May 27

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (May 25, 1772).

“Shoemakers may be supplied with tools of every kind used in their business.”

A silhouette of a shoe adorned Robert Loosely’s advertisement in the May 25, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but it was not footwear that the “Shoe Maker” aimed to sell.  Instead, he hawked “Shoemakers Tools, A general assortment lately imported from London.”  His inventory included “BEST London made cast steel knives,” “Pincers of all sizes, Shoe rasps and files of the best kind, Hammers of all sizes,” “An assortment of awl blades and tacks,” “Bend soles,” and much more.  The “&c. &c. &c” (or “etc. etc. etc.”) at the end of his list indicated that he named only a portion of his merchandise.

Loosely leveraged his training and experience as a shoemaker to convince others who followed the occupation that he was indeed qualified to assert that he provided them with “the best goods, on the most reasonable terms.”  He explained that he “served his apprenticeship in England, and for some years carried on a considerable trade there.”  That made him familiar with the equipment and supplies required to make shoes and boots.  He drew on experience in selecting which “Shoemakers Tools” to import and sell, unlike merchants and shopkeepers who treated those tools as general merchandise alongside so many other items they stocked.  Loosely underscored that during his time working in England he “became acquainted with the most reputed manufacturers of tools and leather.”  As a result, he “flatters himself he has it in his power to serve those that please to apply to him.”

Artisans with training or experience in England frequently gave those credentials in their newspaper advertisements when they migrated to the colonies, but they usually did so to convince prospective customers to purchase their wares or prospective clients to engage their services.  Loosely adapted that strategy to his own purposes, signaling to fellow artisans that they could depend on him to supply them with the best tools and materials to use in their own workshops.

January 22

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 20, 1772).

“All sorts of Chymical and Galenical Medicines (truly prepared).”

When Townsend Speakman opened an apothecary shop on Market Street in Philadelphia in the early 1770s, he took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Chronicle to offer his services.  In an advertisement in the January 20, 1772, edition, he introduced himself as a “Chymist and Druggist, LATE FROM LONDON.”  Like many others who migrated across the Atlantic, he asserted his credentials as a means of establishing his reputation among prospective clients.  Speakman declared that he “served a regular apprenticeship to the business.”  In addition, he “had several years further experience therein, in a house of the first reputation in LONDON.”

That accrued additional benefits for his prospective clients beyond the expertise and experience the “Chymist and Druggist” gained during his apprenticeship and subsequent employment.  His connections to an apothecary shop “of the first reputation” meant that he could “procur[e] articles of the best quality” for the “most reasonable rates” for his customers.  He vowed to pass along the savings, promising to “sell on as low terms as any in this city.”  Speakman also emphasized quality elsewhere in his advertisement.  He assured readers that he sold “all sorts of Chymical and Galenical Medicines (truly prepared).”  That phrase suggested both his skill in compounding medications and the authenticity of the ingredients he used.  To underscore the point, Speakman pledged that “Family receipts [or remedies], and physical prescriptions, are carefully and correctly compounded.”  Furthermore, he carried “the best of Drugs [and] Patent Medicines.”

As a newcomer unknown to the prospective clients that he wished to engage, Speakman sought to convince readers that he merited their trust in preparing and providing medicines.  He emphasized both his formal training through an apprenticeship as well as his additional experience working in an apothecary shop “of the first reputation” in London.  He brought his expertise to Philadelphia, vowing to supply clients with “truly prepared” medicines of the best quality.  The apothecary achieved success in the Quaker City.  In the late 1780s, he supplemented his newspaper advertisements with an engraved billhead for writing receipts for customers.

Billhead, Townsend Speakman, 1789. Courtesy Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

December 30

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

Pennsylvania Packet (December 30, 1771).

“I am so rejoiced at my own good fortune, that I had almost forgot to thank you for curing my wife of hardness of hearing.”

