August 7

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

Aug 7 - 8:7:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (August 7, 1766).

“HAVING lately seen and advertisement … which not only aims at discrediting certain Anchors …”

William Hawxhurst of New York placed an extensive advertisement in response to the charges Daniel Offley made about the anchors sold in Philadelphia in an equally extensive advertisement that appeared in an earlier issue of the Pennsylvania Journal.

Hawxhurst reiterated some of the claims Offley made and then set about dismantling them via a point-by-point rebuttal. He did so not only to defend his own reputation and the quality of the product he sold, but also as “a piece of justice I owe to the public.” Potential customers, Hawxhurst asserted, would benefit once he set the record straight; they deserved to be as well-informed as possible by the producers and suppliers of the goods they contemplated purchasing.

Hawxhurst addressed the process of making anchors, especially forging the necessary iron, in some detail, perhaps exceeding the technical knowledge of most readers of the Pennsylvania Journal (but maybe not that of those most likely to purchase anchors). On the other hand, he then mobilized appeals that any reader would understand.

Rather than choose between “assertions” made by either advertiser, Hawxhurst preferred “to appeal to experience, as a more satisfactory voucher to the public.” To that he end, he proclaimed, “Certain it is, that my iron has gained a high reputation for its purity, both in England and America.” Furthermore, the smith who made Hawxhurst’s iron into anchors had been at the trade longer than Offley. Experience mattered. In addition, Hawxhurst’s ironworks had “furnished anchors for sale at Boston, New-Hampshire, Bermuda, South-Carolina, Virginia, and Jamaica” in addition to New York. Furthermore, he had received no complaints but instead had “heard much of their goodness and superior excellency.” Finally, Hawxhurst had always offered the same sorts of guarantees that Offley promoted, so customers would not gain any advantage by purchasing from them.

Offley had publicly stated that he would refuse to repair any anchors purchased from competitors. Hawxhurst made it clear what he thought of that ploy: “I give the public assurance, that in case of any such accident, my friend in Philadelphia, has orders upon the return of the anchors so failing, or such part of it as remains, to supply another in its stead; so that Mr. Offley may not only be saved the trouble of amending them, but deprived of the pleasure of refusing it.”

Hawxhurst stated that he had “no design to injure” Offley, but found it necessary to “remove the objections and difficulties, which [Offley] has thrown out, with more art, perhaps, than truth.” Both his reputation and his business were at stake, warranting a response that filled approximately two-thirds of a column. Most eighteenth-century advertisers promoted their own products without mentioning competitors, but occasionally some advanced their own businesses by disparaging others.

BONUS: Daniel Offley published a response of a similar length. In the August 7, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Journal, Offley’s advertisement appeared on the first page and Hawxhurst’s on the final page.

Aug 7 - 8:7:1766 Offley Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (August 7, 1766).

May 8

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

May 8 - Wharton 5:8:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 8, 1766).
May 8 - 5:8:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 8, 1766).

“ANCHORS manufactured in America.”

“I have for some time carried on the business here.”

Daniel Offley and Charles Wharton were competitors when it came to selling anchors in Philadelphia. Both of these advertisements appeared in the May 8, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Journal, but the dates affixed to each suggest the course of conversations that took place, certainly in the public prints but possibly face-to-face with potential customers as well. Wharton’s advertisement had been running since late March, but Offley’s appeared for the first time in the May 8 issue. (Guest curator Maia Campbell previously featured the same advertisement from Wharton, which also appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette.)

Wharton incorporated two powerful appeals into his short advertisement. He pledged to sell anchors “at a half penny per lb. cheaper than any other person can or will sell at in this city.” Considering that anchors weighed hundreds or even thousands of pounds, this presented significant savings. Wharton also announced that he his anchors were “manufactured in America.” Like a good number of other merchants, retailers, and artisans in the mid 1760s, he embarked on the first “Buy American” campaign in response to the Stamp Act. (Keep in mind that in March, when the advertisement first appeared, the colonists were not yet aware that the Stamp Act had been repealed – just two days before the date on the advertisement.)

Wharton, a wealthy merchant from a prominent family, sold anchors, but Offley, a smith, “MADE and SOLD” anchors as a significant part of his livelihood. His advertisement suggests that he found it difficult to compete with the well-connected Wharton (though he never named his competitor), but he offered extensive explanations and justifications in order to convince potential customers to purchase his anchors even though they cost more.

Offley stated that he did not have access to the same resources as the manufacturer of anchors “sent to this place” from elsewhere in the colonies. If he could get “shanks, made out of the loop directly from the pig-iron at the forges” he could afford to sell his anchors at the lower price. However, Offley asserted that he made anchors of a higher quality, emphasizing “the care I always take to have them made well.” He also stated that he had “for some time carried on the business here” and practiced it “to the greatest perfection that it has been brought to here.” In addition, he promised that “one of my anchors of four hundred weight, will hold as much as one of the others of five hundred.” In other words, he sold a superior product that made it unnecessary to buy heavier anchors, thus more than covering the half penny per pound discount offered by his competitor.

In addition, Offley repaired anchors, a service not offered by Wharton. He doubled down on his skills as an artisan when he threatened that he would not “mend nor repair any of those that is advertised American made.” Offley warned that if potential customers bought their anchors from Wharton that he had no intention of making repairs at some later time. Instead, he would turn them away.

Wharton advanced a “Buy American” appeal that likely resonated with many readers, but Offley thought about production and commerce on an even more local scale. He had established himself as a smith in Philadelphia, as had others. He did not appreciate a merchant like Wharton infringing on business that he felt should go to local artisans, no matter if Wharton sold products “manufactured in America.” Offley pleaded that “if this branch of manufactory be taken away from this place, it may be a long time before it may be regained.” This would be a loss for “the number of hands that may be employed in it.” In addition, Offley was interested in “keeping the cash in our own province, circulating amongst the laborious part of mankind.”

That final sentence suggests that status played a role in these competing advertisements. Wharton and Offley both saw value in products “manufactured in America,” but the merchant and the artisan ultimately had different goals. Offley suggested that Wharton sought merely to line his own pockets, but purchasing anchors made locally by “the laborious part of mankind” would serve the greater good.