November 20

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

Maryland Journal (November 20, 1773).

“Such unworthy motives as these are far from Dr. Gilbert’s intention.”

When Dr. H. Gilbert relocated from Philadelphia to Baltimore, he inserted an advertisement in the Maryland Journal to introduce himself to the community and solicit patients who wished to consult him about “all the disorders to which the human body is incident.”  His lively notice included commentary about the kinds of advertisements that others who provided medical services often placed. “It is now become almost customary,” the doctor observed, “at least many have of late thought proper to begin their address to the public with liberal encomiums on their own knowledge, practice, and abilities.”  When they arrived in new places, doctors could not rely on their reputations to encourage patients to see them; in the absence of such familiarity, many emphasized their training and experience to assure prospective patients that they would be in good hands.

Gilbert found a certain aspect of such introductions particularly unsavory and disingenuous.  Some doctors, he charged, “at once declare there is no disorder, however accute or malignant in its nature, that they cannot immediately not only give relief in, but effectually eradicate, without the least inconvenience or danger to the patient.”  Those claims appeared in too many newspaper advertisements and handbills, leading “persons who are unacquainted with the human frame” to believe that “many disorders exist altogether in the imagination, by the easy manner in which they are said to be expelled.”  Such marketing had two outcomes: “imposing on the ignorant” and “the emolument of the authors of such preposterous assertions.”  Unfortunately, patients often had a “fatal experience” under those circumstances.  Gilbert suggested that grandiose promises from doctors “must … appear in a very ridiculous light to every person of the smallest degree of penetration.”  In a backhanded fashion, he discouraged readers from seeking treatment from quacks and charlatans who seemed to promise too much.

Gilbert pledged that he would give patients false hopes by telling them merely what they wanted to hear and taking their money for cures that did not work.  He would not make “preposterous assertions” and swindle them: “such unworthy motives as these are far from Dr. Gilbert’s intention.”  He did relay his own credentials, “being regularly bred to his profession, as well as his having had several years experience and practice by land and sea, and in Germany, Holland, and America,” but did not make the kinds of unfounded assertions that he critiqued.  Instead, he stated that he would “exert his utmost abilities to serve” patients and “by good attendance and a particular attention to their respective cases, endeavour to merit the patronage of the public.”  In other words, Gilbert stressed the individualized care that he bestowed on each patient.  He assessed their particular symptoms and recommended care specific to their needs.  Rather than making self-promotion and dubious promises the centerpieces of his marketing efforts, he emphasized honesty and respect in his interactions with the public and his patients.

September 18

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

Maryland Journal (September 18, 1773).

“A lecture on the necessity, advantage, beauty, and propriety of a just vocal expression.”

When Mr. Rathell, “formerly of Annapolis, Teacher of the English Language, Writing-master and Accomptant,” opened a school and offered private lessons in Baltimore he introduced himself to prospective students and their families with an advertisement in the Maryland Journal.  Much of the lengthy advertisement focused on establishing his experience and credentials.  Rathell noted that he “for some time superintended the Academy of the late eminent Mr. Dove, professor of oratory in Philadelphia.”  That led to Dove recommended him as a private tutor who earned “the approbation of many respectable families” in the largest city in the colonies.  Rathell claimed that he “can produce indubitable proofs” of Dove’s approval of his endeavors as a private tutor.  He also promised to strive to continue “to do justice to the recommendation of the celebrated teacher … whose memory is justly revered by the first literary character in America.”  If prospective students and their families were not familiar with “the late eminent Mr. Dove,” Rathell implicitly suggested that reflected on them and gave all the more reason that those who wished to rank among the genteel needed to engage his services.

Furthermore, the tutor gained additional experience in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  “To give still greater weight to his credit as a private tutor,” Rathell exclaimed, “he cannot avoid mentioning, with very great respect, that at Lancaster he has been favoured with an attendance on several Ladies eminent for literary accomplishments.”  He lauded his former pupils, recognizing “their own happy genius,” while also insisting that their accomplishments “would give consequence to, and establish the reputation of, the most capital teacher at the first court in Europe.”  Despite the distance that separated Baltimore from London, Paris, and other centers of cultural and fashion, Rathell asserted that his students received instruction that rivaled that available to monarchs and nobles.