When Dr. Graham, an “oculist and auralist,” arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1771, he placed an advertisement in the November 11, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet to inform “the inhabitants of British America in general, that he may be consulted … in all the disorders of the eyes, and in every species of deafness.”  Like many other physicians who migrated across the Atlantic, he presented his credentials, stating that “after several years study at the justly celebrated University of Edinburgh, he has travelled and attended upon the Hospitals and Infirmaries in London, Edinburgh, [and] Dublin.”  He acknowledged that many “practitioners in physic and surgery, gentlemen eminent in their profession,” already provided their services in Philadelphia, but nonetheless asserted that he “had more experience as an oculist and auralist, than, perhaps, any other Physician and Surgeon on this vast Continent.”  At the end of his advertisements, Graham inserted five short testimonials from patients in towns in New Jersey.

By the end of the year, his advertising strategy consisted almost entirely of publishing testimonials in the Pennsylvania Packet.  The December 30 edition included a “(COPY)” of a letter that the doctor received from John Thomas, a resident of Race Street in Philadelphia.  Thomas explained that he had been “afflicted with the unspeakable misfortune of total deafness in both ears” for thirty years.  He sometimes resorted to “a large trumpet, which assisted my hearing considerably in one ear.”  Upon seeing Graham’s advertisement “in this useful paper,” Thomas sought his services.  As a result of the doctor’s care, he no longer had “the least occasion for the trumpet” because he could “hear ordinary conversation” and could “conduct my business with a satisfaction, that for 30 years past I have been an utter stranger to.” In a postscript, Thomas also revealed that Graham cured his wife of “hardness of hearing, which she had been afflicted with for above fourteen years.”

An editorial note appeared at the end of the advertisement, almost certainly inserted by Graham rather than by the printer.  “As it is impossible for us to insert the great number of cures Dr. Graham has performed since his arrival in this city,” the note declared, “we must therefore refer the public for further information to the Doctor, at his apartments.”  This note seemed to give another third-party recommendation of Graham’s abilities to treat “all the disorders of the eye or its appendages; and in every species of deafness, [and] hardness of hearing,” but John Dunlap, the printer of the Pennsylvania Packet did not sign it.  Rather than a referral from the printer, Graham devised the note to bolster an advertising campaign centered on endorsements from others.  Having introduced himself in previous notices, he disseminated testimonials from local residents to bolster his reputation among prospective patients.

August 4

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

Maryland Gazette (August 1, 1771).

“Has been regularly bred to the tailoring Trade in the most capital house for that Business.”

James Logan, a tailor, was an outsider when he arrived in Annapolis.  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, he introduced himself to his new community (and prospective clients) in a newspaper advertisement that included an account of his credentials.  Until he had an opportunity to establish a reputation in his new home, he relied on his training and experience to recommend him to potential customers.

Logan’s advertisement ran in the August 4, 1771, edition of the Maryland Gazette.  He informed readers that “not only has [he] been regularly bred to the tailoring Trade in the most capital House for that Business, in the City of Cork, but also worked for a considerable Time with much Applause, with most eminent Masters in England and Ireland.”  Having worked with “eminent Masters” enhanced his training, but also testified to a competence that others who followed his occupation recognized in Logan.  Those experiences prepared him to pursue “his Trade in all it’s various Branches,” capable of completing any task requested by clients in his new city “to give the utmost Satisfaction.”  He also leveraged his connections to “the most capital House” in Cork and “eminent Masters in England and Ireland” to suggest a certain amount of cachet associated with hiring him.

The tailor also sought to convince prospective customers of his commitment to his craft combined with his desire to serve them.  He trumpeted his “superior Ability” and in the same breath promised “constant Adherence to the due Assiduity highly necessary in the Execution” of his new undertaking.  Even more verbose than many artisans who advertised in colonial newspapers, Logan aimed to make himself memorable to readers not yet familiar with the garments he made.  For the moment, words by necessity substituted for the reputation that he hoped to cultivate in Annapolis as he built his clientele.

