolley Allen’s or Andrew Dexter’s advertisements with borders in one of the newspapers published there, prompting him to request similar treatment for his advertisement when he submitted the copy to the printing office. Alternately, he may have envisioned the format on his own, searching for a means of distinguishing his notice from others in hopes of increasing the chances that “Persons indebted to him” would see it and settle accounts before he ventured to New York.

May 19

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

Connecticut Courant (May 19, 1772).

“New, New, New GOODS!”

Less is more.  Caleb Bull, Jr., adopted that theory for his advertisement in the May 19, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant.  Extending only four lines, the advertisement proclaimed, “New, New, New GOODS! AT CALEB BULL jun’s. Store in HARTFORD.”  He did not include any of the standard appeals to price or quality.  He did not attempt to convince genteel customers that he carried fashionable textiles, garments, and housewares.  He did not provide a list of dozens or scores of items to demonstrate the choices available to consumers.  He did not promise exemplary customer service.  In short, he did not deploy most of the marketing strategies that commonly appeared in newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century.

That does not necessarily mean, however, that Bull’s advertisements did not catch the attention of prospective customers.  After all, he composed innovative copy with the repetition of “New, New, New” on the first line.  Most advertisers did not incorporate such repetition as a means of engaging readers, though sometimes their lists of merchandise concluded with “&c. &c. &c.”  In repeating the abbreviation for et cetera, they underscored that they had far too many goods to fit into an advertisement.  Bull relied on a similar principle, but he did not reserve the repetition for the end of his notice.  Instead, “New, New, New” served as his primary marketing strategy, signaling to prospective customers that his inventory had not lingered on the shelves.  Bull challenged readers to visit his store to see these “New, New, New GOODS” for themselves.

The typography made his advertisement notable, most of the content in larger fonts than appeared in other advertisements on the same page.  Other notices featured dense paragraphs in smaller fonts.  Readers likely absorbed Bull’s advertisement at a glance, even if they casually skimmed the advertisements, but other notices required greater effort to read.  As a result, “New New, New GOODS” may have been enough to make Bull’s advertisement memorable and effective,