September 1

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 1, 1772).

“BOXES of MEDICINES fitted up as usual.”

As fall approached in 1772, Carne and Poinsett alerted readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that they imported and sold a “VERY LARGE AND GENERAL ASSORTMENT of DRUGS, CHYMICAL, GALENICAL, AND FAMILY MEDICINES.”  They competed with Thomas Stinson, who acquired his “FRESH SUPPLY of DRUGS, CHYMICAL and GALENICAL, With most Family Medicines now in Use” directly from “their ORIGINAL Warehouses,” and Edward Gunter, who stocked a “large and complete ASSORTMENT OF DRUGS and MEDICINES” imported via “the last Vessels from LONDON.”

In addition to carrying similar merchandise, each of these entrepreneurs offered an ancillary service for the convenience of their customers.  Carne and Poinsett promoted “BOXES of MEDICINES fitted up as usual.”  Their competitors gave more elaborate descriptions of this service.  Gunter declared that he supplied “BOXES of MEDICINES, with Directions, for Plantations and Ships Use, prepared in the best Manner.”  Similarly, Stinson explained that “BOXES of MEDICINES, with Directions for PLANTATIONS and SHIPS Use, are faithfully prepared” at his shop.

Providing these boxes kept Gunter, Stinson, and Carne and Poinsett competitive with each other, eliminating the possibility that prospective customers would turn to one who offered the convenience of such boxes medicines over one who did not.  Yet marketing this service to customers did not constitute the sole reason for assembling these eighteenth-century versions of first aid kits.  Doing so augmented sales beyond medicines that customers actually needed to medicines that they might need at some time in the future.  Entrepreneurs who ran apothecary shops used the combination of uncertainty and distance to their advantage, realizing that many prospective customers did not have easy access to medicines and needed to plan for various possibilities rather than acquire remedies only when need became apparent.  It mattered little to these entrepreneurs whether their customers ever used the medicines in the boxes they “fitted up as usual.”  They traded in the security offered by the convenience of having various medicines on hand even if the buyers never needed to administer some of them.

January 4

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

Providence Gazette (January 4, 1772).

“The first Stay-Maker that has ever been so contiguous to the Ladies of this Town.”

With the arrival of a new year, Charles Mahon, a staymaker, opened a new business in Providence.  He placed an advertisement in the January 4, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette “to inform the Ladies of Providence, and others, that he carries on the Stay-Making Business in said Town.”  Mahon assured prospective clients that he made “all Kinds of Stays” as well as a variety of other items associated with his occupation.

Mahon proclaimed that he was “the first Stay-Maker that has ever been so contiguous to the Ladies of this Town,” suggesting that no staymaker previously resided in Providence and operated a shop there.  If that was indeed the case, then the women of the town previously purchased stays produced elsewhere and imported to Providence, making do with imperfect fits or, if possible, making alterations as necessary.  Mahon asserted that having a staymaker in town who “intends to apply himself chiefly” to that business meant that “the Ladies” benefited from a new convenience.  In turn, his enterprise merited “their Encouragement.”

The newcomer realized that his prospective clients were not familiar with the stays he produced.  As part of his introduction to “the Ladies of this Town,” he offered assurances that they “may depend on having their Work done in the best and most fashionable Manner.”  Mahon paired quality and fashion, promising that he delivered both to his customers.  Such appeals suggested his skill as a staymaker combined with a careful eye that registered changes in taste.  His clients could rely on him to make recommendations and outfit them according to the newest modes, a valuable service that exceeded merely fabricating stays.  Such care for his patrons did not, however, come at exorbitant prices.  Instead, Mahon set “reasonable Terms.”

Mahon provided a convenience that he claimed was new to “the Ladies” of Providence, but he also realized that convenience alone would not necessarily generate business.  To convince prospective clients to give him a chance, he incorporated familiar appeals to quality, fashion, and price into his advertisement.  His customers did not need to sacrifice any of them, Mahon suggested, to enjoy the convenience of acquiring stays from a local staymaker.

September 27

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 27, 1771).

“As the Owner is returning immediately to ENGLAND, he will sell them on very low Terms.”