July 1

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 1, 1771).

“A continuance of the same circumspect conduct and integrity.”

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, John Coghill Knapp regularly advertised the services he provided at the “Scrivener, Register, and Conveyancer’s OFFICE” in New York, including “Writings and conveyances of every kind” and “Different sums of money ready to lend.”  He also assisted in recovering debts “in the most civiliz’d easy manner, … at most times without law.”  In other words, through negotiation Knapp avoided going to court.  For “Executors and administrators,” especially those thrust into unfamiliar roles, he offered instruction “in the due execution of their office,” helping them navigate their responsibilities while “prevent[ing] the expence and difficulties from want of knowledge therein.”  In addition, Knapp aided “Seafaring men, and other strangers,” noting that they “often meet with difficulty in matter not altogether relative to the law.  Although he did not mention it in every advertisement, Knapp brokered sales of indentured servants and enslaved men, women, and children.

Knapp often composed colorful copy for his advertisements.  In a notice in the July 1, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, he started with his credentials, stating that he was “ONE of the attornies of his Majesty’s high and honourable court of King’s Bench at Westminster, duly admitted, sworn, and inrolled, the 2d day of June 1755.”  After migrating to the colonies, he established his office in New York in 1764.  Having gained experience over the years, Knapp proclaimed that he “gives the most candid and satisfactory opinion and advice in all cases of law and equity, founded on such plain truths as are not to be overcome by the alluring arguments of any smooth tongue Causidie.”  Yet Knapp possessed a smooth tongue himself, declaring that he effectively met “the loud positive harangue of him who attempts to annihilate the reason of both judge and jury.”  The attorney deployed clever turns of phrase to impress potential clients with his competence and effectiveness.

Such flamboyance, however, attracted critiques.  In addition to describing his credential and services, Knapp also offered some sort of defense of his conduct in many of his advertisements.  He claimed, for instance, that he acted with integrity and requested that manner in which he “executed the business of this office for seven years past, will intitle him to a continuance of that favour and protection” that he previously received from clients and associates in the face of attacks from competitors and rivals.  In lively language that only hinted at the particulars of previous controversies, Knapp asserted that “he has so feelingly overcome the many daring assaults and unspeakable injuries done to his person and property, by cruel, invidious and designing men.”  He labeled them “hypocrites, pretending with so much ease to see the mote in their brother’s eye, but cannot behold the beam that is in their own.”

Knapp may have been an effective attorney and advocate for his clients, but that did not always win him friends.  Alternately, his verbose advertisements may have been the eighteenth-century equivalent of the bombastic marketing campaigns undertaken by many law firms with questionable reputations in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Knapp claimed that he tended to his clients’ interests, but his vigorous defense of his own conduct suggested that many readers already possessed knowledge of events that yielded an unflattering reputation.  The attorney attempted to establish his own narrative, simultaneously demonstrating his skill in making arguments on behalf of clients.

January 13

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

South-Carolina Gazette (January 10, 1771).

“The most effectual Medicine that has ever yet been offered to the Public, for the Cure of an inveterate Scurvy.”

John Norton, surgeon and proprietor of “Maredant’s Anti-Scorbutic Drops,” and Thomas Powell, his local agent in Charleston, deployed a variety of marketing strategies in an advertisement that ran in the January 10, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  Filling almost an entire column, the advertisement included a recitation of the various maladies that the patent medicine supposedly cured, two testimonials from former patients, an overview of the patent medicine’s reputation in England and Ireland, and a notice that Powell was the only authorized seller.  Eighteenth-century advertisements for patent medicines often included one or more of these various elements, but this particular advertisement was notable for incorporating all of them.