Rathell also used his advertisement to preview a program that he envisioned, one that had the potential to enhance his reputation in Baltimore and attract more students to his school.  He proposed “to read, in public, a few pieces from the most eminent English authors.”  The elocution of the “Teacher of the English Language” would be on full display for his audience.  In addition, he planned “to deliver a lecture on the necessity, advantage, beauty, and propriety of a just vocal expression, wherein the use and elegance of accent, quantity, emphasis, and cadence will be illustrated.”  Again, Rathell made an implicit argument to prospective students and their families.  It did not matter how expansive their knowledge of literature or how fashionably they dressed if their manner of speaking betrayed them as not truly genteel.  Learning to express themselves with “elegance” was an aspect of personal comportment vital to demonstrating status and sophistication.  Those who did not master their speech risked being considered imposters when they gathered with the better sort.  Like many other tutors, whether they taught elocution or dancing or French, Rathell played on the anxieties and insecurities of prospective students and their families while also trumpeting his experience successfully teaching others skills associated with gentility and social standing.

May 28

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

Connecticut Journal (May 28, 1773).

“Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife.”

When Richard Tidmarsh arrived in town in the spring of 1773, he published “An Address to the Inhabitants of New-Haven, and the Public in general” to offer his services as “Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife.”  Like others who provided medical care and placed newspaper notices, he included an overview of his experience and credentials in hopes of convincing prospective patients otherwise unfamiliar with him that he was indeed qualified.

Tidmarsh asserted that he “was regularly bred in London” to all three “Branches” of medicine.  In other words, he received formal training in the largest city in the empire.  Furthermore, he had the “Advantage of being Pupil and Dresser in one of the most considerable Hospitals” in London.  He eventually migrated to Jamaica, where he “practised some Years with good Success,” but ultimately decided to relocate to mainland North America because of what he considered an “unhealthy Climate” in the Caribbean.

The “Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife” did not arrive in New Haven directly from Jamaica.  Instead, he “lately practised ay Hartford in this Colony.”  Tidmarsh attempted to bolster his reputation by declaring that “his Abilities are well known” in Hartford, especially since “he was particularly successful in several dangerous Cases, where the Patients were gave over and deemed incurable.”  Given the relative proximity, he likely believed that prospective patients and “the Public in general” were more likely to hear of those successes in Hartford through other sources than they were to learn about his training in London or his work in Jamacia.  Even if they did not, Tidmarsh may have believed that including the local angle made his entire narrative more credible.

Given his background and experience, Tidmarsh hoped that residents of New Haven and nearby towns would consider him a “useful Member of Society” and seek medical care from him.  To encourage them to do so, he stated that he “proposes to practice as reasonable as any Gentleman of the Faculty” at the college (now Yale University).  His services did not come at higher prices than those of other physicians, surgeons, and man-midwives (though Tidmarsh conveniently overlooked female midwives who cultivated relationships and provided care to patients in the area).  As a newcomer in New Haven, he recognized the importance of sharing a short biography and assuring prospective patients about the quality and cost of his services.

March 25

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

Massachusetts Spy (March 25, 1773).

“By enquiring of Mr. Blake, the Town-Sealer the public may be informed of the quality of his scale beams and steel yards.”

Andrew Newman offered his services as a whitesmith in an advertisement in the March 25, 1773, edition of the Massachusetts Spy.  In addition to the usual sort of work undertaken by that trade, such as filing, lathing, burnishing, and polishing iron and steel, Newman declared that he “makes and repair[s] all kinds of scale beams, steel years and lock[s].”  Furthermore, he confidently stated that customers would find the quality and prices for such work “as reasonable as can be done in Boston.”

Many artisans included some sort of reference to their credentials, whether formal training or long experience, in their newspaper notices.  Newman did so in a nota bene.  He advised the public that he “served his apprenticeship to Mr. John McClench late of Boston, White-Smith.”  Newman likely hoped that colonizers who previously patronized McClench or were familiar with his reputation would consider hiring McClench’s former apprentice.  Even for those who did not know of McClench, Newman figured that giving information about completing an apprenticeship in the city recommended him to prospective customers.

He also encouraged them to consult “Mr. Blake, the Town-Sealer,” for an endorsement.  According to Newman, “the public may be informed of the quality of his scale beams and steel yards” when speaking with that local official.  Prospective customers did not have to rely on Newman’s word alone; instead, they could learn more and ask questions of a third party that they might consider neutral and thus more trustworthy when it came to assessing the materials that Newman produced and sold.  Short of a testimonial inserted in his advertisement, Newman likely considered such referrals the next best option.

Throughout the colonies, artisans often highlighted their credentials in their advertisements.  In his efforts to bolster his business, Newman did so, incorporating two strategies.  First, he gave details about his apprenticeship, hoping that his training with McClench would resonate with prospective customers familiar with his former master’s work.  Then, he directed the public to a local official who could provide an endorsement of Newman’s own skill and the quality of the items he made in his workshop.  Invoking both McClench and Black enhanced Newman’s assertions about the quality of his work.