An anonymous advertiser informed readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette that he offered great bargains on an assortment of textiles and other imported goods because he planned to sail “Immediately to ENGLAND.”  On September 27, 1771, the advertiser encouraged prospective customers to act quickly because “he will stay but a Fortnight in Town.”  Since he was such a motivated seller, he was willing to part with his goods “on very low Terms,” so retailers and consumers alike would “find it to their Advantage in dealing with him.”  He did not give his name, instead merely stating that he offered the goods for sale “at Mr. Stavers’s Tavern in Portsmouth.”

To whet the appetites of potential buyers, the anonymous advertiser listed many of the items, including an “Assortment of strip’d and flower’d border’d Lawn Handkerchiefs,” a “variety of Gauze Handkerchiefs and flower’d Gauze Aprons,” and an “elegant Assortment of Fashionable Ribbons.”  Reiterating “assortment” and “variety” underscored that his customers benefited from an array of choices in addition to low prices.

At the end of the notice, the advertiser also listed “a few Setts of Doctor HEMET’s Famous Essence of Pearl and Pearl Dentifice for the Teeth, with proper Brushes and Directions.”  Readers encountered a more extensive advertisement for that product further down the column, though that advertisement indicated that Hemet, a dentist in England, had appointed William Scott in Boston and W. Bayley in London as local agents for wholesale and retail sales.  The advertiser did not indicate where he acquired Hemet’s dental care products, but he offered consumers in Portsmouth greater convenience than sending away to Scott in Boston.  Scott’s advertisement providing more detail about the products bolstered his own marketing without incurring additional expense.

The anonymous advertiser attempted to capture the attention of readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette with a “limited time only” offer, suggesting that his imminent departure for England put them in a good position to negotiate for low prices.  If that was not enough to entice prospective customers, he also promoted extensive choices and even the convenience of acquiring a product otherwise available only in Boston.  Appeals to price and choice were standard elements of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements, but this anonymous advertiser further enhanced those strategies in his efforts to engage customers.

September 14

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

Providence Gazette (September 14, 1771).

“Those who favor him with their custom, either personally or by letter, may depend on the best treatment.”

When John Jenkins advertised his “Store and Shop … near the Great Elm-Tree” in the Providence Gazette in the late summer and early fall of 1771, he hoped to attract customers from towns throughout the countryside.  As one of only two newspapers published in Rhode Island at the time, the Providence Gazette, like the Newport Mercury, circulated far beyond its place of publication.  As a result, consumers in norther Rhode Island as well as portions of Connecticut and Massachusetts encountered the advertisements it carried, including Jenkins’s advertisement for an “assortment of English and India goods,” groceries, and “many articles suitable for the ladies.”

Patrons did not need to visit his shop and warehouse to purchase his merchandise.  Instead, Jenkins offered the eighteenth-century equivalent of mail order service, requesting that customers contact him “by letter” to place orders.  In turn, he pledged that he made no distinction between local customers who visited in person and those who instead sent letters.  Everyone received the same low prices and everyone could “depend on the best treatment, with thanks.”  That likely included prompt and courteous attention as well as access to the newest and most fashionable wares.

Jenkins incorporated convenience and customer service into his marketing efforts.  Other advertisers did so as well in the eighteenth century, but not to the same extent as they pursued other strategies that Jenkins also included in his advertisement.  Purveyors of goods often made appeals to price, as Jenkins did when he described his merchandise as “Very cheap,” and consumer choice, as he did in listing broad categories that ranged from “Stationary ware” to “Brasiery and hardware” to “Earthen ware.”  With a few lines promising “the best treatment” and providing an option to order “by letter,” Jenkins enhanced his advertisement, distinguishing it from otherwise similar notices than ran alongside it in the Providence Gazette.

August 20

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

Essex Gazette (August 20, 1771).

“Strips of Paper are printed off, containing a List of every Rateable Article.”