Norton and Powell billed Maredant’s Anti-Scorbutic Drops as the “most effectual Medicine that has ever yet been offered to the Public, for the Cure of an inveterate Scurvy, Leprosy, and pimpled Faces … so as never to return again.”  In addition, the patent medicine cured sores, ulcers, and hemorrhoids, purified blood, and “prevents malignant Humours of every Kind from being thrown upon the Lungs.”  Yet that was not all, according to Norton and Powell, who proclaimed that the drops were effective “in eradicating every Disorder incident to the Human Body, proceeding from the Scurvy, or Foulness of the Blood.”

The lively commentary did not end there.  Norton and Powell inserted two testimonials, one from Joseph Feyrac, “late Lieutenant-Colonel to His Majesty’s 28th Regiment of Foot in Ireland,” and the other from John Good, “late Surgeon to His Majesty’s Sloop Ferris.”  Feyrac’s lengthy testimonial accounted for half of the advertisement.  He went into detail, describing the “Particulars of my Distemper” and other treatments he had endured.  He experienced temporary relief after consulting “an old Woman” who administered “Juice of Herbs, preceded by violent Bleedings.”  He traveled to Bath, but “found a bad Effect from the Waters.”  Feyrac described several times that he was incapacitated for a month or more.  A physician and a surgeon provided various treatments, but those also produced only temporary relief.  Feyrac was “Low in Spirits” when he happened to read one Norton’s advertisements in the English press.  He asked others who had taken Maredant’s Anti-Scorbutic Drops about their experiences, discovering that the remedy “had performed a great Number of Cures, in all the Disorders” mentioned in the advertisements.  When Feyrac took the medicine himself, he began experiencing relief within a week.  Several months later, he reported that he was “well recovered; my Strength is returned, my Spirits good.”

Good’s testimonial was much shorter, simply declaring the “valuable Drops” had “entirely cured me of a dangerous and obstinate Fistula.”  Some of the value of this testimonial no doubt derived from Good’s former service as “Surgeon to His Majesty’s Sloop Ferris.”  His own experience tending to patients likely enhanced his standing in recommending this patent medicine.  Good also framed his testimonial as a service to the public, stating that making it public “may be the Means of doing Service to the Community in general.”

Such stories contributed to the reputation Maredant’s Anti-Scorbutic Drops earned in England in Ireland.  The drops were so effective “in all Disorders occasioned by the Scurvy, that even Numbers of the Faculty” of the Corporation of Surgeons in London “have been induced to seek Relief from the known Virtues of this excellent Medicine.”  In addition, Norton brandished his credentials, stating that he “was regularly brought up in the Practice of Surgery.”  He also stated that the king had granted “His Royal Letters Patent” to Norton for “the preparing and vending” of the patent medicine.

Given the reputation and success of Maredant’s Anti-Scorbutic Drops on the other side of the Atlantic, Norton and Powell hoped to create demand in the colonies.  Their advertisement noted that Norton appointed Powell as “the sole Vendor … in the Southern Colonies of AMERICA.”  Consumers could purchase the drops “with printed Directions for using them” from Powell only.  Such exclusivity served as a form of quality control and guarded against counterfeits, increasing consumer confidence.

From descriptions of the maladies the patent medicine cured to testimonials from patients who recovered after taking the drops to commentary about their reputation, Norton and Powell provided prospective customers with a variety of reasons to purchase Maredant’s Anti-Scorbutic Drops.  They combined multiple marketing strategies into a single advertisement as they attempted to make a convincing case to consumers.

February 22

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

Feb 22 - 2:22:1770 Maryland Gazette
Maryland Gazette (February 22, 1770).

“He has engaged Two exceeding good Workmen.”

While eighteenth-century artisans frequently promoted their own training and other credentials, relatively few devoted space in their newspaper advertisements to acknowledging the skill and experience of subordinates who worked in their shops.  William Faris, a clock- and watchmaker in Annapolis, however, incorporated several employees into the advertisement he placed in the February 22, 1770, edition of the Maryland Gazette.  Indeed, he said little about his own contributions to the business in favor of convincing prospective customers that he hired skilled artisans capable of executing their orders.

