July 16

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

Jul 16 - 7:13:1769 Massachusetts Gazette Draper
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (July 13, 1769).
Confectioner and Distiller from London.”

In the summer of 1769 Peter Lorent, a confectioner and distiller, provided a variety of sweet treats to the residents of Boston. In addition to “Cakes of all kind,” he made and sold macaroons, sugar plums, candied fruits, syrups, and cordials.

As part of his marketing efforts, Lorent underscored the quality of his confections. He introduced himself to prospective customers as a “Confectioner and Distiller from London,” hoping readers would associate him with his counterparts in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire. Advertisers from many occupations, especially artisans and doctors, frequently deployed this strategy, implying that their origins testified to skills and expertise gained from training or employment on the other side of the Atlantic. They also prompted consumers to imbue their goods or services with the cachet of having been acquired from a purveyor “from London.” Advertisers like Lorent invoked their origins as a means of asserting status; they suggested that customers could demonstrate and enhance their own status by making purchases from the right providers of goods and services.

Lorent helped consumers reach the intended conclusions about the cakes, candies, and cordials they could acquire from a confectioner “from London.” He trumpeted that he made all of his treats “in as great Perfection as in Europe” and underscored that he had the requisite exposure to make that claim since he previously “worked in England, France, and Italy.” Lorent aimed to impress prospective customers with his experience that ranged beyond England to other countries often associated with taste and fashion. He also attempted to ease their anxieties about residing far from the center of the empire. Residents of Boston did not need to worry that they lived in a provincial backwater, not when they could consumer confections as fine as those enjoyed by the genteel ladies and gentlemen of London.

March 25

GUEST CURATOR: Ceara Morse

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

Mar 25 - 3:25:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (March 25, 1767).

“HENRY SNOW, Distiller from London, MAKES and SELLS … FINE Georgia Geneva.”

Henry Snow distilled many different spirits, including “Georgia Geneva,” “Orange Shrub,” and “Mulberry Brandy.” Many of the spirits he distilled could probably be found in local taverns.

Taverns were very important gathering places in colonial and Revolutionary America. An article about the Queen’s Head Tavern (now more commonly known as Fraunces Tavern) in New York City states, “Taverns were centers of community in the 18th century.” They were where people came to stay as well as just come in for a drink and learn of what was going on in the area. Imported spirits sometimes did not come fast enough to keep up with their popularity in taverns and households, thus American produced spirits were needed to help provide taverns and other consumers with the alcoholic beverages they desired. That’s where American products, like Henry Snow’s spirits, came into play. Because it was expensive to even import these goods, the domestic products were that much better.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Henry Snow walked a fine line in his advertisement for a variety of spirits “Distilled and sold at his shop” in Savannah. As Ceara notes, he produced an array of cordials, brandies, and other liquor to compete with imports at affordable prices. Yet he wanted to assure potential customers of the quality of the spirits he distilled. To do so, he adopted a strategy deployed by many artisans who placed advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers: he indicated his place of origin along with his occupation.

In this case, Snow was not merely a distiller but instead a “Distiller from London.” This imbued him and his products with greater cachet by suggesting connections to the cosmopolitan center of the empire and perhaps even specialized training compared to his local competitors. It also served as a recommendation for the dozen or so different types of spirits he distilled, suggesting that they were among the most popular among consumers in the metropole. Just as tailors implied their familiarity with the latest fashions by stating they were “from London,” Snow hinted that he distilled spirits currently in vogue rather than backwater alternatives to the beverages enjoyed by “gentlemen” on the other side of the Atlantic.

Doing so also meant making assurances about the quality of his locally produced liquors, describing some of them as “fine” or “superfine.” (The layout of the advertisement suggests that the distiller may have intended for “FINE” to describe all of the spirits in the first column and all or most in the second.) As far as Snow’s brandy was concerned, “Any gentlemen who may be pleased to favour him with their orders” could depend on it being “equal to French” brandy. His usquebaugh, however, was an exception. It was merely “little inferior to Irish.” It appears that Henry Snow knew better than to suggest that his whiskey was equal or superior to any produced and imported from Ireland. “Little inferior to Irish” was exceptionally high praise indeed!