Throughout the colonies, printers produced, advertised, and sold “BLANKS” or printed forms that facilitated legal and commercial transactions.  Samuel Hall listed a “general Assortment of Blanks … particularly fitted for the County of Essex” in the August 20, 1771, edition of the Essex Gazette.  Among that assortment, he reported that he had “neatly and accurately” printed “Apprentices Indentures,” “Bills of Lading,” “Powers of Attorney,” “Sheriffs Bail Bonds,” and “Justices Writs, Summonses, Executions and Recognizances.”  The template on each blank aided colonists attending to their affairs in the marketplace and the legal system.

In a separate advertisement, Hall promoted another product intended to assist colonists in meeting their obligations, in this case their obligation to enumerate their property for the purposes of paying taxes.  Hall described this helpful device as “Strips of Paper … containing a List of every Rateable Article” that contributed toward the overall tax assessment.  Like the blanks more familiar to many colonists, these “Strips of Paper” included empty space to fill in with the appropriate details; in this case, “to set down the Number and Value of Articles in the Columns left Blank for the Purpose.”  Such organization then made it that much easier to achieve a final tally.  Hall promoted these “Strips of Paper” in terms of the convenience they bestowed on prospective customers who might otherwise experience greater difficulty with this task.  He intended them “FOR the Easement of People, in preparing Lists of their Polls & Rateable Estates.”  Customers who used them did not need to worry about inadvertently overlooking anything that should be included, Hall suggested, since they could simply proceed down the list.

The printer conveniently placed this advertisement immediately below a notice to the “Inhabitants of the Town of SALEM” that they were “to give in to the Assessors Accounts of their Polls and Rateable Estates, according to the Tenor of an Act passed the last Session of the Great and General Court.”  That notice also threatened penalties for “every Person … refusing or neglecting to give into the Assessors in writing, and on Oath if required, a true Account of his or her Rateable Estate” by September 20.  Hall seized an opportunity to make current events work to his advantage in creating and marketing a product that made the assessment process easier and more convenient for prospective customers.

May 5

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (May 2, 1771).

“They manufacture and sell as usual at Frederick-Town.”

According to their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Hamilton and Leiper sold tobacco and snuff at several locations.  For consumers in Philadelphia, they listed their location as “Second-street, between Market and Arch-streets.”  The primary purpose of their advertisement in the May 2, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, however, was to inform customers in Maryland that they had “established a MANUFACTORY in Market-street, Baltimore.”  At that location, they sold “the various kinds of manufactured TOBACCO and SNUFF (of the best quality) on the most reasonable terms.”  In addition, the tobacconists declared that they “manufacture and sell as usual at Frederick-Town” in western Maryland.  Altogether, Hamilton and Leiper sold tobacco and snuff in three towns in two colonies, their multiple locations providing for “the conveniency of their customers.”

Their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette also testified to the reach of that newspaper in the early 1770s.  Baltimore would not have its own newspaper until August 1773.  Fredericktown (now Frederick) did not have a newspaper until after the American Revolution.  For half a century, the Pennsylvania Gazette served as a regional newspaper for readers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.  Although most of the advertisers who promoted consumers goods and services in its pages were located in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Gazette also carried notices from Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland; Burlington and Trenton, New Jersey; and several other towns in those colonies.  Similarly, the Pennsylvania Gazette carried legal notices and advertisements about runaway apprentices and indentured servants and enslaved people who liberated themselves submitted by colonists throughout the region.  In the same column as Hamilton and Leiper’s advertisement, Henry Wells, a jailer, described a runaway servant who made his escape from William Anders or Andrews in Joppa, Maryland, but had been taken into custody and confined in Dover, Delaware.

Several colonies constituted a single media market for the Pennsylvania Gazette and other newspapers published in Philadelphia before the revolution.  Enterprising entrepreneurs like Hamilton and Leiper also recognized the potential to create larger markets for their wares rather than serve only a single town and its hinterlands.  In the early 1770s, they branched out from locations in Philadelphia and Frederick to a third location in Baltimore.  Advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette alerted consumers in and near all three places about the tobacco and snuff that Hamilton and Leiper sold at their several convenient locations.

November 23

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (November 23, 1770).

“Any Gentleman Practitioner may be served … by Letter as well as if present.”