Faris opened his advertisement by announcing that “he has engaged Two exceeding good Workmen.”  He noted that one “has been a Finisher several Years to the celebrated Mr. Allen,” expecting that name to resonate with consumers familiar with clock- and watchmakers.  Faris leveraged the reputation of another artisan, perhaps even a competitor, to enhance the standing of his own business.  Having competent workmen in the shop allowed Faris to branch out.  He informed prospective customers that he also “executes any Orders he may be favoured with for Chair Work,” an endeavor made possible by hiring “a good Workman” who has produced “several Dozens of very neat black Walnut Chairs.”

In the midst of acquainting the public with his skilled staff, Faris also noted, though briefly, that “he still carries on” activities closely aligned with making clocks and watches.  He pursued the “Gold, Silversmiths and Jewellers Businesses,” doing that work “in the neatest and Best Manner.”  His own skill and experience made him qualified to assess the abilities of the workmen he employed.  By listing the several tradesmen who worked alongside him, Faris conjured images of a busy and bustling shop, one where customers could depend on the proprietor having sufficient assistance to see to their orders “faithfully” and “with the utmost Dispatch.”  At the same time, Faris assured them that they did not have to worry about inferior work undertaken by those he employed.  He vouched for their skill and experience.  Many colonial artisans disguised labor done by others in their shops when they advertised, but Faris sought to mobilize his workmen to his advantage when wooing prospective customers.

July 11

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

Jul 11 - 7:11:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (July 11, 1769).

“WATCHES CLEANED in 30 Minutes.”

John Simnet, a watchmaker from London, made his presence in Portsmouth known in 1769 with a series of advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette. Initially he inserted notices with the intention of cultivating his clientele, but over the course of several months he found himself engaged in a public feud with Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith, a local watchmaker who took exception to Simnet intruding in his territory. For the most part, Simnet confined his advertisements to the New-Hampshire Gazette, though shortly after his arrival in New England he had placed one notice in the Boston Weekly News-Letter in an attempt to draw on that market. To that end, he offered to “pay the Carriage to and fro” for clients in Boston who sent their watches to him in Portsmouth via “Mr. Noble’s Stage.” In the summer of 1769, Simnet made another attempt to enlarge his market by placing an advertisement in the Essex Gazette.

Simnet advanced many of the same appeals that he had consistently deployed in his previous notices, but he also supplied new information for prospective customers. To establish his credentials, he proclaimed that he previously worked as “Finisher to Mr. Tompion, Graham, Storey, Toulmin; and every other Maker (of Note) in London.” Simnet had not previously mentioned the names of his former associates, only noted that he had followed his occupation in London for some time before migrating to New England. He likely did not expect colonists to recognize all of the watchmakers he listed, but did intend to impress them with the assertion that he had worked alongside and been entrusted by the most prominent watchmakers in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire. As a newcomer in New England, Simnet was largely unfamiliar to his prospective customers, making it all the more necessary to convince them of the reputation he had previously established in London.

In addition, Simnett made several other appeals. He promised convenience and quality, pledging to clean watches in thirty minutes and “perfectly” repair them in six hours. Prospective customers would not have to part with their watches for days or weeks while he worked on them. He set prices that matched those charged in London, but also offered a guarantee. When he promised “no future Expence (Accidents excepted),” prospective customers understood that he would perform further repairs for free if he did not successfully fix watches the first time. This deal, however, applied only to recurring problems that Simnet did not manage to resolve, not to new issues caused by “Accidents” or wear and tear. Finally, Simnet declared, “Security deposited in Hand for Watches, if required.” In other words, he provided collateral of some sort when customers entrusted him with their watches. This had not been part of Simnet’s first advertisements, but after his rival Griffith accused him of stealing watches Simnet began incorporating such assurances into his marketing efforts.