December 26

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (December 26, 1772).

Doctor GEORGE WEED … was a regular bred Physician, in New-England.”

George Weed, an apothecary, served patients in Philadelphia for decades in the middle of the eighteenth century.  In his advertisements, he styled himself as “Doctor GEORGE WEED.”  On occasion, he provided credentials to justify using that title.

For instance, in an advertisement hawking a variety of medicines in the December 26, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Weed provided an overview of his training before describing his “SYRUP of BALSAM” for coughs and colds, his “ROYAL BALSAM” for wounds, bruises, and sores, his “BITTER TINCTURE” for dizziness and upset stomach, and other medicines that he compounded at his apothecary shop.  Weed asserted that he “was a regular bred Physician, in New-England, and served his time with Ephraim Warner, a licenced Doctor.”  In other words, he received training from “one of the greatest and most successful Practitioners of Physic, in New England, in his day.”  Rather than ask the public to take his word for it, Weed concluded his advertisement with an affirmation from a minister.  Thomas Lewis declared, “That Doctor GEORGE WEED, living in Newtown Township, was under the Instructions and Directions of a judicious Practitioner of Physic, in New-England, for some Years, is certified by me.”  Careful readers may have noted that the affirmation was nearly two decades old, dated October 6, 1753.  Weed apparently believed that it served his purpose in helping to convince prospective patients to purchase his medicines.

To strengthen his pitch, Weed noted that he had “above 34 years successful practice,” including serving as “Apothecary to the Pennsylvania Hospital.”  He no longer held that position, instead operating his own shop on Market Street.  Through his long experience, he proclaimed, Weed “brought to perfection, some medicines, which have proved extraordinary in curing many diseases.”  Although the apothecary mentioned that he carried a “general assortment of Medicines,” he emphasized those that he made himself.  Other apothecaries, retailers, and even printers imported, advertised, and sold a variety of patent medicines produced in England.  Weed suggested to consumers in Philadelphia that the combination of his training and long experience serving patients in the colonies resulted in creating better products to cure common maladies.  They did not need remedies produced elsewhere when they could consult directly with a skilled apothecary who compounded medicines to order.

December 22

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

Connecticut Courant (December 22, 1772).

“WATCHES … Advice to those who are about to buy, sell or exchange.”

When Thomas Hilldrup arrived in Hartford in the fall of 1772, he commenced an advertising campaign in hopes to introduce himself to prospective customers who needed their watches repaired.  He first advertised in the September 15 edition of the Connecticut Courant.  That notice ran for three weeks.  On October 13, he published a slightly revised advertisement, one that appeared in every issue, except November 10, throughout the remainder of the year.  Although many advertisers ran notices for only three or four weeks, the standard minimum duration in the fee structures devised by printers, Hilldrup had good reason to repeat his advertisement for months.  He intended to remain in Hartford “if health permit[s], and the business answers.”  If he could not attract enough customers to make a living, then he would move on to another town.

Hoping to remain in Hartford, he asked prospective customers “to make a trial of his abilities” to see for themselves how well he repaired watches.  Satisfied customers would boost his reputation in the local market, but generating word-of-mouth recommendations would take some time.  For the moment, he relied on giving his credentials, a strategy often adopted by artisans, including watchmakers, who migrated from England.  Hilldrup asserted that he “was regularly bred” or trained “to the [watch] finishing branch in London.”  Accordingly, he had the skills “to merit [prospective customers’] favors” or business, aided by his “strict probity, and constant diligence.”  In addition, Hilldrup offered ancillary services in hopes of drawing customers into his shop.  He sold silver watches, steel chains, watch keys, and other merchandise.  He also provided “advice to those who are about to buy, sell or exchange” watches, giving expert guidance based on his professional experience.  Hilldrup concluded his advertisement with an offer that he likely hoped prospective customers would find too good to dismiss.  He stated that he did “any other jobbs that take up but little time gratis.”  Doing small jobs for free allowed the watchmaker to cultivate relationships with customers who might then feel inclined or even obligated to spend more money in his shop.

By running an advertisement with the headline “WATCHES” in a large font larger than the size of the title of the newspaper in the masthead, Hilldrup aimed to make his new enterprise visible to prospective customers in and near Hartford.  He included several standard appeals, such as promising low prices and noting his training in London, while also promoting ancillary services to convince readers to give him a chance.

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.