Joseph Tilton advertised a “compleat and general Assortment of the best Drugs and Medicines” in the November 23, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Now available at his shop in Exeter, these nostrums had recently been imported from London.  Tilton listed a variety of popular patent medicines, including Stoughton’s Elixir, Lockyer’s Pills, and Walker’s Jesuit Drops, as well as grocery items often incorporated into homemade remedies.  For instance, he stocked cloves, mace, nutmeg, and ginger.  He supplemented these wares with medical equipment, including lancets and “Surgeons Needles,” and other merchandise, not unlike modern retail pharmacies that carry over-the-counter medications, home health care supplies, and food and convenience items.  For some of his merchandise, Tilton offered bargains, stating that he sold them “cheaper than can be bought in this Government.”  In other words, consumers would not find better deals anywhere in the colony.

To expand his clientele, Tilton did not require customers to visit his shop in Exeter.  In a nota bene, he advised that “Any Gentleman Practitioner, may be served with Dispatch, and their Medicines well secured, by Letter as well as if present.”  Tilton provided mail order service to physicians who desired it, an accommodation apparently worth the effort if it enticed them to choose him to supply their medicines and equipment.  He promised that such orders would not languish in his shop; instead, he would fill them and send them as quickly as possible.  Visiting Tilton’s shop in person would not achieve faster service, nor would it result in better packaging for transporting medicines.  Prospective customers did not need to worry that they would not be able to oversee how the bottles, boxes, and packets were bundled.  Tilton pledged they would be “well secured” and arrive intact.

Tilton incorporated convenience into his business model.  He advertised an array of merchandise, from patent medicines to medical supplies to groceries, for consumers to acquire at one location.  He also provided mail order service as an alternative to shopping in person.  Eighteenth-century advertisements have sometimes been depicted as mere lists of goods, little more than announcements.  Many, however, contained marketing efforts intended to convince consumers to make purchases and choose the advertiser over competitors.

October 16

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

Connecticut Courant (October 16, 1770).

They have a Number of Pairs of Breeches already made.”

In the fall of 1770, the partnership of Converse and Stone, “Breeches Makers, at the Sign of the Breeches in Hartford,” took to the pages of the Connecticut Courant to inform “Gentlemen” that they had set up shop.  They told prospective clients that pursued “the Business of Breeches Making in all its Branches,” intending for that short phrase to provide assurances that they possessed all of the necessary skills of the trade and that they could construct breeches in a variety of styles according to the tastes and budgets of their customers.

In a nota bene, Converse and Stone asked potential clients to take note that they “have a Number of Pairs of Breechesalready made, together with skins of the neatest Kind, so that Gentlemen may suit themselves.”  The breeches makers catered to their customers.  Although they could measure clients and construct new garments for those who desired such services, Converse and Stone also offered the convenience of an eighteenth-century version of buying off the rack.  They already made and had on hand an inventory of breeches for men who wished to acquire them in a single visit to the shop. They adopted business practices and a marketing strategy similar to those that Thomas Hewitt, a wigmaker in Annapolis, described in his advertisement running in the Maryland Gazette at the same time.  Hewitt also promoted both custom-made items and “ready made” alternatives.

For those gentlemen who preferred custom-made breeches, Converse and Stone had “Skins of the neatest Kind” that they could examine and choose what suited them when they came to the shop for measurements.  In that case, their breeches were tailor-made in a collaboration between the breeches makers and individual patrons.  The clients expressed their tastes and preferences and Converse and Stone supplied the skill to create the garments envisioned and commissioned by their customers.  In their advertisement, the breeches makers balanced consumer choice and convenience against their abilities and expertise in their trade.

October 14

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

Maryland Gazette (October 11, 1770).

“From the Clergymens and Counsellors full Dress Wigs, down to the common cut Bob.”