In a short advertisement, Simnet advanced multiple appeals to convince prospective customers to hire him to clean and repair their watches. He underscored his own skill and experience by trumpeting the names of prominent watchmakers in London who had previously employed him. He also emphasized convenience, quality, and price while offering two types of guarantees. For the first, he made additional repairs for free if his initial efforts were not successful. For the second, he supplied collateral when accepting watches for repair. Simnet included some of the most common appeals that appeared in advertisement placed by artisans in eighteenth-century America, yet he also adapted his notice to address his own recent experiences with a rival who attempted to undermine his business.

December 27

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 27, 1768).

“Certificates of which, she can produce from the Gentleman whose Lectures she attended.”

When Mrs. Grant arrived in South Carolina in late 1768, she placed an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to inform colonists in her new home that “she proposed to practise MIDWIFERY.” In introducing herself to the public, she deployed many of the same strategies as her male counterparts, though she also expanded on some of them.

As a newcomer, Grant did not benefit from having a reputation gained from building a clientele over the years. Instead, she needed to offer assurances that she was indeed capable of providing the services she claimed. To that end, she first emphasized her credentials, formal training, and experience. She was qualified to practice midwifery, “having studied that Art regularly, and practised it afterwards with success at EDINBURGH.” When men who provided medical services moved to a new town or city in the colonies and placed advertisements, they usually provided a similar overview. Grant, however, did not expect her prospective clients to trust the word of a stranger when it came to such an important service. In addition to noting her training and experience, she stated that she could produce “Certificates … from the Gentleman whose Lectures she attended, and likewise from the Professors of Anatomy and Practice of Physic” in Edinburgh. Male practitioners rarely offered documentation to confirm their narratives. In an era during which medicine increasingly became professionalized (and, as part of that process, masculine), Grant may have believed that she need to do more in order to level the playing field when competing with male counterparts for clients.

To help establish her reputation, Grant also indicated in a nota bene that she would “assist the Poor, gratis.” Doing so allowed her to demonstrate her skills while simultaneously testifying to her good character and commitment to her new community. She was not alone in offering free services to the poor as a means of introducing herself. Men sometimes did so as well. Still, Grant may have considered it especially imperative as a way of breaking into the market upon arriving as a stranger in Charleston.

November 1

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

Nov 1 - 11:1:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 1, 1768).

“Offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.”

When T. Lowder arrived in Charleston and established his own medical practice in 1768, he placed an advertisement to introduce himself to the residents of the city and its environs. Like many other physicians who placed newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, Lowder first provided his credentials to potential clients who might avail themselves of his services. He indicated that he had worked as “MIDWIFE and APOTHECARY, to St. Peter’s Hospital” in Bristol. Furthermore, he reported that “he has for some Years been largely engaged in” the “Practice of Midwifery.” Although he did not provide the particulars, Lowder stated that he had received “a regular, physical Education.” He hoped that prospective clients would consider it, in combination with “a considerable Degree of Experience,” as “sufficient Qualifications.” He also pledged to exert the “utmost Assiduity” in attending to his patients. As a newcomer to the city, Lowder did not enjoy a local reputation. Until he could establish that he was not “deficient” as a midwife and apothecary, he relied on his credentials to promote his services to prospective clients who otherwise knew little else about him.

To aid in establishing his reputation in the busy port, Lowder “offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.” To that end, he reserved three hours each afternoon for consulting with “The Poor” at his office on Church Street. Offering “Advice in all Cases” provided an opportunity to work with local patients who could then testify to his skill and care. Lowder likely hoped that demonstrating his competence in cases that he attended without charge would yield additional clients from among the ranks of residents who could afford to pay his fees. Providing free medical advice to the poor also attested to his character, further enhancing the public relations campaign Lowder launched in an advertisement introducing himself to colonists in Charleston. In case his credentials were not enough to attract clients, his altruism might attract the attention necessary for the newcomer to sustain his practice.