What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
As the summer of 1768 drew to a close, David Greenleaf established a new “Stage-Coach” line between Norwich, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island. The stagecoach made one trip each week, covering a distance of almost fifty miles in each direction. Passengers could depart “from the House of Mr. AZARIAH LOTHROP, in Norwich” on Wednesday mornings and arrive at “the House of Dr. SAMUEL CAREW, at the Sign of the Traveller, in Providence” later in the day. The stagecoach made the return trip on Thursdays. Greenleaf saw to the comfort of the travelers who availed themselves of this new service, providing an “elegant STAGE-COACH” drawn by “four good Horses.” To make the trip as speedy as possible, Greenleaf also arranged for “four spare ones … to exchange on the Road.” In addition, he carefully selected the terminals for this new stagecoach line. Lothrop and Carew both offered “the best Entertainment” for passengers while they waited to make the journey. Greenleaf made the entire journey an experience, promising that “Ladies and Gentlemen will be treated in the kindest Manner.”
Greenleaf made a significant investment in this venture. He implicitly said as much in his description of the new stagecoach and the many horses. He more explicitly made the point when he argued that since “this new and useful Undertaking has been attended with a great Expence” that he hoped “it will meet with proper Encouragement from the Publick.” Advertising in the Massachusetts Gazette added to his Greenleaf’s expenses, but he certainly expected a return on that investment. To increase the effectiveness of his advertisement, he needed to increase the likelihood that readers would notice it. To that end, he incurred the extra expense of commissioning a woodcut that depicted a stagecoach drawn by four horses. The image also included a driver with a whip guiding the horses and a passenger peering out from the stagecoach. Compared to other woodcuts that accompanied advertisements, Greenleaf’s image was detailed and well executed. The vignette would have been difficult for readers of the Massachusetts Gazette to overlook. The quality of his coach and service did not matter if prospective customers did not know that the “Norwich Stage-Coach” existed. Enhancing the advertisement with a notable woodcut helped to bring Greenleaf’s new venture to the attention of colonists who planned to travel between Norwich and Providence and beyond.