In the late summer and early fall of 1770, Thomas Hewitt, a perukemaker in Annapolis, advertised wigs for gentlemen in the Maryland Gazette.  He carried a full inventory of “all Sorts of Wigs, made in the newest and most approved Fashions.”  He had everything from “Clergymens and Counsellors full Dress Wigs, down to the most common cut Bob” as well as “Dress Bag Wigs, Half Dress, and Scratch Cut Wigs.”  The distinctions may seem obscure to most modern readers, but eighteenth-century gentlemen who read Hewitt’s advertisement recognized the differences.  Hewitt concluded the list of wigs he made and sold with “&c. &c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera) to indicate an even greater variety available at his shop.

Hewitt aimed to make each prospective customer feel as though he was the wigmaker’s most important client.  He pledged that they “may depend on having their Wigs well made, and of the best Hair,” which he had recently imported along with other materials necessary for carrying on his business.  His clients could depend on their wigs being “as neatly and faithfully executed, as if each had been made for his best and most particular Customer.”  This was an appeal to quality, but it was also an appeal to customer satisfaction and consumer discernment.  Hewitt did not cut corners but instead crafted each wig with care and attention.  His clients would note that when they examined his wigs, as would their friends and acquaintances when Hewitt’s customers wore the wigs he crafted.

The wigmaker also served a market that extended beyond Annapolis.  He addressed “those Gentlemen who reside in the remote Parts of the Province, where they cannot be supplied with Wigs by Post” or a local wigmaker that he kept an extensive inventory on hand for their convenience when they visited Annapolis.  They did not need to make multiple trips to his shop over the course of days or weeks, first for measurements and placing an order and later to pick up wigs once Hewitt had a chance to make them.  Instead, they could select a wig on their initial visit to Hewitt’s shop and depart Annapolis when it suited them.  That was another reason for the perukemaker to emphasize the care that went into each and every one of the wigs he constructed.  He offered reassurances to those gentlemen who chose to purchase “off the rack” for convenience.

Hewitt deployed several appeals to incite demand for his wigs, from the materials that went into their construction and the quality of his work to his extensive inventory and the convenience it afforded to prospective clients who lived at a distance.  He did more than merely announce that he had wigs for sale.  Instead, he sought to convince consumers that they purchase their wigs from him.

 

 

October 8

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

Boston-Gazette (October 8, 1770).

“All the Patenteed Medicines, too many to be enumerated in an Advertisement.”

Oliver Smith advertised a “compleat Assortment of the very best DRUGGS and MEDICINES” in the October 8, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette.  He sold his remedies individually, but also offered “Family and Ship Boxes” that packaged together “most of the Medicines generally in Use” along with directions for administering them.  These eighteenth-century versions of first aid kits allowed apothecaries to increase their sales by asking consumers to anticipate possible future needs for a variety of medicines rather than wait until they had a specific need for any particular medicine.  Smith and others marketed “Family and Ship Boxes” as a convenience for their customers, but they also amounted to additional revenue for the sellers.

Smith also informed readers that he carried “All the Patenteed Medicines, too many to be enumerated in an Advertisement.”  Not listing those items saved Smith both space and money.  He expected that consumers were so familiar with the array of patent medicines on the market that he did not need to name them.  This strategy also indicated confidence that he had on hand a complete inventory.  They could depend on him carrying Turlington’s Original Balsam of Life, Godfrey’s General Cordial, Walker’s Jesuit Drops, Dr. Stoughton’s Elixir, Hooper’s Pills, Greenough’s Tincture for the Teeth and Gums, Bateman’s Pectoral Drops, and a variety of other patent medicines that apothecaries, shopkeepers, and even printers frequently listed in their advertisements.  One column over from Smith’s advertisement, William Jones did indeed name all of those nostrums and others.

Much of Smith’s advertisement focused on convenience.  In addition to selling “Family and Ship Boxes” and stocking a complete inventory of patent medicines, he operated his shop at a convenient location, “the next Door Northward of Doctor John Greenleaf’s in Cornhill.”  Prospective customers who had occasion to consult with Dr. Greenleaf could then visit Smith’s apothecary shop next door to select any medicines that the doctor recommended.  Smith also noted that the shop had been “lately improved” to make it more appealing to customers.  With the various conveniences he provided, Smith sought to make it as simple as possible for prospective customers to care for their health.